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.)
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 still...you 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.
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).
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.
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?"
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.
Farther down 9th Avenue was yet another bakery I had never been to: La Bergamote. How did it escape my radar? HOOOOOW? ANSWER ME!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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169 9th Ave