The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

food tour for non-diabetics: Jacques Torres, Levain, Billy's, La Bergamote, and Chelsea Market


I just attempted to toss an empty box of Pocky (or rather, an empty box of air where Pocky had once existed) into the trash bin about 3 feet away from my seat. For the second it was airborne, its direction cruelly shifted from "straight into the trash bin" into "floor space slightly left of the trash bin". My failure in aiming was noted by the box making a sad "kadonk" sound. Note for future trash tossing: must account for the windshift that exists in that small space between my seat and the trash bin.

Okay, back to food.

I spent a large chunk of my Saturday gathering foodstuffs (no farms here, just bakeries and chocolate shops) for a food trade with Natalia. While I thought I'd go it alone, John decided to come along for lack of anything better to do. As long as you don't mind being dragged around and forced to eat half of everything I want to try, you're welcome to join me. :] I'll note transportation for anyone who feels like recreating the route we took, but be sure to check MTA service advisories since those things will screw you on the weekends.

First stop on our five-stop tour was Jacques Torres, a short walk from the Christopher Street PATH station (where I disembarked) or the Houston Street stop on the 1 line. As I approached the store, I noticed a stream of people coming out of large coach bus. "Hm, interesting place to stop on a tour." And then I watched them shuffle into the shop. Oooh. (I have no clue what the tour group was; all I noticed was that it was mainly or entirely comprised of women.)

ice cream sammich time innards
ice cream sammich

There was just one thing on my mind: icecreamsammich. Particularly the "roasted banana" flavor. $5 is perfectly reasonable for two of JT's chocolate chip (actually more like chunk) cookies (actually more like slabs) surrounding a thick ice cream puck. We had trouble breaking the sandwich in two since it's very solid (yes, I believe this is what knives are for), but were ultimately victorious in sharing the calories. And what yummy calories they were. The cookie had that great buttery brown sugar flavor that most others lack (in my experience at least...[sniffle]) and the dense, creamy ice cream held its structure in between the chewy cookies. While I would've liked more banana flavor from the ice cream, it was know, awesome, and I don't have previous banana ice cream eating experiences to compare it to. The deeply frozen nature of the sandwich prevented melted ice cream goo from coating our fingers (or maybe that's because we ate it really quickly), although you might get different results if you eat it outside under the burning radioactive sun.

Levain Bakery cookies!
Levain Bakery, oh baby

We hopped on a red train to 72nd Street to visit Levain Bakery, which is pretty much my only reason for going to the Upper West Side. Their cookies (chocolate chip walnut in particular) are some of my favorites and come in the form of ridiculous boulder-shaped chunks with a crusty exterior that gives way to a cookie dough-like texture. If you eat one fresh off the baking rack, you'll be rewarded with semi-liquified chocolate chips embedded in one of the most ultimate sinful cookie-eating experiences. Sadly, one "problem" with their cookies (for me, at least) is that they're so damn big that if you eat an entire one by yourself you'll feel like dying, but you can't bring yourself to save it for later because it's so damn good. Thankfully, I've had this experience so many times (the eating, not the dying; I've shared the cookie every since I made the first mistake of eating the whole thing over one day) that I didn't have to get a cookie for myself and just bought one for Natalia. :)

There are other places of interest you could walk to around Levain (Alice's Tea Cup in particular), but I had other plans. We walked to the 72nd Street B line stop and took it down to 23rd Street (with a switch to the E at 42nd Street because of those pesky advisories...thank god the Internet tells me these things beforehand).

Billy's Bakery
Billy's Bakery

Although I had known about Billy's Bakery for a long time, I never visited it. And it's not like I haven't been in the area before. WHERE WAS MY BAKERY RADAR? It failed.

cupcakes more cheesecakes banana cream pie brownies
my risk for diabetes just went up a notch

Billy's is a homey American-style bakery akin to Magnolia, Sugar Sweet Sunshine, and Buttercup Bakshop. Cupcakes, layer cakes, cheesecakes, cream pies and bars are neatly displayed and stacked around the small bakery so that you feel trapped in a sugary paradise and are left to make the difficult decision of what to indulge in. Not for sale are the small tubs of frosting near the front window being used in the smothering of thick frosting onto fresh, naked-as-a-newborn-baby cupcakes. I probably let out a small shriek when I saw one of the employees skillfully maneuver a chocolate frosting-loaded knife while also wondering, "How do I get that job?"

