Off the Griddle with Ihopapotamus at…Maialino!

Maialino’s head chef, Nick Anderer, serves gourmet Roman fare backed by years of culinary experience at places like Babbo and Gramercy Tavern. So he thinks he can pancake? This Ihopapotamus investigates.

(photo from google maps!)

I walk into Maialino and feel like an underdressed tourist in a fancy hotel. The Gramercy Park Hotel, to be specific. The entrance is pretty ritzy looking – two double glass doors with wrought iron handles, upscale lighting, and a wine room. In contrast, my friend and I have just come off the street, freshly sweaty from the 94 degree heat, in shorts and t-shirts (no fanny packs, though).  But after a few more steps in the door, I see rustic wood chairs, a coffee bar, and blue checkered tablecloths. My apprehension abates. Nobody is wearing ballgowns here.

(photo from Maialino)

The hostess leads us to our seats. The restaurant is bigger than it first appears and has a lovely decor which balances swanky and cozy. We’re seated at a little booth by the window looking out onto Gramercy Park.

The menu has many intriguing dishes like the olive oil muffin, the porchetta sandwich, and the fried artichokes in anchovy sauce. But my mission here is pancakes. And since there is only one on the menu, my choice is easy. (We also order a side of bacon and a side of potatoes; that’s an easy choice too.)

Two large ricotta pancakes arrive on a plate of their own. Then comes a plate with the Toppings (and yes, a capital T is appropriate here). Fresh strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries nearly overflow their ramekin. Real maple syrup scent wafts over the table. And there’s a ramekin of fresh ricotta that several people mistake for whipped cream.

First I take a picture.

My dining companion shows remarkable restraint as she waits for me to finish taking pictures to start her meal (also the ricotta pancakes). I’m not sure that I would have been so polite were our positions reversed…

I take a bite of the pancake by itself. It’s flavorful and moist and tastes like there’s some lemon involved, which gives it lightness and freshness. The ricotta in the batter gives the pancake a softness that’s not too wet or soggy, although the pancakes are not as quite as crispy on the outside as they could be. One small section of my bottom pancake has a crispy edge, which is fantastic. If the pancakes had that crispy edge all around, I think it would add some much needed crunch and be a really nice counterbalance to the smooth and creamy ricotta. (However, after reading several ricotta pancake recipes, notes, blogs, etc. it seems that most people don’t share my desire for crispy on the outside when it comes to ricotta pancakes. So this is just a personal preference.)

Now it’s Topping time! I use all the berries, all the ricotta, and most of the syrup. And I forget to take a picture. What can I say? I was a little distracted. I take a bite of this brunchy beauty, and experience a soft, rich, fluffy pancake with different textures and dimensions of flavor that’s not too sweet. The mild creaminess of the fresh ricotta is lovely with the juicy tang of the fresh berries. The slight lemon flavor in the pancake keeps it from feeling too heavy. And although our sides of roasted potatoes (delicious!) and the pancetta bacon (too fatty and overpriced for me) may have an effect, I don’t feel any kind of palate fatigue. The flavors continue to be scrumptious the whole way through.

I clean my plate (of course), but my friend has to raise the white flag (although she ate valiantly). The bill comes to about $20 per person (before tip), with a side dish each. I find the price point a little on the high side for pancakes (the ricotta pancakes are $15), but it seems like Maialino uses good ingredients and I did thoroughly enjoy my brunch experience there.

(pic from Be Still a Minute…)

Overall, the ricotta pancakes were very good. I left the restaurant happy and full. However, I don’t think this place warrants any kind of pancake pilgrimage. So if you’re not nearby, don’t knock yourself out to get here. If you happen to be in the general vicinity and you like ricotta pancakes (and amazing toppings), then try it out. Just make sure to leave your fanny pack at home.

4 out of 5 Paul Bunyans: 

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Samoa-Inspired Pancakes

Have you ever had Girls Scout Cookies for breakfast?  

Samoas / Caramel deLites

(pic from the Girl Scouts)

What?…Me neither.  In case you want to, though, but feel a little guilty about eating straight up breakfast cookies, why not try the pancake version?

Behold! This is my version of my favorite Girl Scout Cookie, the Samoa.  If you’ve never had one before, the Girl Scout website describes them as “Crisp cookies coated in caramel, sprinkled with toasted coconut, and striped with dark chocolaty coating.” which is exactly what I tried to replicate. (oh, here’s the recipe).

(some cooling caramel).

I’ll be the first to admit that the recipe is a little involved, mostly because I made my own caramels and chocolate sauce – but if you buy those pre-made, the recipe’s pretty simple.  Just make sure you cook the pancakes in butter, and don’t burn yourself on the caramel!

(some toasting coconut)

I think my flavor-profile is pretty darn close to a real Samoa too.  You definitely get that buttery shortbread taste from the pancakes, the gooeyness of the caramels, the pure simple goodness of chocolate syrup, and some solid coconuttiness.  

(homemade chocolate sauce!)

The coconut was really important in giving some crunch to the pancakes, too, because the main difference between the pancakes and the cookies are that delicious cookie crunch. Oh well, 1 pancake can only do so much!

3.75 out of 5 stackies: 

Oysters On A Half Shell, Pancake Power!

I don’t actually remember eating Taiwanese Oyster Pancakes very often when I was little, but I remember hearing about them a lot.  They were one of my sister’s favorites and when we visited Taiwan, they were a frequently purchased item from the night-markets.

I vaguely recall not actually liking these pancakes at all (I think it was the sauce), but I decided to give them a second chance and I was happy to change my opinion on them. The pancakes are almost more like omelets but with a completely different texture from the potato starch used in the recipe.

(the original recipe is from chezpei and my annotated one is here)

The pancakes are mildly savory with a fairly strong oyster taste coming through.  The inside and middle are soft and a little gooey while the outer edges get nice and crispy.  The sauce was still a little too sweet for me.  I like to use just a dab of sauce for each piece of pancake, but if you buy these from a restaurant, they’ll come slathered in sauce.

A few cooking notes:

  • use a non-stick pan…believe me, it’s just so much easier
  • I used fresh oysters, but the recipe says that frozen ones work just as well
  • a-cai is sometimes called “Taiwanese lettuce” – you should be able to find it at any Asian grocery store

3.5 out of 5 stackies: 

Happy Inde-pancake Day!

Hey All, I hope you had a Happy 4th of July weekend (preferably pancake-filled)! I was trying to go for a subtle red-white-and-blue pancake this week and I think I did it!

These are my take on German Kirschpfannkuchen (German cherry pancakes).  They’re perfect for using up leftovers because the batter base is old rolls (crazy, right?) and you can put almost any fruit in them.  The classic uses cherries, but I used blueberries and cherries in mine – delicious!

(rolls softening in water for the batter)

I saw different versions of the original recipe, but they were all pretty barebones.  Hopefully, my version adds some clarity so you won’t be quite as confused as I was when making these! 

(the batter)

The pancakes themselves were pretty glutinous, which makes sense since they’re mostly made up of disintegrated rolls.  They’re also not too sweet, so the bursts of flavor you get from the cherries and blueberries really stand out and the cinnamon-sugar sprinkle kick the flavor up to just the right level.

This batter was definitely one of the most unique batters I’ve ever made, so I would recommend you try this recipe out, if only to say you’ve done it!  If you do, keep these cooking tips in mind:

  • Just make sure to cook these on a medium-low heat because they take awhile to cook all the way through;
  • Keep mixing your batter while you’re cooking the pancakes so that it doesn’t separate;
  • Pat your berries/cherries dry before you add them so that not too much excess water gets in.

3.5 out of 5 stackies: