Eating My Way Through New York: Sweets and Snacks
Wacky. Weird. Wild.
At Supermoon Bakehouse, you’ll find some of the most mind-blowing baked goods you’ve ever laid eyes upon.
But then again, they are the the handiwork of baker extraordinaire Ry Stephen, the creator of the Cruffin and co-founder of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in San Francisco.
What luck to have it open its doors in the Lower East Side the week we were in New York, too.
You’ll find Cruffins here, and a whole lot of other unique pastries that sport a strong foundation of crisp, buttery, airy layers — then go wild with imaginative fillings, colors and designs.
The Triple Black Donut is sure to become an Instagram sensation. It’s not every day that you see a pitch-black donut. Picture a brioche tinged black from squid ink, filled with black sesame cream patissier, then rolled in activated charcoal sugar.
You don’t taste the squid ink, just the nuttiness of the black sesame cream, which gushes out when you take a bite. Just be sure to have plenty of napkins, as your lips and chin will surely get speckled black eating it.
The Chocolate Croissant is outrageous — spiraled with chocolate, decorated with shards of cocoa nib nougatine and filled with a load of dark chocolate ganache. It’s as if half a dozen chocolate truffles had been stuffed inside a croissant.
The pastries run $4 to $8 each. Buy six and they’ll throw in an iridescent logo box that’s as sturdy as a shoe box, which will ensure your pastries will arrive safely if you take them on the plane home, like we did.
Dominique Ansel Bakery
I should have bought a Lotto ticket the day I ventured to Dominique Ansel Bakery, because I scored my very first Cronut — mid-day, without having to wait in a huge line.
How’s that for beginner’s luck?
October’s flavor ($6) of creamy pumpkin ganache and homemade cranberry jam did not disappoint, either.
It looks like a donut. But it has crackling crisp layers. The pumpkin ganache filling and cranberry jam tasted like Halloween giving way to Thanksgiving. It was sweet, but not achingly so, with the tartness of the cranberries adding a nice contrast.
The DKA ($5.50) is Dominique’s Kouign-Amann. You can taste the quality of the butter it in, with just a hint of salt. It’s not as light and airy as that of San Francisco’s B. Patisserie. The layers are thicker, denser and softer, but still satisfying.
Yeasty, fluffy donuts with creative flair are the specialty at Doughnut Plant.
It bills itself as the creator of the square donut, as well as the Creme Brulee filled donut ($3.80).
The latter was what I was there to try. And it was amazing!
It sports a crackling burnt sugar top just like a creme brulee. That would be enough to satisfy alone. But sink your teeth into the soft, puffy brioche donut to find a center of true creme brulee.
It’s not the typical nondescript custard. No, this is thick, rich, and redolent of plenty of egg yolks and vanilla.
You will fall in love with this donut.
Underwest Donuts started out in a most unlikely location: inside a car wash.
And with a most unlikely chef: Scott Levine, formerly executive chef of New York’s Chanterelle.
But when you’re searching for a place to set up shop, and your father-in-law has space at his Westside Highway Car Wash at a reasonable rate, how can you refuse?
Underwest Donuts have been a sensation since it opened in 2014. There’s even a second location now at Penn Station, which is the one I visited.
At the small kiosk outside the station, the donuts are $3.25 each. We tried three: Maple Waffle adorned with a mini waffle cookie; the Carwash flavored with vanilla and a very subtle hit of lavender; and Banana Milk, garnished with a banana chip.
These are cake donuts with a most delicate, light-as-a-feather magical crumb. The glazes are quite sweet. My favorite was the Banana Milk because it tasted prominently of banana.
Union Square Greenmarket
The year-round Union Square Greenmarket at Union Square is a food lover’s paradise.
I just wished I had a kitchen in my hotel room to adequately make use of all the incredibly fresh seafood, quail, loaves of bread, and produce galore.
It’s also great for people-watching of the culinary sort.
In particular, if you hang out at the Mountain Sweet Berry Farm stand, you’re apt to spot many chefs. Owner Rick Bishop is beloved by some of the city’s most esteemed chefs.
Although I’ve interviewed Bishop a few times over the years, this was the first time I met him in person. Tall, strapping and gregarious, he’s a no-nonsense kind of guy with a zeal for growing the best.
You’ll have to arrive early if you want to get some of his famed Tri-Star strawberries before they sell out.
Tiny, red throughout, these are the most glorious strawberries I’ve ever had. They taste intensely of a strawberry crossed with raspberry. They’re juicy, ever so bright and tangy. They’re definitely sweet, but not one-dimensional. They have a depth of flavor that just fills your mouth with bliss.
If you miss the strawberries, at least you can pick up some of Bishop’s potato chips, made from several varieties of potatoes he grows.
Black Seed Bagels
A marriage of Montreal and New York. That’s what you’ll find with Black Seed Bagels.
These bagels (75 cents each) are hand-rolled, then boiled in honey water, before being baked in a wood-fired oven.
They have great chewiness. But it’s the lilt of sweetness from the honey plus the smoky char from the oven that make really make these special.
You don’t even need to smother them in cream cheese to enjoy them. I just noshed on a sesame one unadorned, and it was utterly satisfying.
I own every Baked cookbook, and have always adored this bakery’s decadent yet homey treats that I’ve made at home.
Finally, I ventured to the motherland — its Tribeca outpost of its original Brooklyn locale.
Baked is known for its Brooksters ($4), which epitomizes the wide appeal of its baked goods. This is a chocolate chunk cookie inside a brownie. How can you go wrong with that, right? It’s like the comfort food of desserts.
If you need a savory fix after all those sweets, Baked’s big pretzels are pretty darn delicious. They’re served warm with a crock of spicy mustard.
Great Northern Food Hall
I may never make it to Noma in Denmark. But at least now I can say I’ve had New Nordic cuisine by one of the founders of that fabled restaurant, considered one of the very best in the world.
Claus Meyer opened the Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Station last year. Whether you want a sit-down experience or to grab something on the go, you’ll find something tempting and new here.
There’s a whole case of smorrebrod or open-faced sandwiches. I went for the Pickled Herring & Egg Yolk ($7) on dark, hefty yet tender, rye bread. The perky tartness of the herring helped cut through all the horseradish cream while little chunks of apple added crunch. It may be half a sandwich in some people’s minds, but it’s plenty filling.
The baked goods are wonderful. The Kanelsnurrer buns come frosted or not. Either way, the buns are braided with plenty of cinnamon. Sea Buckthorn Pound Cake ($4.75) is reminiscent of carrot cake, with the berry-like buckthorn adding a nice tanginess to the frosting.
My favorite was the Tebirke ($4.50), a croissant-like pastry with marzipan and a shower of poppy seeds. It was super flaky, full of almond flavor and an ideal pick-me-up on a lazy afternoon strolling through Manhattan.