key lime pie
key lime pie

John chose our dessert for this bakery stop since I wasn't in the mood for anything in particular. While I like key lime pie, it's not something I'd ever choose on my own. ...Not that there's anything wrong with key lime pie, it's just that I usually prefer something else and had yet to ingest a memorable key lime pie. It was a good choice on John's part since this did end up being a memorable pie-eating experience. The cool, impressively solid, smooth tangy lime pudding filling was perfect on a hot day where simply sitting was likely to make you as disgustingly sweaty as actually moving. The tender—but at the same time crunchy and solid—crust was just as tasty as the filling and left a significant high mark in my history of pie eating by containing a slight toffee flavor. TOFFEE! IN MY CRUST! I don't recall ever eating a crust that had so much sugary and buttery goodness that it tasted like toffee. Magic, that is. I'd just eat the crust. Or the pudding. Or...uh, in this case, both at the same time. That is one good pie.

La Bergamote
La Bergamote

Farther down 9th Avenue was yet another bakery I had never been to: La Bergamote. How did it escape my radar? HOOOOOW? ANSWER ME!

mm, baked goods
mm, baked goods

You probably already guessed that La Bergamote is a French-style patisserie. Their display case is filled with individual-sized cakes, fruit tarts, cream-filled puff pastries, and other things made of chocolate, cream, egg, flour, sugar, milk, or all of the above. (There's also a large selection of sandwiches, if that's what you're in the mood for despite being bombarded by a gazillion cakes.)

croissant time that's a good sign
croissant time

What I really wanted to try was one of their croissants as recommended on Chowhound (even though I'm not a big fan of croissants, I'll eat it if it's good). Although I like Patisserie Claude's better, La Bergamote's didn't disappoint. Slightly crispy on the outside and soft, buttery, and madly layered on the inside. I figure it would taste better in the morning, so it was fine for late afternoon.

This entry is almost done. Really.

cupcakes poo cupcakes fluorescent macarons? eclairs
various sweet things

Our last stop a few blocks down from La Bergamote was Chelsea Market. Click on the photos (from places that I didn't eat anything from) for more info. If I had to go back for any of those items, it'd have to be the poo-frosted cupcake. It's just too cute. ...My god, something's wrong with me. Is the idea of endearing poo just an Asian thing? Somewhere in my room lurks a a poo keychain. Yes, you may think less of me now.

mounds of gelato
mounds of gelato

The visit to L'Arte Del Gelato was completely unplanned, but ice cream shops always offer that thing that you're not guaranteed to find at other sweet shops: free tastings. I tried three flavors before deciding that I had shown enough of my piggish behavior and settled on a small cup ($3.75) of "panna cotta" and "cookies and cream" gelato.

after some chomping
After I leveled down the mound. With my mouth.

Mmm, this stuff is good. The flavors aren't Il Laboratorio del Gelato-intense, but the texture is creamier and spoon-malleable. Strangely enough, the cookies and cream flavor lacked cookie (they should just call it "cream"). I'd love to try this place again, but I'd advise skipping the C&C. John got a cup of mandarin orange sorbet, which was more refreshing in the hot, sticky weather than the gelato due to the strong, un-dairy-ed flavor and the sharp coolness of...lack of fat. The lack of fat didn't negatively affect the texture, which was about as creamy as the gelato. Mmm, that's good stuff. (For more NYC ice cream scooperies, check out Ed Levine's Top 10 list.)

And then I went home and went into a coma. ...Actually, I felt fine and failed to gain any weight. All I ate was fruit for lunch and dinner, so I guess all the sweet treats in between didn't affect me too much. Of course, I only do these fooding tours once in a blue moon since I might otherwise actually fall into a coma.

I have four more fooding excursions to report, but I think this entry is long enough. So..beware, because more is a-comin. (I'm scared.)

google is your friend

Jacques Torres
350 Hudson St

Levain Bakery
167 W 74th St

Billy's Bakery
184 9th Ave

La Bergamote
169 9th Ave

Chelsea Market
75 9th Ave


Daisy / August 8, 2006 12:10 AM

Oh gosh. Your pictures and commentary are awesome as always. Haven't had time to come here for a long time.

Keep enjoying food, and I love Pocky! :D

bunghole / August 8, 2006 1:47 AM

I am so jealous : (. I wish Houston had a gelato store. The food here is so boring (mostly dennys and bennigans). I know we are the second fattest city in the U.S. but the pickin's here are very slim.

Mi / August 8, 2006 3:34 AM

Hey Robyn, I reckon I'm a lot like you... brief period of weird controlled dietary habits (during which I lost a whooping 12 kgs)... den a sudden descent into unstoppable beastly sugar-laden calorific foods binges. And unfortunately, the 12 kgs I lost all came back (along with another couple of kgs). Have you ever considered returning to your veggie-eating stage?

