I’m going to put writing quality and journalistic integrity aside for a second here to say this. Pecans are sooooooooo good. (Honestly I shouldn’t have to say “journalistic integrity,” because although my view of pecans is my personal opinion, it’s completely true. It’s just a fact.) Although they’re not a plant that grows all that readily in New York City, the pecan is an American native, used for thousands of years as a food source and a currency by Native Americans. It was introduced to Europeans during the Spanish settlement of North America, and then spread around the world, beloved for its extremely long shelf life, the tree’s long producing periods, and of course, the taste. Buttery and rich, the pecan can be eaten raw, roasted, or used in any number of sweet and savory dishes. The best known pecan dish is the famed pecan pie, a Southern American tradition, and one I could write for ages about because it’s just so damn good. But, in addition to today being National Pecan Day, there will be a Pecan Pie day later in the year (I knew the pecan board wouldn’t let us down!) So, instead of using today to list all the best places to find pecan pie in the city (and then being SOL when Pecan Pie Day actually comes along), I’ve found other fantastic pecan confections to satisfy your pecan fix today 🙂
When I think about a pecan-based dessert, my first thought comes to pecan pie; maybe even pecan ice cream, because that’s freakin’ delicious as well, and has a pretty long tradition line of being sweet and popular. But I would have never thought about marshmallows! And vegan marshmallows at that, too. (For those who aren’t aware, many marshmallows are made with gelatin, a product derived from animal hide and bone, so commercial marshmallows are a big no-no for non-meat eaters.) But the people at Sweet & Sara in Queens have definitely surprised me with a vegan cinnamon pecan marshmallow. All of their vegan marshmallows are made from scratch in the store, and they come out tasting like hard work and love. The combination of the smooth and buttery pecan with spicy, robust cinnamon works perfectly here, and endears many a patron to the shop–even those who aren’t vegan, even those who aren’t into marshmallows. And each marshmallow has a little caramelized pecan placed right on top, to further accent the pecan flavor. This is definitely not the tasteless, gummy marshmallows you find in the baking aisle of the supermarket, and I am truly thankful for it. It may even switch me to vegan marshmallows full time!
Sweet and Sara
43-31 33rd St, Long Island City
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Of the three varieties I sampled (cinnamon pecan, toasted coconut and vanilla), the cinnamon pecan was the winner; a lovely flavor combo: spiked with the perfect amount of cinnamon and topped with a praline pecan.”–Linda P.
“From regular vanilla, to toasted coconut covered, and even my favorite cinnamon pecan, which is infused with organic cinnamon and toped off with caramelized pecans. These little morsels are creamy, soft, flavored, irresistible pillows of nom nom nom! Perfect for baking, adding to hot chocolate, having as a simple snack or for making s’mores.”–Kate P.
Another vegan treat that I can definitely get behind is soy-based ice cream. I was introduced to it as a mass-produced food in college, when the vegan bar in the dining hall served milkshakes made with So Delicious ice cream. It was fantastic and I couldn’t tell the difference between soy and dairy. (The only difference I could tell was the price, sheesh!) Some people have beef (no pun intended) with non-dairy ice cream, claiming that it’s too grainy, or not creamy enough, or that it has too much of a soy aftertaste (which I find ridiculous, because you don’t taste much of soy anyway). But my idea is, if the flavors are good and the quality of the ice cream is really high, a good vegan ice cream may even beat its cow’s milk competitors. And Stogo uncompromisingly makes some of the best vegan ice cream around. While their hemp-based flavors are a little on the iced milk side (but hey, if that’s what you’re into, go for it!), their soy-based ice creams are just as creamy and delicious as their milk counterparts; you don’t notice the difference at all and you may even start to prefer their quality, homemade flavors. One of their best in question is the salted caramel pecan (yes, caramel yet again rears its salty head!) This salted caramel, however, is loaded with pieces of pecan, giving it an extra depth of flavor that helps you forget this ice cream isn’t actually cream at all. If you’re still stuck on the thought that you must have a slice of pecan pie to celebrate National Pecan Day, I’d suggest putting a scoop of this ice cream right on top, the salt balancing out the super sweetness of the pie and the subtle woodiness of the pecans.
