If you like sugar, you’ll love caramel. Caramel essentially is sugar, chemically speaking: all you have to do to make caramel is heat sugar slowly to around 170 degrees, and the sugar will start breaking down into a creamy, sticky, brownish substance that has entirely different taste and properties than what you started with. Culinarily speaking (is “culinarily” even a word?), they’re worlds apart in their flavor and use. Because of its composition caramel can do things pure sugar cannot–like stick to the skin of an apple to make a candy apple, or enhance the texture of a chocolate candy bar. It’s in sweets, desserts, and confections of nearly every culinary region, and can be found in the low-brow (nougats and brittles) to the high-brow (creme brulee). It’s a bit of a miracle sweet, in how versatile it is to use and how easy it is to create. Maybe that’s why there are so many national food holidays dedicated to the humble caramel!
Recently, there’s been a resurgence in popularity in caramel flavor, just by adding a little salt to the mix. Nearly everyone’s jumping on the salted caramel bandwagon, and you’re finding it in everything from ice cream to coffee. It’s brought back the caramel to the front of the culinary stage, so go out there today and enjoy some high-end, innovated caramel delights!
If you mix two of the hottest trends in dessert these days–macarons and salted caramel–you inevitably end up at the doorstep of Bisous, Ciao in the Lower East Side. Each macaron is about $2 each but they serve a heaping wallop of flavor, from classics like chocolate and pistachio to the salted caramel that has everyone raving. The salt really brings a balance to a dessert that is, simply, sugar on top of egg whites and almond paste and even more sugar. The result is a jolt to your senses that isn’t a sweet overload–which could mean that you should order more than one! If you’re looking for more sweet/savory macaron flavors, Bisous, Ciao also offers jasmine green tea and a masala spiced chai flavors, all incorporating that sweet, but not too sweet element that makes these macarons so unique.
101 Stanton St (between Orchard St & Ludlow St)
“bisous, ciao is a minimalist shop, with only one sweet on the agenda: macarons. There are about 16 flavors offered at any given time, precisely arranged behind a glass case. These macarons are slightly larger than the ones from La Maison du Chocolat and Itzy Bitzy Patisserie (which still makes macarons on various occasion), and priced at $2.25 each. A recent visit had me going back for multiple servings of the Salted Caramel, the deep golden caramel smooth and flecked in French sea salt.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“High quality macarons. Sea Salt Caramel was by far my favorite. It had a great balance of sweet and salty. The caramel was glossy and slightly chewy.”–Christine T.
“Macarons ARE the new cupcakes! And Bisous Ciao’s salted caramel macaron–perfectly crispy on the outside, yet dense and chewy on the inside–is the best of the bunch. I should know, ’cause I’ve had macarons from at least a dozen places in the city. Yes, of course I wish they were cheaper, but I guess it keeps me from eating a hundred every day…”–Caroline H.
Another delectable looking salted caramel dessert comes from the vegan restaurant Pure Food And Wine–because vegans can enjoy some rich, sinfully delicious caramel desserts today, too! Salted caramel made from pecans can pull even the most dedicated carnivore into this restaurant, but add dark chocolate ganache to the mix of their tart and it’s almost irrestistible. It’s one of those dishes that not only makes you forget that it’s vegan, but takes the contemplation a step further and makes you think about what makes a vegan dish, vegan, and reconsider the idea that vegan food means tasteless food. (I’m not saying I’m going to throw out my rice pudding and bison burgers after this meal, but I’m just making the point that vegan shouldn’t always be vilified!)
Pure Food and Wine
54 Irving Pl (between 17th St & 18th St)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Of course, we couldn’t leave without trying dessert. I wanted one of everything but managed to restrict myself to just one: the salted chocolate caramel tart with vanilla ice cream. I’m not sure how this was raw, but if I could get someone from Pure to cook for me everyday, I’d be a raw foodist in a heartbeat. The dessert was so creamy and delicious; I loved the whole coarse grains of salt on the top of the tart, and the raw ice cream was light, sweet, and airy.”–Jenna M.
“The dessert – a salted caramel tart with vanilla cream – was delicious. It was definitely NOT reduced-size. In fact, it seemed as if half the calories of the meal were served for dessert.”–Sam A.
Still haven’t been convinced of salted caramel goodness? A vegan caramel chocolate tart wasn’t uniquely New York enough for you? Then have some goat’s milk ice cream.
…yeah, you read that right! Cow’s milk ice cream is so twentieth century, and while I did celebrate the tastiness of a vegan dish a mere paragraph ago, I think we all know that when it comes to ice cream, nothing beats dairy. Victory Garden serves up homemade ice cream in the West Village with a twist: all the flavors are made with goat’s milk. Lower in fat than cow’s milk and pasturized in-house, the goat’s milk soft serve has become a big hit in the area, and not just because it’s a new fad everyone’s got to try. It also makes for a more savory ice cream, which of course, will lend itself better to the more unconventional flavors, like lemon poppyseed, rosewater, and….salted caramel. The caramel flavor is available in ice cream, frozen yogurt, and as goat’s milk-made caramels themselves. And maybe that’s the best way to celebrate Caramel Day–eating the ingredient whole, in those chewy, sweet cubes of flavor, without salt or chocolate or anything else to get in the way of that caramel taste.
31 Carmine St (between Bleecker St & Avenue Of The Americas)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“It leaned on the savory side so much that I just about tipped over. You could definitely taste the goat milk from whence you came my soft serve-y friend. The place is small and super cuuuute. I had my salted caramel with dark chocolate chips and the pairing was excellent as the caramel balanced out the bitterness.”–Samantha S.
“Victory Garden, a quaint establishment sitting on the unassuming Carmine Street, has won my heart with it’s salted caramel goat milk soft serve. I ordered a cup adorned with chocolate chips, pecans, and homemade goat milk caramel. It was divine! The soft serve was extremely creamy, and just sweet enough with the subtle taste of salt that lingers with each and every spoonful.”–Erica G.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!