All posts by Katherine Leak

Katherine is a sophomore at Barnard College from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Planning to major in English with a minor in Religion, she loves to explore used book stores and further her obsession with all things chocolate.

Big Booty Takes the Cake

While searching for bakeries within walking distance of my office downtown, I stumbled upon Big Booty Bread Company, and of course, I was first struck by the playful name.  But then I scrolled through the menu, and the Latin American-inspired pastries sounded too good to resist, particularly the namesake booty buns.

The exterior
The exterior

Escaping the harsh winds of New York and stepping into a cozy niche in Chelsea was the perfect conclusion to a long day at work, and I was immediately impressed by the relaxed atmosphere of the location, devoid of the pretentious attitude that some patisseries have.  Dining alone that day, I definitely welcomed the calm.  There was an expansive display cabinet and counter at the front of the store, while the back contained simple wooden tables, topped with flower vases.  There were also some examples of apparel hanging on the wall, and I might have to return again just to purchase a shirt that reads, I <3 Big Booty.

The seating area
The seating area

I arrived with a very clear sense of what I was going to order (having already scoured the menu), but the packed display case made me pause because all of the fresh pastries and baked goods were so tempting.  Beyond cupcakes and cookies, Big Booty also offers paleo and gluten-free options with a Latin American flavor, like a cheese bun or guava pocket.  I probably could have ordered one of everything, but I decided to stick to my original order: one strawberry booty bun (a brioche bun stuffed with strawberries and topped with sugar) and a ham and cheese empanada with chimmichurri sauce, completed with a half tea, half lemonade.

Just some of the delicious looking pastries
Just some of the delicious looking pastries

The warm empanada melted in my mouth, and the sauce added that little bit of kick to put it over the top.  The booty bun was the perfect complement, with a crunchy, sugar-coated exterior with a soft bread in the middle.  I will definitely be returning to Big Booty Bread Company, so I can sample all of the booty bun flavors because one just wasn’t enough.

My empanada, booty bun, and drink
My empanada, booty bun, and drink
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La Maison du Macaron

Emerging from the 23rd Station on the 1 line, I found myself in an unfamiliar area of Manhattan, one currently dominated by scaffolding and construction.  Yet amid all that, the twinkling window lights and cursive lettering advertising La Maison du Macaron stood out clearly, even from the opposite side of the street.   Upon entering, my eye was immediately drawn to the macaron display case, showcasing at least 20 different flavors.  This is the brightest rainbow of macarons that I have ever seen, from traditional flavors like chocolate and raspberry to more unique ones like apple cider and mango.

The vibrant macarons
The vibrant macarons

After taking in the abundance of macaron options, my gaze moved to the front of the store, decorated with lavender accents and elegant detailing.  The quaint, delicate nature of the entrance and display cases is juxtaposed with the cozy sitting area in the back of the store, full of mismatched leather couches and wooden tables and accented by exposed brick walls.  This fusion of styles creates a warm and inviting atmosphere, perfect for doing work, meeting with friends, or just relaxing with a macaron or a pastry.

Lavender accents and other pastry options
Lavender accents and other pastry options

Before eating my macarons, I wanted to try something slightly more substantial, so I decided on the friand, which is almost like a small tart of croissant dough, enclosing ham, melted cheese, and béchamel sauce.  It is like a Croque Monsieur but with a light, buttery exterior that melts in your mouth.  My lunch was presented to me on a silver tray, and I promptly devoured it within minutes.

My friand, with the backdrop of leather couches
My friand, with the backdrop of leather couches

After lunch, it was finally time for my favorite part of the afternoon: picking out and tasting macarons.  Although there were many box sizes (in purple and gold), I opted for the less expensive option of a clear box for 6 macarons (still not cheap at $17). After much deliberation I selected: caramel flour du sel, almond, vanilla, raspberry, passionfruit, and pink champagne.

My final selections (along with the chic bag I carried them home in)
My final selections (along with the chic bag I carried them home in)

In terms of aesthetics, I loved the pink champagne macaron the most, with its hot pink interior and gold-dusted exterior.  But in terms of flavor, my favorite would have to be the almond, which surprised me.  Usually the more decadent flavors (like passionfruit or caramel) tend to be my favorites, but the subtle sweetness and smooth texture of the almond captured my attention this time around.

Next time I visit, I will definitely bring along a book or some work to do in order to extend my time in this cozy atmosphere – and to provide an excuse to eat more macarons.

