Travel Eats: NYC (Cookies and bagels and treats galore!)

October 7, 2011

In desperate need of a mini-vacation, I packed an overnight bag and set off to visit one of my closest friends, M, in New York City. Seeing him and experiencing a change of scenery did a lot to ease my wandering mind, and goodness gracious was it good to be in New York City. My stomach is still thanking me for all the treats and delicious food. Let the gushing begin!

Levain Bakery

I may or may not have been summoned to NYC by pictures of these cookies floating around the interwebs. I may or may not have made a beeline straight to the bakery immediately after getting off the bus. I played it safe and ordered their famous chocolate chip walnut cookie, although they had other cookies and other pastries, along with a pretty decent beverage selection. In this situation, playing it safe was the way to go! This is one seriously good, and seriously big, cookie, packed with chocolate chips and HUGE pieces of walnut. I swear the cookie was at least two inches thick! Because it was so thick, the edges were perfectly crisp while the middle remained chewy and ever so slightly under-baked. Chocolate chip cookies number among my favorite foods, which means a disappointing chocolate chip cookie can break my heart, but an amazing one can be the thing that keeps me smiling like a goofball all week. This cookie did just that. My only qualm was the price tag – four dollars a cookie! Worth it when it’s a special treat on a much-needed mini-vacation, though I can see how that could be dangerous if you lived near one of their locations!

Jacques Torres Chocolatier

While eating my cookie from Levain Bakery on a bench, someone asked me if there was a famous chocolate shop nearby. Not being from the area, but wanting to be nice, I told her I wasn’t familiar with a chocolate shop nearby, that I was just there for the cookies (she politely declined my mouth-full-of-food cookie recommendation, which sounded a lot like “thish cooookie ish goooood YOU PROBABLY NEED ONE”). After finishing my cookie, I turned the corner onto Amsterdam Ave and, lo and behold, there was a Jacques Torres retail location right in front of my face. I felt like a jerk for not having noticed it on my way to the bakery, which turned into my not being able to help a poor lady who just wanted some chocolates, so I went in to cheer myself up. What better pick me up than the experience of picking out a few chocolates at a chocolatier?! I picked out four chocolates – dark chocolate covered dark chocolate ganache with honey, milk chocolate covered milk chocolate ganache with a touch of cognac, milk chocolate covered cinnamon hazelnut praline, and milk chocolate covered peanut butter and jelly (pictured). It was a big operation, which made me worry about the quality of the chocolate, but each piece was divine. I thought the cinnamon praline one tasted like chocolate cinnamon toast crunch (YUM), the cognac was perfect with milk chocolate, wildflower honey dripped out of the honey piece, and the PB&J truffle was too cute.

Murray’s Bagels

I’m not sure what needs to be said about Murray’s, because, from what I’ve read on the internet, this place is getting all the attention it deserves. I loved the fast paced atmosphere and the sounds of paper bags, slicing bagels, pouring coffee, people chatting, and newspapers rustling. It was an almost perfection amalgamation of my love of being around people, my love of good food, and my love of everything breakfast. My order was a pumpernickel bagel with scallion cream cheese and tomato, with an onion and an everything bagel to bring home, and M’s order was two bagels, one cinnamon raisin and one whole wheat everything, both with plain cream cheese. He received, instead of a whole wheat everything, a whole wheat bagel, which was kind of lame, but everything tasted so good and we ate breakfast sitting on the highline. You can make up for a lot with good company and pretty scenery. The thing I liked most about my experience at Murray’s though, was that they wouldn’t toast the bagels because they had come straight from the oven! Nuts!! You could tell, too, because the warmth of the bagel made the cream cheese all melty and delicious.

Madison Square Eats

My night at Madison Square eats was one of the most impromptu, most wonderful experiences of my life, no exaggeration. It was early evening and we were deciding on a place to eat for dinner, both of us being kind of tired (M from school and me from… life?) and not wanting to make a huge fuss but still wanting something new and delicious. Somehow I came across a few blogs talking about the Madison Square Eats that happened during the summer, and I silently lamented the fact that we totally missed it until coming upon this blog and reading that they had just reopened, and would stay open until October 21st. The decision was made and we made the long trek from the 190th Street station to Madison Square Park. It had just rained and was a bit chilly, so we basically had the place to ourselves and were totally overwhelmed by how pretty and homey and charming it was. There were lights strung over our heads, tables and umbrellas with chunky, bright colored patterns, vendors chatting each other up, the smells/sights/sounds of food sizzling and popping, and the sheer amount of food for the choosing sealed the deal – it was totally amazing. We had lamb meatball subs, hot dogs with kimchi and nori, pastrami sandwiches, steamed buns, mini cannolis, and cupcakes. There were also mini doughnuts, soft pretzels, pizza, tacos, crepes, liege waffles, and chocolate and wine pairings. I fell in love with everything that night, head over heels with M, NYC, food, people who love food, you name it. See what happens when I have good things, like PB&J mini cannolis and pecan french toast cupcakes? I’m just beside myself with the gushing… or is it the sugar talking?

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