The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Blue Ribbon Bakery, Thanksgiving, and Shopsins

[This dinner took place on November 24th. Yes, I wish I updated more often. No, I have no idea why I don't. I think I'm stuck in an alternate universe where a day has 20 hours instead of 24. If you want to jump around you can read about my Thanksgiving and my lunch at Shopsins.]

"Justin wants to go to Otto," said Kathy as we walked around midtown last Saturday.

"Ohh...okay," I half-heartedly replied. I like Otto, but I wasn't feeling "pizza" that night. In response to the piercing coldness, I was wearing a hat with ear flaps, a cashmere scarf with matching gloves and my heaviest coat. Otto didn't fit into the weather conditions. I didn't realize why at first, but then it hit me.

"Their pizza is so...flat. Flat food doesn't seem satisfying today, you know?" I envisioned the pizza in front of me. And then I envisioned devouring the entire thing. And still feeling hungry afterwards.

"Yeah, you're right!"

"I want a...a mountain of something. Like tofu stew." [Insert drooling sound effect.]

"Oh, Justin had that earlier this week..."

We hm-ed. We mulled. About non-flat food establishments.

I mentioned Blue Ribbon Bakery as a "reach" restaurant. Why a reach? I love it, but it's a smidge out of my (and probably most students') price range for a casual dinner. While walking to the 51st Street subway station, we relayed the suggestion to Kathy's friends—Justin, Steph, Marie and Shann—and crossed our fingers.

Initial response: "Justin still wants to go to Otto."

Second response about a minute later: "Okay, let's go to Blue Ribbon!"

bread basket #1
Bread basket #1

And that's how we got this awesome bread basket of white, something off-white (probably not the real name of the bread) and something peppery and perhaps slightly cheesy. The best of the bunch was the simple white—pillowy soft guts protected by a thin, crispy golden crust that shattered/exploded when crushed by my jaw. Those crusts are hard to find. When you find it, you have to hold onto it for dear life. Marry it, maybe. ...Or just eat it. Yes, that works too. Except then you run out of bread and want more.

bread basket #2

And we did get more. Since there were six of us at the table I would say we only mildly pigged out by eating two baskets. Per Kathy's request, our basket came with fat slices of challah bread. If you have a hankering for a specific bread, ask if they'll give it to you. They'll also warm your basket if you ask, and you'll want to because this stuff tastes 500% awesomer when its the same temperature as a baby kitty. ...A live baby kitten, I mean.

duck confit

As soon as my eyes hit the magic words "duck confit" on the menu, nothing else mattered. I cannot resist duck cooked in its own fat. And neither can you. ...Unless you're a vegetarian. I guess.

The duck confit, while not as brain meltingly delicious as duck confit I've had in Paris (a tough comparison, I'll admit), was very good and easily a gazillion times better than the version I had at Les Halles (which I hope to write about at some point, although the one-word review for their duck confit goes like this: SUXORZ). You shouldn't need a knife when eating duck confit—that's the rule I made up and was fulfilled by Blue Ribbon. The meat should pulsate so vigorously with its own fatty juices that it just falls off the bone without leaving any trace of muscle fiber. That's good eatin'.

While I generally love fried potatoes that come with duck confit (or any fried potato bits), I liked the sautéed napa cabbage more for the way it mellowed out the heavy meaty goodness of the duck. The potatoes weren't memorably good. Or bad. They were...potatoes. Potatoes are good. Yes. ...Why am I talking funnily today? Do I usually do this?

beef marrow and red wine sauce
grilled challah bread for marrow
Grilled challah

Kathy just had one thing on her mind: soft, gelatinous inner tissue from cow bones. Gets the salivary glands a-flowing, doesn't it? Since I never had bone marrow before, I tried a splodge of hers atop a piece of the accompany grilled challah bread.

But that bone's a tricky bastard. Or Blue Ribbon doesn't provide the best marrow-digging implements. A little mildly forked wooden stick is no match for blubby fat globules that refuse to detach themselves from their skeletal tubes. Just when you think you've got it, when you're thisclose to victoriously releasing a chunk of marrow, it goes shwoop back into the bone like an alien recoiling back into its alien home. Or something. Shwoop.

