Alright, folks, no more pussy-footin’ around. We’ve had our fun going through these little, insignificant national food holidays like Shrimp Scampi Day and Lima Bean Respect Day. But now we’ve reached a topic that calls for heavy-hitting, full-throttle, serious blog reporting here. An ingredient that’s loved and feared the world over, and on the top of everyone’s list in everything from cookies to ice cream and everything in between. This isn’t your walk in the park food holiday for May, not even close.
Welcome to National Chocolate Chip Day, motherfuckers.
As ubiquitous and wonderful as the chocolate chip is, in its tiny, flavorful morsel package the shape of a flattened teardrop, it’s only been around for the past eighty years or so. The first chocolate chips were just broken up pieces of a Nestle chocolate bar that Ruth Graves Wakefield incorporated into her Toll House Inn cookie recipe in 1937. Two years later and the “Nestle Toll House” recipe for chocolate chip cookies was on every bar of chocolate they sold; and two years after that, Nestle (and every other chocolate maker on the map) started selling chocolate in morsel, or chip, form. The rest of chocolate chip’s history is wrapped up in super delicious baked goods, like cookies, bread, brownies, pancakes, and almost any pastry you can think of. And although they’re available all over the world now, they were an American invention, and thus the chocolate chip is a great example of American culinary ingenuity 🙂
In an attempt to show you that chocolate chips are about far more than just a really good cookie, I’ve tried to find some other chocolatey confections around the city that you might enjoy. I’m always up for the gooey, warm textures and sweet, sometimes surprising tastes you can find in a really good bread pudding. Blue Ribbon Bakery makes quite a mean bread pudding, using only one in their storied line of daily fresh-baked breads–of course, their chocolate chip bread. It ends up coming out crispy on the outside but warm and soft on the inside, the best kind of bread pudding you could make. They pile on the sweet by cooking it with chocolate sauce and adding a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top to mix the warm and cool textures of the dish. The portions are super generous, especially for such a popular restaurant that caters to more than just the occasional chocolate chip bread fiend. The prices may be a bit steep but the quality (and quantity) of the bread pudding more than makes up for it, and is the perfect sweet, but not overly sweet, end to a good meal.
Blue Ribbon Bakery
35 Downing St (between Bedford St & Varick St)
“The ingredients of chocolate chip bread pudding lend themselves to success. You might ask ”how could eggs, bread, butter, sugar and chocolate really be bad?” Well, for one thing one can easily make it too sweet or add too much butter – making the pudding look like some 10,000 calorie, Cinnabon airport special. The quality of ingredients is also a factor and here is where Blue Ribbon shines. Dark chocolate surrounds Blue Ribbon’s homemade bread which is crispy and delicious. Multiple textures of hot chocolate, crispy toasted bread and ice cream combine to make this an outstanding creation. Is it worth making a special trip for? Yes. Have one at the bar.”–Dessert Buzz
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“My beet and goat cheese sandwich was also deliciously gooey and hot, but really in the end, I only have two words. Bread pudding. A la mode. Choc chip OR banana bread. Okay, that’s more than two, but the glory of it requires extra verbage. Save your wallet and your stomach though, cuz the big hunk o’bread pudding with ice cream at $13 a pop was definitely made for sharing (we couldn’t even finish two bread puddings amongst four of us!).”–J.C.
“I am a huge chocolate fan and have a massive sweet tooth, so when I saw their chocolate chip bread pudding covered with hot fudge, it was a no-brainer. This was one of the most decadent desserts I’ve ever had. I didn’t even want to share it. I easily consumed the dish on my own, and I probably would’ve ordered another except I was extremely full… And I was with clients.”–Carlo M.
Now that I’ve started talking about chocolate chip bread pudding a la mode, I’d be remiss to not bring up the cool chocolatey confection that’s always high on everyone’s dessert list come summer: chocolate chip ice cream. There are so many varieties of chocolate chips in ice cream, it’s hard to narrow it down to one: you’ve got your vanilla chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate chip cookie dough (which is just cheating, eat a damn cookie if you want it so bad! :P), Ben & Jerry’s ever so famous Cherry Garcia…the possibilities are endless. But Emack & Bolio’s, an organic, hormone-free ice cream parlor on the Upper East Side, has a different kind of chocolate chip flavor that can tickle your tastebuds: their Deep Purple Cow. As all of their unique flavors are inspired by classic rock acts, the Deep Purple Cow is a mix of black raspberry ice cream, fresh blueberries, and white and dark chocolate chips. It’s a sharp turn from the creamy, super-sweet cookie dough and double chocolate flavors of typical ice cream parlors: the dark chocolate is biting and almost bitter in the sweet cream, and the tartness of black raspberry wakes up your taste buds. If all ice cream flavors were types of music, this definitely lives up to its hard rock moniker.
