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This Week in Food: Polynesian Cuisine, Winemaker BBQ, and Dinner With Coloring Books

From Island to Island: Celebrating Polynesia in New York City, 48 Lounge, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, Monday, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Sample modern Hawaiian bites courtesy of Noreetuh, along with cocktails from master mixologist Julie Reiner, during this dinner affording a taste of the Pacific. The event includes a performance by slack-key artist Andy Wang and a traditional Tahitian dance ceremony. General admission tickets are $100 and can be reserved here.

California Winemaker BBQ Bash, Astor Center, 399 Lafayette Street, Wednesday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Meet California winemakers at this informal barbecue meal, where over 35 varietals, from orange wine to fruit-focused zinfandel blends, will be offered. Dinner ($53.74 per person) includes traditional barbecue dishes along with cheese and charcuterie. Reserve a ticket here.

One Year Anniversary Party, City Kitchen, 700 8th Avenue, Thursday, 5 p.m.

Snack on shrimp rolls from Luke’s Lobster, sliders from Whitman’s, or doughnut holes from Dough at this celebratory birthday bash. All City Kitchen food stalls will offer a select complimentary bite, plus there will be cake and entertainment at this anniversary party.

Coloring City Bakery, City Bakery, 3 W. 18th Street, Thursday, 8 p.m.

Who says coloring books are just for kids? For $40, Coloring City Bakery guests will get prints to color at dinner, with adult-coloring-book giveaways planned throughout the evening. (Don’t worry, markers and colored pencils will be provided.) This family-style dinner includes roast chicken, macaroni and cheese, kale salad, and baby beets. City Bakery’s hot chocolate and cookies will be served for dessert. Guests can RSVP here.

Dining and Social Positioning from Delmonico’s to the Four Seasons, Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, 417 E. 61st Street, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Learn about the history of scene-stealing restaurants like Delmonico’s. Yale University history professor Paul Freedman will discuss the evolution of upscale restaurants over the years, and their role as places to display status and exhibit social standing. He’ll also be discussing and sampling 19th-century restaurant dishes such as purée of potatoes à la Benton, cheese crusts, and anchovy-butter canapés. Tickets are $40 for general admission. Reserve them here.

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Best Weekend Food Events: Ice Wine Festival, Dr. John Cajun Boil, Super Bowl Sunday

City Bakery Hot Chocolate Festival, City Bakery, 3 West 18th Street, Friday through February 29th

Grab a one-of-a-kind hot chocolate flavor every day during February at City Bakery’s annual hot chocolate festival. This weekend’s flavors include a creamy stout hot chocolate on Friday, a “happy” flavor made with vanilla bean and milk chocolate, and a Super Bowl Sunday flavor.

Ice Wine Festival, Rooftop Reds at Brooklyn Navy Yard, 63 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, Friday and Saturday, 6:30 p.m./2 p.m.

If you’re tired of stuffy indoor wine tastings, then taste the beauty of ice wine on a chilly rooftop. The seasonal wine — made by freezing grapes while still on the vine — will also be accompanied by an ice-art installation. General admission tickets ($50 per person) include two ice wines, a hot toddy, and a mulled wine; all drinks come with a custom food pairing. There’s also a VIP package for $80 which includes everything offered in the general admission package plus six wine tastings, additional food, a private lounge area, and gift certificates.

Sex and Chocolate with Fine & Raw Chocolate, Babeland Brooklyn, 462 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, Friday, 7 p.m.

Babeland is offering a free workshop for people interested in the mysterious powers of chocolate. Guests will sample complimentary champagne and chocolate courtesy of Fine & Raw chocolatiers, with an instructor guiding the conversation on how to incorporate the sweet into your Valentine’s Day plans. The first ten guests to arrive will receive a gift, while one guest will walk away with a $50 gift basket and a private tasting tour at the Fine & Raw chocolate factory.

Crawfish Boil featuring Dr. John and The Nite Trippers, The Hall at MP, 470 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn, Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m.