Tiny Treats with a Big Heart

As soon as I stepped into Georgia and Aliou’s Tiny Treats Café, I sensed an immediate difference from every other bakery I have visited in New York City. This bakery truly felt like a local neighborhood spot, with regulars entering in a steady stream, their names and orders already known by the staff. One woman confided in me before she left, “This is the only place I go to buy my bread. I don’t go anywhere else.” This approval from a dedicated customer only intensified my excitement to sample from Tiny Treats’ wide selection of items. The display case was packed full with an arrangement of gorgeous floral cupcakes, French pastries, whimsical smiley face cake pops, breads, and so much more.

One view of the display case
One view of the display case

When I first entered, I was immediately drawn to a brioche cinnamon roll, generously topped with icing. Choosing to pair the pastry with a latte, I sat at a table by the window, observing both the passers-by outside and the constant flow of entering customers. The cinnamon roll had just the right amount of cinnamon filling without being overly sweet (though I didn’t like it as much compared to the other items I bought later). I normally add a fair amount of cream and sugar to my coffees, but this latte only needed one sugar packet for me to find it delicious.

My first orders: cinnamon roll and latte
My first orders: cinnamon roll and latte

The eating area was a cozy space with warm red walls and small tables, but with added touches of elegance, like a chandelier and gilded frames.  The atmosphere is best suited for an intimate breakfast/lunch date (due to the majority of two-person tables) or some alone time, a chance to catch up on reading emails or just relax.

All in the details
All in the details

After realizing I just couldn’t leave without trying one of the delicate and detailed desserts, I selected the Dacquoise, without really knowing what it was. I just knew that anything chocolate topped with toasted almonds was bound to be good, but my expectations were immediately surpassed after I took my first bite. The inside was filled with almond meringue and mocha buttercream, dotted with whole almonds, giving the pastry a different taste with every bite.

La Dacquoise
La Dacquoise

Yet again, I realized that it was now lunch time, and I couldn’t leave without selecting something from their additional menu of sandwiches and lunch dishes. For the low price of $7, I bought a quichette, filled with turkey, bacon, onions, and mozzarella, which came with a side salad. Though it looked small initially, the quichette turned out to be very filling, the perfect accompaniment to a day of resume editing.

Quiche, side salad, and olive oil dressing
Quiche, side salad, and olive oil dressing

Though Tiny Treats Café might not technically be in my neighborhood, I know that I will definitely be returning in the future, in the hopes of one day becoming a regular customer with a weekly bread order.

A Dessert that Hits the Spot

Nestled downtown on Saint Mark’s Place, a few steps below the main street level, Spot Dessert Bar could be easy to miss to the unsuspecting pedestrian, but I had my eyes peeled for the location of my first true experience with Asian-inspired desserts.  I was first introduced to Spot by an online photo of Thai Iced Bubble Tea in a lightbulb cup, proudly held up against a backdrop of a bustling New York City street. Having just been introduced to the sweet, milky flavor of Thai iced tea, I, of course, wanted the experience of drinking it out of a lightbulb (note: a plastic one, not a real glass one), and Spot’s seasonal dessert tapas menu made the trek downtown even more compelling.

My dessert, "The Harvest"
My dessert, “The Harvest”

With its clean white tile walls and bright orange accents, Spot Dessert Bar stands out from its predominantly gray and brick surroundings, as well as from the other bakeries that I have visited.  The friendly yet relaxed atmosphere makes it the perfect getaway from the Columbia bubble, for an evening with friends or a date.  Worried that the limited seating (only about 10 small tables) would fill up quickly, I chose a somewhat random time to visit – 6 pm on a Thursday evening, and my choice paid off.  It was completely empty when I arrived, yet was swiftly occupied by the after-dinner crowd in the following hours.

Spot Dessert Bar, as the name suggests, focuses specifically on desserts, and their menu is composed of everything from larger, seasonal selections like Chocolate Green Tea Lava Cake or Love Fondue to smaller items like macarons or sorbet.  But it is the unique “Asian Flare” of the desserts that sets Spot apart, particularly in their combination of unexpected flavors.  In addition to the dessert options, Spot also offers a wide selection of teas and other beverages, both hot and cold.  For only $2.50 extra, I was finally able to live out my dream of drinking bubble tea from a lightbulb (and I got to keep the cup).

