Mmm, we’ve had a lot of food holidays about nuts, but never one so scrumptious! Macadamia nuts, obviously, come from the macadamia tree, which can live well over 100 years! They come from warm, tropical climates, like Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii. And, apart from particularly prodigious parrots (say that three times fast), humans are the only species who can break through the macadamia’s super-tough shell to get to the nut inside. So what’s so special about macadamia nuts? Slightly rounded and looking a lot like a filbert in shape, macadamia nuts have a smoother, almost buttery texture to them, so different from brittle almonds or cashews. And their taste is much milder than most other nuts, which is what makes macadamias so prized throughout the world. Just the taste of them can remind you of the tropics, like putting a morsel of cocoa butter and paradise on your tongue, all wrapped up in a tiny nut.
Like many other nuts, macadamias lend themselves both to sweet and savory dishes, adding a certain biting texture and mellow flavor to entrees while serving as the crunchy foil to sweeter ingredients in desserts. One of the most popular sweet marriages is the one between chocolate and nuts, the unique flavor of nuts standing its own against the sweet powerhouse of big chunks of chocolate. But unlike almonds, which you usually find embedded in Hershey’s milk chocolate, the mild flavor of macadamia pairs best with the equally mellow white chocolate. No one’s learned this better than Insomnia Cookies, the all-night bakery that caters to college kids with the munchies. They bake cookies around the clock for anyone who needs a sweet fix, and at only $1 per cookie, they’re affordable for both the broke NYU student and the cheap-o people like me who are a few years past. The cookies are baked perfectly, with just enough warm, gooey give to the chocolate but not enough to make it a white mess on your fingers. And the macadamia nuts are fantastic when put in the oven, their natural oils coming out and really making the cookie extra soft and buttery. The best part is, this doesn’t even have to be your first stop on the macadamia train: since they’re open till 2:30AM tonight, you can try some of the other macadamia goodies on this page and then swing back around to Greenwich Avenue for a nighttime nibble.
50 W 8th St (between Avenue Of The Americas & Greenwich Ave)
“Starving college student? Insomnia Cookies is happy to deliver piping-hot cookies and ice-cold milk straight to your dorm room or apartment. At just $1 per cookie, it sure beats eating boring old popcorn. Assorted flavors include White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Coconut Pecan, S’mores and your all American favorites. Mouth already watering? Non-coeds are more than welcome to purchase cookies at their store in the West Village.”–CBS New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I popped the box open a bit while waiting for the train, and caught a whiff of the sinful smell. God. Snatched up the white choc-macadamia and immediately understood. I recently converted to vegan cookies because they tended to be gooey-er and sweeter than regular cookies but Insomnia cookies made me realize the error of my ways. It was rich and sweet without being excessive and tiring. The moment separating the crumble of the cookie to the its melting in your mouth is indistinguishable. Its the real deal, dare I say, it even evokes the comfort feel of a home-baked treat.”–Gayle G.
“I’d choose this place over Levain, etc any day. The cookies are only $1-how can you argue much over that?? When I first got these, I was with a bunch of people so we were able to sample almost everything-the peanut butter cup was great (over the normal peanut butter), and the white macadamia was DELICIOUS. They were hot out of the oven and melting through our bags. Ohhhhh YES!”–Lili K.
And while white chocolate macadamia nut cookies are the most popular sweet way to have macadamia nuts, they might not be the best you’ll find in New York City. (Come on, we’re New York; did you really think we were going to step in line with the rest of the country?) Nearly around the corner from Insomnia Cookies they’re doing just that: putting macadamia nuts into something you would have never guessed, but comes out utterly amazing. Union Square Cafe isn’t known for their confections or sweets, but even the New York Times has to tip its grey hat to their macadamia nut brittle. It works the same way that peanut brittle you used to get from World’s Finest Chocolate did: halved macadamia nuts sitting in a sheet of caramel, cracked and broken up by the sheet to make a yummy, coveted garnish for their banana tart. Union Square Cafe has had the banana tart with macadamia brittle as the signature dish on their menu since they opened in 1985, and even when they closed in 2009, only to reopen the next year, their re-vamped atmosphere and menu still contained the crowd favorite. Anything that’s stood the test of time for 27 years–especially when it’s in such a fast-paced area like Union Square–is definitely something to try out.
Union Square Cafe
21 E 16th St (between W Union Sq & 5th Ave)
“At least the restaurant still aced many of its Italian dishes well, still had some of the city’s best fried calamari, maintained a top-notch wine list and continued to boast crowd-pleasing deserts, like the famous banana tart with macadamia brittle.”–The New York Times
“Like the rest of the meal, desserts remain torn between the restaurant’s new mostly Italian ethos and its more eclectic past. In this case, however, nostalgia wins out. Too-dry zucchini bread pudding with ricotta gelato isn’t even in the same weight class as the menu’s one remaining “USC” sweet—a salty caramel-crusted banana tart surrounded by nuggets of macadamia brittle. Even 23 years in, not everything, it seems, is ripe for an update.”–Time Out New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Banana Tart, Macadamia Brittle, and Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream proved every bit worth its designation as a signature dish with the base formed of buttery shortbread studded with Macadamia nuts supporting what was likely an entire banana sliced and coated with a crackling caramel shell. Certainly not a dessert for those with loose teeth the intensely sweet tart was nicely complimented by the ice cream and five lovely caramel coated macadamia nuts who also joined the party.”–Michael U.
“Dessert concluded with a satiated ending. The “USC’s Banana Tart, Macadamia Brittle and Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream” is a must try. The crisped honey-encased banana was topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and surrounded with vanilla-like cream and macadamia nuts. The combination was exquisite.”–Simon L.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!