Fika Fridays: Coffee Shop & Library Hours

Points if you can guess which library I'm in today. Can we make it a game? Like Where's Waldo, but the nerdy version?

So it’s not quite Friday and it’s not quite a Fika*, but for the last Culinary post of the semester (check back for a resumed schedule June 1), I’m here to fill you in on local library times and coffee shops so that way you can be super effective during this finals season.  Try out a new coffee place and a new library study location to help keep the mental taxation (somewhat, well, as much as it can be) refreshing!


  • 114th Starbucks: 6am to 2am
  • 111th Starbucks: 6am to 11pm
  • Joe’s in NoCo: M-F 8am-8pm, Sat & Sun 9am-6pm
  • Oren’s on 112th: 7am-9pm (closes on Sundays at 8pm)
  • Kuro Kuma near 124th: 7am-7:30pm (opens on Sundays at 8am)
  • Chokolat Cafe around 123rd: M-W 7am-9pm, Th-Fri 7am-10pm, weekend 8am-9pm/10pm
  • Brownie’s in Avery: M-Th 8am-6:30pm, Fri 8am-5pm
  • Uris Deli: M-Th 8am-5pm, Fri 8am-3pm
  • Carleton in Mudd: M-F 8am-430pm
  • Blue Java Dodge: M-Th 8am-7pm, Fri 8am-5pm
  • Cafe 212: 8am to 8pm
  • Blue Java Butler: M-Th 8am-2am, Fri 8am-9pm, Sat noon-6pm, Sun noon-2am
  • Artopolis: M-F 730am-11pm, weekend 10am-11pm
  • Hungarian Pastry Shop: M-F 8am-11:30pm, weekend 8:30am-11:30pm
  • La Toulousaine (106th and Amsterdam): M-F 7am-7pm, weekends 8am-7pm

See any coffee places missing? Post them in the comments and we’ll add the hours here!

LIBRARIES | hours during finals

*most libraries are closing at 5pm on Friday the 17th for maintenance 

  • Butler: 24/7
  • Lehman: 24/7
  • Avery: Sunday noon-10pm, weekdays 9am to 11pm
  • Engineering (Mudd): 9am-11pm
  • Geology: 9am-11pm
  • Geoscience: 9am-5pm (closed weekends)
  • Health Services: 8am-11pm
  • JTS: Sunday 10:30am-7pm, M-Th: 8am-8pm
  • Journalism: 1pm-8pm
  • Law school: 8am-midnight
  • Math: 9am-11pm
  • Dodge arts: 9am-9pm
  • NoCo (science): 9am-3am
  • Social Work: 10am-6pm, closed weekends
  • Kent East Asian: 9am-midnight
  • Teachers’ College: 8am-11pm

Good luck!

*What’s a fika? Click here to find out.


From North to South: A Culinary Exploration of Southern France

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel on an organized trip to Southern France as part of a three-day culinary exploration of the region that included trips to the small Provençal town of Fayence, the city of Nice, and Cannes. Over the course of the long weekend, we sampled no less than twenty bottles of wine, four bottles of olive oil, dozens of fresh baguettes, five cheeses, six types of sausages, and rounded this off with a daily three-course (and three hour long) meal. But perhaps the most incredible part was that all of this food came from the same fifty-mile radius.

The trip was a whirlwind experience, though one that was nevertheless immensely peaceful and valuable. It would be undoubtedly boring, however, to relate the trip to you as an exhaustive list of the activities and experiences. Rather, I want to begin a discussion on the food culture of France, especially in comparison with that of Northern Europe and the United States, two cultures with which I am more familiar. This comparison, I think, will help to illuminate some of the broad differences in food culture between Europe and the United States.


French Food Culture

Like in Danish culture, food plays an important role in French culture. This is, in fact, a theme that seems to pervade Europe, certainly more so than in the United States. Meals are to be a communal experience, and they are not to be hurried. The food is incredibly rich (I had a soup made of what I believe to be pure melted butter, with a slice of melted cheese and a drizzle of olive oil on top), though portions are small and enjoyed very consciously and slowly. It was not uncommon for our meals to last three hours, with ample time between courses to chat, digest, and enjoy the dining experience.

