NYC Trip Report [Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens]

We were in NYC between Christmas and New Years for a guerilla food tour. We visited more places than any human should. I will try to post about the places we hit whenever I get a chance.

It never went above 30F the whole time we were there. Add in the wind chill and at times it was unbearable. However, this was a blessing, too, because we could find parking easier and, whenever we did have to walk, foot traffic was usually light. Unfortunately, we went a little overboard the first day and got progressively sicker each day after.

Thank you to everyone who helped us in this thread. We couldn’t honor all the suggestions. Don Filippo (for garlic knots) was always out of the way except once when we had just exited a major traffic jam and didn’t want to risk it. Sadelle’s closes early. We got there 30 minutes after closing. I had only 35 minutes in Grand Central Terminal because some trains were delayed or not running during the holidays (subway action plan.) That meant Urbanspace Vanderbuilt and Agern were casualties. But I think we got to everything else.

Oddly, although we stayed in Flushing, we didn’t do that much in Flushing. In fact, we didn’t get even get a single sponge cake from a Chinese bakery.

2 Likes

Getting in on Christmas night, our first stop was Yi Lan Halal in Flushing. I think this was our only stop in Flushing. We were excited to try this place as halal Chinese restaurants with anything remotely resembling traditional Chinese food are very rare. We would return twice more to sample other items. Favorite item was Shredded Beef with Green Pepper. This is not bell pepper, but another pepper which varies in heat level from pepper to pepper. Least favorite was a glutinous rice breakfast “cake” studded with red dates.

Use of MSG was restrained. We need to order better next time, though, because all three dishes we had were basically prepared the same except with different ingredients/spicing.

Cilantro chicken pictured alongside the shredded beef. Also very good.


Cumin lamb was fine, too, but I liked the two above better.
IMG-20180105-WA0001
Fried dough on the left was great.
20171228_114014
Pass on this one.
20171228_114112

6 Likes

Morning after Christmas, we went straight for Williamsburg. First stop, Bakeri.


The Skolebrod wasn’t labeled as you can see, but I recognized it from all my… let’s call it “research”. We also got a Pear Scone which looked unlike anything I’d seen before.

We barely got a bite of the Skolebrod before our kid claimed it and devoured it whole. I thought I tasted cardamom. The scone was very interesting, crunchy all the way through. Maybe it’s really called something else, but the best English translation is “scone”. It went great with my tea and we had no problem finishing it. My tea came with a brown sugar lump that didn’t taste as caramel-y as it looked.

IMG-20180106-WA0015

By far the most popular items for eat-in morning customers were the savory made-to-order breakfast items. I think I’ll try the cakes next time. We left and went straight toward Baked, which seemed to be just down the street. But then…

IMG-20180106-WA0019

“What’s a MUJI?” Then across the street we saw Van Leeuwun. Van Leeuwun was the only (open during winter) ice cream I found in NYC without gums, stabilizers, and milk powder. It was on our must visit list. Too early for ice cream, we agreed. And no way they’re open this early. They were open. We went in.

We have made ice cream from their book before. But this was better. Even though it was heavy, it had this fresh quality that kept us going back for more. We also got a free scoop because they accidentally gave us chocolate instead of strawberry . (The first of many freebies during our trip. Thank you, New York.) I wasn’t a fan of the chocolate’s texture at first, but it grew on me and went well with the other flavors. I’m weird, so the strawberry was actually too flavorful for me. I like to think something is just okay at first and then not be able to put it down half way through. That’s my favorite type of food, whether savory or sweet. Although pistachio was my initial selection, I think this was the first time in my life I was excited about vanilla. I could eat the whole bucket. Also, they are very open about their ingredients, they don’t act like they’re protecting state secrets. (We would find out such openness to be a common theme in New York.) They also make ice cream sandwiches, but their (vegan) cookies didn’t look that great so we passed.

After exiting, we rounded the corner and found Baked… Baked the craft studio, that is. Oops. OddFellows, another ice cream place specializing in unique flavors, was just around the next corner. Why not? But they weren’t open until noon. The cold was getting to us now, so we decided not to wait around and went back to the car. With a quick stop to window shop at MUJI, of course. We saw traffic on the bridge was light and decided best to head into Manhattan. But not before a detour at Lilia.

The mission was a maritozzi. However, I must say I appreciate how New Yorkers will give a straight response to the question: “So, what are your favorites?” They don’t just say, “Everything is great.” I was steered toward other things, but I hadn’t had a maritozzi in a while and I was happy with it. Didn’t need the powdered sugar, though. Next time I will try other items. Lilia was a bit pricey.

The bridge took us to the Chinatown area. This was the hardest time we had finding parking. It took a whole 20 minutes, but finally we found a spot.

4 Likes

IMG-20180106-WA0006

We walked into Ceci Cela. I don’t have good luck with shiny pastries, so I passed on these. We asked the workers what they recommend. One said almond croissant (and it was the last one), the other said plain croissant. We got an almond croissant and pistachio madeleine.

The madeleine wasn’t fresh. The almond croissant had an off flavor. I don’t know if it was almond extract or some sort of alcohol, or maybe just an off day. So we got the plain croissant.

IMG-20180106-WA0002

The crust felt soft, and the croissant very light for it’s enormous size. I didn’t have high hopes. But that changed once we dug in. Imagine a pillow light interior with an exterior that breaks into numerous shards as you bite down. And somehow they packed buttery flavor in it, too. I’ve never had a soft, yet crispy crust on a croissant before. If someone claims this is best croissant in NYC, I will not argue with them. Personally, I like a bit crispier, denser croissant. Yes, I know that sounds wrong now that I’ve written it. (Also, I have sensitivity to milk powder and I think these croissants may have dry milk.) My companions said to let it go, it was the best croissant. “It’s like an elevated version of a Costco croissant.”

Got in the car, onto the next neighborhood.

3 Likes

I am so impressed that you had ice cream! I don’t know that i could survive eating something so cold while it is so cold… although i love the vegan ice creams van leeuwen makes-they have a truck that roams the city in the summer

1 Like

First stop in SoHo was Little Cupcake Bakeshop. Usually in a shop like this, freshness is an issue. However, there was so much turnover that most items, including all the cupcakes, looked great. Some of the less popular cakes-by-the-slice looked maybe a day old. We were here for the Brooklyn Blackout Cupcake.

IMG-20180108-WA0000

Looking at it, the cupcake didn’t remind me of a blackout cake, but it was a good interpretation. Solid chocolate flavor in the base, the frosting was just the right amount, and you could taste the distinct flavors. I’m not big on “moist” cakes, and some may consider this dry, but I thought it was correct. I remarked it was a bit expensive, to which I was told it’s worth it for a good cupcake. (I’ll remember that the next time I bake them cupcakes.) Interestingly, there were mini blackout cupcakes behind the register that were reserved for tour groups. I need to figure out what kinds of tours these are.

We headed to Maman next. I had read about their chocolate chip cookie.

Everything looked great with lots of interesting savory options, too. But then we saw this:

IMG-20180108-WA0014

The homemade Oreo is one our biggest family debates. I say a waste of time. We bought one, though, cause the rest all go nuts over them. I thought it was too salty and I couldn’t taste the filling. They all said good, more for us. The chocolate chip cookie was good. The edges were my favorite part. The middle was dense and underbaked, but the structure was held up by generous amount of chocolate and nuts. I mean don’t get me wrong, if you brought me this cookie every time you came over, we would be good friends. Next time I will try the loaf cakes.

Harney & Sons was nearby and on our maybe list. We were going to skip it, but, as we were driving by, there was a parking spot right in front.

IMG-20180108-WA0012

I got a Black Tea Latte made with a tea blend called Eight at The Fort. I admit I loved the name. I had tea every day in New York and this was by far the best.

