Sweettooth In New York City

Finally decided it’s time to admit that my New York postings deserve their own page (or maybe that it’s time to move back?) since over half of my “on the road” page is dedicated to the Big Apple. Dig in!

May 2017

Another spring, another trip to the Big Apple. Highlights not only included a tower of smoked fish and all you can eat bagels at Sadelle’s, but also a trip to Coney Island (I’d never been) and a show (Book of Mormon).   With all the touristy activities, I had to keep myself going with the occasional sweet snack, starting with the phenomenal chocolate shop Stick With Me.

Tucked inside this tiny storefront in Little Italy is a world of sweets, including bonbons, fudge, and candy bars, all made in-house. Flavors are eclectic with a Japanese edge – think black sesame truffles, matcha fudge, and yuzu bonbons in addition to more traditional confections.

No matter what, you won’t go wrong (I would know, since I pretty much bought one of everything in the store). If, like me, you need a pick-me-up after shopping or a chill place to hang out before your matinee, head to Coffee Mania in Midtown. Don’t let the name full you – it’s a full restaurant – but make sure you get one of their spectacular coffee dessert drinks.

Some, like the raspberry coffee on the left, feature fruity flavors and ice on a hot day. Others, like the “Raf” coffee on the right, are velvety and warm (the menu compares it to melted ice cream). A rare restaurant with plenty of seating and a chill atmosphere.  Finally, with a little time to spare before my flight, I had time to explore the food court under the Plaza – I hadn’t been in years and it had expanded brought in some exciting additions (Lady M’s, Doughnuttery). I wanted to try a black & white cookie from William Greenberg:

The verdict? Very cakey, with thick icing that was softer than usual (making it hard to disengage the cookie from it’s wrapping), and extremely fresh. It definitely ranks in my top ten. I also stopped at Billy’s Bakery because I was tempted by their “jars” of desserts:

I got a banana pudding jar as well as an icebox cake jar (pictured above). The cream was high quality and dense, and while the desserts were very rich they were not overly sweet. I was mad that I didn’t get to try Lady M’s checkerboard cake or crepe cake, but there’s always next time.

November 2016

I had planned to celebrate the election of Hillary Clinton in New York City with my sister and two close friends. We were all heartbroken instead, but that didn’t stop us from eating and drinking our way through the city. One stop was the much-Instagrammed and hyped Black Tap milk shakes. After waiting an hour in line, we finally were seated in the divey and dark pub and served a Sweet and Salty shake involving Reece’s, M&Ms, peanut butter, pretzels, and an epic portion of whipped cream.

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While it looked impressive, and was certainly creative, the shake itself (once we found it) was disappointing. I thought it was thin and lacked flavor. Overall, I think Black Tap lives up to its mediocre Yelp reviews – more hype than substance.

On the other end up the spectrum was BLVD Bistro in Harlem. A popular spot, but probably unknown outside of the neighborhood, this little soul food restaurant was tasty, friendly, and cozy. I ordered the extremely tasty banana pecan pancakes:

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Was not disappointed, and would have loved to return to try the Georgia Peach & Macadamia Nut pancakes (among other decadent menu items).

The grand finale was was Glaser’s Bakeshop on the Upper East Side. I’d been wanting to try Glaser’s for years because I heard they made the best Black and White cookie in NYC. I finally got my chance to go to this Old-World, no-frills bakery.

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What makes Glaser’s B&W cookie special is how cake-like this so-called cookie is. The cookie dough was essentially a very sturdy cake dough, and the frosting was soft like cake frosting – different from the hardened icing usually found on B&W cookies. The cookie was also extremely fresh – no stale edges or dry center. So I guess in spite of the election, I’m still #winning.

May 2016

What better way to welcome myself back to NYC than to go straight to Dominique Ansel from JFK after taking the redeye from Seattle – I figured this was my chance to redeem myself after my last attempt to get a Cronut (see below). The epic ride on the A-Train was worth it – the line was gone, and I was able to walk right in and get one of the remaining Cronuts.