Access to high quality food is also placed at a premium in France. In the United States, we often think of two areas as being particularly deprived of high quality, local food: inner-cities (what some in public health term ‘food deserts’) and very rural areas, which ironically export much of our produce but are left with few fresh products of their own. Having visited both an inner-city area and a rural town in France, however, I was struck by the availability of such food options. Towns both large (like Nice) and small (like Fayence) have daily markets with local venders offering fresh produce, sausage, and cheese (in addition to non-food items like soap or flowers). No neighborhood is without its boulangerie (or three!) where residents can buy inexpensive and high-quality fresh bread and pastries, usually baked only hours before and often still warm from the oven.

A Case Study: Baguettes

It seems to me that baguettes represent a lot of the important characteristics of French food culture. The historical development of baguettes is actually somewhat interesting and enlightening. One of the enlightenment reforms made in France during the late 1700s was to implement labor laws governing the number of hours an employer could ask employees to work, and hours during which this was acceptable. These new restrictions made it difficult for bakers to continue selling their sourdough products, which were very time intensive and involved unlawfully early mornings. French bakers needed a type of bread that they could make somewhat quickly, in order to have products ready for the breakfast rush, but that would still have a distinct and delicious taste. Hence the simple baguette, with its distinctive crunchy outside and soft inside, was born.

Baguettes, though, are fascinating because of their ubiquity in France. It is a common occurrence to see people walking around on the streets with a fresh baguette or two that they have picked up at a local boulangerie. A majority of French people, I have heard, buy baguettes on a daily basis. And so they should–not only are they delicious, but they are inexpensive (around 1 USD each) and go stale quickly, meaning that they must be replaced often.

Baguettes really serve to draw an important distinction between American and French food culture. Baguettes are made fresh with the intention of being consumed in the immediate future. They are inexpensive and available to the masses, and people from all walks of life will gladly wait in line daily for their fresh baguette. They are made from simple ingredients, usually just flour, water, salt, and yeast. The availability of fresh baguettes reflects the larger French cultural value that good food is to be fresh and consumed quickly after preparation, that good food takes time, and that food should be made from simple and high quality ingredients.

In the United States, on the other hand, we have found a different solution to bread. We manufacture vast numbers of bread-shaped sponges, loaded with strange ingredients you can’t pronounce and that will last for weeks on end without becoming noticeably different. We buy these sponges at the supermarket for consumption over a long amount of time. Convenience, then, has taken control of our bread-eating habits, as it has in many other facets of American life.

Baguettes are not nearly as ubiquitous in Denmark; however, there is also a strong reverence for bread in the frigid north. A friend described to me what his host-mom called the ‘Danish Mom Syndrome,’ which is that there must be fresh-baked bread in the house at all times. This reflects, I think, the more general European reverence for fresh food compared to much of the United States.

My trip to Southern France was a wonderful experience, from both a culinary and a life perspective. It has allowed me to better frame the eating traditions to which I have been exposed, and I have come away with a better understanding not only of European food culture, but also of American food culture.

Have you had any similar eye-opening inter-cultural experiences? Tell me about them in the comments!


Veg Out: Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co.

For people who avoid dairy, the past few weeks or so may have been a little rough.  Watching people saunter around campus with their cups of freshly swirled fro-yo, stacked high with fruit, chocolate, and granola, can leave one craving a cool, sweet, light spring treat.  That’s where Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co. comes in.  They swirl at their Union Square store plus at a seasonal location in the Hamptons.  Dylan’s Candy Bar also serves their creations, and you can find a list online of other retailers that sell Soft Serve Fruit outside of the city.

The company uses just fruit, water, and a little bit of cane sugar to make a healthy alternative to soft serve desserts without dairy, fat, sodium, cholesterol, or gluten.  Basically, if you can eat fruit, you can eat Chloe’s Soft Serve.  But everyone knows the true joy of frozen treats comes from the toppings, and Chloe’s boasts an impressive array  ranging from the typical fare (fruit, coconut, chocolate chips, peanut butter sauce, and chocolate sauce) to the more nontraditional (organic cereal, cacao nibs, carob chips, goji berries, and, I’m told, a whopping vegan waffle).

When I heard about this magical concoction, I knew I had to take the trip down to try it.  (One tip: although Yelp will tell you that they have a store on the Upper East Side, that shop is closed.)  Their store is bright and breezy, with very high ceilings and a handful of tables.  They post their two pre-designed sundaes smoothies on one wall, the nutrition facts of their flavors on the other wall, and the six daily flavors on a chalkboard on the main menu above the counter.  The menu also offers smoothies and breakfast options like oatmeal, fruit parfaits, and their warm vegan waffle, plus pints and popsicles to go.