After the struggle (which, you know, took a few seconds to resolve, but whatever), I was left with a large pea-sized grayish blob on my bread. It tasted of fat. And stuff. Like if fat had other nutrients swimming around in it that turned it a gray color. I think they dress it with red wine reduction and give you a dish of salt that no one in their right mind would use in its entirety for a reason—you're supposed to use them. For the flava. I'll try that next time.


Ohjebus, sweetbreads. Justin generously shared his sweetbreads (with grilled onion compote, fennel and herb salad, but who cares, it's all about the sweetbreads) with the rest of the table. A split second I after popping that little chunk into my mouth I declared it to be awesome-good. Like light meaty fat with a fine crust. And I mean meaty fat, not fatty meat. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you best go find yourself some sweetbreads, for they are HEAVENLY BLOBS OF GLANDULAR MATTER!

After our nearly gut-busting meal, we walked up to Billy's Bakery and peered into a fully lit store...with empty cases. It was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. Oh poop.

It was for the best. I'm not sure how well a cupcake would've settled atop the pile of bread and duck and potato and various fatty things that lay dormant in my belly.

What did I do for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving was just a simple dinner for my mum, brother and me. No crazy party. No annoying crowd of relatives to deal with. ;)

I thought I should take this opportunity to quickly prove to you that I can cook, if I feel like it, Thanksgiving being one of those rare days when I do feel like it. That's all the holiday is to me. I guess I'm supposed to give thanks as well (ohhh so that's where the name comes from), but I mostly see it as "the day I eat shitloads of mashed potatoes and bake a pie."

So, the menu:

pie crust

One Foolproof pie dough crust. Not only was it the easiest pie crust I ever made (out of the two or three I've made, alright), but it was also the best. It came out disarmingly flaky and tender. Vodka is a pie crust's best friend.

whipped cream didn't have a chance

One batch of Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie filling to go into the dough. And later in my belly. Besides that it took a lot longer to bake than the recipe said, it turned out great.

cranberry sauce
Cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce cooked with some orange juice. I liked it when the cranberry exploded. If only I could hear their screams.

mashed potatoes, my favorite!
Mashed tatoes

A half-recipe of The Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes. So easy, so creamy, so awesome. I. Love. Potatoes. In mashed form.

Mm turkey Mom carving the turkey ish

Turkey, of course. Nothing fancy here, just...straight up poultry. It ended up being a little dry, but that's what gravy is for!

...I have no photo of the gravy. It's brown. A bit goopy. You know how it is. I made it out of some of the turkey liquids my mum set aside (with butter and flour), but I didn't realize until it was too late that it was just the liquid she cooked the organs bits in. Hello, no sodium! Hello, no taste! I had a lot of fun trying to even that out. Haha. God, I don't know how to salt anything.

But it came out fine in the end and that's what matters: edibility.

Uh, and family.



On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Ed randomly decided to take the office out for lunch at Shopsins. Never heard of Shopsins before?'s got a bit of a reputation to the point where a documentary was made about it, but it's somewhat infamous for these reasons: 1) their menu is obscenely huge with huuuundreds of items, many combinations that you're likely to find at any other restaurant, squished onto two sides of a large piece of paper like puzzle pieces that don't quite fit and 2) the owner, Kenny Shopsin, is a bit eccentric and can refuse to serve you for a multitude of reasons, such as being a party of five, if two people ordering the same thing within the same party, using a cell phone, sensing that you're an asshole, etc.

However, since we were with Ed, who's been one of his friends since before I was born (1985), we got away with breaking the rules. We had...gasp, five people at our table and there was some cell phone usage. I dunno how strict he is with the second rule.

storage salt salt salt

Shopsins used to occupy a large space in the West Village (now Market Table) but moved to a corner of the Essex Street Market. To make best use of the space, it seems like most of the supplies were out on the shelves around the seating area. It felt nice in a neatly cluttered way.

Another view

Oh, you probably shouldn't take shittons of photos if you eat at Shopsins. Kenny is not too fond of journalists, it seems. Seems. He likes Serious Eats and some other food blogs, but I wasn't about to get him to pose for the camera. Helllll noooo.

