Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bakeries in the Big Apple

I think that one of the best ways to learn things about oneself is to plan a trip. Are you spontaneous, taking off on a whim with no plan and no suitcase, throwing caution to the wind? Or are you relentlessly calculated, planning each stop, meal, visit and mode of transport down to the dollar and the minute? I think most of us probably fall somewhere in between, romanced by the thrill of spontaneity but reassured by the safety of tickets and reservations. Travel also reveals much about ourselves because it forces us to prioritize. Given only a brief window to experience everything new and exciting about our destination, what gets top billing on our list of to-do's? Deciding to plan a last minute day trip from DC to New York City for this past Saturday is perhaps how I came to realize that I've officially crossed over into the world of "The Foodie."

For my quick, 8 hour trip to Manhattan last Saturday I knew that I wanted to see as many famous sites as I could in such a short timeframe, but my very first priority without question was, Where am I going to eat? And not in a basic human need kind of way, but in a sugarlust-fueled, must try new bakeries kind of excitement. I'd even picked out Bombay Talkie in Chelsea as my dinner locale before I'd purchased my bus tickets (courtesy of a great tip from Juli B). If you're a fan of Indian cuisine this hotspot puts a chic spin on traditional Indian roadside fare. The malai kofta and Toofan cocktail I had were delicious. When it came to bakeries, the number of amazing choices in NYC are simply overwhelming so I put out a call on Twitter for suggestions from those more knowledgeable. Thanks to Tweeps TanyaBrothen and FrenchTwistDC I got great recommendations for bakeries both classically famous and freshly unique.

After a three hour open bus tour, you can bet that I was ready to beat the rush of the big city with a cupcake timeout, and my first stop was to Magnolia Bakery. While Magnolia is arguably The Bakery That Started It All, pioneering the cupcake craze in New York 10 years ago, you may also know them as Those Cupcakes From Sex & The City. Magnolia now has several bakeries throughout the city and I stopped by their Midtown location, which I'd be willing to bet has the most expensive rent of any bakery in the country. On the same block as Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall and just a block from shopping mecca 5th Avenue and the Diamond can imagine that these cupcakes are doing pretty well for themselves. So, you may be surprised that I visited this epicenter of all things cupcake and did NOT have a cupcake. That's right. I wasn't able to get to the shop until late in the afternoon, by which point the place was jam-packed and the only cakes left were chocolate and vanilla. Call me a cupcake snob, but I feel like anyone can crank out a chocolate or vanilla cake and call it a day so I wanted something truly spectacular to remember Magnolia by. I saw it the minute I walked through the door. Red velvet cheesecake. I've never even heard of such a thing, let alone even imagined its existence. It. Was. Glorious. The flavor of red velvet--so difficult to even describe--was captured perfectly in this individual serving of cake. Paired with a chocolate crumb crust and plain whipped cream, I can honestly say that this is the best dessert I have ever eaten. It is worth the trip to NY, I don't care where you live.

My next stop was just three blocks away at Kyotofu. I know what you're thinking, Tofu? Bakery? But stick with me here. Kyotofu is actually a unique concept that fuses Japanese flavors and French culinary techniques into what is essentially a dessert restaurant. Opened in 2006 and already voted New York's best cupcake in 2007 by New York Magazine and one of the Best Worldwide Meals of 2008 by USA Today, you can bet that these people are on to something. Unfortunately, I was short on time so I was only able to grab a selection of Okara Soybean Cookies to go in flavors like matcha green tea and black sesame ($3.25 for 5 mini cookies) but if you have a chance you MUST take a seat in the back dining room. Sleek and sophisticated, the ambiance perfectly frames the elegant dessert selections. Though the sweet tofu has garnered rave reviews, for those not ready to take the plunge Kyotofu offers plenty of other delectable, less tofu-heavy options like miso chocolate cake, chocolate soufflé cupcakes or a seasonal selection. If you drop by for bruch, some of their savory options even include a complimentary cocktail! I wanted to include a photo of my cookies here but somehow they managed to get smushed either during the 27 block hike from Kyotofu to Bombay Talkie or the mad dash at 6:48pm to catch my 7:00pm bus back to DC. Such is the life of the traveling baker...

Some other fun places I passed:


  1. There is nothing finer than a Magnolia cupcake after a long day of trekking around Bleecker St.

  2. I have recently come to admit that Red Velvet is without a doubt my absolute favorite cupcake flavor. it seems lame, as thats kinda a trendy thing to say, but screw it, it is. Its so easy to f-up, and so delicious when done well. So I am pretty intrigued at the red velvet cheesecake. We are headed there next weekend. I can't wait to try it!

  3. Wow! It looks like cupcakes are still going strong! I just attended my first wedding with a cupcake wedding cake, and it was lovely!

  4. That red velvet cheesecake looks amazing! Also: burgers and cupcakes as the best pairing this side of burgers and fries?

  5. Glad you checked out Kyotofu. I love that place. Do you follow @CupcakeStop on twitter? I think DC needs a fojol brothers style cupcake truck driving around...