Thursday, May 04, 2017

Momofuku Milk Bar: Soft Serve & Truffles

Momofuku Milk Bar.  In person.  Finally.  I've reviewed Momofuku Milk bar previously, when I ordered a cake for overnight delivery, and when Christina Tosi brought the amazing cookies to a book tour stop I went to, but, my only other in-person visits were years ago, before I had a blog, before I felt compelled to take photos of my food and share it all with you.

On my recent trip to New York, I finally visited a Milk Bar again in person ... twice in as many days.  I've had tons of the cookies before (once at a party in NY when a friend brought them, and several times on Christina Tosi's book tour when she brought them), but I hadn't been to a Milk Bar in person in about 7 years.  It was a cold, rainy night the first evening, but this didn't deter us from visiting, for the soft serve ice cream in particular.

The Setting

I visited two Milk Bars on this trip, the first time to Midtown, and the second to the newly opened Chelsea location.

The Milk Bar located in midtown is tiny.  There is no seating.  There is no counter on the side to stand and eat your treats.  There is just a register, a blackboard with the menu, and a wall with shelves of self-serve items on it, plus a little station for condiments for hot drinks.  We didn't know this before we arrived, but luckily the place was empty, so we were able to mill around and eat our treats out of the rain, even though there wasn't really space to do so.

The Chelsea location isn't much bigger, although it did have a single bench to sit on inside.
Blackboard Menu.
The menu is on a colorful blackboard, thoughtfully arranged and colored to make the best things stick out.  The illustrations were cute.
Packaged Cookies, Tins, Mixes.
As I said, the midtown store is tiny, with a row of shelves with baskets of individually wrapped self-serve cookies, tins of cookies, and assorted baking mixes.
Display Case.
Near the midtown register is a display case with all of the baked goods: cookies, klossies (gluten-free and vegan cookies), truffles, bombs (savory items), and crack pie.  The Chelsea location has a similar display, along the wall.   It was useful to see the items to have a sense of size and clearly know what you were ordering.  The location of the display was a bit unfortunate though, because you didn't see it until you got to the register, and the Chelsea version was even less useful, as it was past the register, and quite easy to miss.
Prep Area.
The food prep area at the midtown location, as you guessed it, was tiny.  The single worker took our orders, rang us up, and also filled all orders.  For cold, packaged items, he just grabbed them, and cookies were already self serve, but all drinks, ice cream, and shakes required assembly and he had a very small area to work in.  This area packed in a microwave, toaster oven, milkshake mixer, and of course, the soft serve machine, Electoro-Freeze brand.  I think the toaster oven is used to warm up cookies?

One diner ordered a hot chocolate, which I assure you, was not a pre-made mix.  It was made in a milkshake container, and I saw lots of fudge going into it.  It was even mixed using the milkshake stick, which resulted in an incredibly frothy consistency.

Service was good, but, we were the only customers and I'm not sure how well this tiny space would possibly handle an actual crowd.

Soft Serve

Momofuku Milk Bar soft serve ice cream.  Oh, yes.  This is why I was there, and, clearly an item that I cannot get shipped to me in San Francisco.

Most of the Milk Bar stores sell two flavors of soft serve: cereal milk™ and a second rotating flavor.  It was Coke Float the first day I visited, but my second visited happened to be on "Menu Change Day", where it was replaced with Sweet Potato Pie.  Milk Bar does not offer cones and has only one size of ice cream available (4 ounces), served in a little cup (ok, they also sell pints).  You can add a few toppings (sprinkles or chocolate chips for 25 cents, fudge or cornflake crunch for $0.75).  Not tons of choices here, and surprisingly, no crazy sundaes.  I really thought Milk Bar would be all about the toppings ... it seems like any of the cookies could be crumbled on top, or the truffles, or even just the milk crumb ingredients for the cookies ... but they keep it simple.

If you want to go decadent and creative, Milk Bar also makes a ton of different milkshakes using cereal milk as the base, with cornflakes, hot fudge, or coffee blended in, or, if you are even more crazy, with any of the truffles blended in.  I saw someone get a shake and must have been so obviously drooling over it that when it was finished and placed on the counter, she hesitated in grabbing it and asked, "I'm sorry, was this yours? Did you order it too?"  It really looked incredible.  They also make floats with cream soda, orange soda, or coke topped with soft serve.

It was absolutely freezing when I visited, and I was soaking wet from the rain, when I visited the first night, but I couldn't resist getting the soft serve anyway.  It is the thing of legends, for good reason.  And two nights later?  Sure, it wasn't raining, but, I couldn't resist trying the new flavor.
Cereal Milk™ Soft Serve with Sprinkles. 4 oz. $5.25.
"Made with milk, cornflakes, brown sugar and a pinch of salt, it tastes just like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of cornflakes!"