So. Kenny sat down on a nearby chair to talk to Ed while we were eating, which was...eye-opening. I mean, it was nice to see what he was like aside from what I witnessed in I Like Killing Flies, in which he was kind of frightening. Not in a way where you thought he actually hated you, but...well, I'm not sure about that, actually.

Anyway, after hearing him converse with Ed and losing track of how many times he said "cocksucker" (a lot), I'd say he's pretty nice. If you don't suck. I don't know what kind of impression I made—I just sat there and ate, mostly. (I'm afraid he'll forever refer to me as "the girl who takes a lot of photos.")

Oh, what did I eat? That's what I'm here to talk about, isn't it...

Cuban II
Cuban, part deux

I ordered the Cuban II, filled with smoked brisket, swiss, andouille, and jerk bbq on ciabatta accompanied by a salad of baby greens (mm babies!), a slice of watermelon and a bag of Ruffle potato chips. With all that meatiliciousness, of course it was awesome. The spicy peppery andouille was my favorite part, although I'd say the other juicy meatstuffs and the melted cheese and the soft, chewy bread also played major roles. The whole thing cost $13, which is a lot for a sandwich (everything at Shopsins is kind of expensive), but for some reason it's worth it.'re keeping the Shopsin philosophy alive. And a large part of the philosophy includes tasty sandwiches.

high school
High school

The star of the table was the High School. When the bucket of hot turkey sandwich, stuffing, and mushroom gravy was placed in front of Alaina, we were all like, "...WTF. Sweet jesus." Or that's what I was thinking. I mean, that's what I think 50% of the time that I'm awake. The spoonfuls of thick white bread soaked in savory gravy juices smothered in the comforting combination of turkey-celery-carrot-stuffing bits seemed neverending. Which was great, because we didn't want it to end. Even though four of us helped Alaina eat it, we still couldn't finish it off.

Of course, it was sooo good (said in the style of Teen Girl Squad). And it was $14. But you should get it because you won't find this dish anywhere else...except maybe a high school cafeteria where the cooks have gone haywire with leftovers.

slyders (that's how he spells it on the menu, k?)

Adam ordered a plate of sliders (mini-burgers) with cheese and maybe onion...

smoked pork bbq mini sammiches
More mini sammiches

Raphaël continued the mini-sandwich theme with smoked pork bbq sandwiches...

Ed's crazy soup

And Ed went with a giant bowl of chicken cheddar bacon corn soup. Chicken. Cheddar. Bacon. Corn. I don't know why this isn't a more common combination on soup menus everywhere.


Damn, just missed the midnight mark for this to have been posted on Thursday. Well. Happy Friday, everyone.


Blue Ribbon Bakery
35 Downing St
New York, NY

Shopsins (in the Essex Street Market, stall #16)
120 Essex St.
New York, NY


Geggie / November 30, 2007 9:32 AM

I'm thinking that I need to add Blue Ribbon to my list of for my visit to NYC in February. I'll be there for a whole week.

N / November 30, 2007 10:16 AM

Ha, I can't wait for your review of Les Halles! I've been following Anthony Bourdain for a while and I'm curious how HIS restuarant food compares to the food he so acidly lambastes. Cannnnnnnnnnnn't wait.

Also, when I initially read Blue Ribbon Bakery, I expected pictures of baked goods. Duck? Threw me for a loop.


(I continue to enjoy your foodie entries. Keep up the excellent work with your playful writing and picture-capturing!)

Kathy / November 30, 2007 10:17 AM

Goooooofff, I would have been content with just baskets and baskets of the bread alone at Blue Ribbon! ...oh, but the fatttttttyyy lovelovey marrow was soooo delicious!! Sigh. If only we had fatter pocketbooks, I'd meet you there for dinner every night! :)

*kudos for the excellent pie crust! vodka! who would have ever thought?!*

brenda / November 30, 2007 10:30 AM

Checking out your link to Les Halles I had no idea that it was basically a cheesy french chain.

