Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Manhattan: lower east side, NY - Rice to Riches

Any number of comfort foods can be marketed, as evidenced by one college campus-based place that features nothing but cereals. We're not talking about gourmet concoctions (although you can order hot oatmeal or combine several cereals together); people are going in just for a bowl of Lucky Charms with milk. Can the convenience really be worth the money?

We found a similarly small market-niche place, although I could see the allure of flavored rice puddings much more easily than run-of-the-mill sugary dry cereals.

Rice to Riches starts with a base of long-grained rice and runs off in every sweet direction possible. The store is brightly lit and ultra-modern with flat-screen dynamic menu displays. Clean, minimalist lines and bright accents of red, green, and brown bowls provide a cheerful backdrop to a staggeringly impressive spread of puddings.

The prices are a little high, starting at $6 for a 'solo' portion, but the massive serving size (it would take me four to five sessions to finish a solo portion by myself) and the durable, appealing bowl/lid/spoon set (microwave safe, at that!!) justifies the price. These containers don't qualify as disposable; I could imagine building a coordinating Tupperware-like set after a few trips here.

The flavors and names are quirky, creative, and widely appealing, although I didn't notice many low-fat alternatives. The overwhelming number of choices is almost intimidating to a non-decisive person like me. Fortunately, the patient serving staff allows you to wander in front of the display case for a while, and many people got multiple mini-spoon tastings of different flavors. I'm talking about four to six tastings, not the usual one or two.

You can get your bowl filled with one or two flavors of rice pudding; I opted for a duo of Almond Schmalmond and Gingerbread Joyride. I adore almond-flavored desserts, which usually feature creamy milk overlaid with almond extract. This particular rice pudding had a strong almond presence, but the creaminess was akin to cheesecake, much to my surprise. A nice flavor stemming from marscarpone cheese, I'm guessing, but a bit rich. I nibbled quarter-spoonfuls at a time to avoid the pudding from sinking into my stomach like, well... cheesecake. Surprisingly, the gingerbread pudding was the lighter of the two. With its holiday-reminiscent cinnamon, clove, and spice flavor and tiny crumbs of gingerbread interspersed with the rice granules, it made my taste buds tingle, blissfully lost on a joyride of their own. Of the two foodies, I have more of a sweet tooth so eating most of the dessert fell to me, an extended undertaking that spanned four days.

I think the idea of a rice pudding place is a wonderful alternative to ice cream, and taken in small doses, this place is a treat to wander into.

However, I have to admit to enjoying rice in other sweet manifestations: soupy-thin, lightly spiced Indian puddings; mango with Thai coconut sticky rice and crispy split mung beans; and the simple homemade recipe of plump, slightly chewy rice mixed in warm milk sweetened with condensed milk. I'm pretty sure they're a little more forgiving in the calorie department as well. :)


Blogger little_pooh_1 said...

*giggle* I wanted to take you there 'cause I knew you'd like the way they designed the space, but I was beaten to the punch! :) Next time I'll have a list of places just in case!

12:51 PM  

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