Sunday, March 04, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: New York III - A Brooklyn Original

So many classic American recipes were created in New York City (except maybe the Reuben sandwich, but I won't rehash that here).  There's the Waldorf salad, the Baked Alaska (yes, a New York City invention), the Bloody Mary, the black and white cookie, Delmonico steak, even vichyssoise and even General Tso's chicken.  Another simple recipe is the chocolate egg cream, a beverage that hasn't spread too far outside the Big Apple.  It's pretty easy to make, as long as you have the right versions of the ingredients.

Official Name: State of New York
State Nicknames: The Empire State
Admission to the US: July 26, 1788 (#11)
Capital: Albany (6th largest)
Other Important Cities: New York City (largest in the state, largest in the nation!), Buffalo (2nd largest), Rochester (3rd largest), Syracuse (5th largest) 
 Northeast, Mid-Atlantic; Mid-Atlantic (US Census)
RAFT NationsMaple SyrupWild RiceClambake
Bordered by: Québec (Canada) (north), Lake Ontario (northwest), Ontario (Canada) & Lake Erie (west), Pennsylvania (south and southwest), New Jersey (south), Connecticut & Long Island Sound (southeast), Massachusetts & Vermont (east)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: apple (fruit), milk (beverage), sugar maple (tree - for the maple syrup), rose (flower - they are edible, you know), trout (fish), apple muffin (muffin), bay scallop (shell), beaver (mammal, though outside of "Bizarre Foods" you won't see many people eating these)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: In New York City, anything and everything - it is one of the most multicultural and diverse cities in the United States, and is a culinary capital of the nation; typical NYC foods include: Waldorf salad, bagels & bialys, corned beef and pastrami, chocolate egg creams, hot dogs, New York pizza, General Tso's chicken, Baked Alaska (invented in New York City), and so on; New York cheesecake; "garbage plate" (Rochester only); Buffalo wings (Buffalo of course); apples and maple syrup, and of course, more apples

The chocolate egg cream, mind you, has neither eggs nor cream (discuss).  According to Linda Stradley of What's Cooking, the chocolate egg cream has its origins in New York City, though historians debate if it got started in Brooklyn or in Manhattan's Lower East Side. While one origin myth suggests that it was a creation of Yiddish performer Boris Thomashevsky, who found a similar drink while on tour in Europe, most historians pin its creation to Brooklyn:
According to most historians, the Egg Cream was allegedly created in the early 1900s by a Jewish candy shop owner, Louis Auster, who came to America and opened a candy store in Brooklyn, New York. It is reported that 3,000 Egg Creams a day were sold until the day the store closed. [Stradley 2004]
Broooklynites will tell you that a proper egg cream must be made with Fox's U-bet Chocolate Syrup.  This stuff is probably easy to find in New York City.  It is not so easy to find down here.  Since it is a kosher product, I immediately headed to 7 Mile Market, assuming I would find it.  I found a wide variety of kosher chocolate syrups, but alas, no U-bet.  I went to Wegman's. No luck (though they do carry it during Passover).  Harris Teeter?  Nope.  Finally on a whim, I stopped in the Waverly Giant after going to the 33rd Street Farmers' Market.  They have it there, in the chocolate syrup section (didn't check the kosher section though). So U-bet is locally available here in Baltimore.  You just have to look for it.

U-bet has its own chocolate egg cream recipe on its bottle, but I was more captivated by the recipe I found in The Brooklyn Cookbook [1991], a compendium of recipes that gives a very thick slice of the culinary history and diversity of Brooklyn, NY.  One person interviewed for the book, high school teacher Ron Schweiger, describes his grandfather's chocolate egg cream, sold at his soda fountain in the 1940's: 
"First, you use Fox's U-Bet.  Take a tall Coke-type glass, from the 1950's.  Put in 3/4 inch of syrup, then milk up to one-third of the glass.  Then you add seltzer from a spritz bottle, the heavy kind with seltzer under pressure.  You tilt the glass; if it's tilted, the force of the seltzer squirted under the milk and syrup pushes foam up on the other side.  Fill the rest of the glass with more seltzer, stirring as you spritz.  The foam should be white, and at least 1/2 in thick. [Stallworth and Kennedy 1991:359]
Okay, I didn't do it exactly like Schweiger says, but I did get some foam.  Okay, maybe a quarter inch.