Looking to get a jump start on Fat Tuesday? The Hall at MP hosts NOLA legend Dr. John, with guests feasting on bayou fried shrimp and jambalaya with andouille sausage. Large groups from eight to twelve guests can also order up a whole Cajun roasted pig. Reservations are required.

Super Bowl Viewing Parties, Multiple Locations, Sunday

While there’s no place exactly like your sofa to watch the big game, plenty of restaurants and bars across the city are broadcasting the big game so you don’t have to. In the West Village, Rosemary’s is hosting a pig roast complete with complimentary snacks for the table and $20 pitchers of select beer (reserve here). If you’re seeking the city’s biggest screen, grab a seat in front of the 12 by 12 monster at the Four Seasons’s TY Bar, which will offer a menu of Carolina and Denver inspired dishes like pulled pork sliders and bison cheeseburgers. Additional venues broadcasting the game and serving food and drink specials include Bushwick’s new movie theater Syndicated, Boulton & Watt in the East Village, and Treadwell Park on the Upper East Side.

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Best Salad Bar

Hot chocolate and pretzel croissants may be City Bakery‘s bread and butter, but don’t overlook the salad bars in the back — they provide a daily greenmarket feast fast disappearing from Union Square. After 11 a.m., bypass the bakery counter and pile a plate with seasonal vegetable dishes, like sweet potatoes and pineapple, crunchy jalapeño cabbage slaw, bow-tie pasta studded with mushrooms, and jicama salad. Nest in sweetly battered fried chicken legs or pretzel chicken ladled with house-made grain mustard. On Sundays the kitchen hauls out the lox, which makes this a good place for a low-key brunch.

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The 10 Best Hot Chocolates in NYC, 2013

Surely one of winter’s greatest treasures, a mug of hot chocolate can feel as restorative as a multi-dimensional meditative trance (FYI: nirvana looks like Beyonce eating a cronut). No matter how cold or dreary it gets, this elixir with ancient roots — the Mayans beat us to it by at least two millennia — has likely put more smiles on people’s faces than antidepressants. Whether staying traditional with plain milk, adding complementary flavors, or spiking your murky brew with booze, New York’s frigid months were made for hot chocolate. Here are the city’s 10 best.

10. Martha’s Country Bakery, 70-28 Austin Street, Queens; 718-544-0088

This Queens-based mini-chain goes beyond the standard cup of cocoa, serving up peanut butter, red velvet, and cinnamon-inflected Mexican varieties. In business since 1972, the bakeries all sport modern design elements like exposed brick and natural wood. Still, you’re more likely to find locals inhaling slices of cake than laptop-toting bloggers typing away between sips of macchiatos. The hot chocolate is smooth and rich with a light milkiness, and on occasion, you might just find a chocolate syrup smiley face staring back up at you.

9. MarieBelle, 484 Broome Street; 212-925-6999

Maribel Lieberman celebrates chocolate in all its opulence at her flamboyant SoHo shop and cafe famous for its ornate hand-painted ganache. Thirsty travelers can grab a cup to go in the powder blue shop up front, but the full range of hot chocolate options is best explored in the back cafe, where pampered pamperers pamper themselves with mesmeric drinking chocolates ranging from 60 to 80 percent cocoa content. Full of smoky fire, the chipotle and ancho-tinged spicy hot chocolate is particularly invigorating, though if you’re in the market for a liquid hug, check out the decadent white chocolate and hazelnut milk chocolate varieties, which coat the palate in a blanket of dairy richness.

8. Oro Bakery & Bar, 375 Broome Street; 212-941-6368

During the day, Dorina Yuen’s sliver of a space functions as a charming neighborhood cafe serving all manner of pastries, sweet treats, and coffee beverages from cortado to café au lait. Yuen’s hot chocolate is sugary and mild — perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up. At night, Oro transforms into a charming wine bar, and that hot chocolate is available spiked. We can think of plenty worse ways to while away a chilly evening than commiserating over boozy hot cocoa until it’s pajama time.