159 E 10th St (between Stuyvesant St & 2nd Ave)
“One lazy evening at Stogo, the newest vegan ice cream shop in town, I dug into a generously portioned bowl of fudge brownie and salted caramel pecan. The fudge brownie was forgettable but the salted caramel was the real winner, featuring a pecan speckled vanilla base heavily streaked with caramel, creamy and liberally salted.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Salted Caramel Pecan. OK this isn’t ice cream but it’s just as good in a different way. It’s creamy without being too rich. You know how ice cream can become so thick and gooey when it melts. Well this doesn’t have that consistency. I think the flavors beat out the texture. The big draw is the non dairy factor but I never thought it could taste this good.”–Steven C.
“And then the salted caramel, there will always be something about salty and sweet that will have a spot in my heart! Not only was this that perfect sweet and salty pairing but there was also pecans in the ice cream as well! Perfection. Both of my ice creams were soy based and while some people feel its just shaved ice, I felt that both of these ice creams had the same texture as a regular ol’ ice cream. Also the regular sized ice cream is more than enough and they really hook you up. I also opted to eat it with the little wooden sample spoon so it would last my fat ass a little longer!”–Lauren L.
Now, of course, I can’t leave my non-vegan friends out in the pecan cold today. I am, after all, a lover of meat and milk products myself, a happy little omnivore who would love to chow down on some pecan ice cream made with real cow’s milk. And being a huge fan of my home borough, I say there’s no better place to indulge in your dairy-loving pecanness than the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Situated directly in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge and housed in an historic fireboat house right on the East River, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is a lighthouse in the sea of mediocre ice cream shops, guiding you to fresh, homemade, quality ice creams made with only the purest of ingredients and intentions. There are only eight flavors served here–not at any time, but ever, as owner Mark Thompson wanted to focus on the quality of those few flavors rather than wacky, kitschy faddish flavors. So vanilla and chocolate and all the classics are a big draw here, as well as the flavor I’m highlighting today: butter pecan. A classic that was hugely popular in ice cream long before anyone added salt to their caramel, butter pecan plays on the pecan’s natural buttery taste, enhancing it with a super sweet cream. And no one in the city makes a better butter pecan than Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, where the crunch of the pecans stays crisp inside the sweet ice cream, made fresh (the owner sticks strictly by a 10-day freshness guarantee). In fact, it was highlighted on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” as the best butter pecan ice cream ever–and that’s certainly saying something. Vegan ice cream may be good, it may even be delicious, but until it makes a butter pecan that comes anywhere close to this, I’ll still turn towards dairy and the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
1 Water St, Brooklyn
“A self-proclaimed ice cream purist, Mr. Thompson decided to limit the number of flavors he would serve to eight: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, vanilla chocolate chunks, chocolate chocolate chunks, butter pecan, peaches and cream, and coffee. ‘I just wanted to do the classics,’ he said. ‘I’m not trying to be Baskin-Robbins.’ He also decided that he would not sell any ice cream older than 10 days, to ensure freshness.”–The New York Times
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Their homemade ice creams were delicious!!! I ordered 2 scoops of Butter Pecan and ended up wanting more after I finished eating my cone. That’s exactly how every place should make you feel… always leave wanting more!”–Holly L.
“what better way to spend a sunny day in dumbo eating ice cream on the grass under the brooklyn bridge? initially, i was thrown off by the boring ass chocolate vanilla strawberry menu. but after eating a scoop of the butter pecan, i realized you don’t have to have gourmet flavors to be an awesome ice cream shop. yea, the menu offered is small and simple, but each flavor is perfect and unrefined. as they should be.”–Krys S.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!