Photos and Words by Fred Chang
Hi, everyone! Hope your summer is going well! If you decided to click on this article, I’m assuming you have or are making future plans to go to New York! And if you do, I am excited for you; New York has so many different kinds of cuisines, dishes, restaurants, and bakeries to offer. You definitely won’t worry about going hungry in this city. To hopefully narrow down your options, I have included several of the bakeries and restaurants I went to in my most recent two-day visit at the very beginning of summer 2016, including six different bakeries and five different restaurants! So, without further ado, let’s get into my New York food adventure!
To kick off my New York trip, I got some brunch at Lafayette, part of Danny Meyer’s renowned Unison Square Hospitality Group. Danny Meyer is a famous New York City restaurateur with his restaurant group containing restaurants such as the one Michelin star Gramercy Tavern, the Shake Shack franchise, and formerly owning the three Michelin star restaurant, Eleven Madison Park. The lemon pancakes with fresh berries was a fresh way to start the day, with these fluffy stacks of pancakes scented with lemon zest. I also got a boulangerie basket, which consisted of several pastries, including but not limited to kouign-amann, a Breton cake that is made of layers of flaky, buttery pastry encrusted in sugar, pain au chocolat, and classics croissants, served with warm butter and fresh strawberry jam. It was a great way to forget about the 8 am bus ride here!
For dinner, I went to Annisa, an acclaimed restaurant owned by the amazingly talented chef, Anita Lo. Fun fact: Annisa, which is Arabic for women, boasts an all-female kitchen staff and has been given a Michelin star and multiple two-star reviews by the New York Times. The restaurant itself features dishes with global influences, ranging from the Middle East to Asia to France. I was fortunate enough to get a dinner reservation with my grandbig and avid food-lover, Enya.
To start our meal, the waiter presented an amuse bouche of phyllo cups with brandade, a pureed mixture of potato and salt cod. It really touched the differences senses; the dish offered a sophisticated taste, crunchiness, creaminess, and richness; the salt cod provided a strong savory kick. The first appetizer, the pakora fried oysters. Pakora is an savory Indian fritter batter in this case, used to coat the oysters. It is served with poached cucumber and creamy yogurt made for a crisp start to the meal. The second appetizer, which soup dumplings were delicious;the broth within the dumplings did not fail to deliver a nice punch of umami while the richness of the crisped foie gras sliced on top of it made for a very addicting combination. With the entrees, both kinds of cod presented to us were cooked immaculately; the flesh was flaking apart, but still moist, and had the sweetness that well-cooked cod should have. For the Alaskan cod dish, it came with small spheres of fried taro, similar to what one may find in dim sum restaurants, and sat on a velvety spring pea puree. For the sablefish, a fancier term for black cod, it sat on a slab of fried tofu and swam in a broth made with dashi with small tobiko, or flying fish roe, floating in its midst. The dessert we shared was the rhubarb financier with almond brittle and rosewater ice cream. Rhubarb was baked not only within the financier, but served thinly sliced, fanned along the dessert. We finished the meal with three kinds of petit fours: pineapple popsicles, mint truffles, and candied ginger. During the meal, Enya also gave me a triple chocolate spice cookie from CityCakes, which I happily helped myself to, despite CityCakes being known for their ½ pound cookies -- it was almost brownie-like in texture and was warming, like a spiced molasses cookie. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty food-coma’d after that.
After my meal with Enya, I went on a solo mission of night-bakery hopping; with a lot of running around the city and using Google Maps, I was able to find three bakeries that were still open on my way back to my hotel room: By CHLOE, Momofuku Milk Bar, and Magnolia Bakery.
By CHLOE was the closest. This bakery is owned by Chloe Coscarelli, a vegan chef who also happens to be the person who sparked my interest in baking. I was extremely excited-- in just one night, I got to eat food from two of my biggest cooking and baking inspirations, Anita Lo and Chloe Coscarelli. By CHLOE is an all-natural, all-vegan restaurant that started in New York, but it’s actually branching out into Boston this summer! It serves not only Chloe’s amazing vegan cupcakes, which won her the “Sexy Singles” episode of Cupcake Wars, but also Chloe’s own savory vegan creations as well, such as mac n’ cheese, hand cut fries, and plenty of other delicious treats. I made a bee-line for the cupcakes, ordering the raspberry tiramisu cupcake, which won her Cupcake Wars, as well as the Chlostess cupcake, which is a vegan play on Hostess Cakes. Needless to say, both were delicious, and you could not even remotely tell that either was vegan. The tiramisu base was a fluffy vanilla cake, and you could taste the amaretto, espresso, and homemade raspberry jam stuffed into it; the frosting was creamy but not too sweet. The Chlostess cake was a rich, moist chocolate cake with a creamy vegan frosting center and a rich, decadent chocolate ganache glazed on top. They also had a seasonal cupcake flavor; when I visited, it was a spiced hot chocolate cupcake, which sounded delicious.
The second bakery on my dessert night prowl was Momofuku Milk Bar. This bakery, co-owned by award winning chefs David Chang and Christina Tosi, features unusual or modern takes on classic American baked goods. A prime example is its corn cookies; they’re very similar in flavor to cornbread, but they have the consistency of a rich and gooey chocolate chip cookie. When I visited this bakery before, I purchased the apple pie, which featured a set apple puree-type filling as opposed to chunks of apples stewed inside of a pastry. This item was not at the standalone location that I went to on this trip, but it is at the Milk Bar attached to David Chang’s restaurant, Ma Peche. I also bought a set of items from the bakery’s “greatest hits” list, which included crack pie, cereal milk soft serve ice cream, birthday cake truffles, and compost cookies. Crack pie, one of the bakery’s signature desserts, is a salty-sweet custard like filling embedded into an oat cookie crust. Cereal milk, also an invention of Momofuku, is made when one toasts corn flakes and infuses them into a milk, that in turn, is made into ice cream or other desserts. Finally, compost cookies are Momofuku Milk Bar’s equivalent of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, having corn flakes, marshmallows, chocolate chips in the cookie itself.
My final bakery stop before calling it a night was the Magnolia Bakery located in Union Central Market. I purchased a key lime cheesecake, a red velvet cupcake, and the infamous banana pudding. The cheesecake had a very pronounced lime flavor, making it very similar to a key lime pie. The red velvet cupcake base was light, fluffy, and moist, while the cream cheese frosting was creamy and airy as well. The banana pudding tasted like pillows of banana mousse layered between Nilla wafers -- it was my clear favorite of the three items I purchased.
380 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10003
13 Barrow St, New York, NY 10014
Momofuku Milk Bar (East Village Location)
251 E 13th St, New York, NY 10003
185 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012
Magnolia Bakery (Grand Central Station Location)
107 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
251 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011