Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Baked Goodness

Flowers before bloom
Flowers -->  Flours -->  Bakeries

Outside my office window, the sun is shining and temperatures are climbing over eighty degrees. It’s faux-summer, a reminder that real summer, beach weather, and (gulp) bathing suit season are right around the corner.

I suppose I could do humanity (and myself) a service by writing about low-fat smoothie recipes, get-fit-quick tactics, and other helpful tips for shaping up and slimming down.

But instead I’d like to encourage you, my fellow Americans, to eat more sugar and butter. Especially at the following fine establishments.

Some of My Favorite New York Bakeries

(Please note: this list is not exhaustive.  I know there are many wonderful bakeries I'm omitting.  These are just some favorites that came to mind.  I reserve the right to edit and append this list in the future.  But for now - here's a starting point.  Enjoy!)

Levain (W. 74th St @ Amsterdam Ave.) makes the most amazing cookies. Uh-maze-ing. The chocolate/peanut butter chip cookies are downright dreamy.  Although I normally get grumpy when a NYC establishment closes before 10pm (this is supposed to be the city that never sleeps, after all) I am actually thankful that Levain closes at 7pm.  I do not need to have 24/7 access to these cookies.  That would be the very definition of danger.

I’ve mentioned Glaser’s Bakery before. I love the neighborhoody-ness of this place, as well as the old-timey fixtures. The baked goods aren’t half bad, either! It is a little off-the-beaten path (1st Ave., near 87th St.) but if you happen to find yourself on the Upper East Side, stop by! Pick up a danish and a cup of coffee and head over to Charles Schurz Park  for a view of the East River and Gracie Mansion.

Magnolia Bakery is popular among cupcake connoisseurs, children, and tourists seeking to walk in the footsteps of Carrie Bradshaw. In recent years they’ve become somewhat ubiquitous, expanding beyond their original W. Village corner shop into neighborhoods farther uptown. When visiting, I recommend foregoing the famous cupcake and instead trying one of their ice box cakes. Yummers. Big time.

Bouchon Bakery is on the 3rd floor of the Columbus Circle mall. There is a seating area nearby that overlooks, well, the mall. Not exactly picturesque, but you can catch a glimpse of Columbus Circle and the corner of Central Park through the windows. My roommate introduced me to this place, and they do make some mean baked goods. But I'm also partial to Bouchon for being the setting of several good Saturday morning chats with Koko.

I fell in love with the Hungarian Pastry Shop (Amsterdam Ave. near 111th St.) while visiting a friend, years before I moved to New York.  It's a great place to go if you like eating strudel in a dark corner while surrounded by Columbia academic types.  (And who doesn't?)  Sometimes I go there and pretend I am in Europe again, if only for an hour.  It's right across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine - bonus!

City Bakery is farther downtown, just west of Union Square.  It's a big and bustling sort of place (pictured here) with a good selection of cookies, scones, and muffins.  Also, SRH just alerted me to the fact that they make a pretzel croissant. What? And - awesome!  Now I want to go to there.

An honorary inclusion goes to Billy's Bakery in Chelsea. I’ve never actually been there, but I've heard good things.  And I know some people who work for Billy’s.  And it seems like the celebs like it!  So it's probably worth checking out, if you're in the neighborhood and in need of a sugar fix.

Editor's Note: When assembling this list of favorites, I was going to include Payard, a slightly fancy-schmancy Upper East Side patisserie with cute marble-topped tables and great croissants.  But I learned that they've closed since I last visited.  Sadness!  But that's New York - the only thing constant is change.


Gotham Girl said...

Love love love Billy's!! I did a cupcake tasting side by side just like a wine tasting and Billy's was far superior over Magnolia's!

Anna said...

I LOVE Levain! Very glad that it's at the top of your list! :)

Sonja said...

What about Peter Pan Bakery in Greenpoint?? That's my (and Tina Fey's) favorite doughnut!

KristyWes said...

Oooh, is Peter Pan Bakery the one that's all pistachio-colored on the inside, straight out of the 1950's? Love that place!