In the almost six years since I last waddled around in the name of procreation — I know, I make it sound so glowy and glamorous — to my delight, two things in particular have changed: 1. You can now get maternity pants that have almost all of the dignity of regular ones, thanks to small elastic panels above each pocket that frankly would be as welcome the day after Thanksgiving as they are now that I’m approaching the six-month mark and people no longer believe me when I said I just had a really big lunch. (However, a New York-specific rule remains: you’re not actually “big” until someone willingly cedes his or her seat on the subway for you, by which standards, I must be svelte. Hey, I’ll take it.) 2. More pertinently to the scope of a cooking website, a whole lot of bars are making really great mocktails.
New York City is a terrible place to summer. Whereas some water-bound towns have cool breezes rolling in off the ocean all day, we can better rely on the hot exhale of garbage trucks. Offices are set to roughly the same temperature as a polar ice cap, but subway platforms are so unfathomably sweltering that on my first day in NYC 14 years ago, I — adorably, like the wee baby New Yorker I was — uttered the words, “Is this even legal?” It’s a rare day that you don’t walk down the sidewalk and have a window a/c unit drip you-don’t-want-to-know run-off on your head. Flip-flops may cool your feet outside, but you may never recover from seeing the new color of your toes at the end of a day, and it always seems like everyone but me has Summer Fridays. The city tries, it really does, to make things more livable: the 14 beaches are free, there are dozens and dozens of free public pools, something like a zillion sprinkler parks, and you know all those endless photos you see of children frolicking in spraying fire hydrants? Hardly a symbol urban decay, it’s actually legal and encouraged. But the fact is that from July 4th on (and possibly earlier this year), anyone that has the means to be elsewhere is, and the rest of us plebes schvitz it out on the pavement.
I realize that most people don’t go to the City Bakery or their green Birdbath outlets for coconut cookies. They come in droves to load up on the legendary chocolate chip cookies, pretzel croissants or even the alien-looking baker’s muffin. The coconut cookie — an almost monotone golden brown that resembles a million other cookies on earth — just doesn’t inspire the same kind of fervor. But I think it should. If you’re familiar with the place, you could probably have guessed that Maury Rubin, the owner/chief baker of the chain — he who bakes caramel, almonds and fresh cranberries together in a way that you will never want to go without again — wasn’t going to put just any coconut cookie in his bakery case. Yet, to actually bite into one is still astonishing: how did they get all of that butter in there? Or in short: goodbye boring macaroons, forever!
2014 has been mostly about the chocolate thus far, which is the kind of thing that happens when you outsource what-to-cook-next decisions to my husband and his Mini-Me. We bounced from Chocolate Hazelnut Linzer Hearts to Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake before landing on a Double Chocolate Banana Bread which, even a month later leads to the weekly “accidental” purchase of way more bananas that we’d ever eat, so we “have” to make more, no violins necessary. Thus, it would be easy to blame the boys in my family for what I did to an innocent coconut macaroon — that is, saddling it with not one but two types of chocolate, until it was intensely fudgy and brownie-like with an almost gooey center, seriously why aren’t you baking these yet? — but guys, this was all me.
Look, I know it’s prime resolution time. I realize that outside the 10 percent of you who have understandably succumbed to the explicit demands of the polar vortex with salted caramel brownies, the remaining 90 percent of you out there are swearing off carbs, gluten, fat, sugar, things that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food or things that even had a mother, while sweating off the holiday’s demons on stationary bikes. (Although I’m sure no matter how bad you may think things got over the holidays, surely none of your children announced at preschool’s circle time that his mommy was going to have a baby, which was news to you? Which led to you having to make an awkward joke about too many cookies in December? Nope, surely none of your angels would do a thing like that. Not unless they wanted to go to boarding preschool next year, right?)
Three weeks ago, we together rolled our eyes because it seemed like everyone was either celebrating spring (pea tendrils! meyer lemons!) or on vacation without us, cluttering our social media feeds with shiny, happy scenes on distant beaches. We had a brief but unequivocally necessary pity party because while we were stuck here, shivering, with a fresh layer of sleet accumulating outside. We consoled ourselves with blood orange margaritas.
Every year around this time, behind the scenes, I go through my annual Macaroon Marathon, in which I decimate bags and bags of coconut in an effort to find a variation on the lowly macaroon worth noting, publicly. As evidenced by the fact that my archives are virtually coconut macaroon-free, I hadn’t thus far succeeded. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.