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The flavor was rhubarb and I was surprised by the amount of gooey filling. The pastry itself was just as described – a perfect cross between a doughnut and a croissant. While the pastry was delightful, I found the filling a bit much and was overall slightly underwhelmed. I was glad to have had it but I’m not sure I’d make a concerted effort to have another. I returned later in the day for the famed Cookie Shot:

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The Cookie Shot is a “shot glass” made out of a cookie, filled with sweetened milk. My sister explained that the trick is to let the milk soak into the cookie, but not so much that the cookie falls apart. Again, I was somewhat underwhelmed – I’d rather just have a really good cookie and farmer’s market milk or ice cream. I did learn, however, that if you laugh through your nose into the cookie shot, the milk will spurt up in every possible direction.

For a different experience, I checked out Sadelle’s (conveniently close to Dominique Ansel). Known for their high tea-style towers of smoked salmon, they also make excellent bagels and babka. The babka is of the chocolate variety, and was the true highlight of my food expedition in lower Manhattan.

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As you can see, the layers in the babka are nicely formed, but not dried out. The texture was neither bread-like or cake-like, but somewhere in between (but a better marriage than the Cronut, in my opinion). Sadelle’s, in my opinion, is not at all overrated and easily lives up to the hype… more than can be said of certain nearby bakeries!

November 2015

Nothing beats NYC during the holidays – it may be cold but it sure is cozy. The holiday markets pop up, the decorative lights come on, and everyone is infected with the festive spirit. It’s one of my favorite times to visit and sample some high-calorie treats (what better way to prepare for the winter ahead?). I started with the much-hyped Dominique Ansel, the originator of the Cronut and the king of Instagram-worthy desserts. Somehow I missed the memo that you need to be in line by 8 AM in order to nab a Cronut, so I missed out on that particular creation. I settled for a layered peanut butter pastry, a Nutella bread, and a Kouign Amann:

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The Nutella bread was nicely caramelized and crunch (but not overdone), and the Kouign Amann was delicately textured, with gooey goodness hidden inside:

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My sister enjoyed the peanut butter concoction, but I found it a bit too sweet (but pretty to look at):

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Verdict overall? Get there in time for the Cronut. Next on my hit-list was Rice to Riches, another well-known spot in lower Manhattan. Never having had rice pudding, I was a little wary (rice for dessert?). The store itself is bright, cheerful, and not for the health-nut (signs on the wall include “No Skinny Bitches”).

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You choose your flavors (options include French Toast and “Sex Drugs and Rocky Road”) – I went with Chocolate Hazelnut and Chocolate Chip – and the size (ranging from Huge to Sumo). I got the smallest possible serving, which was still much too much:

 

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The flavors worked nicely together, but again I found it a bit too sweet. My sister ate the whole thing. Overall verdict: I’ll stick with flour-based desserts. Last but not least was Sweet Buttons Desserts, known for their tiny cupcakes and overall excellence. The space was modern but friendly – a welcome respite from my epic shopping adventures.

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I selected a large chocolate chip cookie, two tiny tarts, and a banana panna cotta – all to be shared with my sister. I missed out on the cupcakes because I didn’t think they would transport well but they looked delectable and I appreciated how small everything was (presumably so a person could try one of everything… right?).

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The winners were the tiny caramel tart and the chocolate chip cookie, which was genuinely one of the best the city has to offer, IMO. My sister loved the panna cotta but when it comes to custard desserts I’m still partial to Sugar Sweet Sunshine. Overall verdict: this under-the-radar spot is a clear winner.

May 2015 Part II

As if I needed more sources for Jewish baked goods in NYC, I ventured (via bike!!!) to Orwashers on the Upper East Side. They’re known for their breads, strudels, and other baked goodness, and I had to FaceTime my sister as a perused the selection so she could talk me down (I was somewhat overcome). I ended up with a raisin pumpernickel roll (not pictured), a black and white cookie, and a small hamentashen.