The Other Brenda / November 30, 2007 11:37 AM

I'm not surprised Les Halles is a major suckfest. Bourdain's hot air was the only heat source that place had for years. Now that he's a blowhard TV personality, it's no surprise his restaurant has gone cold.

Am I the only one who fears bovine spongiform encephalopathy when faced with bone marrow on a plate?

Hmmm. I seem to be channeling a lot of negativity today, so I'll just say:

GREAT JOB as always, Roboppy!! You inspire me to eat more and more every day!

roboppy / November 30, 2007 12:41 PM


Geggie: Woo, do it! It's open late in case you want a post-midnight sundae or something (YES YOU DO). Kathy knows what I'm talking about. ;)

N: I just changed my wording a bit to say that the duck confit was bad...the other food was good. I think. But I was pretty focused on my sad duck confit. :(

The watermelon was really good! A PALATE CLEANSER, perhaps.

(Thanks for reading!)

Kathy: I'd love a bread basket buffet also. ...But they'd probably frown upon that, hehe.


brenda: I didn't really see it as a chain initially, but four locations...I guess that counts. The restaurant was quite nice overall (atmosphere and stuff), but the duck confit was noooot good. My friends' dishes were good. Wah!!!

The Other Brenda!: If he had cooked my duck confit, maybe it would've been awesooome. I'LL NEVER KNOW.

DO NOT FEAR THE BSE! Not that I have facts and figures, but I would assume driving a car is more dangerous than eating bone marrow. Or something. Not that I like driving...


Kathryn / November 30, 2007 1:32 PM

I have wayyy too many things that I want to say about this entry, but they're all eclipsed by the fat that YOU QUOTED TEEN GIRL SQUAD. IN REFERENCE TO DELICIOUS FOOD. Have I mentioned lately that you're my HERO?

On to things that are actually relevant. (1) Okay. I have to admit, I have a SERIOUS aversion to meat fat. I know that's a heinous thing to admit, but I do. All I can figure is that it probably stems from some really bad cuts of meat as a child. But I DESPARATELY want to be able to try things like marrow and sweetmeats without gagging all over the place. What's a girl to do?? How did you first start eating things like that?

(2)I've read (mostly on Smitten Kitchen) that a lot of people were having trouble with the vodka pie crust becacuse it was very sticky. Did you have that problem?

(3) I can understand if you don't answer this, but how old are you? Because you mentioned Ed being friends with the owner of Shopsins since before you were born (1985), and I wasn't sure if that was the year you were born or how long they've been friends. (I know, my analytical skills are brilliant.) I only ask because it appears that we're around the same age and since you have what I've come to realize over the past year or so is my dream job, I kinda feel like a slacker, haha.

And I'm sorry (again!) for such a long (and boring and nosy) comment. =)

maria~ / November 30, 2007 2:40 PM

Ooo man! I've wanted to try Shopsins when I visit. Sigh, just never found the time...

Anyhoo, you sadist you! You wanna hear those cranns scream as they burst! Hahahaha! Oh, I've also heard that vodka does wonders to pie crust. Now that I've heard it from you, I feel that I must try it out now!

danny / November 30, 2007 2:48 PM

So what's the best place to get duck confit in the city? And man, I am getting jaded. $13 dollars for a sandwich seems semi-normal for new york. hell, some burgers cost that much.

Tina / November 30, 2007 5:25 PM

Oh, I want to go to Shopsins! But somehow, I'm always somewhere else even though I have the intention of eating there. Hmm...ooh, I want to try out that chocolate/confection place inside the Essex, too! Probably, I should dedicate an afternoon eating there?

Anyways, your pumpkin pie looks sooo delicious. I'm kinda sorry that your turkey's a bit dry and the lack of sodium in your gravy. Next time, taste your gravy before you dump it into your bowl.

roboppy / December 1, 2007 12:08 AM

Kathryn: TEEN GIRL SQUAD!!! YESSSSSS!! That 's definitely my favorite thing on Homestar Runner....for better or worse. It used to be strong bad emails but I haven't followed those lately. :(

Fat from bad cuts of meats are definitely bleh-ful. I can understand your aversion. But someday you must try the sweetbreads...cos they're awesome. And not like sucky fat. I started eating stuff like that just cos I saw that other people enjoyed it. :) The things that my friends like tend to be good!

