9.08.2015

X Marks the Spot...in Endwell?

I told you a few weeks ago about the fun I had taking a turn as sous chef at a cooking demo in Binghamton for the VINES Grow Bingamton group. Part of the fun was, of course, helping inspire kids in our community to grow and cook their own food, but a big part was the thrill I got watching Sue, from Treasure Ice Cream and Cafe in Endwell, cook up Southest Asian cuisine as simple as you or I would throw together a tuna noodle casserole.


To me, Asian cooking isn't exactly hard, but neither is it simple. There are lots of condiments, a million veggies to chop, and rules governing the balance of salty, sour, sweet and hot. Rice must be rinsed, wrappers must be soaked, and everything needs to be cooked in order to achieve optimal results. But for Sue, spring rolls and stir fries are her casseroles, and she made it all seem so accessible, I couldn't wait to hit up Treasure for more of her food. 


I've been twice now to the tiny yellow building on Watson Blvd, right across from the Broadway Diner, and I think you're going to need to check it out for yourself. Like a treasure, there's something special hiding in this unassuming ice cream joint.

First off, order yourself some egg rolls. You deserve a treat! At Thai restaurants, these would be called crispy rolls or spring rolls. When these small, golden cylinders hot your table, you can smell a whiff of fish sauce before you even bite into one - the calling card of SE Asian food. That's when you know these aren't egg rolls from your typical Chinese restaurant. The wrappers are thinner and more shatteringly crisp than the robust crunch of standard egg rolls wrappers, giving these a delicate texture reinforced by subtle spices. 


That's not to say they lacked flavor, no way. The flavor was big in these diminutive rolls, and dipped into the sweet, spicy Thai chile sauce, the ground pork, veggies and white pepper inside acted a wallop.

Sue is making fresh stock for her pho every day from the "mother" stock left over from the previous day. I added lime juice, torn basil, bean sprouts, crushed Thai chiles, pungent chile paste and beef base to my soup from the little plate of fixings provided. 


The soup was fiery, bright, and sharp, the flavors dissolving into sweet heat at the back of the throat, which comes from the charred onions and aromatics in the broth. The noodles stayed firm, and the beef was tender. Tiny meatballs, made from finely ground beef which always makes me think of the meatballs in Spaghettios, are screaming with flavor and juicy from cooking in the soup.


My lips were tingling by the time I finished the huge bowl, so Sue made me a very special dessert - a taste of her childhood kitchen: coconut sticky rice with mango and coconut ice cream. It was as beautiful as it was delicious.


This dish tasted like sunshine and pretty brown boys lugging surfboards on the beach. It's like a tropical paradise on a plate. The sweet, glutinous rice is more separate and less cooked down than American rice pudding, and the sweetness of the coconut milk is more subtle than sugar. You get the greater punch of sweetness from the ice cream, and lush fibrous pleasure of the mango slices with each bite.

A return trip delivered Treasure's bahn mi into my belly. I wish the menu had warned me this came with garlic mayonnaise, as mayo is not my thing, but I scraped off most of it and enjoyed this small sandwich immensely. The savory roasted pork, bright, grassy cilantro, crunchy raw cucumber, and lightly sour pickled carrot shreds combined on a super sturdy French roll with sweetly spicy Thai chile sauce to make a really delicious and unique conbination that hits all the senses. Now, a traditional Vietnamese bahn mi also has a smear of liver pate on the bread, and you know my affection for pate knows no bounds, but I also understand the logistical nightmare it would be spot Sue to keep this costly ingredient on hand and fresh, especially before she can start to ascertain how many sandwiches she can move per week.


Each sandwich comes with pita chips baked and sprinkled with a really yummy, savory spice. They are far crunchier than a tortilla or potato chip, and pretty yummy, especially dragged through your extra chile sauce.

My friend Carrie got the toasted caprese, and while she loved the mozzarella, garlic mayo, basil, roasted red pepper and tomato, she felt like Italian bread would have worked better with all those ingredients. 


We both liked our regular Anerica ice cream desserts just fine on that 90+ degree day.

I can't tell you how enthusiastic I am about a lunch place that serves a full range of ice cream delights, plus Asian dishes and creative sandwiches. That's a very fun combination of treats for little old Endwell!  Everything here is homemade, and Sue's care for her customers is evident as she visits with every table. Her kids help out when they're not in school, and they're just as charming; her daughter made herself a dish of coconut ice cream with some goodies when I was here the first time, and gave me a taste. And pho? In Endwell? Yes, please. I will frequent this place all winter for that delicacy. 

I give Treasure Ice Cream and Cafe a seven on the Big Hungry Scale. It's all above average, not perfect, but quite good. I would love to see this tiny gem thrive and grow. So get out your treasure map and look for the X on Watson Blvd. Tell Sue I sent you! My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!

PS: Shawn and I are headed to San Diego for vacation next week, so no blog, but if you follow me on Instagram @BigHungryShelby or join my Facebook group, I guarantee you'll see some pictures of delicious fish tacos and Top Chef Richard Blais' food from Juniper and Ivy!


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