The first day I went for the signature Cereal Milk.

I wanted a topping, and I opted for sprinkles since I really do love sprinkles on soft serve.  They had rainbow only, and coated the bottom half of the ice cream only, certainly a different application than I've seen before (usually ice cream shops just roll an entire cone in sprinkles ...).  This did allow me to try the ice cream on its own first though, and didn't overwhelm like can sometimes happen with sprinkles.

The ice cream was ... yup, cereal milk.  It really did taste like cornflakes and sugary milk.  It was sweet and a bit corny.  The ice cream was creamy and not icy.  It was very good, very satisfying.  While sweet, it wasn't overwhelming, but you certainly did want to eat it slowly.

The sprinkles were ... amazing.  The best $0.25 I've spent in a long time!  Seriously, I don't know what it was about them, but they are not standard sprinkles.  As my friend said, "These are not just corn syrup, they taste like real sugar!"  I quickly ran out of sprinkles.  I had a few bites of the remaining ice cream without sprinkles, and decided that I really did like it better with sprinkles.  Sure, the ice cream was great on its own, but, I could splurge for $0.25 more of sprinkles.  So I slunk back up the counter, and asked if I could buy more sprinkles.  The server didn't even flinch, just found a small container, and filled it up with sprinkles, easily 5x what I received originally.  I went to hand over my shiny quarter, and he laughed and said it was fine.  Score!  I loved the sprinkles.

The little cardboard cup was an interesting serving choice for the ice cream.  It had little pull out handles which I actually liked, since it was cold, and holding the cold ice cream didn't help with my cold fingers.  So I think I liked this.  The wooden paddle for a spoon though I didn't really like, although I see the whimsy, a throw back to the little wooden paddles that come in packaged ice cream.

Overall, this was very good, and very satisfying, even on a cold wet day.  I can only imagine how great it is when actually warm out.  The $5 price certainly is high for a small ice cream, and I'll admit, it looks pretty small when you first get it, but, the flavor is so intense that it really is plenty.  I'd certainly get this flavor and topping again.
Sweet Potato Pie & Cereal Milk Twist with Sprinkles. $5.25.
"The most delicious take on the classic spun into a soft serve ice cream, topped with graham cracker crust and charred marshmallows! available as a twist with cereal milk™ soft serve!"

My second visit took place after dinner Momofuku Nishi.  We certainly could have ordered dessert there, where they did have soy crème brûlée that sounded right up my alley, but, when we walked by Milk Bar, just a few doors down, I saw the sign advertising the brand new Sweet Potato Pie flavor, and, well, there was no competition.

I walked in, and immediately asked to try a sample.  I know better than to just blindly order a flavor.  It tasted *exactly* like a pumpkin pie, or, I guess, a sweet potato pie.  It was well spiced, sweet, and creamy, although a bit runny and softer than what I had the previous visit.

It was great, but I decided to go for a twist with Cereal Milk, as I suspected that the flavors would compliment each other well, which they did.  Both flavors are pretty intense and sweet on their own, but somehow they balanced each out out quite nicely.

For toppings, to go alongside the new ice cream flavor they were introducing graham cracker crust and charred marshmallows, but, they weren't available yet.  These seem like much more fitting toppings than the standard corn flakes, chocolate chips or fudge, or even sprinkles, to go with the sweet potato pie base flavor.  I got sprinkles as a fallback, and they were fine, but didn't quite go with the sweet potato, as I suspected.

This time the ice cream came in a large see through plastic cup, and the sprinkles were poured on top.  An entirely different presentation than what I had in midtown.  Interestingly, the model on display used the little paper cup and only coated the bottom of the ice cream, just like I had at the previous location.  I'm not complaining about getting a much larger portion, or about it being easier to eat from a bigger sized cup, but I'm not really sure why it was different, particularly when someone after me got the regular little cup ...

Anyway, the ice cream flavor was fantastic, and I was very happy with my twist, although I would prefer a different topping.

Cake Truffles

I've had my eye on the cake truffles for quite a while.  I don't like cake really, but ... I do like cake pops, as the cake consistency is much different when blended with frosting, and cake truffles sound like a similar concept, sorta.  The truffles are cake mixed with a flavored milk and formed in a ball, coated in white chocolate, and then coated in some kind of crumb, available in multiple flavors.

