Midnight Snack: Frozen Treats in the East Village
Famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil is clearly a smug, lying bastard. How else to explain this bland excuse of a winter we've been experiencing? Yes, spring is right around the corner, but with temperatures in the 60's the last few days and Mr. Softee trucks already on the prowl near elementary schools, "ice cream weather" has found us whether we like it or not. Unless you're one of those poor souls with sensitive teeth, the proper reaction is one of childish glee. Should you find yourself in the East Village, the neighborhood has some great options to cool down and get your sweet fix.
For those who haven't completely abandoned their new year's resolutions just yet, the coconut, soy and hemp-based ice creams at Stogo are a dairy-free delight. The scoops come in indulgent flavors that belie their lofty intentions, among them bananas foster, apple crumble and ginger vanilla bourbon. The offerings change daily, but if they're in the display case do give some attention to the soy-based chocolate chip cookie and coconut-based vanilla bean ($4.25), which both exhibit surprisingly smooth texture and are doled out in heaping portions. Coconut is a tough flavor to mask, and while the fragrant vanilla is there, you better like island fruits if you go that route. On the upside, the coconut-based desserts melt like custard but lack the palate-desensitizing butterfat.
The shop sells gluten-free, vegan and raw desserts from local contemporaries like BabyCakes and Cocoa V, some of which find their way into the ice cream machine. The gluten-free flour used to make the cookies imbues the ice cream with a rich nuttiness, and the chunks of cookie lend an almost granola-like crunch.
Some of the Bowery Diner's most successful gussied up greasy spoon staples are their menu of inventive shakes. Not since the late, great Korova Milk Bar have milkshake-based tipples been this good. The bar staff blends cupcakes, cheesecakes, and three different kinds of pie into shakes—all of which can be tarted up with a shot of booze. They kindly give you two alcohol pairing options for each shake, such as cherry pie with Grand Marnier or Pimm's.
Even better are the more alcohol-forward "Feel Good Shakes." The Pastis milkshake ($11) tempers the spirit's signature punch of anise with vanilla ice cream; pomegranate syrup rounds out the drink with a sweet and sour touch. I never thought I'd call a milkshake cocktail "complex," but the licorice and fruit notes create this kind of molasses flavor when mixed with the ice cream, giving it a depth far beyond the standard malted. As a cocktail it's good; as a milkshake it's great.
Dessert Club ChikaLicious
Across the street from diminutive, fastidious dessert bar ChikaLicious sits its even more diminutive sibling Dessert Club, ChikaLicious (née ChikaLicious Puddin'). Chef Chika Tillman has a way of balancing decadence and restraint at her flagship, but there's nothing understated about Dessert Club's chocolate eclair ice cream sandwich ($7.95), two swirling mounds of excellent vanilla bean soft serve sandwiched between two halves of an eclair smothered in rich dark chocolate sauce. It's essentially a giant, oblong profiterole. The flavors of each ingredient all come on strong, and the choux dough softens as the soft serve melts and blends with the chocolate. It may not be the most inspired dessert under the ChikaLicious umbrella, but it hits the right notes and is perfect for sharing.