The Recipe: Chocolate Egg Cream

For your chocolate egg cream, assemble the following, along with a tall glass and very long teaspoon:

* chocolate syrup (yes, Fox's U-bet, which was about $3.  But I'll tell you what: I almost gave up and went back to 7 Mile for another Brooklyn-based chocolate syrup I found.  I cannot for the life of me remember the name, but I figured if I couldn't find U-bet at least I could get some brand from Brooklyn)
* seltzer water (alas, I have no seltzer water spray bottle.  I used a bottle from Giant instead)
* milk (had it)

Pour the chocolate syrup into your glass.  I eyeballed the 3/4 inch.

And top it off with the milk to about a third of the glass.

Fill the rest of the glass with seltzer.  I admit, I should have tilted the glass, but... well you try doing that and taking this photo all at once!

And there you have it!  Probably the head of foam isn't as big as it could have been had I tilted the glass.  That said, it was a sweet and silky drink that I almost couldn't finish.  I guess it's sweeter a syrup than I'm used to, or maybe it's the chocolate itself.  It is a tasty drink.  I just don't think I can indulge in a chocolate egg cream too often!


Anchor Bar.  "The Original Buffalo Wings Story".  Published 2008.  Copyright 2008 The Anchor Bar.  All rights reserved.

Beekman 1802 (Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Brent Ridge).  "December 12" (Maureen Lodes' Apple Cake).  Posted on the "Sharon Springs Heirloom Recipe Advent Calendar" page, Beekman 1802 website.  Copyright 2011, 2012 All rights reserved.

Beekman 1802 (Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Brent Ridge).  "Sharon Springs Heirloom Recipe Advent Calendar" page, Beekman 1802 website.  Copyright 2011, 2012 All rights reserved.

Bon Appétit.  "Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup".  Posted on the Epicurious website, December 1998.  Copyright 1998, 2012 Epicurious.  All rights reserved.  

Center for Jewish History.  "Jews In America: Our Story".  Copyright 2005 Center for Jewish History.  All rights reserved.

Mannur, Anita.  "Indian Food in the US: 1909-1921".  Published on the South Asian American Digital Archive website October 18, 2011.  Copyright 2008-2012, South Asian American Digital Archive.  All rights reserved.

Mitzewich, John.  "Authentic Anchor Bar Buffalo Chicken Wings".  Published on, date unknown. Copyright 2012  All rights reserved.

Roberts, Adam (Amateur Gourmet).  "Fall Out Of Fall With A Matzah Ball".  Posted November 21, 2006.  Copyright 2004-2012 Adam Roberts.  All rights reserved.

Sahni, Julie.  Classic Indian Cooking.  William Morrow & Company: New York, 1980.

Sheraton, Mimi.  "Introduction: A Table Before Me".  In The New York Times Jewish Cookbook, edited by Linda Amster.  St. Martin's Press: New York, 2003.

Stradley, Linda.  "New York Egg Cream - How To Make An Egg Cream".  Published on What's Cooking America ( 2004.  Copyright 2004, 2012 What's Cooking America.  All rights reserved.

Suddath, Claire.  "A Brief History of Buffalo Wings".  Published on the Time Magazine website (, September 3, 2009.

Sussman, Lance J.  "Jewish History Resources: New York Jewish History".  Posted on the New York State Archives website, date unknown.  Copyright 2012 New York State Archives.  All rights reserved.

Stallworth, Lyn, and Rod Kennedy Jr. The Brooklyn Cookbook.  From the Knopf Cooks American series.  Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1991. 

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "New York" and "Demographics of New York City" pages and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "New York".