For most people, regardless of whether they enjoy eating it or not, rice pudding ranks right up there as one of the most boring foods ever created. Ideal for a quick nutritious snack, people (like me) in general treat it as an unchanging, reliable standby, and are content to pick up tubs of Kozy Shack at their local supermarket whenever it is put on sale.
Well, in New York City, where nothing is too mundane to be re-invented and ruthlessly marketed as the “in” thing, it comes as no surprise that a company has come up with a better mousetrap. Rice pudding has gotten a radical makeover, thanks to the folks at Rice to Riches, a destination dessert place located in the fashionable NoLita (North of Little Italy, for those unfamiliar with NYC neighborhood lingo). As you’ve probably already guessed given that offbeat name, Rice to Riches sells one thing and one thing only – rice pudding – but in 21 (count ’em) different flavors! Although it sounds like a silly concept, judging from the crowds on both of my visits, locals and tourists alike have fallen for the gimmick.
The futuristic-looking entrance on Spring St. with the alien spaceship-shaped window allows great views into the brightly-lit and colorful interiors and attracts passers by to come in and sample the goods. The store, with its eye-catching orange-dominated motif, emits an airy, infectiously cheerful vibe. All of the 21 flavors on display are given fanciful and fun-sounding names, ranging from the playful (“Chocolate Chip Flirt”) to the romantic (“Take Me to Tiramisu”) to the Jimi Hendrix throwback (“Sex, Drugs, and Rocky Road”). Equally whimsical are the names of 10 different choices of toppings, some examples are Blessings (toasted coconut), Mischief (graham cracker), and Heart Throb (jelly). Moreover, the pudding is served on colorful (e.g. orange, green) disposable cups that look straight out of an Ikea catalog.
The enthusiastic, friendly staff allow customers to taste a sample of each flavor – this is extremely helpful in the decision-making process, as all 21 flavors look incredibly tempting. On two separate visits, to the detriment of both my wallet and waistline, I ordered four different flavors: Pistachio Protest, “Category 5” Caramel, Chocolate Chip Flirt, and Coast to Coast Cheesecake – and I had to admit all tasted quite delicious. Among them, my favorite was the Pistachio Protest (but then I love pistachio ice cream). I asked the two baby boomers eating at the same communal counter what they were having, and they raved about the Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road (although they might just have been nostalgic about their youth LOL). A minor quibble is the limited seating capacity inside the store, during peak hours you might have to stand at one of the dine-in counters, as I did, and rub elbows with fellow foodies enjoying their dessert.
A limited number of flavors (chocolate, vanilla, cheesecake) as also available in take-out packs in case consuming all that sugar in one sitting doesn’t sound like a palatable option – they make a really great breakfast (from personal experience). So better think again if you visualize rice pudding as a simple milk and rice dessert – it has been reborn as the latest “cool” New York City snack!.
Rice to Riches
37 Spring Street between Mott and Mulberry St,
New York, NY
Fri & Sat 11am to midnight
Sunday 11am – 10 pm