Favorite Dishes #80: Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie

Freshly baked cookies studded with chocolate and nuts can be described in one of two ways: good and great. But the chocolate chip walnut cookie from Levain Bakery (167 West 74th Street, 212-874-6080; 2167 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, 646-455-0952) transcends greatness, beelining from the oven into a realm of unimagined bliss. Ours is an imperfect world. Yet for the two minutes or so it takes to devour this sizable slab of golden-brown goodness, everything is in its right place. Jarring reality anxiously awaits your return, so chew slowly.

All baked goods benefit from obscene amounts of butter, and Levain’s masterpiece is no exception. But their cookie succeeds where pedestrian junk foods fail, bringing a yin/yang balance to its flavor, texture, and consistency. Scattered morsels of dark chocolate anchor the sweetness of the dough, allowing a faint saltiness to declare its presence. The gooey center provides textural relief in the form of crunchy, half-crushed walnuts. The outer crust speaks of an almost biscuit-like quality.

Hardly a city secret, you are likely to endure a (fast-moving) line for the privilege of forking over $4 for a cookie. But we all know of the rewards bestowed upon those who wait, and many folks walk away from here so enamored, they’re left craving a cigarette. A glass of cold milk is far preferable.

The Village Voice is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10.

Here’s our countdown up to now:
#100: Laminated Blueberry Brioche at Dominique Ansel Kitchen
#99: Egg Shop’s Golden Bucket Fried Chicken
#98: Ramen Lab’s Torigara Shoyu
#97: Cannoli at Ferdinando’s
#96: Breakfast Sandwich at Dimes
#95: Banana Royal at Eddie’s Sweet Shop
#94: Fletcher’s Burnt Ends
#93: Almayass’s Mante
#92: Empellon Taqueria’s Fish Taco
#91: El Rey’s Sardine Tostada
#90: General Tso’s Pig’s Head at the Cannibal
#89: The Vegetarian at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop
#88: The 21 Club’s Creamy Chicken Hash
#87: Deep-Fried Olives at Via Carota
#86: Pougi at Loi Estiatorio
#85: Shelsky’s Hot Pastrami Sandwich
#85: Pearl & Ash’s Smoked Bread with Chicken Butter
#84: Gluten-Free Pizza at Rossopomodoro
#83: Perry St’s Chocolate Pudding With Candied Violets
#82: Whit’s End’s ‘Fuckin’ Bluefish Dip’
#81: Morgenstern’s Salt and Pepper Pine Nut Ice Cream


NYC Hospitals Cracking Down on Junk Food

New York City hospitals are cracking down on junk food, according to Fox News. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently successfully banished super-size sodas from the city, is now aiming to get rid of sugary and fatty foods from both public and private hospitals.

Fox reports that though city hospitals have cut calories in patients’ meals and restricted the sale of unhealthy snacks, they’re now tackling hospital cafeteria food.

The cafeteria crackdown will ban deep-fryers, make salads required as options, and allow only healthy snacks to be stocked near the cafeteria entrance and at cash registers. At least half of all sandwiches and salads must be made or served with whole grains, and half-size sandwich portions must be available.


Hot Dog Wrapped in a Fried Egg + a Whole Mess of Food From Crif Dogs, Dish #46

Welcome to 100 Dishes to Eat Now, the tasty countdown leading up to our “Best of 2012” issue. Tune in every day (weekends, too!) for a new dish from the Fork in the Road team.

Good Morning

Oh, the hot dog. Other than pizza, is there a better food to eat shamelessly? Crif Dogs, with its two respective locations in the East Village and Williamsburg, specializes in making you think it’s a good idea to take a bunch of crap, put it on a piece of meat, and shove it down your gullet. On a recent visit, I enjoyed the Good Morning, a treat that embraced the joys of breakfast food. Wrapped in bacon, cheese, and a fried egg, it’s definitely not a light meal. But pair that with a $3 PBR, some tater tots, and a beautiful date, and it’s a fun spot to throw all foodie-aspirations out the window, and just eat some good ol’ disgusting (but in the best way) American food.


Should Welfare Recipients Be Allowed To Use Public Assistance Cash To Buy Junk Food?

Yesterday, we told you about a piece of legislation proposed by an Upstate lawmaker that would ban welfare recipients from using public assistance money to pay for “sin activities” like gambling, strippers, alcohol and cigarettes. In response to our post, a reader posed an interesting question: if the impoverished can’t use welfare money to buy cigarettes and booze, should they allowed to use it to buy junk food?

The question holds extra relevance given nutrition bully Mike Bloomberg’s proposed ban on sugary drinks being served in containers larger than 16 ounces — and that’s for people who pay for their own drinks, not just welfare recipients.

Outrageous, we know, but welfare recipients currently can use the money given to them by society to pay for the bad habits mentioned above. As we pointed out yesterday, many of those habits often land them in hospitals — where more taxpayer money often is spent to keep them alive.

“How far could [the ban] eventually go? I hate seeing people using food stamps to buy nothing but soda, candy, and junk food, but do we have the right to tell them what they may or may not eat,” a Voice reader asked yesterday. “Maybe that’s not a bad thing… if food stamps can only be used to buy healthy foods, maybe that will motivate people not to keep using them as a crutch for so long? Just thinking out loud, but what are your thoughts?”

