Some Pictures from New York

Hello from Cookie Madness Central! I’m back home in Austin and excited about getting back in the kitchen.

The trip was a success and thankfully, it didn’t cost much. I’d been saving air miles and hotel points, so when my friend Jen suggested we meet up in New York to see a comedian, I said “See ya there!” So everything was kind of last minute. I didn’t have enough Hilton points to cover the first night in the hotel, so I booked a room on Priceline and got the Grand Hyatt next to Grand Central Station.

After getting a good night’s rest in the tiny but very quiet room, I pulled my luggage up 42nd street and checked into The Hilton Times Square where the room they gave me was not only large, but had an amazing view of the skyline and Hudson river. Service was friendly, beds were comfortable and room service was lightning fast. I’d stay there again if it weren’t located in Time Square.  I’ve made a note never to stay in that area again because, well, I just won’t.

The weather was cool and sunny so I spent the morning shopping downtown, visiting Ground Zero and wandering around Greenwich Village. Hours passed and it was time to meet up with Jen and her friend Chris. Our plan was to have dinner at Craftbar then head down to the show in the East Village.

Craftbar had good wine and what little food we ate was pretty good. I’d have to go back and try everything to write any sort of food review.  What they’re known for are their spectacular desserts, but we spent too much time visiting and didn’t order any because we had to hurry down to the village to see the show.

We arrived at the theatre a little late and felt bad because it was extra small and it was one of those situations where the performer stops the act and says “Hey, welcome to the show!” and the rest of the room look over to see who the tardy slackers are. Turns out the only seats left were in the front row……so it was like a reward for being late! I’m not sure why people are scared of the front row, but we enjoyed the show quite a bit.

Afterwards, we parted ways and went back to our respective hotels. I needed to rest up for Sunday’s big cookie tour of New York. I didn’t really plan on doing a cookie tour. In fact, I would have felt lucky just to hit Levain Bakery. But my friend Taneka knows the city inside and out and was happy to guide me from bakery to bakery. Here I am at Magnolia Bakery where there was a huge line for cupcakes. Since I was sticking with chocolate chip cookies, I didn’t buy anything. However, I was told their little banana puddings are the best. Maybe next time.

Me at Magnolia

Before Magnolia, we stopped into Levain which is around the corner. Levain doesn’t have much room to sit, so we had to eat our cookies on the go. We were only eating a few bites of each cookie, so this worked out well.

Levain Cookie

After making a few stops on Upper West Side, we made our way down to Brooklyn to see Melissa, who I met a few years ago at a cook-off and have been friends with ever since. Melissa is the person who first introduced me to Jacques Torres shop, so I am forever grateful. The last time we went, we bought chocolate, but this time we bought one of his famous chocolate chunk cookies. Here’s a picture of some Jacques Torres cookies. I took it through the glass so it’s not that good.

Jacques Torres Cookies

There was no room in the shop to sit down, so we took the cookies to a bakery across the street for coffee and seating. The bakery across the street, Almondine, had a lot of interesting items as well including huge fluffy white meringues. I almost bought one, but held back because meringues probably don’t hold up well in backpacks.  Why don’t more bakeries sell meringues?

It was fun introducing Taneka to Melissa and her son, but we couldn’t stay long because we had another friend to meet. Katy, maker of the world’s best pound cake and probably a lot of other things I don’t know about, was waiting for us at City Bakery.

On the way to meet Katy, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. I can’t wait to do this with Fuzz, who was bummed about not being able to go on this trip. I just know she will love the bridge. I’ll post some pictures of that later, but I’m tying very quickly and need to wrap this up right now.

It was nearly 5:00 by the time we reached City Bakery, our last stop on the Cookie Tour. I sat with Taneka and Katy and pulled out all 3 cookies to do a side by side taste test. My final judgment was that all three cookies were equally good in their own special way. That sounds like I’m trying to be nice, but it’s actually true.

The cookie on the top is the Levain cookie, and heading clockwise are City Bakery’s cookie and JT’s.

Three Different Cookies

Levain’s cookies were fat, moist and packed with walnuts. They were good hot, but I actually liked mine best that night after it had completely cooled. Our copy cat is pretty close, but you still need to try the real thing.

The City Bakery cookie was excellent and was more about the cookie than the chocolate. It was crisp and chewy and had kind of a burnt buttery taste to it that I liked. And yes, I definitely want to clone it! I’ve tried some recipes that were said to be similar to City Bakery’s cookie, but none compared.

The Jacques Torres Cookie was interesting in that it had layers and layers of chocolate melted through it. You can’t really tell how much chocolate is in there until you bite into the cookie and see cross section of chocolate strata. Taneka said they were best warm, but I liked mine fully set. I guess I’m the only person on the planet who doesn’t love hot, warm, cookies.

After an hour of chatting, we said goodbye to Katy who headed back to the upper east side. Taneka and I headed uptown to a wine store with an unbelievable selection. I did some shopping, said goodbye, and headed back to the hotel.