IMG-20180108-WA0003

We actually wanted to get British scones here. In Baltimore, finding good scones is hard. The only ones I like are at a British cafe. Sadly, the ones here on this day didn’t look right. Fortunately, I loved everything else about the shop. They have two teas out for sampling. Also, you can sample one tea of your choice for free. I had been forever searching for a good, CO2-decaffeinated tea. I sampled the Decaf Assam and at last my search was over. So glad we stopped here. I sipped my tea latte as we drove to the western edge of SoHo.

5 Likes

Ar first, there were absolutely no parking spots available, so we stopped near Francois Payard Bakery and I hurried inside.

Nothing really stood out to me in the moment. I like their flourless chocolate walnut cookie, and almost bought one, but decided to just leave it. (The published recipe for that cookie doesn’t work.)

A parking spot opened up and our hearts started beating fast. The ensuing 45 seconds to get to that spot before anyone else seemed like a lifetime.

Argh, Sadelle’s had closed. We walked to the address for Birdbath Bakery but couldn’t find it. But the picture from our guidebook matched what we saw.

Vesuvio Bakery is actually Birdbath Bakery is actually City Bakery. Anyway, we headed inside. Their goods looked good.

IMG-20180108-WA0011

I really wish I could have had a homemade marshmallow, but sadly gelatin is not halal. The cookies looked great, and I hope to get one next time. The scones looked good, too. In fact, every scone we saw hereafter looked good. It was like NYC doesn’t know how to make bad scones. We had come for the pretzel croissant, though.

20180108_092835

I am glad to have tried it. It was crispy and flaky on the outside like a croissant. On the inside, the texture and flavor were like a pretzel, and it was buttery like a croissant. Unfortunately, like most pretzels, it was far too salty. Otherwise it would have been a perfect pastry for me.

Next we headed diagonally across the street to Olive’s. It looked like they do a lot of breakfast and lunch business, but we came for the sweets, of course.

The cowgirl cookie had chocolate chunks, white chocolate chips, and dried cherries. The cookie had a texture kind of like World Peace Cookies. It started strong, but then became too sweet half way through. The Morning Bun – Olive’s take on a sticky bun – was outstanding. The outside was perfectly caramelized. The inside was soft, but not Wonder Bread-y, with a light richness. The crisp bits extended to the inside, too. This could stand up to any kouign amann, as far as I’m concerned. (Side note: Two cookies were stuck together, so they just gave us both of them!)

A very short walk away was Once Upon a Tart.

IMG-20180108-WA0020

On this day, the tarts looked anemic, except the apple tart. We were informed the apple tart contained almond paste so I balked. Usually, almond paste is an overpowering element for me. Everything else looked good. Items were on the pricey side. They had a 2 for 1 muffin/scone special, so that made it easy. The muffins were baked without paper cups, giving them a nicely browned bottom. That gloriously risen walnut blueberry muffin in the middle there, we chose that one. And the cheddar (dill?) scone all the way in the front right corner.

IMG-20180108-WA0007

The cheddar scone we devoured right away. It wasn’t overly cheesy, you could taste the other ingredients. The texture wasn’t too flaky and not too homogeneous like a muffin, it was just right. And the muffin was great, too. The walnuts had been broken into fine pieces and thus were evenly dispersed, not affecting the muffin’s rise like walnuts sometimes do. The blueberries were used sparingly, accenting the muffin’s flavor. The crumb topping was a thin layer, a noticeably sweet crunch, but not overpowering. Someone had obviously put real thought into it. It might seem silly to go crazy over muffins and scones, but for me, baking the perfect muffin is sort of a holy grail. I’m still kicking myself over not trying the apple tart.

We dropped our leftovers off in the car and walked to our next destination. There was a car waiting for a parking spot to open up. I felt bad for them. It’s so disheartening when someone comes to their car but doesn’t leave. Gets your hopes up.