On my afternoon excursion to Chloe’s, I was desperate for chocolate, so I went with a small chocolate soft serve, and added in some mango, banana, and shredded coconut.  Then, about halfway through my sundae, I realized I wasn’t taking full advantage of the opportunity presented to me.  The draw of the dessert is its fruit, and there I was with a cup full of chocolate!  Fortunately, the other chalkboard in the shop reminded me of a very pleasant fact: because it’s only made with fruit, Soft Serve Fruit is low in calories and relatively healthy, as far as desserts go.  Therefore, I reasoned, sampling some more couldn’t hurt; in fact, I would be helping myself if I asked to try a few samples and then ordered a second cup.

I sampled the blood orange, a flavor which started off light but ended with a strong citrus tang.  Then, I tried their raspberry flavor and decided to go for a full order of that.  Overall, the idea of the fruit was more innovative than the actual taste.  None of the flavors brought an entirely different taste experience; instead, the chocolate managed to mimic chocolate frozen yogurt in taste and texture, while the raspberry was more like eating a sorbet.  The only difference I noticed between Soft Serve Fruit and regular dairy soft serve was the aftertaste.  While frozen yogurt leaves a distinctive tang, and other dairy desserts leave your mouth with a strange coating, Soft Serve Fruit has none of these aftereffects.

With a store in Union Square, Chloe’s is a little out of the way for an impulsive jaunt to fulfill a frozen craving.  While I did enjoy scooping my fruit, I’m not sure that it alone would be enough to lure me back downtown.  That being said, one of my previous posts was a review of Beyond Sushi, which is right in the neighborhood!  So I present my final recommendation: this Saturday, take a break from the finals frenzy, hop a train all the way down to Union Square, have some vegan sushi, and browse the farmer’s market with a cup of Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit.

Cinnamon Rolls: Buttery Happiness in Swirls

In the olden days, people thought that cinnamon was an aphrodisiac; I think butter is my choice in terms of the way to foodgasms.  However, since people always make fun of me for loving cinnamon on my yogurt, granola, salmon, cupcakes, bread, and steak, a combination of the these two amazing ingredients in a cinnamon roll sounded like a good idea on a snowy afternoon.  This is the perfect treat to pair with a steaming mug of French Vanilla coffee; the acidity cuts the creaminess of the cinnamon roll.

Cinnamon rolls are examples of enriched breads.  I used brioche dough: make sure at least two egg yolks are used, as well as European unsalted, cold but softened butter (for reasons, see my previous article on bread-making tips).   Let the dough relax for about fifteen minutes before manipulating.  The dough consists of flour, water, eggs, sugar, dry yeast, and butter.  The condiment ingredients include dried fruit, water, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

Roll out the dough into a eight-by-eight inch square.  When rolling, do not exceed the edge of the dough by at least an inch; if you go off the square, you get an icky, tapered end that doesn’t allow for the bread to have equal width throughout, which is the only surefire way to guarantee equal cooking.  Uniform thickness can be achieved by turning the dough a quarter to the left each roll-out.

What every roll needs is more butter.  Cover the surface of the square with a thin layer of European-style butter, except for about an inch to an inch and a half on the bottom.  Do not put too much butter on, or else your roll won’t hold together; the butter is to permit the cinnamon to stick, but too much will cause your roll to splinter and roll out even after it bakes.


Spread a thin layer of brown sugar (unprocessed cane sugar) and cinnamon mixture onto the butter; be careful not to put on too much, because otherwise it’ll leak out of the top and the bottom of the roll and form a caramelized base; it’s not the worst possible scenario, but it makes clean-up a mess and a sad democracy in terms of caramelized and non-caramelized rolls.  I like my bread uniform, although rolls exploding with cinnamon (as it did my first time) isn’t a bad idea sometimes.  Also, tweak the proportions; I like more cinnamon with a dash of paprika for spiciness, but many people that I know just like a hint of cinnamon and mostly caramelized sugar.

Add raisins if desired.  Soak them in liquid – water, liquor, juice – beforehand so that they won’t be tempted to suck the moisture out of your bread once the heat of the oven hits.  Apricots and apples work well, too, as do strawberries.  I’ve also added walnuts before, but unless you want your rolls exploding like mine did on my first try, don’t add too much extra fruit and nuts!