The dough for the crust was kinda sticky at first (before I put it in the fridge to stiffen), but I added more flour as I did the final dough smushings until the dough wasn't too sticky.

I'm 22! :) Born in 1985, ooh yeaah. Don't feel like a slacker; I got my job by LUCK, AND NUTTIN ELSE. In the right place at the right time. Sigh. Well, no one else was going for the job, so whatever. IT'S MIIINE!!

Maria: Buying the vodka for the crust was the first time I ever bought alcohol for myself! It's so weird to have to show my ID to people. :O

Danny: I don't know the best place...yet. Haven't eaten enough duck confit. But I could make it my goal to find the best, bwahaha. Someone told me Balthazar makes a good one.

I prefer to pay less than $10 for a sandwich, closer to $5 perhaps (like from Taim or Tiny's Giant Sandwich Shop). I did pay $12 for a burger the other day...and got fries with it. With tax and tip it ended up being a $20 lunch. Oooops.

Tina: Go to Shopsins and Roni-Sue next chance you have a free lunch! Her toffee is soooo good. I prefer it over the chocolate.

Oh, the gravy did turn out fine...I didn't explain that well. I found out it wasn't salty enough while I was cooking it, so I just had to add more salt that I had expected to. Trust me, I had to taste it a gazillion times before I put it in the bowl. -__-

Kathryn / December 1, 2007 3:49 AM

Haha, I love that you answered each of my points. I'm such a pain sometimes.

I finally went to the restaurant I mentioned (like FOREVER ago, ha)! I actually told one of the girls I went with that I had described it as "Playskool on crack," and after laughing at me, she turned around and said, "Actually, that pretty much sums up this place perfectly." Point is, PICTURES! They're on facebook, so I'll send you a link over there. =)

Oh, and in the spirit of sharing, I'm 20, and wish I had your kind of luck with jobs!

dana / December 1, 2007 10:25 PM

BONE MARROW! I love that stuff! I think I must goto blue ribbon bakery now!

oh, and we must have more robyn-cooks posts now! I'm laughing myself silly just imagining. alright, j/k about that last part :)

roboppy / December 2, 2007 2:59 AM

Kathryn: Oh my god, that restaurant looks so wacked out. How right you were. Thanks for the photos!

When I was 20 I had no freakin' clue what I was doing! You still have time. Heh. ..Wait, what was I doing at 20? Uh.

Dana: Oh, there won't be many more Robyn-cooks posts, TRUST MEEE. Unless you wanna hear me talk about...eating pasta and rice and making a pot of curry. (No, nooo!)

Christina / December 2, 2007 5:45 PM

Vodka in a pie crust? I think I heard of that before but I never kept reading to figure out what it does. Judging by your picture, it looks like it does something right! (I'm one of those nerds that will literally write a 1,000 page novel about why my pie crust for a particular pie turned out like craaaaaap -- I should, it would spare the sanity of those around me! Well, it's not that bad, I know how to make pie crust... it just isn't perfect or something.)

Both the duck confit and the sweetbreads look absolutely stellar. Like I want to reach into the screen and eat it. Robyn, please repeat to yourself everyday how lucky you are to have such great restaurants at your beck and call!

roboppy / December 4, 2007 2:19 AM

Christina: Vodka is magic! not promoting gluten formation! Wee! And I wouldn't claim to know how to make pie crust. This one must really be fool proof.

YES I AM SO LUCKY! Yes. So much temptation! So many ways to get fat! NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE MEE!!

Katie / June 12, 2008 7:48 PM

I know this is old, but I'm working my way backwards through your blog. You are my new addiction. The reason I'm finally commenting after so many months of backwards reading (I mean, months of posts, not months of reading..I only found you a few weeks ago), I finally found the confirmation of your connection to Homestar Runner. You have used the word burninating a few times, so I was curious. Glad to know you're a fan - my husband especially is Homestar obsessed.
I know that wasn't food related, but on that note, I will say I really enjoy the way you talk about food - it's down to earth, which is refreshing.

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