7. Lavazza at Eataly, 200 Fifth Avenue; 646-398-5100

Revered Italian coffee roaster Lavazza operates a small shop at the eastern mouth of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s buzzing mega market, brewing up aromatic cups of java for the many patrons passing through the busy thoroughfare. Thick enough to lightly coat a spoon, the cafe’s ‘cioccolata con panna’ arrives dark and burnished; a wavy cloud of whipped cream sinks just below the surface, submerged under its own heft. Along with the rosticceria’s prime rib panini, the molten chocolate is one of Eataly’s best offerings — though good luck getting any shopping done if you try to consume them during the same visit.

6. Nunu Chocolates; 529 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn; 917-776-7102

Self-taught chocolate impresarios Justine Pringle and Andy Laird whip up an ethereal cup of hot chocolate at their Boerum Hill cafe and production space. The warm space, heavy on wood accents, smells like what Augustus Gloop would have wet dreamed about if he’d lived to reach puberty. Light in texture but deep in flavor thanks to 65 percent dark chocolate shavings, the shards are whisked into steamed and foamed milk; the beverage receives a final sprinkle of shavings. In its simplicity, Nunu’s standard brew is pleasantly bitter with only a back note of sweetness. A spicy version with creeping chili heat is also offered.

5. Jacques Torres, 66 Water Street, Brooklyn; 718-875-9772

At Mr. Chocolate’s flagship retail shop, Torres melts chocolate into an intense cocoa slurry. Though he’s moved the bulk of his production to an expansive industrial space in Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal, the bean baron’s DUMBO location still makes for an uplifting excursion. Spice lovers take note: other outfits may purport to serve spicy hot chocolates, but Torres’ Wicked version — ground with allspice, cinnamon, ancho, and chipotle chili peppers — delivers the most satisfying kick.

4. Le Churro, 1236 Lexington Avenue; 646-649-5253

This Upper East Side micro-focused fast food concept specializes in Spanish-style churros con chocolate, the latter of which is available in eight different varieties including chili, sea salt, mint, cinnamon, orange, Nutella, and peanut butter cup. Spanish churros are shorter and chewier than their sugar-spackled Mexican counterparts, with a lightly crisp exterior which yields with each dip. This is viscous stuff — molten, creamy, and dark. Thank goodness “churro pairings” aren’t a thing that exist yet, but we can’t help but tack on a cone of churros with milk caramel sauce to our order of sea salt hot chocolate.

3. L.A. Burdick, 5 East 20th Street; 212-796-0143

Chocolatier Larry Burdick brings the same obsessive attention to detail that he applies to his confections to the delectable menu of hot chocolates available at his Flatiron shop — the only location in New York (the others are in New England). White, milk, and dark hot chocolates are available and can be blended to create custom “black and white” versions. Better yet, add a slug of whiskey, rum, or kirsch cherry liqueur to your mug for a spirituous and quaffable elixir — part cocktail, part dessert.

2. City Bakery, 3 West 18th Street; 212-366-1414

Maury Rubin’s venerable bakery has earned its place as a destination-worthy detour for lovers of baked goods and hot chocolate, especially during the month of February, when the company holds a hot chocolate festival (now in its 22nd year) featuring special varieties every day of the month. Previous years have featured Earl Grey, lemon, and creamy stout experiments. The classic hot chocolate is archetypal: intensely rich in flavor without turning into sludge and slightly sweet without compromising in complexity. There’s hardly a more alluring winter sight than one of the sturdy house-made marshmallows bobbing on the surface of a cup of City Bakery hot chocolate.

1. Roni-Sue Chocolates, 148 Forsyth Street; 212-677-1216

Chocolate-covered ‘Pig Candy’ might be the hot ticket item at Rhonda Kave’s inventive chocolate shop, but her hot chocolate is an undeniable seasonal must. Built on the backbone of organic Belizean beans harvested in the Moho River Valley, the beverage hits the palate with a mild sweetness, which gives way to deep cocoa notes, slightly fruity from registering at 60 percent cocoa content. The chocolate is melted and whisked into steamed milk, drinkable with an almost syrupy quality. If somehow this potent refreshment isn’t luxurious enough for you, try melting a stick of that pig candy into your cup. Mmm…bacon hot chocolate.

