Posted in things we like, tools of the trade by hemmant jha on September 24, 2010

What is a bagel?

“A bagel is a round bread made of simple, elegant ingredients: high-gluten flour, salt, water, yeast and malt. Its dough is boiled, then baked, and the result should be a rich caramel color; it should not be pale and blond. A bagel should weigh four ounces or less and should make a slight cracking sound when you bite into it instead of a whoosh. A bagel should be eaten warm and, ideally, should be no more than four or five hours old when consumed.

All else is not a bagel.” ED LEVINE, December 31, 2003, NYT.

Considering its location right by Zabar’s, H&H has been frequented by members of this studio. While Mr.Levine has the luxury of living in what is clearly a bagel rich town, those of us who visit infrequently tend to achieve satisfaction with products of a rather lower standard. Which is not to say H&H bagels are not noteworthy – quite the contrary. Freshly made H&H bagels are a perfectly delicious production – and are just fine eaten by themselves, without the crutch of excessive amounts of cream cheese or strange berry additions to the mix. Somewhat outsize by hardcore classic bagel standards [I have not seen a bagel in years that meets those dimensional requirements], they’re pliant on the inside and have a crusty exterior that fights back when bitten into. Something that looks similar but poses no resistance is simply an impostor, quite possibly a cupcake in disguise – stay away.



Posted in good design, things we like, tools of the trade by hemmant jha on September 22, 2010

It’s called comfort food for a reason, and every culture has its own. Awash in new-fangled cooking techniques, provenance laden menus, artisinal, fashionable-yet-coy foods, critters, critics, restaurants and restaurateurs, the simple and generally pleasurable act of eating has become heavy and ponderous. To the rescue are comfort foods – simple, proven, tasty, nothing terribly exciting.

These little chocolate bars from Meiji are just that. Clear flavors that bring back childhood memories of chocolate [unless you grew up relishing 90% dark, or bacon and paprika infused versions]. They’re not too smooth, or too rough, or too black, regardless of what the wrappers say. And they’re guaranteed to bring out a little smile in you – small, simple pleasures. What more could one ask of a package not 2 inches across?


Posted in good design, things we like by hemmant jha on September 21, 2010


If you’ve lived in New York, you know Zabar’s – it’s that simple. They’ve been around for over 70 years, and it’s where we bought our Chemex coffee maker ten years ago. There’s a small cafe next door to the main store, where we’ve often stopped by for a cheese danish, and countless cups of coffee and hot chocolate. None of what the cafe serves is exciting or surprising, but it’s consistently good. And that’s what makes Zabar’s particularly refreshing, especially in New York – in contrast to the pace of this city, it’s a wonderfully stable and reliable counterpoint.

And there’s the Zabar’s logo / icon / mark – it still looks great after all these years. It’s not timeless in the same way as Paul Rand’s work, but it’s pretty fantastic. Anyone know where it came from? Who designed it?


Posted in good design, things we like by hemmant jha on September 16, 2010

Mama Zuma’s Revenge.

Strange, revelatory, photogenic snack food found quite by chance at gas stations – a side benefit of long road trips.


Posted in things we like by hemmant jha on September 8, 2010

momofuku milk bar

Having followed with interest the progress of David Chang’s culinary empire in NYC, it seemed natural that we would traipse over to the momofuku milk bar when in that city. We were there with child in tow, and the promise of ice cream [soft serve, actually] was often the only way to make it through another day, or another block. And then we arrived – the space was small, an annex to one of momofuku’s dining spots. It’s standing room only, unless you happen to weigh about 40 pounds and can balance a marvelously small figure on a countertop. Clearly, ambience is not what this is all about – and there are no flourishes or fireworks, except of the culinary sort.

For soft serve/ice cream/gelato, we’ve only found one other comparable establishment – Pazzo Gelato in LA. Momofuku’s is beautifully produced product, made with care from good ingredients, and with an admirably large dash of wit. Cereal Milk soft serve will transport all of you who grew up eating corn flakes for breakfast right back to childhood – the familiar, mellow taste of milk+cereal will leave you smiling, guaranteed. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of cold cereal for breakfast, the effect will be less pronounced.

Purple Drink is beautifully candy-like : think Hi-Chew Grape rendered as soft serve.

My favorite milkshake flavor is Salted Pistachio, and the Pazzo Gelato version is highly satisfying. The Milk Bar version is very different – for $9, it seems surprisingly small, until one encounters the density and range of flavors packed into that curvaceous glass. This dense amalgam of salted pistachios, cream, sugar and alcohol [possibly vodka. Correction – I’ve been informed by this NYT article that the alcohol spike is butterscotch schnapps] has character – more character than one may reasonably expect in a milkshake. But that’s exactly the point – it is not meant to be a reasonable milkshake. It elicits strong responses – the smile on my face balanced by a grimace on another.

Try at your own risk, but do try – unless Christina Tosi has an equally talented twin, it is unlikely there’s anything else like it out there.

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