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My mom got a macaroon and a rugalach (top left) which I didn’t get to sample because she ate it all.  I will focus on the Black and White, because it was clearly the winner. It was more cakey than some others I’ve tried and therefore on the soft, moist end of the spectrum. It was obviously very fresh, and the icing was perfect – intensely flavored and not overly sweet.  Well done.

Next up was Sweet Generation, new on the East Village dessert scene. I didn’t learn this until later, but Sweet Generation is a non-profit bakery devoted to funding and developing arts education in communities and schools. This makes their products extra sweet, IMO, and I love that they provide baking internships to students from low-income families. They must be teaching them well, because I was very impressed with our cupcakes:

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On the left is a cookies and cream cupcake (which could have used a tad more Oreo flavor) and on the left is the winner – the Mocchaccino cupcake. This one had the best cake part of a cupcake I’ve ever had. Rich, velvety texture, with a strong cocoa flavor. The espresso flavor served to bring out the richness of the chocolate. Yes please.

Last but not least was Petee’s Pie in the Lower East Side.  By this time, I was stuffed, but I had to pay this place a visit because my dad is named Pete and he loves pie. Reason enough! We got a chocolate chess pie and a pecan pie.

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The chess pie was silky and custard-like, and my sister was a big fan (it was nice and salty, which she prefers). I went more for the pecan pie, which, while excellent, was not as good as my sister’s. If you’re looking for a slice or two for a picnic or just to scarf down while taking in the LES, try this spot.

May 2015 Part I

Another caloric adventure in NYC – offset by shopping and biking(!) – is complete, and I can say I’ve experienced five more excellent bakeries in Manhattan. Starting with… Maman in Soho – a French bakery but with cookies that will appeal to any American (unless you’re gluten-free, in which case, why are you reading this blog?).

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The “oreo” cookie looked fabulous, but I went with my gut (and the Yelp reviews) and got the “famous nutty chocolate chunk cookie” while my friend got the pistachio cake.

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The cake was good (moist, flavorful, dense with a nice icing around the edges) but the cookie was the prize. Easily in my top five cookies. Very generous with the chocolate, which was still melty. Not mushy or crunch – the perfect texture and baked to the perfect doneness. This is a winner.

Still continuing my cookie quest, the next day my sister and I checked out Bibble & Sip, near Columbus Circle. Known for its cookies and hot chocolate, we got one of each, plus a slice of banana bread.

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The hot chocolate was a bit thin for our taste, but the banana bread was solid. Yet again, the cookie was phenomenal. It was just as good as Maman, therefore it also makes my top five cookie experiences (now I can’t think of what the other three are…).  Also worth noting that at both these spots, espresso was on-point and the lunch/breakfast fare was also very well done. Bibble’s breakfast slider? Yes please!

November 2014

My last round of shopping and eating my way through NYC proved fruitful once again, especially in my discovery of City Cakes in Chelsea – a tiny basement bakery that’s more like an art gallery. Go to their website and check out some of their cake designs and you’ll see what I mean, or see the picture below for just one example:

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But since I had no need of a whole cake, my sister and I shared the red velvet cupcake and the “half pound cookie” – which is exactly what it sounds like. To start with, the red velvet cake was supremely perfect, with cream cheese frosting not overly sweet and a cake texture that my sister (the expert in all things red velvet) pronounced just right.

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The cupcake was so rich we could hardly eat more than a few bites of the cookie, which I ended up eating over the course of three days (telling myself that made it healthier).

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Plentiful chocolate chunks and a chewy texture made this cookie dense and delicious. This cake joint is worth returning to. Next on the list was Amaretto, a cute coffee shop/bakery right by my sister’s place in Harlem. A real neighborhood place with friendly service and excellent coffee, they bake Latin American cookies and pastries.

