Let’s Sweet! Fave Bakeries in NYC (a blog in progress)
I received a very important tweet request from a few friends “across the pond” who are seeking out ‘the best cake places to visit in NYC’ on a visit planned for this Fall. “Cake places” is specific but I don’t think these friends will mind that my tastes for sweets goes well beyond cake, so I’m going highlight the “sweetest” and “most original” in my opinion- because nobody visits NYC for the same old same old.
As delicious as it would be to hit up all my favorite places in one or two days, my thighs would never forgive me- hence this “blog in progress”…
Let’s sweet, shall we?
Did you know that donut can be spelled doughnut OR donut? Interesting! I investigated this since my typing of donut comes up as a typo but in fact, both ways are accepted… moving on…
There were so many people taking photos and even a group taking video of placing a donut order that I worried about “being cliche” including Donut Plant on this list but, it is too amazing not to include… So, somehow, if you haven’t heard, Donut Plant is a glorious, simple (speaking of simple their logo= brilliance), delicious bakery concept built on the baking history of the owner’s family (I dare you not to tear up reading the ‘history’ on their site!)
Being a bit of a donut expert, I asked my friend Amanda to meet me at Donut Plant. We visited on a very hot day! Very. Hot. (This might explain why all my photos are slightly blurry) After 10 minutes of reading the menu I went to the counter and returned to our table hoping I made the right choices… The man next to us gasped! (Was it the churro that offended him or the amount we were sampling?) We had gone with our instincts and ordered 2 cake donuts: cinnamon sugar & blueberry cake, 2 yeast donuts: vanilla bean glazed & peanut butter banana, 1 churro, and 2 iced lattes. (Ok, maybe I can see why he was staring!)
Amanda surmised that she preferred the yeast donuts to the cake versions, “You get a bigger donut, and I want as much of this donut that I could get” she said while happily eating the vanilla bean. It is a great point but my heart really belongs to the cake donut- cinnamon sugar, blueberry cake, tres leches (I had tried one before this visit)…
I can’t wait to go back and try the blackout cake, pistachio, and carrot…
Donut Plant Visit Summation: If you are visiting, def do a “taste test” between the yeast and cake donuts to compare. (You can always try 1/2 then take the other 1/2 home!) As far as flavors, I’m not sure any could be bad… Their “jelly filled square” has come into its own fame due to shape and jelly distribution and their “blackout” and “tres leche” are trademarked so those are always good places to start if you can not decide. Serious Eats ate their way thru Donut Plant’s menu so if you’d like to pre prep for your visit, check out their flavor by flavor review here.
Next on the list…
I will never forget the first time I tried a Sullivan Street donut (technically called bomboloni)… It was the last shoot day of season 5 of the Martha show, and we had spent the season working a funky little 2 1/2 minute segment referred to in TV as “the donut” into the daily show schedule. Since it takes time to demonstrate a fabulous craft or cooking segment to viewers, most Martha show segments were about 7 to 8 minutes long… so one could imagine the challenge it was to come up with interesting, short segments for “the donut” and how quickly we had to work to style those segments live. To be honest, we all hated the donut! The following season would mark the return of all regular segment lengths and in celebration of the end of “the donut”, supervising producer, Lisa Wagner, treated the staff and crew to a celebratory jelly donut from Sullivan Street bakery. One bite and I was in love- the perfect teaspoon sized dot of sweet, fresh tasting jelly and a wonderfully puffy, yummy cake.
Jim Lahey has come a long way since Sullivan Street bakery opened on the actual Sullivan St in NYC. He has more recently become “the NYC pizza master” as he took bread baking and pizza crust making to the next level with his “no knead” method. As a proud celebrator of pizza Fridays, I’m super excited to try some of his recipes in his latest book, “My Pizza”.
There’s not much room to sit in the newer Sullivan Street location, (long counter at the window, about 8 to 10 chairs) but don’t let that stop you. You can choose from a vast selection of “Roman style” pizzas by the slice, but don’t confuse them with regular pizza slices…. These are more like squares of foodie bread art.
The most beautiful artisan breads are also featured, and a small but concise selection of desserts featuring the glorious donuts mentioned above as well as a few other sweets like individual olive oil cakes, and a seasonal fruit cloufuti. Ever a sucker for biscotti, I grabbed a bag to go along with their “Americani” labeled chocolate chip cookies (both cookies were a little too crisp in my opinion).
One of the coolest things about Sullivan Street bakery? You can sign up to take a bread or pizza class with the master himself! (I think I will wait till the 100 degree heat breaks!)
Sullivan Street Bakery Visit Summation: Grab a pizza slice for lunch or a few to take home for dinner (the mushroom- WOW!) and do not miss this donut (bomboloni)! Either version is glorious and the only downside is that you really must eat them day of purchase (is that so bad?). Grab a loaf of Jim’s artisan pane to go and you can always slice up whats leftover and pop it in the freezer for future eating. (Who am I kidding? We had nothing left to freeze!)
Next on the list…
As a nice Italian girl from Jersey, I’m a little embarrassed to say that I JUST made it to Eataly. I had walked thru before and oogled but it was just last week that we finally put aside an evening to experience it. Its really glorious and is so much more than sweets so if visiting, but aside a few hours to really experience it. After a delicious dinner (in honor of my brother’s birthday) at Manzo, we strolled through and checked out the meats and cheeses, the produce (amazing and impressive choices in the mushroom section!), the seafood counter, the wine bar area… I hugged the parmesean on our way to the sweets section (which is directly at the front entrance on 5th Ave).
Their tagline is “Italy is Eataly” and that could not be more true! The front cafe, Lavazza, is set up authentic Italian style with tall tables for standing and sipping espresso or cappuccino while enjoying sweets or a delicious cone of the most perfect gelato. Its very busy and buzzing, just like in Italy!
I was really full after dinner and gelato “testing” but there was no way I could pass up the “Dolci counter” so I patiently waited on line and picked out one pastry and one cookie to go which I enjoyed the next day with a hot cup of coffee. Va Bene!
Eataly Visit Summation: I feel like I would have to go back at least 5 times to give an exact “do not miss list” for Eataly. Their website has a few great guides for “how to eat” when visiting. I think the best advice is to arrive hungry and set aside a few hours to stroll through. Use all your senses to guide you. Do not miss the gelato! Sweet up!
Next on the list…
If I could write a love letter to any place in NYC, it would be to the City Bakery. I would tell them that I have loved their organic-ness and out of the box recipes long before it was what everybody else was doing. I would thank them for lifting my mood with their pretzel croissant, and for making a chocolate chip cookie so delicious, its a recipe I aspire to (they offer a vegan version as well!). Their famous hot chocolate with a giant homemade melty marshmallow is so perfectly rich and delicious (and even spicy if you try the cayenne version!) I have shared it over good conversation with a bestie or entirely by myself- which brings me to another reason I heart City Bakery… its a great place to enjoy by yourself, or with a friend. Grab a table, gather lunch or a snack from their delicious, organic and creative food bar, “sweet”, people watch or read, love NY.
City Bakery Visit Summation: City Bakery’s food bar is delicious for lunch, a light/ early dinner (they close at 7) or a snack… Note: the food bar is a bit pricey since its weighed by the pound so take care as you scoop! Everything is delish but highlights include… Gazpacho & fixin’s, Mac & Cheese, the Chocolate Chip Cookie, Pretzel Croissant, Hot Chocolate with Marshmallow, Peanut Butter Cookies… you really can’t go wrong here. Sweet up!
TO BE CONTINUED…
Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments! Xo