Btw, did I mention that I ABOSOLUTELY ADORE good sandwiches?

Adalmin / August 8, 2006 4:37 AM

Okay, PINK FROSTED ECLAIRS? Now you're just screwing with me. That can't exist. It would open a vortex of sugary goodness in the world and destroy all the evil people in one frosty squelch. Last time I checked, evil people were still around. So, BAH, DELICIOUS YET NONEXISTENT PINK FROSTED ECLAIR! Delude someone else!

Meanwhile, the guy wolfing down something in front of La Bergamote looks so funny. And hungry. Funny and hungry.

Mila / August 8, 2006 4:54 AM

Robyn, you're back! After all the weeks worrying that your asthma would stop you from doing a sugar tour, this post says you are definitely queen of sugar treats. Lovely pics and good choices. I liked how the gelateria put slices of the fruit to tell you what it is they're offering. Love blood orange gelato.

Cathy / August 8, 2006 7:55 AM

Oh, man. I love when you go on bakery benders. All the pictures of glorious baked goods is like crack to me (or at least what I would imagine it would be).

Speaking of crack, those cookies were a little more reasonable at $3.50.

janet / August 8, 2006 11:14 AM

Yayyyy you got the ice cream sammies! wwowowosmnarf. i want one like yesterday. billy's looks tres cutes. i DONT know why i'm talking like this. too much coffee this morning or something. yesterday my friends and i tried to get gelato in westfield, nj which is pretty good but they were clooooosed. worst day ever.

Garrett / August 8, 2006 11:42 AM

Robyn, I am filled with jealousy once more. BTW: That sailor moon bit you sent me is still entertaining me. *squee!*

Dina / August 8, 2006 1:19 PM

Did I miss the picture of the poo cupcake?

I wanna see it!

You're really tempting me with the Levian cookies. I was planning to take my husband and son to Mex Brenner for a BIG splurge, but maybe we'll go to Levian instead. Just not sure I want to go all the way to the Upper West Side.

lutkie / August 8, 2006 2:11 PM

Robyn!! We have always been twins! That's freaking crazy! Plus, you had the roasted banana sandwich...i've been dreaming about that all summer. I found a chinese market near my house...insane as it was to stumble across it. I bought some mochi. It that considered a snack or dessert? I can't wait to see your ethiopian post, and i loved the bakery-ice cream adventure.

roboppy / August 8, 2006 2:38 PM

Daisy: Thanks! I don't update as frequently as I used to, although I might write longer posts than before. It all evens out.

I love that there are a gazillion kinds of Pocky, yet chocolate is still my favorite. Black sesame is yummy too.

bunghole (nice nickname?): No gelato in Houston? Aw...well there should be some kind of "awesome yummy thing to make you feel less melty" type of dessert over there?

Mi: 12 kg? That's like...[scratches head] of baby bunnies! Small baby bunnies. I haven't thought about going veggie full time, but I've done it for a while just for the hell of it. It's pretty easy to be a vegetarian though. Or even vegan. My favorite foods are vegan: BREAD...and bread..bread. Fruit. Bread. Olive oil. Bread? Bread.

Mmmm, sammmmiich. I love em. Which reminds me, I want to watch this documentary.

Adalmin: We need to destroy evil people. If pink frosted eclairs are the way to go,'s destroyin' time.

I hope that guy didn't mind that I was stealing his soul as he chomped down.

Mila: I still have asthma! :( Not as bad as before, but I still use my inhaler about once a day and I'll be going back to the doctor for MOOORE. Hmph. But I need sweets for a heathly...mind. Yes.

I like the gelato display too, although I've seen crazier stuff of things in Italy. Like...they really go nuts with the embellishments.

Cathy: Baked goods ARE crack! And the cookies are sooo worth $3.50. I think that's the most expensive cookie I've had (aside from macarons, but that's different).

G: You should come and try it! Along with everything else on this page!

Janet: I finally got it, wooo! I mean...SMNARFT! Wow, I like that word. And that's probably what I sound like when I eat.

I don't even know where Westfield is! Ahaha!..ah. There's an ice cream place near my house that I want to try, but have yet to visit. It's kinda far for you though...or else YOU SHOULD TOTALLY my humble town where nothing happens. Hm.

Garrett: I watched SOOOO much Sailor Moon, it's sick! What is this? Monstrosity! High school girls with magical fighting power that they're semi-capable of using! Can't...resist...