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The sandwich cookies with the dulce de leche are the best, IMO, but all were wonderfully short, soft, melt-in-your-mouth, not overly sweet, fresh, etc.  I can see why my sister goes there all the time. Finally, to complete my tour-de-desserts, I had a chance encounter with a tiny spot in downtown Brooklyn called The Sweet Little Cafe. I was waiting for a friend, and feeling cold and tired I took refuge in this cafe (true to it’s name, it is sweet and little). When I saw the desserts they had on display, I knew I had lucked out, and asked for an espresso and the last little cookie.

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What luck! The cookie was absolutely grand. Soft, puffy, rich, delectable. Easily one of the top five cookies of my life. You can tell when they use extra cake flour and fine ingredients. Next time I’m in Brooklyn for shopping, this is where I will take my break. I’ll just have to be willing to go up a size afterwards.

June 2014

Oh New York, how I’d missed you and your deliciousness! On my spring visit, there was no calorie wasted as I explored the Lower East Side, the East Village, Morningside Heights, and Chelsea. I’ll start with the best of them all: Sugar Sweet Sunshine in the Lower East Side. I came in search of a cupcake to tide me over while doing some serious shopping, but was instead tempted by the array of English-style puddings on offer. While I normally dislike bananas, the Banana Cream Pudding appeared to be the most popular, so I took a chance.

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I loved that I could get just a “shot” sized portion, although it was so good I would have been happy with the regular sized portions as well. The cream was high quality, there were whole slices of banana, and the soaked cake bits were of just the right texture. I very much recommend.

Next up was Butter Lane Bakery in the East Village. I was so impressed with my banana choice from the day before, I decided to continue along that trajectory and ordered the banana cupcake with honey frosting.

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On one hand, I liked that the cupcake itself was so small because it was more like a snack than a binge (unlike Magnolia). On the other hand, a little bit more cake to frosting ratio was needed to balance the extreme sweetness of the honey frosting. Plus, the cake was really good (very banana-y and not just sugar/flour/butter/hint of banana) and I would have liked to have more than three bites of it.

On to Morningside Heights, where my sister introduced me to the old world Hungarian Pastry Shop, famous both for its coffee and its pastries (as well as for the general charm of the place, which hasn’t changed in decades). There was a lot to choose from, and although I tried to be selective I ended up with a plateful of goodies:

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The triangle layer cake looked the best but I was disappointed by lots of sugar with little flavor. Light and airy might be nice for some, but I thought it lacked oomph. The chocolate round cookie had the opposite problem – it was dense and too intense in flavor (chocolate and cardamom). But the Hamentashen, which I grabbed as an afterthought, was perfect in every respect. Fresh, crumbly, and flavorful, I could see why the bakery was churning them out so quickly – they are good enough to fly off the shelves.

And last but not least, a trip to the Chelsea Market introduced me to Sarabeth’s Bakery (they have several locations in Manhattan). In the market for picnic supplies, I selected a couple of scones (currant and plain), as well as a cornmeal-blueberry muffin and a “Danut” (you guessed it, a donut made with danish dough).

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I thought everything was fantastic, although the Danut was certainly  heavy (who could have predicted that??). The muffin wasn’t too sweet, and I’ve always liked baking blueberries with cornmeal batter. The scones were flakey and fresh, and were good even two days later. I’d love to try one of the restaurants for breakfast or teatime. Maybe on my next trip…

November 2013

On my most recent venture into the Big Apple, I was fortunate to be staying a block from the “Bites of Broadway” food festival. Better believe I was there every day for coffee, snacks, and these golden treasures:

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If you read this blog regularly you know I have a thing for mini-doughnuts, and I was pretty excited to try these from The Doughnuttery. Basically, you watch as they fry them in front of you, and choose a topping or combination of toppings (for example, the Pineapple Pow has pineapple, ginger, and wasabi). I stuck with vanilla glaze and inhaled the whole bag in 60 seconds. Highly recommended (you can find them at the Chelsea Market).

