New York's elusive springtime deserves its own set of treats It is way too early to be thinking about the summer. It's mid-April-taxes are behind us, Memorial Day looms far off on the horizon and you can't walk past a garden in bloom without stopping to exclaim, like a 4-year-old, "Flowers! Pretty!" No way is it time to think about the summer yet. But. There's a fine line between spring and summer, especially in New York, where the one can notoriously blend into the other in the blink of an eye. This week saw an uncomfortable preview when the temperature spiked on Monday to a near-record high, and even on steadier days, the midday sidewalks feel positively equatorial. There's a fine art to this slippery semi-season. You can't leap right into summer standbys; there are a solid four months of real heat ahead, and anything you start doing now will be worn threadbare by Labor Day. Though we're champing at the bit to unpack the sandals and shorts, that way madness lies. You must save yourself somewhere to slide to when August humidity turns the subway into the world's most unpleasant rainforest-then and only then can you bust out the flip-flops and eat pints of Ben & Jerry's with your head in the freezer. Right now, even frozen treats should be refined, delicate, virtuous; a minor thrill in your spring-cleaned day, still healthy and light-the cherry blossom to August's overblown gardenia. The drinks from the Kelvin Natural Slush Co. (various locations, find them daily at @kelvinslush or this Sunday, April 22 at the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market Gourmet Food Truck Bazaar, 39th Street & 9th Avenue) are Vendy Award-winning Slurpees that come in flavors actually found in nature. More reasonable beverage than gut-busting dessert, their ginger, citrus or tea slushes are all perfect for sipping on an afternoon stroll. If you're feeling feisty, add one of their fruit or herb mix-ins for a grownup version of Coldstone Creamery's candy-coated free-for-all. Caramelized pineapple in the spicy ginger base is a match made in tropical heaven; add basil for an unexpectedly sophisticated kick. The Soft Serve Fruit Company (1371 3rd Ave., at 78th St., or 25 E. 17th St., at Broadway, www.softservefruitco.com) is just what its name implies, to shockingly good effect. It's just fruit, water and cane sugar, but the texture they get out of their magic machines is light years from that time you tried to make "instant ice cream" by pulverizing frozen bananas in your food processor, shorting the engine in the process. For everyone who's ever cursed sorbet for being too icy and hard to scoop, this is a revelation. Banana is the most treat-like, especially when topped with crushed pretzels and warm peanut butter or maple syrup (yes, it's natural, but I never said it was virtuous), but mango and strawberry are simply delightful, no adulteration needed. A proper Italian affogato is a perfectly respectable adult diversion, no kid's bribe wrapped in classy packaging. OK, so it's gelato, only a tiny linguistic step away from ice cream. But it's a dainty portion of the stuff that is drowned in a shot of espresso, less blowsy than a Starbucks Frappuccino and far more satisfying. At Maialino (2 Lexington Ave., betw. 22nd St. and Gramercy Park, www.maialinonyc.com), a Roman-styled trattoria perfect for leisurely lunches or a midday pick-me-up, the gelato is fior di latte, sweet milk, and the espresso is dark and rich. Dawdle over this with a tiny silver spoon, watching the opposing textures merge and meld into a third while gazing upon the gated glory of Gramercy Park. Enjoy these now while your sanity lasts and you can still appreciate something more flavorful and interesting than the blunt-force frozen trauma of a Mister Softee cone. After all, those spring blossoms are already dropping fast-didn't somebody once say something about gathering rosebuds while ye may? This is definitely what he meant.
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