I finally experienced Thai Iced Bubble Tea in a lightbulb
I finally experienced Thai Iced Bubble Tea in a lightbulb

For my dessert, I chose “The Harvest,” which came in the form of a very realistic looking potted plant and accompanied by the whimsical instructions to “water my plant” before I began eating.  So I poured a tiny pitcher of black rose milk tea over the dish, which consisted of seemingly endless layers of crumbled cookies (for the dirt), cheesecake, sliced berries, and finally a moist cake at the bottom.  All of this was accompanied by a berry sorbet and puree.  Although it was a significant amount of dessert, the light and airy nature of the dish kept me from feeling too weighed down.  Unlike some of the other bakeries I have visited, Spot Dessert Bar also offers customers a charming dining experience and a comfortable setting, a secluded bubble of fun where you can embrace your love for dessert.

"Watering" my plant
“Watering” my plant

 

 

Sweet Finds Underground

My time spent trying and writing about bakeries around New York City has given me the chance to explore new areas and venture outside of Morningside Heights, so it is only fitting that my last blog post of the year is focused on a brand-new space in New York City: Turnstyle.

Dubbed “a Main Street underground,” Turnstyle is a market of sorts located underneath Columbus Circle, attached to the subway station.  This modern thoroughfare is a blend of specialty shops and food options, from custom grilled cheeses to donuts to juice.  However, I was on the hunt specifically for bakeries, and Bosie Patisserie caught my eye.

charming French atmosphere
charming French atmosphere

This location is a smaller version of the Bosie Tea Parlor, situated downtown just off Bleecker.  With its vintage French posters, handwritten chalkboard menu, and weathered wood tables, the space offers a welcoming atmosphere, yet due to its location in Turnstyle, the focus is definitely more on finding something quick and delicious for those on the go.  The display case offered a wide variety of colorful and eye-catching desserts, and although I did not try any of the macarons on this visit, I now know that I have the option to purchase high-quality macarons without ever having to go aboveground.

the colorful options make it difficult to decide
the colorful options make it difficult to decide

I finally decided upon the Ispahan (mostly because of how beautiful it looked), a unique dessert composed of two large macaron shells filled with rose buttercream, lychee, and fresh raspberries.  At first, I was taken off guard by the lychee fruit tucked into the middle of the pastry, but its sweet, chewy texture offered a surprising departure from the basic rose flavor.

my Ispahan
my Ispahan

The opening of Turnstyle has just given me one more reason to love Columbus Circle, and I know that I will be back at Bosie Patisserie specifically to try both the macarons and the wide assortment of teas offered as well.

 

Ferrara Bakery and Cafe in Little Italy

Pleasantly full from an earlier dinner of pasta and surrounded by a quiet murmur of Italian, I scoured the streets of Little Italy for my destination: Ferrara Bakery and Cafe.  Night was setting in on this Tuesday evening, but then, all of a sudden, Ferrara emerged out of the darkness with a large, dazzling sign and a bold red awning.  Everything about the exterior distinguished it from its surroundings, from the antique car replica balanced atop the awning to the light and laughter that emanated from within.  It was even bigger than I expected, and I quickened my pace to get inside faster.

The bright exterior of Ferrara
The bright exterior of Ferrara

I had actually stumbled upon Ferrara online while researching another article that I was writing for the Barnard Bulletin.  Ferrara first opened in 1892 as a small neighborhood cafe that quickly earned praise for the freshness and quality of its products.  The bakery is now in its fifth generation of family ownership and still going strong after over 120 years of business.

The full display cases
The full display cases

Once entering, you have the option to either choose bakery items to go or sit down at one of the many tables.  Deciding to make a night out of it, we sat down and were greeted by a very large, varied menu offering everything from specialty pastries to gelato flavors.

The many options (not even including the drink and coffee menu)
The many options (not even including the drink and coffee menu)

Faced with so many options, I decided to go with the trio of miniatures in order to try more of a variety.  I chose the chocolate cannoli, Dacquoise, and raspberry tart in order to balance out my love for both chocolate and berries.

My trio of miniatures
My trio of miniatures

The raspberry tart was a classic combination of a creamy base topped with fresh raspberries and powdered sugar, all contained within a tart.  The chocolate cannoli satisfied my desire for a “quintessential Italian dessert” with a thick layer of dark chocolate encasing the shell.  The most unique dessert that I chose was the specialty pastry Dacquoise, a bittersweet chocolate purse filled with praline and gianduia cream.  The beautifully crafted chocolate exterior gave way to a mousse-like interior with a rich flavor.  If I didn’t have to get back to campus to finish work, I would have stayed much longer in the friendly atmosphere of Ferrara and ordered a coffee too.  As if I needed more motivation to return, Ferrara also offers brunch, so I will be venturing downtown much more often.