That night, I ordered room service, talked to Emma and Todd on the phone and started planning our next trip to NYC. As usual, I can’t wait to go back and do more of the things I missed. Next time, I may do a cupcake tour.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the review! Can I go on the cupcake tour with you? I was thinking of using priceline and I am glad to know you were able to get a good priced room.

  2. Kathy says

    Hi Anna,

    Glad your trip went well! I love reading your blog. Your descriptions and recipes and photos are inspiring! Thank you!! One question … I am planning to visit NY soon. What didn’t you like about staying in Time Square?

    Kathy

  3. says

    New York is so much fun this time of year. When I go back for a visit, I am going to try Levian cookies.Glad you had fun!

  4. Therese B. says

    I am dreaming, scheming of how I can get to NYC!

    AND HELLO DOLLY…those cookies..Levain Bakery…oh yum!!!!

    I have my drooling bib on. tee hee!

    Thank you for sharing your trip!! We the lowly bakers are repeat after me….not worthy…not worthy!!

  5. Sue says

    Your trip sounds almost heavenly. A cookie tour sounds like a great way to get around the city. I’m really interested in that City Bakery cookie. It almost looks overbaked in the photo, but at the same time I can just imagine the buttery, brown sugar, almost caramalized flavor, and can only imagine how good it must have been. I probably would have tried the meringue too, just because. Let’s face it. I don’t have the self restraint that you do! I’m sure the temptations were many but good for you for keeping your focus. I can’t wait to read about what comes next from your kitchen. Welcome back!!

  6. says

    Anna, this was an especially nice post. It was like riding ‘shotgun’ with you. I’m glad you had such a good time.

  7. says

    Curiously, none of the cookies were like the New York Times cookie. All of the professionally made cookies were chewier — except for Levain’s which was the closest to homemade.

  8. says

    i’m also one who doesn’t like warm gooey cookies. i think they taste better when they’re cooled and completely set.

    the city bakery cookies are so fricking buttery…i think i might have to go get one today.

  9. says

    Hi Anna,
    Thanks for telling us about your trip. It felt like I was right there with you (and now I really want to try some big chocolate chip cookies!) I don’t like my cookies warm either. For me, they are best cold. Weird? Thanks for “taking us with you!”

  10. says

    I love this blog! 6 cookie monsters live in this house – your recipes will keep us munching for a long time. I keep wanting to try making black and white cookies, but haven’t done it yet. Got a great recipe for those?

  11. Andy says

    Kathy,

    I can’t speak for Anna in regards to what she didn’t like about staying in Times Square. But as a resident of New York City I would suspect that one of the reasons she may not have liked it is that it is PACKED with people at all times. I know of no NYC residents who ever go in that area unless they absolutely have to.

    Many people will come to NYC and spend all their time within a few blocks of Times Square and then leave thinking, “I don’t like New York City. It’s too loud and crowded.” And that’s because they never left the tourist-y part of the city. It’s like spending three days in the middle of Disneyland and leaving and saying you don’t like California. The rest of the city is made up of fun neighborhoods with small, interesting shops and food specialty stores and unique restaurants, and things aren’t crowded and oppressing. Sure, there are places like Magnolia bakery that have become mini-tourist destinations in their own right. But for the most part it’s a busy but relatively uncrowded city. Times Square, on the other hand, is like walking through Mumbai.

    For anyone coming to NYC I would recommend staying somewhere above 46th street or below 30th street. I would also recommend spending no more than a third of your time visiting the typical tourist destinations. I’m not suggesting you ignore them entirely, especially with Christmas coming up there are a ton of great things to see (i.e., the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and ice-skating rink, the Macy’s store windows, etc.). But I would suggest picking up a copy of Time Out NY magazine (a weekly magazine here) and picking out some of the 100s of events happening on any given night in the city and getting out to some of the areas where the residents of the city actually spend their time.

    Here’s are just handful of my favorite places/things in the city:

    — Rice to Riches– great rice-pudding place with a futuristic vibe to it. http://www.ricetoriches.com
    — Temple Bar — there’s no sign on the door but you walk into a beautiful, old-time bar where the drinks are super expensive but the atmosphere is worth it. http://www.templebarnyc.com
    — The People’s Improv Theater – An excellent improve theater in NYC with a ton of great shows. Wednesday nights are often the best, and the shows on Wednesday are free. http://www.thepit-nyc.com
    — Nolita House – Great lobster macaroni and cheese. Actually everything I’ve had here is great. http://www.nolitahouse.com
    — Sugar-Sweet Sunshine – My cupcake place of choice in NYC. http://www.sugarsweetsunshine.com
    — Walk across the Brooklyn bridge. A not-too-long, not-too-short beautiful walk. Stop at Grimaldi’s for pizza once you’ve crossed over into Brooklyn.
    — Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks – A great shop selling old cookbooks. Some over 100 years old. http://www.bonnieslotnickcookbooks.com
    — Fat Cat Billiards – Great pool and ping-pong place with live Jazz every night that goes until 5 am. http://www.fatcatmusic.org

  12. says

    Hey Andy! Good to see here in the illustrious comment section of Cookie Madness. Thanks for the tips, and next time I’m up there, I’ll include you on the big cupcake tour. Or maybe it will just be a continuation of the chocolate chip cookie tour.

