There’s nothing like New York during the holidays. As many of you know, I spent Thanksgiving in New York this year visiting family, staying with my little sister in Soho and eating many, many cookies. And slices of pie. And cupcakes. I wanted to share a quick photo tour of our time spent bakery-hopping so next time you find yourself in the city, you have a sense of where to go and what to try.
And definitely never tire of window shopping, pondering brownstones I’d buy if I were wealthy, or… pie.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds
Four and Twenty Blackbirds is in Brooklyn and we fell for this quaint pie shop much like I knew we would. They’ve gotten a lot of press lately and are in an out-of-the-way neighborhood, but this is the place to come and seek out a good old-fashioned slice of pie served by two charming sisters who have successfully created a shop that’s drawing in the masses. We tried the maple custard pie and the salted caramel apple pie. Both were outstanding. Request a dollop of whipped cream and snag the seat by the window with the breezy curtains. Doesn’t get much better than that.
A few hours after wandering around Park Slope, Zoe and I hopped on a bus and headed over to Baked in Red Hook. If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m obsessed with these guys. And the small neighborhood bakery didn’t disappoint. We tried many things and brought a bag of treats home for Zoe’s roommates. Baked is known for their salted caramel brownie and the Brookie (half brownie/half cookie) and both are absolutely worth the trek to Red Hook. The Brookie kind of turned our afternoon upside down–it’s one of those things you try and wonder why no one thought of doing it before. And they do a darn fine whoopie pie: not at all dry, perfectly cakey and ultra chocolaty. It’s tough to nab a seat but there are benches outdoors and the block itself has a few cute shops.
Back in Manhattan, there’s a great new American bakeshop in Chelsea called Lulu. Much like Baked, they specialize in my favorite kind of desserts: nostalgic American baked goods. And they’re seriously not messing around. Their chocolate yodels were incredible and the selection of cakes is kind of like a step back in time. Our favorite though, hands down, was the red velvet yodel. It’s decadent and rich and you probably shouldn’t eat a whole one yourself, but you can always justify it with a brisk stroll around Chelsea Market (across the street) afterwards. A really charming spot not to miss if you appreciate retro desserts.
The Donut Plant
Valrhona donut? Yes, please.
My other sister Rachael and I had heard of this great place to get donuts in the city called The Donut Plant. Another bakery in an under-the-radar location, The Donut Plant rocks. Go here. Get their infamous square jelly -filled donut (another brilliant invention!) and any seasonal specialties that sound like they’d make you happy (the pumpkin was quite something). Share with a sister, a friend, a neighbor on the subway.
Maybe all you New Yorkers know the deal with this place, but the spot on 160 Prince Street that’s labeled “Vesuvio Bakery” has apparently been sold to another bakery but they haven’t changed the signage? We were a little unclear about this, but we were very clear about how amazing their chocolate chip cookies were. It was an impromptu, unplanned cookie–the best kind. When cruising around Soho, a good pick-me-up spot.
Clinton Street Bakery
The folks at Clinton Street Bakery are known for their fluffy blueberry pancakes. And there’s a perpetual 1-2 hour wait on the weekends which, truthfully, I always find a little annoying. But it was a sunny crisp Sunday in New York and I was meeting a friend for brunch and we had a whole lot to catch up on, so it was all good. Were the pancakes legendary? You know what? They may have been the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever had, actually. They were pretty darn good. I’m not sure they were ‘2-hour wait’ good, but you can always buy one of their amazing buttermilk biscuits to nibble on outside while you hang out and people watch.
Part of David Chang’s Momofuku mini-empire, Milk Bar is his little dessert off-shoot. I was smitten with this place. Smitten in a ‘I can’t talk right now, I’m taking all of this in’ kind of way. They do this really brilliant soft serve with innovative flavors in which you can actually taste the layers of flavor. It’ll make you look at soft serve in a whole new light. They’re known for their Crack Pie and Compost Cookie which we tried–both buttery, buttery goodness, and fun packaging. Standing-room only communal tables, good buzz and energy and desserts you don’t see every day make this a must-do on any NYC bakery-hopping adventure.
So that about wraps it up. There was also cappuccinos at Caffe Reggio–apparently the first ever cafe to serve cappuccino in the U.S. (really?!) We were lucky enough to eat at some great restaurants as well: The Little Owl, Blue Hill, Momofuku Noodle Bar and Craft among them. And if you haven’t been to Mario Batali’s Eataly, you really must see it. I wrote about our trip there on Bay Area Bites last week if you’d like to know more. There were so many other spots I really wanted to go to but there are just so many hours in the day. Any of your favorites you don’t see here? What’d we miss?
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I had every intention of starting a new tradition this year and hosting a cookie swap with some of our local friends, but somehow the season really got the best of me and it just hasn't happened. But! That hasn't stopped me from getting a head start on holiday baking; I posted a photo on Instagram the other day of some of my very favorite holiday cookbooks, and asked if there was a way we could all just take the whole week off to bake instead of work. Judging from the responses, it seems I'm not the only one who thinks this would be a really great idea. But back here in reality, cookie baking is relegated to later evenings or, I hope, this weekend we'll find some time to eek in a few batches (the recipe for Sam's mom's Nutmeg Logs is up next, and I'm set on making gingerbread men to take with us down to the Bay Area). Right now on our countertop, we've got a batch of these crumbly, chocolatey, whole grain shortbread that have proven to be a big hit. The ingredient list is small and simple, the technique foolproof, and I think they're a real standout in a sea of holiday cookies.
Hello from the other side! I realize we haven't been back here for a few weeks, and I'm sorry for dropping into a little black hole. My cookbook deadline was Monday, so I've been a writing and editing machine, stepping away from the computer to occasionally clean the house like a crazy person or throw together a most random lunch or dinner. But somehow it all came together although there was something strangely anti-climactic about sending it off: In the days when you'd print out your manuscript and have to walk to the post office and seal it up carefully to send to the publisher, I imagine it would feel much more ceremonial and important --you could stroll out of the building and do a cartwheel. Or high-five a fellow customer on your way out. Instead, I was sitting in our dining room on an incredibly rainy, dark Monday afternoon unable to hit "send." My sister Zoe told me to just close my eyes and do it. Sam gave me the thumbs up. So around 3 p.m. that's what I did. With the click of a button, just like that: it was finished.
Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking.
We've been waking up early these days with baby Oliver. I've always been a morning person, so this isn't particularly challenging for me -- although the middle of the night feedings have proven to be really tough. There has been a lot of finessing of sleep schedules and figuring out how Sam and I can both get enough to function well the following day. And just when we think we have it down ("gosh, aren't we lucky we have a baby that sleeps?"), everything changes. When I was in the final weeks of pregnancy and would talk about how I couldn't wait for the baby to be here, all of my friends with kids would advise me to sleep as much as possible -- and now I get it. I should've napped more. I should've listened. In getting up at odd times throughout the night with Oliver, I've had the chance to occasionally see some really brilliant sunrises (although not this past week which has been a particularly dark one in Seattle); I've made up some wacky baby tunes that I'm happy no one else can hear; and I generally have a good hour in which I can put him in the sling and walk briskly around the house trying to soothe him back to sleep while also putting away a dish or two or making a quick cup of coffee. In that hour, I can usually get something productive done and this past weekend that something was pear gingerbread.