I roll my cinnamon rolls typewriter-style.  Roll and press from the left to the right, permitting tighter rolls.  Cut them in one- to one and a half-inch rolls, using the first roll as a measurement tool for the others; one 8-inch roll usually yields somewhere between four and six rolls, but you want them all the same so that they’d bake properly at the same time.

Wrap the unbuttered ends around the bottom of the rolls, brush on a tiny bit of eggwash, and send it to the oven for fourteen minutes! This recipe will allow a decent amount of crusting to occur, but leave the center soft and chewy.  The bread is ready when it has stopped expanding, the crust is a light golden color, and sounds hollow when tapped on the sides.

Remember that this bread can also be transformed into a savory snack.  One of my favorites is using olive oil or salted butter with parsley, cilantro, or dill, and rolling in some capers and smoked salmon.

These rolls are the embodiment of buttery foodgasms with every bite.  The tartness of the raisins cut the richness of the butter, while the floating notes of the unprocessed brown sugar sweetness render a rounded finish to the soft interior of a crusty, crunchy shell.  Mmm.

Cadaqués, a perfect place to sample and indulge

The Tortilla Minute

I consider tapas synonymous with the beginning of what will become a late Spanish summer night out.

That is, if you are eating quality tapas with a quality crowd.

The latter portion is up to you, but the former is basically guaranteed if you end up dining at Cadaqués. As I reread that, I am wholeheartedly aware of the straight-out-of-an-add promotional tone it gives. They didn’t pay me to shower them with compliments. You have my word.

There is a DJ on popular nights-out, like Fridays. The music is trendy and offers a background beat. It is just loud enough that you know it’s playing , your mood is lifted, and you may want to wiggle a little in your seat, but you can still hear everything your friends are saying.

The drink menu is exquisite. Every cocktail looks, sounds and tastes sophisticated. The Picasso is a refreshing work of art to the eyes and the palate.

Tapas are meant to be shared. That is why a tapas outing requires good company. And by good, I mean open-minded and willing to get one of everything (or at least a variety of menu items). The less dietary restrictions, the better. The menu is a little bit misleading in that the “To Share” section sounds like it would be the tapas section, and the main courses section sounds like its items are meant for each guest to order individually. Both sections are actually tapas. The appetizer section has some items, such as soups, that are understandably meant for one person and other items, such as ceviche and tortillas, that are also share-friendly.

No portions are large enough to be the sole order of an individual. This means that the bill fills up faster than you think. The good news is that your stomach fills up gradually, and overeating is not something to worry about.

Tapas offer an eat-and-be-merry kind of dining style. Dishes are brought out in no particular order, other than the order in which they become ready. Usually one or two are brought out at a time, so patrons can really savor each bite.

Spanish Risotto

The Spanish risotto and tortilla minute are my favorites. The risotto is made with crispy rice that is coated with creamy tetilla cheese, offering a satisfying contrast. Other flavors include shrimp, asparagus, mushrooms, fennel and parsley. The tortilla minute is your classic Spanish omelet, which always contains potatoes and onions. You have the choice of making the omelet less standard, since it can be chorizo, morcilla or asparagus-filled. I recommend the chorizo for a slight smoky flavor.

For dessert, there are five items from which to choose. I advise going with five people, so that you can order every single one. Or, stomach and wallet permitting, do that with whatever number of people are in the group. The molten chocolate cake, while not gushing with lava, is still warm and soft inside. It is best eaten when scraped off in layers and mixed with vanilla ice cream. The apple empanadas are mini and fried packaged apple pies. They are not greasy, and they have a slight crisp. They come with plantain ice cream, which offers a slightly less sweet banana flavor.

Service is not always speedy, and your glass will most likely remain without water until you ask for some. BUT, when there was a little mix up (my friend’s pan con tomate bread slices were brought out without the manchego cheese) the restaurant gave us an unexpected gift. A server came over with a porró, a large glass drinking vessel filled with white wine, and demonstrated the proper way to drink from it. So the benefits far outweigh the little mishaps. And if you are lucky, your waiter will be a hybrid of Johnny Depp and James Franco.

Note: Cadaqués is also open for weekend brunch from noon-4pm. It accepts AmEx and cash only. There is an ATM machine inside in case you forget.  Cadaqués is on 188 Grand Street in Brooklyn.