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Birdbath Green Bakery Closes on First Avenue

City Bakery announced on Sunday it would close its First Avenue location of Birdbath Green Bakery, a 240-square-foot outpost with no signage and just stacks of cookies in the window. Its kitchen had been the home of dough mixing and baking for the entire mini-chain since 2005. But all the baking that was done at the First Avenue location will now take place near Union Square, much closer to City Bakery on 18th Street, Maury Rubin’s mothership. Macaroon-lovers will have to travel to one of the other locations for the Passover treat.

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Maury Rubin on City Bakery and Birdbath’s Delicious Coconut Macaroons

Maury Rubin, owner of City Bakery and Birdbath, grew up eating coconut macaroons–the ultimate Passover dessert–from a Manischewitz can. Years later, he introduced a more refined version at his baked goods empire in Lower Manhattan. The huge, pyramid-shaped monsters are browned on each corner to create three triangles of shredded coconut that meet at the top in a rounded point.

Jewish bakeries tend to dress up the traditional sweets with dipped chocolate or raspberry preserves, but Rubin (who famously serves 35 kinds of hot chocolate) has only served one kind for the last five years: original.

Rubin and his army of bakers use organic dried and shredded coconut from a small supplier. Bits as thick as wide rice noodles wind up smushed between tiny shreds that make the macaroon easy to break apart into bite-size pieces.

Only a few experts in his kitchen are “authorized” to mold them. “It’s a bit of a struggle to get that triangle just right,” said Rubin. “There are people in the kitchen who get their hands batted away from trying to make them.” It’s no wonder they come out like delicate, Passover-friendly mountains.

Find larger macaroons for $4 each at City Bakery, and a smaller version for $3 each at Birdbath’s various locations.

 

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Hot Chocolate Month Starts Tomorrow at City Bakery

Chocoholics, rejoice: The happiest time of the year is almost here! Sure, February might be a crap time of year for some people, namely those with seasonal affective disorder and all single people around the 14th, but for cocoa lovers, it means the return of City Bakery’s Hot Chocolate Month.

Throughout this February (which has an extra bonus day of hot chocolate since it’s Leap Year, woot woot), the Union Square area bakery will be offering patrons a bounty of exotic flavors in addition to its signature hot chocolate. Look for options ranging from ginger hot chocolate (February 3) to Vietnamese cinnamon hot chocolate (February 8) to bourbon hot chocolate (February 10) to the intriguing-sounding ode-to-the-polar-bear hot chocolate, a buttery white cocoa confection (February 22). This year also marks the 20th year of celebrations, meaning there’s bound to be a whole lotta chocolate joy. Hope you’re not taking that New Year’s resolution to diet too seriously.

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Fork in the Road’s Favorite Breakfasts in New York City

It’s time for Tuesday Toasts, our weekly feature highlighting the Fork in the Road team’s favorite versions of popular dishes and favorite spots in the city for a given activity. They might not be the best or the coolest or the newest, but instead represent the things and places that are near and dear to our hearts. Will the team have wildly diverging opinions, or do great minds think alike? There’s only one way to find out. Up this week: Our Favorite Breakfasts.

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La Bonbonniere in the West Village, where I always have the same breakfast: two eggs over easy, three sage sausage links, buttered whole-wheat toast (that’s the healthy part), and bad coffee.” –Robert Sietsema

” I drool over Prune’s sausage and oyster dish. A coil of sausage, a handful of raw oysters, thick slices of bread, and stewed tomatoes for smearing on any and all of the components. It’s straightforward and simple. Something I’m dying to replicate at home.” –Lauren Bloomberg

“For a working breakfast, I tend to go to Cookshop a lot, where I go for the super-yummy breakfast pizza (bacon, eggs, mozzarella, and spinach). For a weekend, low-key breakfast, I’ll go to Elephant & Castle, the West Village pub/restaurant that hasn’t changed since I was a kid, and I’ll get an omelet of sorts. And if it’s just a coffee breakfast, I’ll go to City Bakery for a pretzel croissant and a cuppa joe.” –Lauren Shockey

For more dining news, head to Fork in the Road, or follow us @ForkintheRoadVV, or me @ldshockey.