Tag Archives: upper west side

Absolute Bagels: A Bagel Lover’s Oasis

Ever since my freshman year, I have been constantly hearing that one of the best bagel places in the city is located right off campus on the corner of 108th St and Broadway, so I decided that it was time to try it. Upon entering Absolute Bagels, I was welcomed by the sweet aroma of freshly made bagels. The smell definitely made up for the odd decor in the bagel shop, and I could tell the rest of the customers did not seem to care considering how crowded it was inside.

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Though there was a long line to order when I got inside, it moved at a rapid pace. I waited about five minutes to order and only another three minutes or so for my bagel to be ready. I decided to order an egg bagel with egg and cheese on it. My all-time favorite type of bagel is an egg bagel, but a lot of bagel shops don’t have it, so when I saw it on the menu at Absolute Bagels, I had to order it!

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Egg bagel with egg and cheese

Upon taking my bagel out of its packaging, I was astonished by how soft and fresh it was. As I sat at one of the tables in Absolute Bagels, I noticed that they were constantly bringing out fresh batches of bagels, which explains why my bagel was so fresh. I wouldn’t change anything about the bagel because it really was one of the best bagels I have ever had. On the other hand, the egg and cheese inside the bagel was good, but not great. The cheese wasn’t melted and the egg wasn’t spread out equally on the bagel. Next time, I will probably just get cream cheese on my bagel instead. I also would have no problem eating the bagel plain (even though I hardly ever do that) because it was just so good that it really didn’t need anything on it.

If I didn’t already make it very clear, I will definitely be going back to Absolute Bagels! When I was there, I noticed a lot of people  were ordering 10+ bagels to go, and that’s what I should do next time (maybe not quite that many). If you do decide to go, make sure you bring cash with you because they do not accept credit cards. I definitely would recommend this bagel shop to anyone that likes bagels.

 

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16 Handles

Location: 325 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY, 10023

Hours: 12:00 PM to 11:30 PM (Mon-Thurs and Sunday), 12:00 PM to 11:30 PM (Fri-Sat)

I love healthy food, but I also love frozen yogurt. The compromise? Get a green smoothie from a frozen yogurt shop. I had bookmarked 16 Handles since the beginning of the semester for its raving reviews on Yelp. It did not disappoint.

Located on Amsterdam Avenue between 75th and 76th, 16 Handles was extremely easy to locate, especially with its lively music and brightly lit environment. There is a wide range of options for frozen yogurt, with low fat, fat free, gluten free, and vegan options, and fresh fruit amongst other toppings. What caught my eye, however, were their green smoothies.

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I ordered an “Oh Kale Yeah!” smoothie made of fresh IQF pineapple, banana, spinach, kale, coconut water, and white grape juice. There are no artificial ingredients or ice. The staff was extremely friendly, inviting me to test out their new frozen yogurt flavors while I waited for my smoothie.

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Expecting a more starchy bland smoothie, I was blown away. The smoothie was not extremely heavy, and provided a nice citrus-y freshness. While the banana seemed overpowering at first, it blends extremely well with the spinach and kale, which tone down its flavor. The natural sweetness of the white grape juice balances the acidity from the pineapple, allowing me to enjoy every sip I took. The spinach and kale substantiate the smoothie, making it slightly more filling. This was definitely the best green smoothie I’ve had in a long time, and believe me, I drink a lot of green smoothies! I am addicted! The “Oh Kale Yeah” would be perfect after a workout, or just for a slight healthy boost before shopping at the Sephora nearby.

Green smoothies in a frozen yogurt shop: unexpected, but extremely well-made.

Hope you had a great break, and till next time!

Fiona

 

 

Big Pancakes at Big Daddy’s

Not having a class until 11:40 a.m. on Tuesdays has its perks. One of them – perhaps the most important – is that I have time to go out and get a nice stack of pancakes to start my day. So last Monday night, I did some research, and decided to go to Big Daddy’s the following morning.

On Monday morning, I hopped on the 1 and rode it down to 96th Street, and from there, I walked to 91st Street in search of Big Daddy’s. It certainly was not difficult to find; the storefront was quite colorful, and there was a big red neon sign with the restaurant’s name out front. Just from looking at the outside, I knew that this meal would certainly be an experience.

The exterior of Big Daddy's.
The exterior of Big Daddy’s

The inside of Big Daddy’s is incredibly festive. The color scheme of the inside was vibrant blue, red, and yellow, and there were decorations everywhere. These decorations were mainly to give the restaurant an old, diner-y effect; there were old tin lunchboxes, gumball machines, license plates, pennants, and posters everywhere. The atmosphere was quite fun, though slightly over-stimulating. But as it was only 10 a.m., the restaurant was fairly empty, and I was one of the only customers there.