Your Body is Awesome: Calcium Edition

I had been putting off the calcium edition because it seemed a bit too trite.  “Got Milk?” adds abound, and with a cheese aisle like the one at West Side Market there isn’t exactly a shortage of calcium or information about it.  But that doesn’t change how important a nutrient it is, especially for teens and young adults.  Plus, I really like cheese.

What does it do?

You’ve heard it many times: a diet rich in calcium is crucial from strong bones and teeth.  This extra important mineral also plays a role in muscle function, and helps the body transfer messages from one nerve to the next.  What you may not know is that after a certain point, bones stop developing.  It is especially important for college students to eat plenty of calcium while we still have the opportunity to build up strength.  Calcium deficiency now could mean weak, easily fractured bones down the line.

How much do I need?

Teens need 1,300 mg/day, adults need 1,000 mg/day.  Take you pick.

How can I get it?

Dairy, dairy, dairy.  You can get most of the calcium you need with cheese, yogurt, milk, even ice cream or frozen yogurt (and who doesn’t love frozen yogurt?).  I find it helpful to keep a bag of string cheese in my fridge for an easy on-the-go snack.  It’s easy to start off the day with a helping of calcium—milk in your cereal, yogurt, even oatmeal.  For those of you not so fond of dairy, there are still plenty of lesser-known options to help you meet your daily requirement.  An ounce of sesame seeds has almost as much calcium as a glass of milk, so even a bagel can get you calcium.  Also try kale, oranges, salmon, and soybeans (in their various forms) for even more of the nutrient.   If you’re in the mood to whip up a little something, try this easy tzatziki (Greek yogurt dip) recipe (adapted from


Easy Tzatziki (yields 1 ½ cups)



1 cup Greek yogurt

1 English cucumber, finely grated and drained

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tsp. lemon zest

1 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. chopped dill



In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and dill.  Chill.  Bring out the pita, and enjoy!

Fika Fridays: Where the Fika Have You Been? (Also, Pudding)

Sometimes, life gets weird.  It all happens in a very short period of time.  Coincidences, accidents, fate, luck, bad luck, good luck, providence, misfortune, destiny, doom, kismet, the way the cookie crumbles.   Whatever you want to call it, I’ve basically imploded emotionally this semester.  But somehow, I made it through and have kept going to class and going to club meetings and editing the blog, though with no posts of my own.  And so, I introduce my first post back in a while (and one of my last for the semester-finals are approaching and I’m all too aware of them) with this explanation for my lack of posts (and also as an answer to people who keep asking “Yo, where you been this semester?”).*

I’m not alone in this struggle, I know.  Students here are easily swept up in the stress of life, and for good reason, too.  We all strive to be our best selves, and even then, set goals for who we think we are and who we think we can be.  No one holds us to higher standards than ourselves.  Sometimes we try to blame it on the institution, or even our peers.  But at the end of the day, I know that I hold myself accountable for everything I do, and that’s one factor that makes being a student here so exhausting.  However, even in my darkest moments, I’m getting better about realizing that there’s always one thing that makes me feel a lot better: getting out of my room/library/office for a break with friends.

Last night, after a particularly intense roller coaster day, I was prepared to curl up in my bed and hide from everything when I decided to go out with my friends for dinner at Max Soha.  We ate outside, and it was delicious and lovely.  My roommate Allison went back early for orchestra rehearsal for the Varsity Show (which opens tonight and you should all go see!), so Christin and I went to Kitchenette next door for some dessert.  While Kitchenette (Amsterdam near 123rd) is a favorite of mine for brunch and hamburgers, I had never had the desserts (even though they’re a prominent local bakery).  Christin showed me the wonders of the dessert case.  We were scrambling for small change, and our nice cashier told us she’d take the six dollars flat for my dessert but Christin and I scrounged up 80 cents in dimes and pennies and made it work.

Christin likes tulips and pie, as many people do

Christin and I went for a walk over to “Broadway Malls,” a mini-garden with a plethora of spring flowers and a cozy sitting area.  It’s finally warm here in New York, after a very long winter, and even though I was still a bit anxious, the lovely weather and the great company of the evening just made everything better.  Christin shared bites of her banana cream pie (delightfully crunchy crust, smooth pudding texture) and I ooh-ed and aww-ed over my pudding.  Sold in a little jar (and they even give you the cap), Kitchenette’s dark chocolate pudding varies in density depending on how long it’s been allowed to set.  I actually enjoyed this–the top part of the pudding was thicker and more viscous, whereas the middle section was still light and creamy.  Probably unintentional, I enjoyed this peculiarity anyway.  Flavor wise, the pudding was spot on.