5 Likes

We walked toward Dominique Ansel. I thought, “Surely in this weather there will be no line.” There was a line. “The line moves fast,” we were assured by the line manager person. We stood in the line for 5 minutes. It did not move. At all. I went and peeked inside. You would think they were giving everything away for free; there was hardly room to walk in there. It was just too cold to wait any longer, and Laduree was just around the corner, so we went there instead.

Laduree’s decor was definitely interesting. They were busy, but nothing close to the zoo-like scene inside Dominique Ansel. We started analyzing the pastries and macarons.

IMG-20180108-WA0008
IMG-20180108-WA0010

We purchased the hazelnut pastry and two macarons. There are other places in New York to purchase fresher and better tasting macarons. I posted on Chowhound a few days ago that our items, although texturally brilliant, were disappointing. Someone on CH said the macarons are mass-produced. It felt that way, but I have not confirmed it.

IMG-20180108-WA0002

Looking at it, it’s hard to believe the hazelnut pastry didn’t pack a punch. There’s a hazelnut biscuit base with a hazelnut cream on top. A caramel tunnels through the hazelnut cream. A thin white crispy shell coats (no discernable flavor) the whole thing, and it’s topped with white chocolate stars. Hazelnut is an assertive flavor and it felt the biscuit and cream were purposely made with less hazelnut flavor for this reason. But I think they went too far. Also, the cream didn’t taste creamy, again maybe so it wouldn’t interfere with the delicate hazelnut flavor. There was a slight praline taste, but I couldn’t tell if it was from the biscuit or caramel. I’m okay with one-note desserts, this one just didn’t work. It could just be the batch we had. Maybe it was sitting around a while. Maybe our palates were fatigued. Or maybe I have pastry prejudices I need to identify and put aside. I wonder if the fancier pastries are made in-house.

I overheard two people complain about the service. To be honest, until this point, it was making me uncomfortable that everyone was being so nice. Had NYC gone soft? This was the regular service we were accustomed to in NYC. It’s not rude, just direct. When we started asking questions about ingredients and such, they were actually very helpful and gave us whatever information they could find.

We headed back to the car. Morale was running low. We went shopping. It helped, but I knew what my companions wanted. First, we went back to the car to warm up a little. That poor soul was still waiting for a parking spot. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for someone to come back to their car, start it, warm it up, then exit the car and leave.

3 Likes

Oh that whole birdbath bakery/city bakery thing is so confusing- but that location was the legendary vesuvio bakery (opened in 1920), so i guess they decided to keep the original signage. It’s kind of a “thing” here like unmarked doors for entrances for bars there are a few spots labeled as one thing yet are actually a totally different business.
Anyways.
The city bakery/birdbath chocolate chunk cookie is absolutely destination worthy. Have you made that ny times chocolate chunk cookie recipe? Basically that’s what these are witth crispy buttery edges and a soft yet not underbaked center. That pretzel croissant is SO good! It’s like one bite and you know why it’s so famous and they can never not make it.
I don’t recall ever going to once upon a tart but it’s certainly on my radar now

I don’t blame you- it was SO brutal cold on your visit there is just no way i would have stood in line outside. Unless it’s after closing hours there’s a line for dominique ansel. Constantly.
I can’t recall exactly where i read it but my understanding is that the macarons for US Laudree locations are actually made in france and shipped frozen to the boutiques. I am certainly not an expert and have tried them a few times but they didn’t stand out to me as the best i ever had. The packaging they offer is really quite beautiful. Not sure what the story is on the pastries they offer, the hazelnut one you got sounds like it had so much potential!

Now I understand why you are called bmorecupcake. You really are serious about your sweets! Any one of your shops and my dessert quota will be done for the day.

1 Like

About the unmarked doors, stay tuned for Day 2.

The Leite/Torres chocolate chip cookie recipe? Yes, that is mandatory baking.

