On November 22, when many New Yorkers are looking ahead to Thanksgiving, Lebanese-Americans commemorate their 1943 liberation from a French mandate. Sahlap ($4) — an Independence Day-only special, barring popular demand — is widely known, under various spellings, throughout the lands once under the domain of the Ottoman Empire. This hot beverage is traditionally prepared from milk, sugar, and an orchid-root flour (increasingly rare nowadays, so substitutes are common) that adds an almost creamy thickness. My cup, accented by a pair of sesame-seeded breadsticks, was strewn with cinnamon — though for New York tastes a pumpkin-spice topping was available, too.
Also shown, from a summertime street festival: a hand-drawn schematic of Manousheh's namesake flatbread, and the imminent application of dough to saj, an inverted-dome cooktop that sees action only during outdoor events. At the Bleecker St. storefront, which employs a flat-surfaced, largely enclosed oven, the baker trades in his pillowlike hand protector in favor of a long-handled peel, like that for pizza. The bread-making is less dramatic, but by most accounts the manousheh is just as tasty.
Manousheh 193 Bleecker St. (Sixth Ave.-MacDougal St.), Manhattan 347-971-5778 www.Manousheh.com
Like a nearby J. Crew Men's Shop, this outlet of sibling brand Madewell has preserved a former tenant's signage to add neighborhood flavor. Indeed, the R&L name is much more prominent than the apparel maker's own. In that regard, Madewell echoes its most famous predecessor at this Meatpacking District location, the French bistro Florent.
Sourcing from Sumatra may seem none too special for a coffee shop. The artwork, however — a rendering of the world's most expansive archipelago, albeit compressed and naively drawn — pegs this as an Indonesian-owned operation. Kopi Kopi (literally "coffee coffee") employs fair-trade beans from back home that are roasted in New York.
The menu features not only coffee and tea, as well as beer and wine, but also Indonesian drinks such as bandrek (first photo below, $4.50). Its peppy blend of ginger, clove, cayenne, and cinnamon, energized by palm sugar, evokes the sarabba at the now-closed Pinisi Cafe. Mine was prepared with water; for a rounder, less-sharp flavor, have yours made with steamed milk instead. Milk is the default for the ginger brew (second photo below, $5), which resembles the bandrek minus the clove, cayenne, and cinnamon.
Also shown, from the countertop pastry display: wingko Babat ($3.50), a Javanese cake made from glutinous rice, coconut, and coconut milk. Mine was still warm.
Kopi Kopi 68 West 3rd St. (Thompson St.-LaGuardia Pl.), Manhattan 212-777-7285 www.KopiNYC.com
Over the past several summers Wooly's Ice, Ponji Juice Bar, and Snow & Tell introduced New York to snow ice. Though it often resembles shaved ice in variety and abundance of toppings, it's creamier, thanks to a base in which milk, water, and flavoring are frozen together.
At Snowdays, where the confection is called shaved cream, a half-dozen flavored bases can be combined with toppings and drizzles in bewildering variety. Above, "Got Seoul" ($9) combines black sesame and green tea shaved cream with red beans, almonds, mango, mochi, and condensed milk. Below, for a bespoke order, the shaved sweet-milk base is dressed with almond, waffle cone, and banana toppings plus salted caramel and condensed milk drizzles (about $7). A friend and I split the latter for dessert after a nearby dinner, but if you're willing to imagine a bowl of cereal just out of the deep freeze, it almost looks like breakfast.
Snowdays 37-20 Prince St. (37th-39th Aves.), Flushing, Queens 718-321-0500 241 East 10th St. (First-Second Aves.), Manhattan 212-982-8881 167 Seventh Ave. South (at Perry St.), Manhattan 917-388-2809 www.SnowdaysNYC.com
Liaoning, said the waitress who speaks English best, translating for the owner. That Chinese province — you'd pass through it on the halting daylong train ride from Beijing to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea — was the first home of this restaurant's chef. In emphasis, the owner brought a magazine clipping to my table about her original restaurant, in Flushing: Golden Palace.
In recent years, the chef at this afternoon event told me, Mexican cuisine has begun to win fans in Helsinki, Finland. Traditional ingredients, he also noted, are understandably hard to come by. His measured response: Fish tacos that forsake Baja for the Baltic, not only in their resemblance to Nordic open sandwiches but also for their marriage of smoked bluefish (shown in the first photo) with smoked trout. The tortillas, fashioned from parsnips and dill as well as corn, were generously brushed with butter before being warmed on the grill. Dressings included beet salsa, dill guacamole, and Skagen crema — named for a coastal town in Denmark where midsummer temperatures regularly climb into the mid-60s. For the Finns, that's practically beach weather.
As a kid, I never asked for cheese, yet somehow this bacon cheeseburger ($18) conjured up days gone by. Magically the golden slices of American added richness rather than cheesiness; the very juicy patty was braced by a perfectly toasted bun; bacon added a gently salty kick. Ketchup was provided but not applied, except to crisp spiced fries.
This flatiron-shaped building, designed to accommodate a wedgelike lot, opened its doors in 1887. The Burnham company was established in the 1890s just down the block and seems to have become the prime tenant of this building not long after. Canned clams, clam chowder, and clam bouillon were Burnham mainstays; so was an instant gelatin called Hasty Jellycon, whose faded name is now only faintly readable, in the best light, in the middle band of signage. Though the founding date is a matter of some dispute, it's generally agreed that the company did business here until about 1929.
In its 2003 designation report of the district as a whole, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission succinctly captured the changing character of the neighborhood in the roster of this building's commercial tenants. It begins with New England Biscuit Works, whose painted name is still plain to see, and Burnham; continues with three dozen businesses, most of them food-related, over the course of a hundred years; and concludes, at the turn of the 21st century, with "Hell, club (1999-2003)."