    The reason I hate Times Square is because it’s packed shoulder to shoulder with people — some nice, some rude….but too many. I vowed to myself I would never stay in that area again even if it was for free….it’s just not worth it.

    My favorite hotel is still W Union Square, but it was something like $900 a night. Seriously. Might as well stay at The Plaza.

    I’m taking note of Andy’s insider tips and am thankful that I did get to take a walk across that beautiful bridge and at least wave to the people standing in line at Grimaldi’s.

    There was a 40 foot line out the door to Grimaldi’s, but that was nothing compared to the 70 foot line snaking out the door and around the corner of Magnolia Cafe in the village. When I saw that, I thought I’d never get to go to Magnolia, then Taneka took me to the Magnolia uptown and I breathed a sigh of relief at the normal size line.

  13. says

    Thanks for the info, Andy, I’m heading to NY in a couple weeks. I totally get what you’re saying about TS. Walk through it once and call it good, there’s too much else to see and do in NYC!

  14. says

    Andy,
    Bonnie’s Cookbook shop looks great, but I think my husband would be bored to death with the couple hours I’d want to spend in there!

  15. Kathy says

    Anna, Andy,

    Thank you for all the insight and advice!! It is a big help. I am looking forward to seeing the city very much.

    Kathy

  16. eva says

    Yummy pics and post Anna – thanks so much! I did an edible tour of NYC a few years back and managed to hit Beard Papa, City Bakery and Magnolia. The chocolate chunk cookies from City were unlike any I’d ever tasted. Firm, crispy, very rich and buttery exterior, but with a dense, soft interior. I’d love it if you could include your “transit/travel” itinerary for your cookie tour ie. what makes the most sense to hit and in what order. Were you taking the train + walking most of the time?

    ps. I’d highly recommend the cream puffs from Beard Papa if you’ve never had one. Ridiculously good.

  17. says

    Yay you’re back! It was really nice to read what you did in Ny and also e great tips from some other readers!
    You know I’ll be doing just that soon! And count me in for the cupcake tour or the cookie tour II. I think you, me and Katrina should all meet in NY sometime and eat cookies! We were so close this year!
    I’m gonna check out that book!
    Now lets get to work with that City Bakery Cookie, lol! I’d say brown butter ;)!

  18. Bianca says

    Oh how I wish I could fly to New York and try those famous Levain cookies! For now, I will try your copycat recipes! Which of your copycat recipes do you think comes closest?

  19. Rina says

    Welcome back Anna! Your chocolate chip cookie tour sounded fun and productive, I think that all of your readers are incredibly happy that you made it to Levain on this trip. I did a cupcake tour the last time I was in NYC (Both Magnolia locations at the time, Sugar Sweet Sunshine, Babycakes, Two Little Red Hens, Baked, Billy’s, The Cupcake Cafe, etc.). I will email you my list before your next trip. Thanks for all the NY recommendations, I head there this Saturday and plan to do a joint cupcake/cookie tour on Sunday. Glad to have you back in the kitchen (I made your banana pudding while you were gone – amazing!).

  20. says

    Awwww. Thanks for the nice comments. I realize I could have been even more detailed, but I feel a bit swamped today and wanted to move on to the cookies. I’m glad everyone appreciated the info I have posted so far. Andy’s info is especially helpful and probably more useful.

    Eva, Beard Papa never even crossed my radar! I’ll have to visit that place if only for the name.

    Rita, Katrina, Kathy, Randi and anyone else I missed, please email me if you have any questions or want more specific details.

    Bianca, thanks! I missed posting every day. The hotel wireless was about $14.00 a day so I had to take a day off.

    It’s weird being unplugged. I kind of like it and kind of hate it. One of these days I’ll invest in an iPhone.

  21. Sophia says

    Oh wow, that sounds like fun!
    All the different chocolate chip cookies… all wonderful in their own way…it’s amazing that there are so many great variations.
    I’m glad you had a good time and I’m glad you’re back and blogging.

  22. Meredith says

    Anna,
    Next time you hit Levain, I recommend the chocolate peanut butter chip cookie. IMO, that’s their best cookie!

  23. Jasmine says

    I am leaving NY tomorrow but I made sure to visit Magnolia, Junior’s and even all the bakeries inside of Chelsea Market, I think the Cheesecake at Junior’s is the best thing i’ve ever eaten. But thank you for including in your blog your reccomendations because I knew to go to those places because of them!

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