The interior of Big Daddy's.
The interior of Big Daddy’s

After sitting down, I was handed a very colorful and overwhelming menu. On the left of the menu, there were many different kinds of pancakes, each with its own unique name. I deliberated for a while, then ordered the “Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love” pancakes, which had bananas and chocolate chunks in them.

When the pancakes arrived, I was at first dismayed at how large they were. It was a stack of three pancakes, and they almost filled the whole plate. The stack was topped with chocolate chips, banana slices, and powdered sugar, and there was whipped cream and maple syrup on the side. The pancakes were visually gorgeous, but I didn’t think I would be able to finish them. I drizzled a bit of maple syrup over the top and dove in.

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The “Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love” pancakes

The pancakes were wonderfully fluffy and the flavors of the chocolate and the banana were delicious. But the one big issue I found is that the pancakes were incredibly sweet. The sweetness of the pancakes plus the sweetness of the chocolate and the bananas (and the bit of syrup I poured on top) was a bit too much, and it felt more like a dessert than a breakfast. But since I have a sweet tooth, I didn’t mind too much, and I kept on eating and enjoying. I even surprised myself by finishing the entire stack, though I felt incredibly full afterwards.

Big Daddy’s is certainly an experience. The interior of the restaurant is very entertaining and zany, and they have quite a selection of food. Their pancakes, though sweet and enormous, are very satisfying and delicious. If you’re in the mood for sugary pancakes in a festive diner, Big Daddy’s certainly won’t disappoint.

Location: 2454 Broadway, New York, NY

Hours: Sunday through Thursday – 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday – 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.

How Crepes on Columbus Stacks up

There’s almost nothing better than waking up after 10 a.m. on a beautiful Saturday morning and going to get some delicious pancakes. When I was younger, my parents would often make me pancakes on the weekends, knowing that they’re my favorite breakfast food. Nostalgically desiring some homemade pancakes, I walked to Crepes on Columbus last Saturday after reading some excellent reviews of their pancakes on Yelp.

The exterior of the restaurant was fairly unassuming, but upon walking inside, I was taken with the homey, welcoming nature of the interior. The restaurant itself was quite small, with only a handful of tables squeezed fairly close together. But the atmosphere was warm and comforting, which is exactly what I want when I’m eating comfort food like pancakes.

The exterior of Crepes on Columbus.
The exterior of Crepes on Columbus.

Of course, Crepes on Columbus is not known for their pancakes. As their name suggests, crepes are the house specialty. The menu was full of a variety of savory and sweet crepes, and some of them sounded so good that I was seriously tempted to order a crepe in addition to my pancakes. But I refrained, and ordered a glass of pineapple juice and a stack of blueberry pancakes.

When the blueberry pancakes arrived (quite quickly, I might add), I immediately knew I had made a good decision by coming to this place. Visually, the pancakes themselves seemed amazing; they were fluffy, perfectly brown, and just the right size. Sprinkled on top of the stack of three pancakes was an ample amount of powdered sugar (a bit too much for my taste), and on the side was a personal pitcher of maple syrup. Looking at the plate, I was so happy and excited to dig in.

The stack of blueberry pancakes.
The stack of blueberry pancakes.

The first bite was heavenly. I had the perfect combination of pancake, blueberry, and syrup. The pancakes were still warm, presumably having just come off the griddle. They were soft, flavorful, and familiar, which is everything one could want in a pancake. The blueberries added a nice tang to the sweetness of the pancake and the syrup, though fairly generic, tied it all together.

I tried to slow down and savor each bite, but ultimately I probably finished the entire stack in three minutes or so. After finishing, I was perfectly satisfied, having eaten just the right amount of food. Although there could have been less powdered sugar and the maple syrup could have been better (it tasted like a classic bottle of store-bought maple syrup), the meal was wonderful. But most importantly, I got the homey, comforting experience I wanted. The pancakes and the restaurant offered me the quintessential Saturday morning pancake experience that I miss from home.

