I’d start off with something witty to grab your attention (or pretend I have Tourette’s) but I think this list is sufficient:
- Two Little Red Hens
- Minamoto Kitchoan
- Ruby et Violette
- Alice’s Tea Cup
- Levain Bakery
- Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven
- Magnolia Bakery
- Bruno Bakery
- Mary’s off Jane
- Chocolate Bar
- Myers of Keswick
- JAS Mart
“What is this list?”, you wonder? Welllllll, I’m glad you asked. It’s just about everywhere I went on Friday with Melody while attempting to gather goodies for a food trade with Sean. It was also a good way for me to show Melody around (at hyper-speed) and go to places I haven’t been before (and…many that I have). I don’t think I’ve ever covered so much ground or this many locations in one day around NYC in my life. It may have been a touristy thing to do, but I took solace in the fact that no one else was following the same route as our’s. We cavorted. We subwayed profusely. We ate less profusely. We turned money into sugar-based goods. And all in oddly warm January weather that made me stink of sweat after I finally returned to my dorm. Sweet.
I planned the route out fairly well. We’d start at Two Little Red Hens on the Upper East Side, go south to Midtown, go west, go north to the Upper West Side, go down to Soho, walk up to Chelsea, go east to the East Village, and for the first time ever feel like I got my money’s worth out of a 1-day unlimited Metro Card.
I’ve wanted to check out TLRH forever (well, a year or so) ever since I heard of…it. It’s a bakery; what else do I need to know? I love homey American bakeries that carry frosting-slathered cakes (nicely slathered, not drunkenly slathered), cupcakes, cookies, and other fairly simple baked goods. Prices are a little higher here than in other bakeries I’ve been to, but no bakery is really off-limits pocketbook-wise.
I didn’t feel like shelling out $4 for a banana cupcake as my first meal of the day, but it sure looked good. Most of their cakes were beautifully decorated, but not excessively so. Their baked goods are fun and simple, and some area little more sophisticated without being stuffy. That make sense? Good.
I just wanted to point out that their chocolate silk tart, while resembles a mouth-watering mound of what I’m sure is some massively delicious chocolate mousse-esque substance, also looks like a perfectly shaped heap of poo, Japanese style. You can thank Allen for that observation. I’m unofficially calling it the Poo Tart. And I’d really love to try this Poo Tart, if three other people would share it with me. The Poo Tart. I’ll never get to say Poo Tart this excessively again in my life so I’m taking advantage of the situation.
Melody and I shared as Love in the Clouds sandwich cookie and a Caramel Pecan bar. Both were good, although my preference leaned towards the caramel pecan bar. I like my caramel and I like my pecan. The cookie was great, like an Oreo, but with crispier, faintly spiced cookies that one can eat without the risk of supporting Philip Morris. (Philip Morris owns Kraft, which owns Nabisco, which makes Oreos…yadda yadda.) While I wouldn’t say these were the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life, zomg, !#!@$!, etc, they were very good. It’s a pointless description but you either know what caramel and pecans taste like or you don’t, and the cookie…tastes like a cookie.
The bakery has a hen theme; can you tell? The chair is quite cute. I got up and it looked like I laid an egg. HAR HAR! If you were really crazy/drugged, you might think you actually laid an egg.
So! Next stop. We subwayed down to French food shop/bakery Fauchon (the above photo was taken last summer but it’s still French and very pink) where I bought a box of caramels for Sean. It was about $16. Damn, they better be some good caramels. Everything was very expensive to the point that I can’t imagine the food tastes as good as it costs, but I don’t know for sure since I’ve never actually tried anything besides their tea. Since I don’t really like tea, I can’t judge it. The store itself is very nice, a bit swanky, sophisticated, with lots of pink. It’s fun to check out but I can’t imagine ever going there on a semi-regular basis.
Richart was the first chocolate shop I ever had “gourmet” chocolates from, thus introducting me to the world of pricey, artisan chocolates. Some girls buy designer shoes and handbags; naturally, I buy chocolate. I’m not a chocolate connoiseur, but I think Richart is really good. It’s…um. Uh. It doesn’t suck. Not too sweet, not too bitter, unique, delicate flavors, smooth, crisp chocolate; really, what else can I say? One major difference between Richart’s chocolates and others is that they make a lot of tiny, cube-shaped pieces that are OH SO ADORABLE. It’s a superficial trait but I think it makes it easy to recognize their chocolates.
Like most artisan chocolates, Richart is pricey, but they sell a variety of affordable $6.50 bags with mendiants (chocolate with nuts and dried fruit) or filled chocolates. If I had to recommend just one thing, I’d say go for caramel filled chocolates, unless you don’t like caramel, in which case…god, why? Get away from me! Since I’ve had the caramel filled chocolates before, I bought a pack of hazelnut ganache-filled chocolates and they were unlike anything else I’ve had. I mean, I’ve eaten a fair share of chocolates with hazelnut ganache (fair share = buckets), but the chocolate was…soft and melty with a subtley flavored filling. Yes, another pointless description; you’ll just have to try em for yourself. I also bought a 16-piece herbal box for my mum, which at $22.50 isn’t too bad (although the pieces are really small). They don’t sell those trays individually on the website (which doesn’t sell the $6.50 bags either), so I’d recommend browsing the store (7 E 55th Street).
We took a look around the wagashi shop Minamoto Kitchoan, which I’ve tried a bunch of things at before because there’s one in NJ at Mitsuwa. To me it’s like the Japanese equivalent of an artisan French chocolatier, with fresh, beautiful, sophisticated desserts utilizing Japanese flavors and ingredients (sweet potato, persimmon, peach, chestnut, red bean, and so much more!). Everything is a little expensive but surely made with care and the best ingredients, straight from…somewhere in Japan. I recommend everything; how’s that for vague? Mochi is good, cake is good, candied chestnuts are good, jello-stuff is good…
This “sweet bean paste mixed with pumpkin jam wrapped in a Japanese crepe in the shape of a pumpkin” wasn’t something I’d necessarily get again, but it was tasty and new to me. The flavor isn’t very sweet, but it’s fresh and…ye know, pumpkin-y. The pumpkin is just plain, not spiced like in American desserts. $2 may be a lot for this tiny treat, but it’s shaped like a pumpkin, kawaii!
I’ve wanted to try Ruby et Violette for a while, but I kept forgetting about it because it’s somewhat out of the way on 50th Street between 9th and 10th Avenue. I guess I never wandered enough to actually pass the easily overlooked shop. Thankfully, NYC Nosh reminded me of its presence, thus making it a “must visit” on my “itinerary of bakery and chocolatier doom”. While Melody and I were walking along the street, it didn’t seem to fit in; we wondered, “WHERE IS THIS PLACE?” (Erm…closer to 10th Ave.) But then we saw the red awning and the neon script “cookies” sign that I’ve decided I must someday get for my own room and we knew the cookies were dangerously close.
Amusingly, they had a blurb from Oprah’s magazine in the window inapproriately positioned next to the magazine headline “BURNING CALORIES”. It’s like a message of things not to come, unless you’ve got crazy good metabolism. If you have this type of metabolism, I hate you. ...Just kiddin! [secretly scowls…well, not so secretly, since I just typed it]
The sweet-smelling shop is narrow with an unconventional display case compared to most cookies. It’s a bit dark with red-hued lighting and small stacks of cookies in small trays and plates made of different materials and colors. Here you’ll find unique flavors such as couch potato, kitchen sink, marshmallow, rose, and champagne & strawberry, but they also have a chocolate chip cookie simpled called “perfect”. Cookies are regular sized and $1.25 each. The woman in front (I didn’t see anyone else there but I figure…there were other people in the back kitchen) was very polite and helpful and I ended up buying 5 cookies: one for myself, one for a friend, and three for Sean.
I was drawn to the “couch potato” since it contains potato sticks & pretzel pieces, a combination you don’t see every day. Or ever, in my case. It wasn’t “blow me away and give me a heart attack” good, but it was a very good cookie. I need to figure out a better rating system, but simply, there was nothing bad about this cookie; it was soft, had good flavor, and just the right amount of sweetness. The potato sticks provided an interesting texture in light of the lack of potato-y flavor (eh, it’s all starch). I wish the cookies were bigger because as one of those giant “baby head”-sized cookies, the combination of potato and pretzel sticks could be amazingly tasty in that “this is going to kill me” sense. Hell, they could add chocolate chips and nuts snd marshmallows and…okay, I’ll stop. (Nono, add caramel! And then dip the whole thing in chocolate! And then get two of them, put some kind of dairy-based cream in the center, and voila, cookie sammich!)
I need to stop writing this entry because 1) it’s past 5 AM and 2) a few civilizations have fallen and rebuilt themselves in the time it took me to write what you’ve read so far. Part 2 will come later.