Another new spot for me was Milk and Cookies in the West Village, where you get exactly that:

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We didn’t try their new “bacon smack” cookie but stuck with the tried and true peanut butter and chocolate chip. It was the perfect way to end an evening in the Village. I wouldn’t say it’s worth a pilgrimage, but if you’re in the neighborhood definitely stop by.

Last but not at all least, we dined at 2nd Ave Deli, and while I don’t usually blog about restaurants, I had to feature these Jewish Deli specialties:

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On the left is seven layer cake, a light, delicate cake with two-toned chocolate frosting. On the right is chocolate babka, which at 2nd Ave is more of a chocolate bread pudding. Very different textures, but both equally unique and OMG-worthy. I must repeat what I always say about 2nd Ave Deli: heaven is a place on earth, and it has pickled tomatoes, rye bread, and chocolate cream soda. And babka.

March 2013

On a recent “spring break” trip (can you still do that when you’re in your 30s?) I managed to try two new (for me) considered blog-worthy. My sister and I had been wanted to check out the much buzzed-about Doughnut Plant so we trekked down to the Lower East Side (my favorite neighborhood). There’s also a location in Chelsea, but we wanted to hit up Russ & Daughters and Yonah’s Knishes (do you see why it’s the favorite neighborhood?). The Doughnut Plant had a line, but not terribly long, a little heavy on the hipster vibe but seemed enticing. There were certainly some interesting flavors to choose from, plus you could choose if you wanted yeast or cake doughnut. We went with all yeast:

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We ended up with toasted almond, lemon, peanut butter and jam, and chocolate hazelnut. Our verdict? Good flavors, fun concept, but not worth a pilgrimage. To be honest, a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut would probably be just as satisfying.

Our other dessert special of the weekend was at Carnegie Deli, where we stood outside in line waiting for our (shared) table. Second Ave Deli is so much classier… but alas, was closed for Passover. However, Carnegie does have one thing Second Ave does not… CHEESECAKE.

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We were told to get strawberry, and since this is one of those places where you do as you’re told, we obliged. Rich, dense, and creamy with that lovely tang, we quickly polished this one off. But again, I’d say not worth the pilgrimage. What are (for me) the pilgrimage places for dessert? Serendipity, Moishe’s, and City Bakery are the ones that make the cut.

Jan 2013

For the first time, I spent New Years in NYC! Most of the trip was spent eating, naturally. We started at Via Quadronno on the Upper East Side, where my sister swore up and down we would find the best Tiramisu. She was correct that the flavors were properly intense – no blandness here! I could taste the rum, coffee, cocoa, blended but still recognizable. Nor was it overly sweet.

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My only complaint was that it was a little too heavy on the cream (I’m more a cake person, even with Tiramisu).  Next morning, we walked a couple blocks from my sister’s apartment in Harlem to Levain, a highly acclaimed bakery known for their cookies. I was underwhelmed by the cookie but luckily my sister recommended the scone.

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What a find! You don’t often eat American scones with the proper amount of crunch on the outside and moist buttery goodness on the inside. I didn’t even need to put butter or jam on it.

Our final round of desserts came at Moishe’s Bake Shop in the East Village. I stumbled across this place on yelp while doing a search for “best black and white cookie” and was surprised to discover Moishe’s was only a few blocks from where I lived my senior year of college. A whole year wasted eating inferior black and white cookies? I hoped it wasn’t the case, but sadly I knew as soon as I took my first bite I had been missing out.

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This cookie was perfect, and I have very picky standards for B&W cookies. First of all, the cookie cannot be either crunchy or spongy – it has to be smack in the middle. It is neither cookie nor cake. Second, the icing cannot stick to the roof of your mouth in a paste. It should be part of the cookie – not a separate entity. Moishe’s did everything right. Also surprising was that I liked the vanilla side better, which is never the case. There was a nice lemony tang to it that made it more intense and interesting than “the dark side.” I will be back, not just for the cookie but to try the huge variety of Jewish sweets and breads. The Challah looked amazing…

Next episode: March! I’ve heard that Carnegie Deli does an excellent B&W… time for a competition!

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