Southern Style Bakery in the Big Apple

After spending a week at my home in South Carolina, returning to New York City made me nostalgic for warmer weather and the ability to wear flip flops every day.  Because I have recently been focusing on the French patisseries, I let my desire for some homemade Southern baked goods determine my next bakery adventure.

Completely different from anything I have reviewed before, Donna Bell’s Bake Shop is a cozy space tucked into a busy Midtown area, blocks away from Times Square.  Yet once I stepped inside, the noise and commotion of the area dropped away as I was greeted by a welcoming environment very similar to a Southern kitchen.  I could watch the baking process of the goods in the tiny kitchen, as they were carefully handmade.  And in front of me, stacks of cookies, cheesecakes, and desserts beckoned me to come further into the store.  Started by Pauley Perrette from the show NCIS and her two best friends, the shop is named for Perrette’s late mother, Donna Bell, and the small staff constantly works to represent her memory through their baking and attention to customer service.

IMG_4448

 

After it was pointed out to me that the blueberry cheesecake squares were especially thick that day, I could not resist picking one up to carry back to school with me.  Donna Bell’s does not have seating for its customers, but in my mind, that just adds to the cozy ambiance and size of the space.  To brighten up my walk back to the subway stop, I also purchased an Arnold Palmer (a blend of sweet tea and lemonade) to really get the full Southern experience for my day.  Stepping back outside, the temperature seemed a little bit warmer and the sun a little brighter, and with my cold drink in hand, I could almost pretend that it was summer again.

IMG_4449
Blueberry Cheesecake Square and Arnold Palmer

The blueberry cheesecake that I promptly devoured upon reaching my dorm had thick shell topped with a creamy filling, without being overwhelmingly sweet.  I often find that I cannot even finish slices of cheesecakes when I go out due to their heaviness and sweetness, but this square hit a perfect balance.  A thick layer of blueberry swept through the middle of the cheesecake, the fresh taste of fruit reminded me of homemade baked goods. Donna Bell’s gave me the taste of Southern cooking that I needed, without neglecting the accessibility and options of the city.

 

Address: 301 W 49th St, New York, NY 10019

Cozy French Bakery on the UWS – Mille-Feuille

In the midst of midterms, it seems like I am always overwhelmed and constantly counting the days till the warmth of spring break.  So when I was figuring out which bakery to try this week, I expected to just make a quick stop and hurry back to campus for some more studying.  But when I entered Mille-feuille Bakery, something made me want to stop and stay for a while.  Maybe it was the friendly smiles that greeted me as soon as I entered or the hip New York City atmosphere infused with the charm of a French patisserie. Or perhaps the bright and colorful display cases full of macarons, pastries, croissants, sandwiches, and so much more.  Whatever the reason, I quickly shed my heavy winter coat and claimed a seat with a prime view of the desserts.

the display cases
the display cases

Like always, I was immediately drawn to the seasonal fruit tart, a dense and flavorful cake topped with raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries.  Of course, I had to purchase some macarons to go, and the classic flavors of raspberry, dark chocolate, and salted caramel shone through in these hand-made treats.  The flavor that really stood out to me, however, was the rose macaron.  Although it seems like a strange flavor, the faint sweetness and scent of rose does not overwhelm the macaron, but rather, gives it a softer and more unique flavor.

the beauty of my seasonal fruit tart
the beauty of my seasonal fruit tart

However, possibly the best moment of my visit to Mille-feuille occurred when I was given a free baguette.  I still have no idea what I did to obtain said baguette, but I happily accepted it without question and enjoyed it later in my dorm room.

my free baguette accompanied by the chocolate, salted caramel, and raspberry macarons
my free baguette accompanied by the chocolate, salted caramel, and raspberry macarons

With these sweets in front of me, I let the soft guitar music with French vocals lull me into a much-needed moment of relaxation that I had not had in a very long time.  Although the space is relatively small with the atmosphere of a cozy neighborhood bakery, there is still plenty of space for me to return, this time with my backpack full of homework.  Because everyone knows that Environmental Science reading is much easier when accompanied by a macaron.