Three flavors were available when I visited: chocolate malt (chocolate cake with malted milk and malt milk crumbs), pumpkin pie (pumpkin cake with pumpkin milk and "spiced pie" and graham cracker crumbs), and the classic b'day (vanilla rainbow cake with vanilla milk and rainbow cake sand).
b'day truffles.  3 pack for $4.35.
Truffles are sold in 3 packs or dozens, but all must be of the same variety.  (Plea to Milk Bar: pretty please make a sampler?)

The cookies were all self-serve, but the truffles were not, which surprised me, until I looked at the packaging (uh, several hours later) to find that they said to keep refrigerated.  Oops.
b'day truffle.
"Vanilla rainbow cake mixed with vanilla infused milk, coated with white chocolate and rolled in rainbow cake crumbs – it’s a birthday party in a bite!"

I went for the b'day, mostly because I don't trust pumpkin spice and I didn't want chocolate.

These things were intense.  A friend took one bite and said that single bite was plenty for him.  And I'll admit, just popping one of these on its own was a bit too much.   Soooo sweet.

By the way, if you'd like to make these yourself, you can find the recipe, including the sub recipes for the cake, the vanilla milk, and the birthday cake sand all online here.
b'day truffle: inside.
The truffle was just a ball of sweet, it is hard to describe much more than that.  I didn't really detect the different layers, it all was just overwhelming sweetness.  I guess there was slightly more smooth sweetness near the exterior from the white chocolate shell?

The inside texture was also really strange, it crumbled apart fairly easily.  It certainly wasn't moist and light like cake, but wasn't like a cake pop either.  The outside was coated in birthday cake "sand", which I now actually understand.  If you imagine cake as sand ... this is what it would be like.  A bit gritty, but not unpleasant.  So strange.

Sorry, I really fail at describing this, but, really, I just don't know how to do better.

I enjoyed the truffles, but, I didn't feel compelled to eat the through the whole 3 pack in one sitting.

The next morning however, I may have snuck one with my morning coffee.  This was perfect!  I kept my coffee black, and the bitter coffee and sweet truffle paired fantastically.  I think these would also be great crumbled on top of ice cream.  Or, of course, in an milkshake (which Milk Bar does make, I can only imagine it ... Cereal Milk blended with 3 of these! OMG, sweet overload).

I wish the truffles were sold in singles, since 3 at a time is quite an undertaking, and they require refrigeration.
Packaging for a dozen truffles.
Truffles are also sold by the dozen, and come packaged in a box.

When I ordered a cake for delivery from Milk Bar, (yes, you can have their products overnight mailed to you!), I also threw in an order of truffles, just in case there wasn't enough cake, or in case it got damaged, and, well, because I wanted to try another variety of truffles?

My flavor choices again included b'day or chocolate malt, but the seasonal pumpkin pie was replaced with another seasonal option: grasshopper pie.  I eagerly ordered a dozen.
Grasshopper Pie Cake Truffles (dozen). $18.
Inside the box was a tray with a slot for each truffle.  The slots barely held the truffles, as they really are not petite items.
Grasshopper Pie Cake Truffle.
"Brand new for this holiday season! Chocolate chip cake mixed with mint cheesecake, coated in white chocolate and rolled in chocolate crumbs!"

This flavor excited me.  Chocolate chip.  Cheesecake.  Mint.  White chocolate.  Crumbs.  So many good things, and all ones that did sound like they'd combine pretty well.

The coating on this was much more extensive than on the b'day - a thicker layer of big chunks of chocolate crumb, compared to the rainbow cake crumbs, which were really more like a dust.  It kinda looked like crushed up Oreo, and tasted that way too.  I found the coating a bit too chalky for my taste, but, note, I don't really like Oreos.
Grasshopper Pie Cake Truffle: Inside.
Like with the b'day truffle, I couldn't really find the white chocolate layer, but I trust it was there.

Inside was not quite what I was expecting.  This looked much like the b'day, light brown, and I didn't see any chips.  Wasn't this supposed to be chocolate chip cake and mint cheesecake?  Hmmm.  I'm still not sure where the chips were.

The center was again a bit of a strange texture, but I was prepared for that this time.  And it was very sweet, again, I was prepared for that.  It was slightly minty, and I liked the minty contrast with the chocolate crumbs.  But ... I didn't detect anything cheesecake-like.  And obviously, no chocolate chips.  This seemed more like a mint blondie filling than anything else.

Overall, I didn't care for these.  I liked the mint, but, everything else didn't come together for me, and the generous chocolate cake crumb coating ruined the finish for me.
Momofuku Milk Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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