The others with me had a much saltier palate. They actually liked it so much, we brought a pretzel croissant home. It’s sitting in the freezer for a special day.

We’ve stood in the Dominique Ansel line a couple times before. Usually it does move fast, but it was tourist season, and us tourists take our time. We need group pics outside the shop, inside the shop, standing next to the macarons, etc. Seriously, though, there are so many other interesting places, the tourists can have Dominique Ansel. And if our trip was any indication, the level of quality in New York is higher than it’s ever been. I can happily spend those 30+ minutes elsewhere.

Yes, that’s the recipe! I really just don’t bake much at all myself, cookies and such here and there and i literally went and bought all the ingredients a day after that recipe was published, then i followed it to the letter and have made them ever since with a few tweaks here and there.

I like a little touch of salt but i know what you mean that some are oversalted, it seems that any flavors that are not over strong and instantly identifiable aren’t appreciated.

Halal restaurants with freshly made “American” burgers are rare. Halal restaurants with a simple, focused menu, rarer still. And a halal restaurant passionate about sourcing, I’d never heard of one before. BURGER by Honest Chops, right next door to Kati Roll, promised all three. We excitedly trekked up Macdougal St, tussled for a table in the tiny shop, and proceeded to order. No question, this place was expensive. Also, they told us they couldn’t guarantee a desired doneness. The other patrons were mostly Muslim tourists.

20171226_164513

I noticed Sir Kensington’s ketchup on the table, a good omen. We started with plain fries, a beef burger, and a lamb merguez burger. The fries were fried well, although as usual I could’ve done with less salt. Our burgers came out medium-well. Overall, the burgers were great. Toasting the buns on the grill was a nice touch.

IMG-20180108-WA0022

My usual issue when purchasing any sort of sandwich is the bread, and their buns did slightly detract from the overall experience for me. Fortunately, the bun collapsed and served more as a means of holding everything together rather than an active part of the flavor profile.

IMG-20180108-WA0021

For anyone who doesn’t care about halal, the lamb merguez was probably better. But we were here for the beef burger and ordered more. Why the beef? Unlike halal lamb, in the majority of America, halal beef is sort of like mystery meat. There’s no such thing as walking into a halal butcher and asking for chuck or brisket. You get a tough cut of beef, one I haven’t been able to exactly identify. In large cities, there are a few, very expensive halal butchers that sell proper cuts. So we don’t often get to make simple burgers at home. (The meat you see marked “Halal” at Restaurant Depot is a whole can o’ worms I’d rather not get into.)

As we were leaving, we met a Malaysian family living in Singapore who were on vacation. They were tired of eating halal cart for every meal and had finally found this place. (And they were all carrying bags from Dominique Ansel! I can’t believe they stood in that line!) We informed them of a few other halal restaurants and went back to our car. That person was still waiting for a parking spot! We let them know we were finally heading out. Next destination: West Village.

4 Likes

Sadly, Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery was closed an extra day after Christmas. Our kid loved the name – meaning “delicious” in Urdu – and was disheartened. Actually, we all were. It’s the only Pakistani-owned bakery of this level that I know of.

Next up was Bosie Tea Parlor.

All the pastries looked fresh and the flavors were very interesting. We were here for the Darjeeling Tart, but it took every ounce of will power I had to pass up the eclair. I had never seen choux pastry with that sort of golden brown, crunchy texture before.

20171226_180049

Then I saw this geoduck-looking pastry. “What is that?” “A croffin”, was the reply. Apparently it’s a thing, but it was the first time I was hearing about it. We even brought one back for further analysis. It’s croissant dough fit into a muffin mold. The interior is mostly flaky like a croissant, but the layers merge some on the bottom for a slight muffin-y texture. And this particular one was half-filled with vanilla cream. Very good.

