I have been looking forward to this stop ever since I saw the kick-off episode of the new season of Chef’s Table on Netflix. If you haven’t seen the show, do. It’s by far the most compelling, well-done documentary-style storytelling I’ve ever seen – and it’s all about food.
The latest season is completely dedicated to sweets, and the first episode is an ode to my new food idol, Christina Tosi, of Milk Bar fame. Her story totally tugs at my heartstrings on a level that’s hard to explain. Her story is just so relatable to me. Watch it and you’ll see.
As the story goes, Christina grew up in a mid-western family where baking was simply a part of daily life, and grandma’s pies or mom’s cookies were as good as it gets. Me too!
Itching to get away from her small town, Christina struck out on her own to do the whole big school, big career thing in the big city. But she eventually found herself wondering what it was all for. She ended up pursuing her love of cooking by working gigs in the kitchens of some of the restaurant world’s greats, including David Chang’s Momofuku. I won’t get into all the details, but I will say I have to give major props to David for being a great manager and recognizing and nurturing great talent like Christina. It sounds like he really gave her the encouragement she needed early in her career to develop her skills, and eventually provided her the support strike out on her own with the Milk Bar concept. It’s a brave and bold move that, as a manger, I am completely inspired by.
During a recent visit to NYC, I wandered down to Chelsea and had dinner at David’s italian-inspired concept Nishi (fantastic), making sure to leave enough room for a stop next door to Milk Bar for Christina’s famous Cereal Milk Soft Serve.
Christina’s concoctions are inspired by her love of home cooking and junk food. She sort of just makes it up as she goes. Apparently one day, while trying to figure out a dessert to make for the Momofuku staff family meal, she ended up using corn flakes to make a corn flake milk panna cotta that is simply out of this world. The cereal milk concept is born, and the rest is history.
Her entire menu is chock full of wacky items like Crack Pie
and Compost Cookies
that mix together totally unexpected combinations of everyday treats like pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, graham cracker, butterscotch and chocolate chips
into an unbelievable dessert that is simply impossible to take just one bite of.
Back to the ice cream. It was smooth, lite-creamy, and messy! This adds a bit to the fun factor. You have to move fast to catch the salty-sweet corn flakes dabbed around the edges before they drip all over your hands (which you will inevitably lick off in very unladylike fashion).
The “cereal milk” flavor is subtle; I’m not sure I would have necessarily picked up on it without knowing that’s what it was. Combined with the corn flakes, the whole experience was fun and really unique. It didn’t necessarily strike a chord of nostalgia for my childhood, but I definitely felt like kid in a candy shop, all the same.
The best part was the surprise at the bottom of the cup (if you can make it all the way there – which I’m not ashamed to say I did), where you might discover a few more hidden corn flakes floating in the melting cereal milk. I found myself unable to resist slurping every single last drop right from the cup, just like that last bit of milk at the bottom of your breakfast cereal bowl. Yum!
Kudos to Christina for bringing a completely fresh new concept to market, and giving me the opportunity to, for the first time, feel like it was OK to walk down the street in Chelsea and not be totally guilt-tripped by judgemental New Yorkers for eating something so bad for me in public. In fact, it was seemed like it was totally cool, even borderline chic. (Or maybe I’ve just stopped caring since I moved to California!)
I also love that there are no secret recipes. This is an accessible, true “food for the people” concept. She hosts cooking classes in some of her stores and posts her recipes directly on her website.
Overall, it was a fun experience, though I’m not sure I would necessarily go out of my way for it in lieu of more standard favorites in the future, especially given the cost. Then again, I didn’t get a chance to try those B’Day Truffles
or the Crack Pie…
Total score: 4 scoops