To be fair to the nature of the fika, it wasn’t the food that I ate that made this fika so special.  It was, to be honest, the joy and pleasure and relief of being reminded that there are people who genuinely care about me.  These are people who not only put up with my silly shenanigans (jumping on benches to sneak up on them) and with my sad/stressed out nonsense (mood swings), but love me in spite of and perhaps even because of the combination of the good and the bad.  While this semester has been very difficult for me personally, I really do feel so lucky to realize that there are some people who always come through for me.  And I hope I do the same for them, because they make life here worth it.  With every fika and non-coffee-related-hang-out, these friends have brought me literally out of my sadness and out of my room.  So shout-outs to these friends: Allison for putting up with everything and picking up milk for my room-fikas and taking tea breaks, Christin for always being game for every possible fika location, Rachel for making me coffee for 10am Brit Lit, Nicole for the cupcakes (yum), Eddie for more cupcakes and fueling my caffeine addiction, my mom for sending me Nespresso capsules on rush order and getting phone-conversation coffee with me, Allie for the late night Starbucks visits, Ben and Amelia for being too loud in Hungarian Pastry Shop, writing folks like Ryan and Davis and Kal and more Ben for pizza and ice cream, the exec board staff of Culinarian for just being boss, and to all my other friends who have been down to grab a fika.

I know this is a long post, and it’s only a little bit about pudding, but I recommend to all those who read this who find themselves a bit under the weather to take a break and change it up.  Go to a dessert place you’ve always wanted to try.  Switch up your morning routine and grab a new cup of coffee.  Text that friend that you keep meaning to text about getting coffee.  Especially that last one–it’s friends, and coffee breaks with them, that will make our undergraduate career far more rewarding than tearing ourselves down in our rooms over our doubts and our regrets and our studies.  I love you, my fika-mates.

Also, now that it’s finals season, I’m pretty much down for coffee at any time, so send me a text and hit me up.  A Turkish proverb says, “Bir fincan kahvenin 40 yil hatiri vardir” which translates to “One cup of coffee remains in the memories for 40 years.”  So, y’all ready to have some really awesome coffee conversations that we’ll remember for (at least) 40 years?  Because I sure am.

Also, not sure what a fika is?  Click here to find out.

*There are a lot of long sentences and parenthetical statements in this post.  Just as a warning if you’re not down for lots of thoughts that may or may not be directly connected.

Cool as a Cucumber

The sun is shining, the days are long, the students of Columbia have taken up permanent residence on Low steps. I’ve already had my first sunburn of the season. Summer is nearly upon us, and with it, cucumber season!

Fresh cucumbers are one of life’s greatest joys. The satisfying crunch, the sweet, juicy insides! Sliced and diced into quick salads and crudités, cucumbers are the quintessential summer vegetable. However, for a little variety, to keep myself eating cucumbers all season, I like to have a few tricks up my sleeve. Here are two delicious ways to serve cucumbers.

For those larger cucumbers you might find at the farmer’s market, these light and satisfying hors d’oeuvres, adapted from the kitchn, are a must-try. To make them, peel a cucumber and slice crosswise in 1.5 – 2 inch slices. Scoop out the centers, a melon baller works great, but a shallow ice cream scoop or paring knife will do the trick. Be very careful not to dig to deeply; the seedy inside is soft and easily ruptured, and the last think you want is disappearing noodles! Set the cucumber cups aside.

Now, you could put just about anything in these. Fill them with a tzatziki or sweet chili sauce, and make them the centerpiece of a crudité or satay platter. Alternatively, serve any chilled summer soup in these edible soup shooters.

I gave the soba noodles a try, with excellent results. Cook the soba noodles and let them cool completely. Mix two parts rice vinegar or mirin with one part of each soy sauce and sesame oil. I also whisked in finely minced fresh ginger with the finely sliced scallions. Toss the noodles with the ginger mixture, and just before serving, gently spiral a few noodles at a time into the center of the prepared cucumber cups. Garnish with extra scallion.

