French pastry + Italian ice cream = crazy delicious
One of the joys of New York eating is the proximity of unlikely foods to each other. Minutes-old mozzarella and superlative soup dumplings don't have much in common, but they often find each other on the Serious Eats lunch table when we're looking for something delicious five minutes from the office.
These strange proximity bedfellows weren't lost on Michael White when he came by last week with some gelato from his restaurant, Osteria Morini. The gelato is a thing of beauty: light and milky, full of flavor, and wonderfully smooth. Vanilla comes flecked with pulp; coffee is refreshing, rich, and not bitter in the least; lemon basil is the way you want to begin and end your day in this heat.
But Michael's real stroke of genius came from looking past the street food on the table, the rummy bears infusing on the counter, and spying some kouign amanns, the sugar-crusted croissant-like pastries from Dominique Ansel Bakery.* I think Michael said something as innocuous as, "You should make an ice cream sandwich with that." And before I could even answer in agreement I was already making whimpering noises about how this needed to happen.
* We pick them up whenever we need a reminder that life is beautiful.
And so we did, and so should you, because you may just make for yourself the best ice cream sandwich of your life. Slice the kouign amann in half parallel to the base. You'll find just enough of a cavity to fit one gelato-sized scoop of ice cream. I recommend the vanilla or coffee—stick to straightforward, croissant-friendly flavors. Take your bite with care as the ice cream plops out a bit—but what a bite it is. The kouign amann's crackly crisp crust gives way not just to the normal butter joy of the tender center, but to light melty ice cream that softens the entire pastry just so. It's a magical meeting of crisp and soft, creamy and flaky, and if it's excessive, it's with an incredible sense of purpose. You need to eat this. Profiteroles wish they tasted this good.
Dominique Ansel is a 10 to 15 walk from Osteria Morini. Buy a kouign amann and take a plastic knife with you. Morini has takeout hours weekdays from 11:30 to 3:30, but a call to the restaurant advised that if you just want to get some gelato to go, they can make that happen. Otto's gelato (olive oil in particular) would make a fine filling here as well; a scoop of Il Laboratorio del Gelato's honey chestnut would be remarkable too—and both are only a little farther out of your way. Sure, putting together one of these sandwiches will cost you about $8, but it's money beyond well spent. The bottom line: French pastry + Italian ice cream = crazy delicious.