TJ: Thanks! I've got another batch of photos coming. Why can't I stop?

tokyorosa: Very much so. Yuums.

Dina: When I first posted this entry, I forgot the poo cupcake (but it's here now!).

poo cupcakes


LEVAAAIN!!!!! You could go to Alice's Tea Cup also so that you don't go up there just for cookies (mm, scones). I'll admit that I've gone up there three times JUST for cookies. THen again, I've probably had easy access to the red train to feel like doing that.

lutkie: AHAHA we are ice cream sandwich twins! I think mochi could be a snack or dessert. Or rather...desserts can be snacks. :) Or in my case, MEALS.

Cat / August 8, 2006 4:34 PM

Sorry that I didn't say hello to you at the Chelsea Market....(I mostly avoid doing things like that for fear of being considered a big doofus...little social phobia I suppose) But, had to tell you that I tried the chili flavored JT ice cream sammy and it was truly decadent....I heart JT very, very much.

Janice / August 8, 2006 5:38 PM

HAHAHA! I have that problem all the time. I always miss the trash can when it's right in front of me. I've made it from 30 feet, but 3 feet? uh uh. Anyhoo, love love love your pics again! I need to do a bakery tour of LA too, except most new places never last that long. Thanks for the heads up on too! Wish there was something like that here... boo.

Kathy / August 8, 2006 11:16 PM

Dude! La Bergamote - I love that place!!! I had the croissant once and while very very happy with it, Claude's was the one that sent me off into blissful space! Oh man, you've probably heard this a million times already but your posts make me soooo "homesick" for the city. It's not only visual food porn you deliver but food porn writing! Lol. I guess that means you're just doing an awesome job :)

Alison / August 8, 2006 11:20 PM

Props for staying vertical that entire trip, I surely would have napped after the Key Lime Pie. Your pictures are making my mouth water and I'm already planning what I'm having for dessert tomorrow (oh well if I gave up desserts this week)!

tom / August 9, 2006 12:06 AM

Your posts are really wonderful...and your pictures are fantastic!
Tell me more about that gelato...I guess that I am really spoiled by the Italian gelato (in Rome, Giolitti, della Palma, etc.). I have never found the artisanal gelati here in New York to even come close (sorry, Laboratio del Gelato, but even yours doesn't work for me).
Does this new place have a wider variety than Laboratorio does? Your description of the gelato was very good, by the way.
I sympathize with the Italian gelato makers (gelatoii?) who come to the States to attempt to recreate their confections here...our cream, fruits, chocolates, etc., just do not taste the same.

roboppy / August 9, 2006 10:51 AM

Cat: That's okay! I'm also quite socially phobic...okay, very phobic and doofus-like, so maybe our socially inept powers combined would've resulted in some kind of explosion. Which would've been cool!

Mm, chili flavor...I want to try ALL the flavors! Damn.

Janice: New places don't last long? Because they're not good or people aren't felling the carby love? In Ridgewood, a major restaurant-filled town near me, bakeries tend to fail. :'( It makes me sad!

I'd think there's some LA equivalent of ohmyrockness, but then...I dunno since I don't live there, hehe. Filter sends out newsletter with tour dates in NY and LA and maybe an LA-specific newsletter also.

Kathy: CLAAUDE! I have to visit him soon. Next week early in the morning before work!

Visit NYC again soon! :) Sometime next year? And then someday I WILL GO TO HAWAII.


Tom: I'm sure the gelato isn't like the stuff you get in Italy, sadly. Not that I know what's comparable, but I'd think Otto is closer; their flavors amazed me. (depending on which ones you get...might be hit or miss) Too bad it's a restaurant and not a gelateria. I like Il Lab's flavors, but the texture isn't creamy enough to me. L'Arte Del Gelato has more flavors than Il Lab...hell, I think any place has more flavors than Il Lab except Otto, haha.

Hilary / August 26, 2006 6:55 AM

Happy Birthday.
It is my birthday too- and I am up in the middle of the night. I think I have a chocolate buz hangover.Great dense chocolate chip brownie served warm with carmel sauce and ice cream. I moved from NYC to LA and your blog makes me feel like I am still a foodie in NY.

juan / August 26, 2006 11:58 AM

Hi there,

I'm from Singapore and I'm hooked onto your blog ever since I started a month ago. Its not doing any good to my diet. haha... Oh well, I prefer reading your blog anyway. *winks*

BTW, I got to know of your blog thru a magazine we got here.

Keep it going.

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