 

 

Address: 2175 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

Macaron Heaven

From the very first time I tried a macaron in Paris, I was instantly hooked.  Macarons (not to be confused with the coconut macaroons) have a unique texture that cannot be found anywhere else: a crunchy outer shell while soft and gooey on the inside.  And of course, their vibrant colors make them beautiful to just look at.  Although I have seen macarons as an option in many French bakeries, I had never been to a place whose main focus was the macaron, and I was eager to try a specific patisserie that I had read about over winter break.

the exterior of Macaron Parlor
the exterior of Macaron Parlor

Just a short walk from the 86th Street station, Macaron Parlor Patisserie is a safe haven for macaron addicts tucked away on the Upper West Side.  With a modest exterior and a cozy seating area, it has all the character of a small neighborhood bakery, allowing the macarons to take center stage.  The display case is full of a wide range of colors and flavors, and it will undoubtedly take a while to pick your perfect box (it took me a good five minutes of just staring at the options).

Macaron Parlor prides itself on offering traditional macaron flavors like dark chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, but the patisserie also has fun creating unconventional flavors that cannot be found anywhere else – notably Cheetos, Red Velvet, or Candied Bacon with Maple Cream Cheese.

the packed display case
the packed display case

As an avid lover of the raspberry/chocolate combination, I immediately fell in love with the chocolate ganache inside my raspberry macaron, and the bright pink interior helped to ease my sadness that Valentine’s Day (the day to eat chocolate and sweets with absolutely no shame) is over.  I was pleasantly surprised with how similar the red velvet macaron tasted like my favorite cake flavor, down to the cream cheese filling.

From bottom to top: creme brûlée, caramel fleur de sel, dark chocolate, red velvet, hazelnut, and raspberry chocolate
From bottom to top: creme brûlée, caramel fleur de sel, dark chocolate, red velvet, hazelnut, and raspberry chocolate

Though I was not feeling quite adventurous enough to try a savory flavor like Cheetos, I am excited to pick out new combinations for my future purchases.  These little, colorful pieces of heaven are just enough to brighten up any dreary winter day (and it is impossible to take a bad picture of them).

Cupcake Bliss

After trying three bakeries that were all French-style patisseries and relatively close to campus, I wanted to try something completely different for my last post of the semester.  So what better bakery to try than a cupcake shop in the West Village?

The cheerful exterior
The cheerful exterior

Initially, I felt like I was just jumping on the cupcake bandwagon and that the cupcakes I bought would taste like all of the others that I have had before.  I quickly realized, however, that Molly’s Cupcakes is anything but your typical cupcake store.  It is located on Bleecker Street, a lively thoroughfare filled with an abundance of restaurants, cafes, and shops (the perfect place to wander on a lazy afternoon).  Even amid all of these shops, Molly’s Cupcakes can’t be missed with its bright yellow exterior.  The interior has its own cozy and quirky style, with white Christmas lights hung from the ceiling and vintage lunch boxes displayed as art.

The view welcoming you as you enter
The view welcoming you as you enter
A Bionic Woman lunchbox decorating the wall
A Bionic Woman lunchbox decorating the wall

Apart from the welcoming appeal of the shop, the cupcakes are what really shine.  Winner of the popular Food Network show Cupcake Wars, the store is known for its center-filled cupcakes, which add a new dimension to the standard cake and icing structure.  These center-filled cupcakes are available year round, with special seasonal selections offered as well.  I was ready to jump straight into this cupcake experience, so I chose two filled ones: the Ron Bennington and the Cookie Monster.

My two selections
My two selections

The Cookie Monster was every cookie lover’s dream.  The entire center of the cupcake was full of gooey, raw cookie dough, and it was topped with a mint chocolate chip cookie, which combined the joy of licking the bowl with the result of your hard work.  This cupcake transported me back to my childhood baking days, sneaking bites of cookie dough.

The Cookie Monster
The Cookie Monster

My second choice, the Ron Bennington, was a chocolate cupcake with a creamy peanut butter filling, topped with a decadent chocolate ganache and butterscotch pieces.  The combination of peanut butter and chocolate is close to perfection for me, so this cupcake hit the spot.  If none of the cupcakes displayed look good to you (highly unlikely because they all looked amazing), there is also an option to build your own cupcake, where you can choose the cake, frosting, and toppings.  And if even that does not appeal to you, Molly’s Cupcakes also sells homemade ice cream, cookies, and more sweets.  There is something here for everyone, and I will be trying even more cupcakes on my return visit.

The Ron Bennington
The Ron Bennington