Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Veniero's

Beautiful ceiling inside Veniero's
On my recent holiday jaunt to New York, I was taken to this charming little Italian café near Union Square called
Veniero’s. Upon arrival I immediately thought that it’d be a great place for a date, although my family disagreed because it wasn’t super quiet and the space was a little cramped. But what could be better than feeding cake to each other over cramped, little tables? Who needs actual conversation on a date, anyway? I’m usually only there for the food, as with all the other occasions in life that I show up at – isn’t that true for everyone else too?

It was a weekend evening, and there was a line forming out the door, despite plenty of queuing room inside the restaurant. Those who were there to buy and take home treats had the shortest wait. However, standing in line was made much more palatable by the fact that there were literally shelves and shelves of beautiful desserts lining the walls on either side of us.

To be honest, I wasn’t very excited at first when I was told that we were going to an Italian dessert joint. Italian food might be one of my favourite cuisines, but (with the exception of tiramisu) I’m really not into Italian desserts. I don’t really care for cannoli, spumoni, zabaione, pannacotta, marzipan tortes, Italian cookies, or espresso-based drinks – even affogato. But, bless them, they had a bunch of other choices that I fantasize about on a regular basis – cheesecakes of all kinds, shortcakes & other layered cakes, fruit tarts, flaky pastries, and a host of other alluring conoctions laced with chocolate, caramel, fruits, and happiness.

By the time our party of 8 was seated, I already pretty much knew what I was going to order this visit (hot chocolate and strawberry shortcake) and the next (hazelnut or almond steamer and chocolate-raspberry cake…maybe also a gelato to share). Other things my party ordered included tiramisu, fruit tart, cheese cake, hazelnut coffee, iced coffee, and chocolate mousse cake. YUM!!!

My order!
Let me talk about my order first, shall we? In short, it was very, very good. The sponge cake that was the foundation of the shortcake was fluffy and delicious. My only issue is that the bottom was a bit soggy and squished, probably from condensation and likely because it was made hours ago. But besides the bottom layer, the sponge cake was airy and delicious and not too sweet. The strawberries were fresh and tart, and the cream was rich but not cloying. Very nice! The hot chocolate was also nice – not too sugary, as hot chocolates from restaurants often are. I was very pleased. Of course, typical of me, I also ate off everyone’s plates, so let me give you the lowdown on what I thought of everyone else’s choices.

The tiramisu was lovely. It was richer and a bit heavier than tiramisus I’ve had at Italian restaurants but it was very satisfying. The coffee flavour was also very well done – present but not too strong, aromatic but not bitter. What I really liked was that the liqueur wasn’t too overpowering. Nothing kills my dessert buzz like biting into something with a ton of bitter liqueur in it. Also, miraculously, the lady fingers weren’t totally soaked through and saturated. I don’t like mushiness in any baked goods, but tiramisus often get a bit mushy, especially as it gets later in the day. Somehow they managed to keep their lady fingers in this dessert dry and airy.

Double chocolate mousse cake

The mousse cake was my least favourite of the night, probably because I’m not a mousse fan to begin with. But while I normally expect mousses to be light and fluffy, this one was very heavy and thick – almost like a cheesecake in texture. It was very chocolatey, however, so for those of you hardcore chocolate eaters out there who don’t mind mousses, this would be a good choice.

Fruit tart

The fruit tart was nice; the fruits were fresh and I like what the base was lined with. But I’m not a fan of gel glazes, which are inevitable on fruit tarts, and the base was very, very hard – almost like a biscotti. This is probably to avoid sogginess, which I can understand, but I’d advise anyone who orders this to also order a delicious hot drink so that you can dunk the base in it.

Now the cheesecake - which I sadly didn't get a photo of! :(  This cheesecake was VERY good. This was the kind of cheesecake people travel to New York to eat. Dense, rich, smooth, and just the right amount of sweetness. The flavour of cream cheese was also more of a veil than an integral part of the dessert. I hate cheesecakes that taste so cheesy they’re almost savoury. This was just perfect. So good! I ended up a significant portion of this, which was not my order.

The prices were also very reasonable, especially for New York, which explains why it was so packed. Veniero’s has quickly become one of my New York must-visit places and I’d highly recommend it!

342 E 11th St
New York, NY
10003, USA

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