Emack & Bolio’s
1564 1st Ave (between 81st St & 82nd St)
“The hippie-dippy approach also manifests in organic and hormone-free ingredients in the over 40 flavors of ice cream and the large selection of iceless smoothies. Flavors extend beyond organics, and beyond the norm: The grasshopper pie incorporates créme de menthe liquor with Oreo chunks and chocolate flakes, while the purple cow enriches black raspberry ice cream with white and dark chocolate chips and blueberries. Adjusting to everybody’s dietary needs, E&B provides sugar-free, fat-free, low-fat, Splenda-sweetened, and lactose-free options.”–New York Magazine
“E&B’s “smokin’ flavors” are named after rockers and their hit songs, including the “Red Hot Vanilla” — vanilla ice cream with red hot candies for Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Deep Purple Cow — black raspberry ice cream with white and dark chocolate chips (yum!) for Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple. They also serve smoothies, frozen yogurt and microbrewed soda. All of their non-fat products are certified Kosher.”–CBS Local
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“And when I got home, man, that Deep Purple Cow was a treat. I felt the yummy creaminess of the ice cream, the bits of chocolate, and the fruity raspberry. I tell you, I was tempted to eat up more of their ice cream.”–Phillip K.
“This place has good ice cream, and a lot of character. I had the purple cow – raspberry ice cream, blueberries (couldn’t taste them), chocolate and white chocolate chips. It’s pretty good. Plus, it comes with real whip cream, if you get a sundae.”–Jamie W.
But let me not beat around the bush here: there’s only one thing you really want (and what you probably came to see!) on National Chocolate Chip Day, and that’s got to be chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate chips were, literally, made for cookies, and there’s something so homey and comforting about a warm, sweet cookie, still a little soft straight from the oven, that can either remind you of your old grandmother’s baking or elevate you to the heights of great pastry cuisine. If you’re looking for the former, there’s no amount of food blogs or New York City culinary tourism lists that will help you find that one chocolate chip cookie bakery that reminds you of home. But as for the second–the technical best cookie in New York–that decision has been made long ago, and I’d be a fool to try and recommend otherwise. You’ve probably even eaten their cookie already (and made your own judgment on if it’s the best)! Levain Bakery has been rated the best for any number of baked goods by food critics, celebrity chefs, and “best of” lists for nearly the past twenty years, and their six-ounce chocolate chip walnut cookies are always one of the reasons for the accolades. They’ve hit a resurgence in popularity after opening their Harlem location, where writer/producer superstar Tyler Perry frequents and has called this cookie the best cookie he’s ever had. Take a trip to any one of their locations in the city and see if you agree with all the hype: “best cookie in the world” or just a really great, huge, chocolatey, nutty cookie you can sink your teeth into, Levain Bakery’s chocolate chip is something you should not miss.
2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd
“McDonald and Weekes developed the signature cookie recipe while training for an Ironman Triathlon. They discovered they needed a large number of calories to offset the rigors of training and decided on a traditional chocolate chip cookie, but much bigger. The 6-ounce chocolate chip walnut cookie served the purpose and ultimately became a signature item in their bakery.”–Wikipedia
“On my way out, I noticed a magazine clipping from the April 2011 Bon Appetit, where Tyler Perry praises Levain’s cookies “as the best cookies I’ve ever had.” He goes on to describe them as “so fresh and [they] taste homemade.” Well, clearly I had to grab one of those too. The chocolate chip walnut made its way into my bag and I was out the door. After a quick stop by Best Yet to grab a gallon of milk (they raised their price; I’m just saying), I was home in a dash to taste that cookie. No lie: I was in the house, large glass of milk and cookie in front of me in no time. As the cookie is huge, I decided to break it in half. The outside is crunchy; the inside gooey and moist. Man, this is good. Another bite. Wow… I’m talking delicious… This quite possibly is the best chocolate chip cookie in the world.”–Uptown Flavor
“All you need is love – and a few really good ingredients – to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Or so says Pam Weekes, co-owner of Levain Bakery, which opened its newest location in Harlem this past spring. Their signature cookie ($4), which has both semisweet chocolate chips and chunks of walnuts, is crispy on the outside and gooey (almost doughy) on the inside and big enough to share. And rest assured they will always be fresh: The staff says the cookies are baked multiple times daily and the leftovers are donated to local charities at the end of the day.”–New York Daily News
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“My chocolate chip walnut cookie was magical. Freshly made and moist. I ate it over a couple of days and the last piece was just as good as the first. Great, yummy treat.”–Shabana S.
“I ran inside and ordered a Chocolate Chip Walnut. First of all, this cookie is HUGE. It’s about the size of a small fist, and it’s really, really tender and chocolately in the middle. The chips are still gooey …and it’s pretty freakin’ good. Since I shared it with a friend and could have probably shared it with 2, even though it was expensive, at least you get a lot of cookie for your buck.”–Jenn C.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!