Our thoughts, as we mentioned in the comment section of yesterday’s post, are as follows: “we absolutely have the right to tell them what they may or may not purchase with the money society GIVES them. If they want to buy soda and junk food, they can get a job and buy all the Snickers bars they want. However, Bloomy’s big-boy soda ban is absolute bullshit. The difference is he’s trying to tell us what to do with the money we work for. When you start living on handouts, take what you can get and don’t complain. Or get yourself out of that situation and buy whatever the hell you want. That, of course, is my humble opinion.”



New Study Links Fast Food to Depression

If you’re a single couch potato with less-than-stellar eating habits, Spanish researchers have bad news for you. They studied people with this profile and found that those who ate junk food — commercial baked goods and fast food — were 51 percent more likely to develop depression.

For the study, published in Public Health Nutrition, researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada observed 8,964 participants who had never been diagnosed with depression for six months. By the end of the study 493 were diagnosed with depression, or had started to use mild antidepressants.

“The more fast food you consume, the greater the risk of depression,” explained the lead author of the study, Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, about her group’s findings. But the study also revealed that eating even small quantities of junk food increases that risk.


Bread Trumps Chips as the Biggest Source of Salt in Our Diet

​Where does most of the salt in our diet come from? Not from potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, or pizza, according to a government report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Instead, the number-one spot on the list of the top 10 sources of sodium in the American diet belongs to our dear friend, plain old bread.

A CDC official told USA Today that the issue with bread is not that it’s super-salty but that people tend to eat large quantities of it daily. Yes, we all know that stuffing your face with the rolls in the restaurant bread basket is a bad idea. But some of the report’s numbers are a rude awakening: Bread accounts for 7 percent of the salt that an average American eats per day; it’s one of only 10 foods that make up 44 percent of the sodium we consume daily.

The usual suspects, salty snacks like potato chips and pretzels, are actually at the bottom of the list, accounting for about 3 percent of our daily sodium intake.

Junk Food in Schools Doesn’t Make Kids Fat: Study

Junk-food-loaded school vending machines, long said to lure the nation’s youth to dietary debauchery, might not be making them fat, a new study finds.

At least 33 percent of kids are overweight, the New York Daily News reports, but access to unhealthy snacks — such as sugary candy, salty chips, and syrupy soda — in school might not have anything to do with it, according to Jennifer Van Hook, a Penn State sociology professor.

For several years, Van Hook studied the body mass indexes (BMIs) of 19,000 students in 1,000 private and public schools, Web MD reports.

“What we found basically is, there is no relationship between going to a middle school that sells junk food and gaining weight,” she told reporters.

In Van Hook’s study, the amount of obese kids declined between fifth and eighth grades, the Daily News reports. So surprised was Van Hook by the results, in fact, that she and her team spent two years studying the data.

“Children spend a lot of time in school and we expected school to have a lot of influence on them,” she told the paper.

She concluded that kids’ eating habits at home play more of a role in obesity than kids’ eating habits at school.


Junk Food Might Kill Kids with Video Games: Report

New British research suggests that junk-food companies really don’t have kids’ best interests in mind, as they knowingly shill unhealthy eats to unsuspecting minors, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Groups like Kellogg’s and Cadbury try to lure kids into eating fatty, sugary snacks by setting up websites with video games and pairing cartoon characters with products, claims the British Heart Foundation and the Children’s Food Campaign, which conducted the research.

The companies have also taken to Facebook and Twitter — and sending email directly to kids — to attract underage customers, the newspaper reports.

In Britain, advertisements for these foods cannot run during children’s TV programming — but no law bars the conglomerates from marketing online.

The paper notes that some Britons want tighter regulation of these Internet adverts, since kids can’t tell whether they’re consuming ads.

Critics say these advertisements are designed too discreetely — so that youth often assume they’ve just stumbled upon online freebies.

Among the not-so-nutritious picks marketed on the sly: Krave cereal, Cheestrings, Nesquik, Sugar Puffs, Capri-Sun, Rowntree, Chupa Chups, and Cadbury Buttons, the Telegraph reports.


How to Attract Millennials to Your Restaurant; Why Restaurant Week Bites

Want to know how to attract “millennials” to your restaurant (that’s customers aged 16 to 34)? Well, try introducing small plates — they love to snack — and new technology and healthy food.
[Nation’s Restaurant News]

Big Green Eggs, the original brand of ceramic kamados available in the U.S., are not only great as barbecue pits, but also for cooking everything from Bundt cakes to pizzas.
[NY Times]

Food trucks are banding together to fight back against police chasing them out of Midtown with food-truck food courts. The latest was the Staten Island Food Truck Festival.
[NY Times]

Forget pairing food and wine. Junk-food foodies are all about pairing corn chips and Mountain Dew. Who do you think Pretzel M&M’s were invented for?
[Wall Street Journal]

Jell-O is making a comeback among avant-garde chefs, established design studios, and gelatin artists.
[Wall Street Journal]

Here’s news flash: Restaurant Week kinda sucks. Most restaurants phone it in and many extend the week to a month.
[NY Post]

Farm-to-school programs are all the rage these days, with some 2,500 programs servicing more than 10,000 schools in all 50 states.