Location: 990 Columbus Ave, New York, NY

Hours: Every day – 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (breakfast is served all day)

Irving Farms Coffee Roasters

Now that finals are upon us, I decided to try a coffee shop closer to campus so that I wouldn’t spend too much time away from my work. I wish I had known ahead of time that Irving Farms’ location on W. 79th St is the perfect place to study. The second I walked in, I noticed the comforting and trendy atmosphere as well as the multitude of tables. Unlike most coffee shops in Manhattan, which are extremely cramped, Irving Farms’ location on the Upper West Side is massive. This location has both a front room and a back room, each of which are larger than most New York coffee shops. Though it was quite crowded, I was still able to find a table because the shop was so large. I encountered numerous students who definitely had made Irving Farms their frequent coffee shop because they had come prepared with all of their studying materials.

The display case
The display case

In addition to the multitude of coffee options available, there is also a menu for those looking to have a meal while enjoying their coffee. I decided to take advantage of both. I ordered a medium vanilla latte and a caprese sandwich with Narragansett fresh mozzarella, slow- roasted tomatoes, and homemade seasonal pesto on a ciabatta. My latte was probably the best latte I have had in a long time. The sandwich was also delicious, but nothing out of the ordinary. Though both my latte and sandwich tasted delicious, honestly, they did not compliment each other. I still enjoyed both, but I would have enjoyed them more if I had tried each separately.

Medium vanilla latte
Medium vanilla latte
Caprese sandwich
Caprese sandwich

I definitely plan on going back to Irving Farms and next time, I will be sure to bring studying materials with me. It is definitely the perfect place to study during exams if you are looking for a calming atmosphere that isn’t too crowded (the exact opposite of Butler). I also look forward to trying another one of their many other locations in Manhattan. I would recommend this coffee shop to anyone looking for good coffee and/or food as well as students looking for a nice spot to study.

Tiny Temptations: Baked by Melissa

On a chilly Sunday afternoon, I decided to go with my friend, Victoria, to find and devour some delicious cupcakes. We took the 1 train down to 86th Street and walked to By the Way Bakery, a gluten and dairy free bakery with excellent Yelp reviews. Unfortunately, they did not have any cupcakes, even though there were photos of cupcakes on their Yelp page. So I decided to go to a nearby bakery famous for its delectable mini cupcakes: Baked by Melissa.

When I walked into the store (after longingly examining the Christmas trees for sale right outside the door), I noticed that the inside was very plain and modern. There were no tables or chairs, and the room itself was completely undecorated. It was like the Apple store of cupcake shops. But while the store itself was lacking in color, the cupcakes were certainly bright and fun to look at. Having had Baked by Melissa once before in my life, I knew the cupcakes would be little, but I forgot just how tiny they are. Each cupcake couldn’t have been more than an inch and a half in diameter. Furthermore, one cupcake costs $1, which is definitely not a bargain. I decided to buy six cupcakes for Victoria and me. The flavors we chose were cookie dough, chocolate chip pancake, cinnamon bun, mint cookie, sugar cookie cheesecake, and triple chocolate fudge.

The display case.
The display case.

The cookie dough cupcake is a yellow cake with cookie dough in the middle, chocolate frosting, and even more cookie dough on top. This cupcake had a wonderful texture; the cake and the cookie dough were very moist, and the chocolate chips added nice variation to the softness of the cupcake. In addition to having excellent texture, the cupcake had an intense and delicious cookie dough flavor, especially for such a tiny cupcake. Overall, they nailed this cupcake!

The cookie dough cupcake.
The cookie dough cupcake.

The chocolate chip pancake cupcake is a yellow pancake cake with chocolate chips throughout, topped with maple syrup frosting and even more chocolate chips. As a pancake aficionado, I was really intrigued by the idea of turning a pancake into a cupcake. I found that the cupcake did resemble a pancake, but it definitely didn’t taste identical to one, which was a slight disappointment (to be fair, it was an ambitious goal). The cupcake itself was quite sweet, perhaps even too sweet, but it still tasted good.

The chocolate chip pancake cupcake.
The chocolate chip pancake cupcake.

The cinnamon bun cupcake (part of their winter collection) is a cinnamon bun cake filled with vanilla glaze, topped with cinnamon frosting and a white chocolate drizzle. Unlike the pancake cupcake, this cupcake tasted exactly like the breakfast food it was trying to emulate. The soft cake, delicious glaze, and cinnamon frosting combined perfectly to mimic the experience of eating a cinnamon roll. My only wish is that the cupcake had a bit more cinnamon in it, as I love a strong cinnamon punch, but otherwise this beautiful cupcake was excellent.

The cinnamon bun cupcake.
The cinnamon bun cupcake.

The mint cookie cupcake is a mint cake with a fudge filling, mint cookies and cream frosting, mint cookie butter, and green drizzle on top. The first thing I observed about this cupcake is that it is a bold green color, which I thought was playful. Victoria and I thought the flavor of the cupcake was lacking in mint, but the cupcake was still satisfying and had a nice crunchy element.

