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.
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.
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.