This post is part of the Food Writer’s Diary blog.
Remember when you were a kid, and you went camping with your family, and you all gathered around the campfire, and everyone grabbed a twig and started toasting marshmallows? Then you sandwiched a marshmallow between two pieces of chocolate and two graham crackers?
No? You don’t remember that? You never went camping, or if you did you didn’t carry marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers with you?
Well, no matter. Camping’s not a universal American experience, but it’s not an uncommon one, either: Around 14 percent of Americans over the age of six have gone camping in the past year, according to the Outdoor Foundation, which also found that 62 percent of the campers they surveyed associated camping with s’mores, which is what Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have been calling fire-singed chocolate-and-marshmallow treats since at least the 1920s (it’s a contraction of “some more”).
That’s enough people that, if you can evoke memories of those brisk nights around the campfire, the sense of peace, the sugar rush of warm melting chocolate and marshmallow, maybe you should.
I didn’t make up that idea: Citified versions of s’mores have been spreading in restaurants for years.
Pizza buffet chain Cicis just this month added a s’mores dip to its menu — a pan of melting marshmallows and chocolate with graham crackers for dipping. Casual-dining burger chain Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews is offering a s’mores milkshake this summer — toasted marshmallows, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate sauce and French vanilla flavor all spun with soft serve — and this past spring bakery café chain Au Bon Pain mixed those flavors with espresso for a s’mores latte.
There are s’mores cupcakes, s’mores cookies and s’mores brownies. Last spring Krispy Kreme introduced a s’mores doughnut made by stuffing the chain’s signature item with toasted marshmallow filling, dipping it in milk chocolate and topping it with graham cracker crumbles.
There is one key ingredient missing from all of these iterations of s’mores, however — the campfire.
Well, Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse, a 20-year-old restaurant in midtown Manhattan, sought to address that with a potted s’mores dessert, accompanied not only by two perfectly singed marshmallows, but also by some sprigs of charred rosemary. The smoke from the herb is reminiscent of the pine branches that I used for s’mores growing up in Colorado (we didn’t go camping much, but we did enough to make s’mores), and a smart flourish to a dish that otherwise wouldn’t have been much more than a tasty chocolate pudding.
And of course steakhouses have rosemary. Pine boughs are a bit harder to come by in New York City.