The mint cookie cupcake.
The mint cookie cupcake.

The sugar cookie cheesecake cupcake (part of their winter collection) is a vanilla cake with a cheesecake filling, topped with sugar cookie frosting, and red and green nonpareil brittle. This cupcake certainly looked festive, with the red and green decorations on top. The flavor itself was a bit strange: we came to the conclusion that it tasted like a sugar cookie, vanilla cupcake, and bread combined. But the texture of the cupcake was wonderfully creamy. Overall, it was a solid cupcake, albeit a little unusual.

The sugar cookie cheesecake cupcake.
The sugar cookie cheesecake cupcake.

Of course, I saved the chocolate cupcake for last. The triple chocolate fudge cupcake is a chocolate cake with a fudge filling, topped with chocolate frosting, and a chocolate cookie crumble. The moment I bit into this cupcake, I knew that I made the right decision to eat this one last. It was without a doubt one of the best bites of a cupcake I’ve ever had. It was rich, bitter, and decadent – everything a chocolate lover wants in a cupcake. In a small dose, it was absolutely incredible, though perhaps it would be too much if it were a normal sized cupcakes. This cupcake was the perfect finale to my cupcake-eating adventure.

The triple chocolate fudge cupcake.
The triple chocolate fudge cupcake.

Baked by Melissa has their baking down to a science. Each cupcake was moist and complex. My only complaint is that a few of their cupcakes – mainly the cinnamon bun cupcake and the mint cookie cupcake – could have used a bit more flavor, as a mini cupcake should be packed with flavor to make up for its diminutive size. Baked by Melissa is certainly one of the most expensive cupcake places I’ve been to, so don’t go there expecting to leave with a full stomach unless you have $20 to spend. But on those days where you need to treat yourself, you can’t go wrong with Baked by Melissa.

Nearest Location: 2325 Broadway, New York, NY

Hours: Monday through Thursday – 9am to 10pm, Friday – 9am to 11pm, Saturday – 10am to 11pm, Sunday – 10am to 10pm

97th Street Greenmarket

Location: 97th Street

Travel Time from Columbia: 13 min

Directions from Columbia

Hours: Fridays- 8am to 2pm

Produce Quality: 4.75/5

Prices: 4/5

The 97th Street Greenmarket is not only a convenient subway trip away, but also it has a good collection of fresh fruits and veggies. Like most markets, the Greenmarket consists of a patchwork of smaller stalls where it’s easy to find a variety of regional produce, parts of which change with the growing seasons. Because the haze of Fall has descended for the moment, many of the stalls currently boast gourds, pumpkins, and at least thirty varieties of squash.

Beyond vegetables, there are also stalls devoted to seafood, where long, fine cuts of bass, salmon and other nautical creatures cool on ice. When I went, I didn’t spot any stalls with a similar set up for meat, but I will check again when I return (and return I will). The market also has several stalls with prettily, and sometimes not so prettily, wrapped baked goods and a new, interesting addition—a stall that sells only different types of mushrooms. There is something absolutely fascinating in seeing contrasting varieties laid out together, as any Biology majors would probably say.

Overall, the market is pleasant, but it has the highly curated feel of a market that aims to serve as a pretty compliment to regular store bought produce without usurping it. There were also few items that were interesting or experimental enough to hold my attention—except for the mushrooms—and if I was looking to branch out my palate, I probably wouldn’t find any particularly exciting ingredients here. It’s unequivocally “nice,” in a cookie cutter village way, but it lacks any kind of serendipitous “NYC edginess”.  Anna Wintour would not buy squash here, but your mom’s friends would.

Absolutely come if you…

…want your shopping experience to have that small town, neighborhood feel with the added anonymity of not being directly near Columbia

…are looking for good quality seafood that you might look at but probably won’t buy because one of your suite-mates is allergic to shellfish

…are trying to expand your curated Instagram collection of pictures of gourds by a massive amount

…need an excuse for a fast, fun trip downtown while listening Vanessa Carlton’s forever iconic “A Thousand Miles”

…have never gotten off at 96th Street despite always transferring trains there and want to convince your mom you’re still “exploring New York City”

…miss your grandmother’s tart, flaky baked goods as much as your grandmother herself

Squash and other Fall favorites for sale.
A view of the GrowNYC booth where help is available for those on food stamps to access fresh market produce.
A view of the market stalls stretching down 97th street.

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.

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).