Fresh cucumbers also make fantastic smoothies. Here, I’ve blended chilled cucumber with fresh mint, lime juice, greek yogurt, ice, and simple syrup. To make a simple syrup, simply heat one part water with two parts sugar in a saucepan over low to medium heat, until just dissolved. Make a batch ahead of time, and use it in iced coffee or impromptu cocktails. Serve the smoothies in a wide glass and garnish with fresh mint. Enjoy!

Taste of Mendoza: Sweet Nostalgia

The Havanna Alfajor: A Chocolate-Covered Cookie and Dulce de Leche Sandwich

My Spanish teacher Ángel is the most entertaining teacher I have abroad. He always comes to class wearing one of his many Yves Saint Laurent sweaters with appropriately paired slacks and leather loafers. Most of the class time is spent talking about what we did over the weekend or what we have planned for the one coming up, and whenever the opportunity presents itself, he has us sing Shakira. More often than not, he finds himself on a tangent talking about Argentine politics or some amazing food we must absolutely try before going back home, so to tell you the truth, we spend very little time doing actual class work.

The famed Havannets (i.e. Pure Dulce de Leche)

I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly how many times he’s mentioned it, but we’ve spent a significant portion of class talking about the havannets from the Havanna coffee shop downtown: a rich and sweet cone-shaped dessert covered in chocolate and filled with a shortbread-esque cookie and the ultra popular milk-jam called dulce de leche. When I finally went to try it upon Ángel’s persistent recommendation, I realized that they are actually his elegant excuse to feast on a bunch of dulce de leche. Since they mostly consist of the rich, caramel-tasting filling, dessert doesn’t get much better than this indulgence for someone with a sweet tooth.

I’ve since taken a rather dangerous liking for the more popular and quintessentially Argentine alfajor, which has the same components as the havannets but with a far less scandalous proportion of dulce de leche to cookie: they are basically a chocolate-covered sandwich made with the same cookie and dulce de leche as the havannets. Countless variations are possible by altering the fillings (coffee, walnut, jam, etc.), cookie types, and exterior coating (white or dark chocolate, meringue, etc.). While the Havanna alfajores are sold exclusively in that café, there are many other brands that sell similar versions. So while they might not always be as good as the original, the temptation at kiosks and grocery check out lines is sometimes too much to master…

Alfajores are the most wonderful snack, and just thinking of the fact that my time to enjoy them is limited to the remaining length of my stay in Mendoza makes me nostalgic for the study abroad experience I still haven’t left from. The immigration office better not have a problem accepting them into the States, because I am so packing a half-dozen boxes to extend the wonder of the Havanna alfajor into my life back home (and of course to share them with friends and family, don’t worry).

Cupcake cravings: Two Little Red Hens

You’ve heard them. The jaded, cynical, lost-all-sense-of-what-is-right-in-the-world foodies who scoff, “cupcakes are so last year,” and, “ugh, I’m so over cupcakes,” every time they pass by bakery windows filled with pastel swirls of buttercream.

From l-r: Brooklyn Blackout and Chocolate Peanut Butter. Coconut in the back.

Don’t do it. Don’t lose that sense of wonder that you get each time you bite into the perfect portable dessert, which, unlike full-sized cakes, give you the quintessential combination of frosting and cake in every bite.

It’s understandable; you probably went on a huge cupcake rampage back when you first discovered Magnolia, or Baked, or maybe even Crumbs. Perhaps you ate so many that you—quelle horreur—got sick of dessert.

Do you know what you need in your life now? Two Little Red Hens.

I hereby guarantee that the Brooklyn Blackout (delicate chocolate cake filled with rich chocolate pudding, topped off with a heap of thick fudge frosting.), the Peanut Butter (which tastes like the world’s largest Reese’s cup), or the Coconut (spongy angel food cake with fresh-from-the-beach coconut cream.), will make you believe in cupcakes again. Each is just the right size—more than a mouthful, but still small enough to hold comfortably without feeling you’re being dwarfed by a baked good.

And yes, there are hen decorations all over the place.

Sure, it’s a bit of a trek to the east side. But hey, it’s almost reading week. Hop on that crosstown bus at 84th, and venture into this miniscule, Americana and poultry themed bakery. There probably won’t be enough seating for you and your study group, but grab a few cupcakes (and a slice of the cheesecake–better than Eileen’s,and perhaps even Junior’s.) to go. Revel in the rebirth of your tastebuds.