photo courtesy of Dough
The collapse of Crumbs Bake Shop signified the cupcake craze may have ended. Not that the love of cupcakes is gone but that the never ending buzz over cupcakes may be over for now…until someone makes some kind of hybrid cupcake.
New Yorkers have stopped waiting in long lines for cupcakes and are now sugar-hungry for the doughnut. It’s almost three years later and a line still forms as early as 4am outside Dominique Ansel Bakery for the Cronut. In October 2014, Dough opened it’s second location in the Flatiron District and found lines around the block during the week of the grand opening.
During the rough winter months, one thing to look forward to, besides a hot bowl of soup, is a cup of hot chocolate. And I’m not talking about a watered-down package of instant hot chocolate. I’m talking about hot chocolate that’s been brewed in a black kettle pot. During one of the coldest months, February, there’s a Hot Chocolate Festival at City Bakery in the Flatiron District. Each of the 28 days there’s a different flavor, like: Caramel Hot Chocolate, Banana Peel Hot Chocolate and Rum Raisin Hot Chocolate. It’s best to try to grab a cup of “magic” during the week or you’ll be waiting on a long line if you wait for the weekend at City Bakery. But when the party, er..ah, festival is over, this in New York City, and there’s no shortage of options for hot chocolate.
One morning on my way to work I spotted the Van Leeuwen truck. Now, I know they have great artisan ice cream (Palm Sugar, Red Currant, Roasted Banana, Earl Grey), but I thought it was odd that they were out so early. When I stopped at the truck, it was then that I realized Van Leeuwen is also a bakery. Along with that great ice cream, the truck also had rich ground coffee and a variety of pastries and cookies. I decided to grab an orange muffin and couple of cookies (chocolate and ginger). If you never had their ice cream, it’s truly something special. Their pastries are on a par with the ice cream. The guy working in the truck told me that they have different pastries each day.
When I think of Dominican food my thoughts go straight to the green plantain classic, mangú. When it comes to desserts, it’s one of my favorites, the tres leche cake. While in my old neighborhood in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, I found out there’s more to Dominican desserts than cake at Vladimir Bakeshop. This Dominican bakery gives you all the island flavors in their pastries. One of my favorite tropical fruits is the guava and with items like guava empanadas and guava tres leche cake, I wasn’t disappointed. Some other pastries to mention were the passion fruit bite size cakes – sticky and finger licking good, and the almond cake with its fruit filling. And, of course, Vladimir Bakeshop had the tres leche cakes in a variety of flavors, aside from guava: pineapples, chocolate, chocolate mouse and vanilla. The bakery also has a variety of cake slices, but unfortunately I found the ones I tried lacking any kind of flavor and rather on the bland side. One saving grace for the bakery is its popular homemade hot chocolate – it’s rich and creamy. Vladimir Bakeshop also sells a variety of good, made to order sandwiches served on fresh bread baked on the premises.
Vladimir Bakeshop, 1166 Castle Hill Avenue @ Powell Avenue, 718-684-1166
I remember this bakery was called Lulu’s Cake Boutique several months ago. Actually, I didn’t realize the name had changed until after I left the store! I thought, “Wow, they left everything the same except for the name.” I found out later that the bakery only changed their name so that explained the initial confusion.
Empire Cake offers the old with the new in a bakery, and all their items are made fresh on the premises. You’ll find their version of some old Hostess cake favorites. No, the Twinkie is not dead! But it’s back with a twist with flavors like: lemon, passion fruit with coconut and blackout chocolate (chocolate cake dipped in chocolate with chocolate pudding filling). They’ve also remade the snowball snack cake, and my old childhood favorite, the Chocodile (chocolate covered Twinkie). Empire, also, has a great variety of cookies. I was just in time to get a few of the last chocolate chip cookies – they cookies go pretty fast!
I was attending a Cigar Tasting at Maraya Cigar recently in the Lower East Side. The cigar shop just happened to be across the street from a coffee shop, 88 Orchard, and since I was a little early and hungry, I checked it out.
88 Orchard is on the corner of Broome and Orchard Streets – it’s a shop with no storefront signage. Despite its lack of markings, it’s a glass-enclosed coffee shop so it’s easy to find. The coffee shop has a few tables and seating along the window – about enough seating for 16 to 18 people. If you want to sit and surf the Web, the coffee shop has free Wi-Fi – when you can get on it, it can take awhile to log on if there’s heavy usage since there’s no access password needed.
88 Orchard isn’t you’re regular coffee shop. There’s a variety of food on the menu. Surprising enough to satisfy any foodie. Along with a good variety of pastries, they have made-to-order sandwiches, omelets and serve a selection of beers and wine. So if you’re not in the mood for coffee or tea, you can have a glass of red wine. The coffee shop even has a ‘happy hour’ featuring some house specials.
It’s been a mild winter in New York City this year. But on those rare, cold days, what’s better than a big, moist cookie packed with chunks of flavor with a hot cup of chocolate or coffee? Tucked away on a narrow side street in the West Village, Milk & Cookies Bakery is worth a visit. The small shop has a few tables if you want to sit and enjoy its baked goods.
The bakery has a laundry list of items on the menu that are made on-site, including: 15 different types of cookies, ice cream sandwiches, brownies, cupcakes, cookie bars, whoopie pies, marshmallow squares, coconut macaroons and creamed filled cookies. Milk & Cookies also offers a variety of flavored coffees and teas, along with carbonated drinks and, of course, milk and hot chocolate. My favorite items in the bakery are the cookies – the chocolate mint, dark chocolate toffee, milk chocolate caramel and peanut butter chocolate. They have two new cookies that please my need for salty and sweet. The salted oat surprise has a top layer of sea salt that blends surprisingly well with the oat cookie, and the bacon smack (I mentioned this cookie in a previous post) – what’s better than candied bacon in a cookie!
photo: The Daily Meal
Easter is around the corner, and while there are many cultural and traditional meals to celebrate this time of year one thing we all share is the breaking of bread – in all its shapes and forms. I remember watching my grandma make braided bread on a Sunday afternoon. The sweet, inviting aroma just reminded you that you were home and, more importantly, you were loved!