Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eating my way around NYC, one cookie at a time

NYC! My sister and her husband moved up to NYC this summer, and I finally had the chance to visit them. It all started when we were lucky enough to win tickets to the Martha Stewart Show. A lifelong, and I know lame dream of mine. : ) I figured while I was up there I should do a bakery tour of the city and try out some of these infamous bakeries I hear so much about all the time. I thought I would hate the city, with its over crowded streets, dirty subways, and over priced activities...but no...I LOVED IT! The people were super friendly, the subway wasn't all that bad, and I really enjoyed my time there. My sister is a human GPS and was great at navigating us around the city as we bakery hopped. She is not a sweets person, so I have to apologize to her for making cookies our main sustenance for the week. So here it is folks...my journal of what I ate that one awesome week I spent in NYC.

Front row seats at Martha BABY!

Hum...what exactly are we eating here? Still not sure what it was.
A dark chill followed us as we wandered aimlessly around the city searching for nourishment. Then suddenly a bright light emerged from the darkness. The warm, white, and clean restaurant called our names like a hypnotic melody from the past. We were quickly lured in by the fragrant Italian dishes that filled our senses. Say what? Hum yeah, basically we ate at Mario Batalli's new restaurant. For $60 we got two small, uber thin, not so special pizzas and one really nasty creepy looking antipasto salad. Never again. We were however seated next to a famous cookie blogger and cookbook author that I recognized, Bakerella. I introduced myself, she laughed and said nothing. I don't like her stuff anyways. Take that famous lady with bad food. : )

I love the name of this place. Mostly because I really wanted to eat one of their famous brownies and say, "what a wicked brownie." Besides the cute logo and clever marketing this place really didn't have much to write home about. I saved my two brownies for an end of the long sight seeing day treat...but ended up tricked...haha get it? : ) These brownies were boring and tasteless. How on earth did they become famous?

This place wasn't originally on my list of places to visit, but it was right next store to Fat Witch in Chelsea Market so we stopped in. This was a lovely bakery. You walk in and are instantly intoxicated by the smell of yummy freshly baked bread. The back and side wall of the bakery is covered with baskets upon baskets of crusty loaves. We got a French Baguette, and a Raisin/Walnut/Wheat Breakfast twist. The Baguette was decent, but the breakfast twist was d-licious!


My poor sister. I am such a pain to eat with. I refuse to eat at chain restaurants when I travel, and I take forever to decide where I want to eat. We walked up and down Chelsea Market about 5 times before I finally decided that we should eat here. Well worth the wait! We shared a large pulled pork sandwich with pickled red onions, a medium sized fresh green salad with vinaigrette, a large order of heavenly sweet potato fries, and 1 glass of red wine. All for $20! This place uses fresh local seasonal ingredients, and change their menu accordingly. If I ever visit NYC again I am definitely stopping by...and this time I am getting my own sandwich. : ) I want those fries everyday for lunch...they were out of this world!

Magnolia Bakery: FAIL PRICE:HIGH TASTE:TOO SWEET, put your dentist on speed dial.

This place is famous. Lord knows why. People are always talking about Magnolia Bakery on food blogs, magazines, and tv shows. So naturally I wanted to stop by and test out some of their items. The location is great and the general set up is inviting. I sat there looking at their pastry case for quiet some time. Mostly because I was unimpressed and couldn't decide if I should actually spend money on items that didn't look appealing. Nothing was calling my name, so I finally decided upon a chocolate chunk Blondie. What a let down. This bar was waxy tasting, corn syrupy, and way too sweet. I hope this Blondie doesn't represent all their items accurately.


After having so much fun at the Martha Stewart Show we decided we were going to try and get into another show. My sister is a fan of the Regis and Kelly show so we woke up super early and went and stood in the stand by line at the show from 7am-9am. Everyone who worked there kept telling us the chances looked good. So we waited. We saw the hosts and guests walk in. We waited. We saw the audience walk in and be seated. Still we waited. We saw the doors close. We waited. Then we saw the show on the TV screen come on and we knew we hadn't made it in. Darn it all! So tired, cold, and starving we started walking in hopes of finding a nice hot breakfast. We saw this place and they had a good crowd so we grabbed a table. I guess it was more like we crawled and bumped our way to a table, talk about too many table in a tiny space! The fresh squeezed orange juice was refreshing and made me feel healthy. The sausage potato fritatta was cold and tasteless. The bread was nice and crispy with some decent jam. The restaurant had a great view and for $20 bucks for the both of us it wasn't too bad...but I wouldn't go back.

Levain: MAJOR PASS PRICE:HIGH BUT WORTH IT TASTE:If heaven was a flavor this would be it!
I heart Levain Bakery. What I love about this place is they are honest. There are no gimmicks, barely any marketing, their product speaks and sells itself. Pure honest to goodness awesome pastry! This place was a little hole in the wall on a back street. We circled the block a few times before finding it. There was barely room for 5 customers to stand in line. Looked like a bakery you would find in France. Their pastry case only had a few options, a few breads, cookies, and scones. I loved that I had limited options, and couldn't decide, but this time because everything looked AMAZING! Way to be Levain Bakery, I am coming back soon! I got the chocolate chip walnut cookie, $4, but it was a mother huge cookie. My sister got a cinnamon butter brioche stick, it was light, and perfectly sweet. Here is a video about their famous cookie.

This place is also popular among foodie gatherings, so I searched it out and found it. I went to one of it's branch locations called, "Birdbath". I thought the display idea was cool, little shelves on the back wall piled high with cookies. I got an oatmeal raisin cookie that looked pretty and tasted good. However, I like chewy cookies and this cookie was flat and crisp. That being said, next time I go I am going to try what they are famous for, their pretzel croissant.

Grey Dog Cafe: WAY PASS PRICE:PERFECT TASTE:EXCELLENTAfter a long day of waiting in line for Regis and Kelly, walking through Central Park, and eating lots of cookies we meandered over to Greenwich Village. We searched and searched for a decent looking non-Italian restaurant. After walking down what seemed to be a million streets we finally stumbled upon this place. It was small, urban looking, and hip. The staff was friendly, the room was warm, and the food was comforting to our weary souls. We once again shared a pulled pork sandwich, Greek salad, and a split pea soup. The sandwich was good, but Friedman's was better. The salad was awesome, and the soup was nice and light. They had some really good looking slab pies and brownies I just couldn't bring myself to eat any more sugar at that point. Next time I am in town I will go back and save room for dessert.

Mr. Chocolate own this place so I felt it was my duty as a lifelong pastry student to stop by. The shop was very chain feeling, which it is. The staff was pushy and rude. The cookie was expensive and too sweet. The chip to dough ratio was insanely off. The cookie was all chocolate and no dough. Could I get a little dough with my chocolate please? Way over rated, never going back...sorry Mr. Chocolate.

There were many other places I wanted to go visit, but alas we ran out of time. One day I will visit again, and when I do I plan on going to these places: Kitchenette, Balthazars, Locanda Verde, Momofuko Milk Bar, Tall grass burgers, Ma Peche, Mamasuns, Pomme Frites, Arepa Bar, Palino Salsiccia, Cafe Orlin, Mud, and Butter Lane.

My NYC visit ended perfectly with a last minute small casual Josh Groban concert at City Hall. What an incredible singer, and such a nice guy. He said he walks in Central Park all the time so my sister is going to stalk him and ask him if she can be his Personal Assistant, and then ask him to marry me. I will bake him cookies, he will sing, and together we will live a sweet musical life. The end.

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