It sure felt nice to be a visitor instead of resident of Manhattan for once, to be part of the idle crowd strolling down 5th Avenue on a midweek afternoon instead of being trapped within the 4 walls of a cubicle, buried under spreadsheets and reports. For teatime to be more than just a few stolen moments at Starbucks, with the luxury to claim a seat for hours, sip coffee from real ceramic cups and linger over the final bits of unfinished cake. Take my word that I had my fair share of teatime musing.
We found ourselves near Union Square a couple of afternoons, making the City Bakery a legitimate stop to refuel.
It was the same as I remembered, the open space, the delectable but debilitatingly expensive buffet spread, the tantalizing scent of sugar, butter, cinnamon and chocolate.
I have a weakness for the unique pretzel croissant, but as tea calls for something sweet, we split a large oatmeal cookie- flecked with oatmeal and raisin goodness, not soft but still chewy- and a thick cup of ultra-sweet hot chocolate as we rested our legs and plotted our shopping path. A diet killer if there ever was one, but we shared, so the calories don’t count, right?
By the time we got to L.A. Burdick on our second full day in the city, all hopes of keeping to a sane meal plan had been abandoned, especially when the weather was all wet and gross outside, and the chocolate mice and penguin were beckoning us to relax in the warm, homey shop dressed in a New England farmhouse style. It did not hurt that the servers were extra friendly and genuinely nice. Even the patrons were smiling, a rare sight in Manhattan.
It’s a pity we chose badly, ending up with a bone dry mocha cake with barely-there coffee flavors. A pity, because the coffee and cider were well-made and the atmosphere so charming I would’ve recommended many to return.
Staying at G’s place near Time Warner Center, we profited greatly from the superb location by heading to Bouchon Bakery for a late lunch on our first afternoon in town, and returning to TWC a few days later to escape from freak October snow with P’s secondary school bud and his wife. Bouchon Bakery, the most obvious choice for desserts was already packed with likeminded people, instead we parked ourselves at the bar area of Porterhouse after the hostess assured us we could have coffee there.
A steakhouse is an unlikely contender for desserts, but the pumpkin pie was quite awesome. Spicier than usual, the pumpkin mousse was a perfect match with the salty, sandy graham cracker crust. Candied walnuts, a dose of caramel and killer sherry infused cream brought the autumn fallback over-the-top. The cheesecake was more austere in contrast, a slab of tangy, moist, not too creamy cake topped with a few berries and a side of blueberry compote. And to apologize for the extremely slow service, the manager sent us a plate of homemade cookies that we unfortunately only had the room to graze at, stuffed as we were from a big Chinese lunch on top of the cake and pie.
Last but not least, while we didn’t have tea at the famous Magnolia Bakery, we did serendipitously chance upon it for breakfast. It was also a stroke of fortune that we found out these friends we breakfasted with were honeymooning in New York while we were there. We were in fact walking to a bagel shop on the UWS when I saw Magnolia across the street and thought “I think G+J would find the cupcakes here more interesting than bagels and cream cheese”. Truth to be told, I wasn’t expecting much of the offerings, having relegated Magnolia to the category of “overhyped and overpriced”, but the muffins were surprisingly above average, hefty with perfect humps, generously studded with fillings. It’s been a while since my last lemon poppyseed muffin too, which made this one even tastier. Can’t comment on the cupcakes though, but at 9 am, it’d better be freshly made!
The City Bakery – 3 West 18th Street New York, NY 10011; http://www.thecitybakery.com/
L.A. Burdick – 5 E 20th St New York, 10010; http://www.burdickchocolate.com/stores-and-cafes-nyc.asp
Bouchon Bakery – 10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019, http://www.bouchonbakery.com/
Porterhouse– 10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019, http://www.porterhousenewyork.com/
Magnolia Bakery– multiple locations; http://www.magnoliabakery.com/home.php