The darjeeling tart was a home run. You know how I said before I like subtler flavors that slowly reel you in. Well, this is an exception. This was an unapologetically darjeeling pastry. A one note pastry, sure, but each layer had just enough of a different flavor and texture to keep it balanced. I think the darjeeling ganache that filled the crust had white chocolate. I’m going to say the darjeeling nougatine on top was studded with tea leaves. And sandwiched between the two was a darjeeling-infused chantilly cream. A must for any tea lover.

Our little one had been waiting very patiently all day for our next stop: Sockerbit.

As far as I know, all the (non-chocolate) handmade candy shops in NYC are gone. Sockerbit is the next best thing. They advertise “Colors from nature”, but many of the candies did contain artificial colors. To their credit, the ones with artificial colors, as well as with gelatin, were clearly marked. However, I couldn’t get any solid information on which candies had artificial flavors. Candy is sold by the pound ($14/lb.)

I wasn’t impressed, but the others with me particularly liked the “real Swedish Fish.” A couple more candies – the peach candies and watermelon candies – they pretty much ate in the car before we even pulled out. We headed toward Union Square.

4 Likes

I was very much looking forward to Daily Provisions. (By the way, they live in the future; i.e., they don’t take cash.) The staff were super friendly from the moment we walked in. Normally they would’ve run out of crullers and kouign amanns, but today was a slow day. We purchased a glazed cruller and a kouign amman, and they threw in a cinnamon cruller.

If I want to be super picky, the kouign amann had leaked a little butter (no idea what witchcraft it takes to avoid this), but from all the ones we would get later, this was the kouign amann I kept coming back to. I had never eaten a real cruller before, just the ones my mother used to get from Dunkin Donuts which were spelled with a ‘K’ (I never liked those.) The exterior was thicker than a doughnut, the inside was lighter – or maybe airier is the right word – and it had a pleasant eggy flavor.

If you’re from Baltimore, this place reminded me of Dooby’s. Prices were a little high, but there was obvious care involved. I’d come back again for these items, no question. We liked the rest of their menu, too, and hope to grab lunch next time. They also had this apple pie, which they optionally served with Salt & Straw ice cream. Had we not been eating sweets non-stop, there was no way we would’ve left it. (It looked even better in real life.)

Next we made a quick stop at Dough Doughnuts. Now, yeast doughnut preferences vary. Some like shortening-based, lighter dougnuts. Others like enriched bread-based doughnuts. I started in the former camp, but now I firmly reside in the latter. When we had left Bosie Tea Parlor earlier, right next door was a shortening-based doughnut shop. The owners were very passionate about what they do, but I couldn’t put aside my prejudice. I really wish I had tried one. Anyway, back to Dough Doughnuts.

We couldn’t figure out which type of doughnuts these were. They had doughnut holes in those pots at the bottom-right of the picture, so we got a few of those for testing and headed out. It was a bread-type dough, enriched but not too enriched like brioche dough. I prefer this type because frying adds some richness, too. Otherwise it gets too heavy.

By the time we had finished the doughnut holes, we were already parked in the Flatiron District.

2 Likes

I love/hate Sockerbit! Glad they didn’t try to convince you to have the salted black licorish (iiiccck). I always end up with sticker shock at the register and later a tummy ache from my lack of self control!

I have never been able to get to daily provisions early enough for one of those crullers but obviously need to fix that! I had the fall menu delicata squash sandwich which was great, and they make a surprisingly good espresso
Have you been before to Patisserie Chanson? I haven’t myself but was just reading about how they are most well known for the black sesame kouign amman and have several other flavors on the menu as well. Their website gives more background about the pastry chef under “about”

Nice!

(And, I admire your dedication to baked goods.)

1 Like

Umm… spoiler alert… it’s the very next stop. Hopefully tomorrow I can finish Day 1 of our trip. I’m trying to pace myself so it stays fun and doesn’t feel like a chore. Actually been to Chanson before, too, so tried some different things this time (including the black sesame KA.)

2 Likes
“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold