Earlier this month, a work trip took me to one of my happy places—New York City. I was excited about this trip, in part because I would be learning the ins and outs of podcasting from a pro, but also because it was a chance to explore a new neighborhood—Tribeca. And, of course, find some tasty new pastry spots.
I arrived in the city late on a Wednesday night and took the opportunity to try out a new Japanese restaurant I kept reading about—Testsu. March definitively came in like a lion, and the evening air was chilly and dark. I relished the opportunity to cozy up at the dark wooden bar with a sochu cocktail and watch the sushi chefs at work meticulously crafting complicated rolls and gleaming plates of sashimi. I couldn’t help but reflect as I watched them how different “cooking” is when sushi is the subject—it requires such focused attention, a complicated series of assembly steps. I’m not a big sushi eater, but even I appreciated watching these pros at work. Their commitment to the craft was clear.
My hotel was nestled in the shadow of the new World Trade Center Building. The next morning I emerged from my cozy little room to find my quiet Tribeca corner had turned into a bustling neighborhood just waking up. Moms and nannies with strollers headed for the local Whole Foods (which was massive) mixed with bumbling tourists and New Yorkers headed to work.
A Hidden Gem
My first bakery stop was the Arcade Bakery, which has an unexpected home. The bakery is nestled the lobby of a nondescript 1920’s era office building on Church Street, and the only indication of its presence from the outside is an inconspicuous metal sign mounted on the building. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d be hard-pressed to find this gem. The bright little bakery operates out of a stall along the arched corridor that forms the building’s lobby. One detail I loved were the tables—bench-style seating along the edges paired with simple tables that fold down out of the wall (an ingenious solution to the challenge of a downward sloping floor in the lobby). Arcade is the brainchild of the former TV producer Roger Gural, a Long Island native whose family owns the building.
Eater has a great write-up on the bakery and its inception. Gural drew inspiration from great food cultures around the world. The goods at Arcade are baked every 30 minutes to an hour throughout the day do they are as fresh as possible—“Just like in France.” He thought his bakery could be a boon for the building, and was “partially inspired by cities like Japan where one can find fantastic food in subway and train stations, and attracted to the idea of commuters and those in transit gabbing a pastry and Counter Culture coffee.”
I ducked in Arcade Bakery early on a Thursday morning. My pastry of choice was one I’d never seen—a croissant with almond AND chocolate. I don’t know why more people don’t offer this combination, because, frankly, it is genius. The pastry was expertly crafted. Perfectly flaky. Deliciously buttery. The filling a combo of almond and dark, melty chocolate. I was in heaven.
Foiled by the Weather
My second day in the city sadly didn’t include any pastries due to the nor’easter that overtook the area. It was all I could do to get from my hotel to class without blowing a way. Definitely not wander-friendly weather. I broke one umbrella, but otherwise I survived. And learned a lot about working with audio. So while the lack of pastries was disappointing, there was one consolation.
A Tiny Corner Bakery
On day three, the city emerged from the brutal nor’easter, I was able to venture out further. My next bakery stop was the Grandaisy Bakery. When I walked past by the bakery the evening before, the whole store space was filled with crate upon crate of delicious-looking bread, so I knew I had to get back there in the morning and wandered over for a pastry and a few quiet moments before what I knew would be a busy day.
The shop is located on a corner across from a small square filled with benches and tall trees where Tribeca fades into Soho. Sitting on one of these benches enjoying my pastry afterward, I watched people wander through with their dogs, some taking a moment to sit on the benches and take in the morning sun. Inside the shop, the décor is simple. Shiny white tiles and wooden shelves form a simple let the bread and other baked goods take center stage. I opted for a pastry a bit outside my usual go-tos: a mini apple turnover. I was a little skeptical because the pastry itself didn’t look that exciting. But the first bite proved that this impression was without merit. It was SO good. The apples inside were soft and perfectly spiced, and big grains of sugar sprinkled on top provided a subtle, pleasant crunch.
As I headed back down into the heart of Tribeca, I noticed my favorite detail about Grandaisy—there’s a walk-up window on the sidewalk. Pastries to go—yes, please!
Committed to the Craft
My last bakery stop in New York was an old standard—the City Bakery, located a few blocks from the Flatiron Building. This spot came highly recommended by some friends who lived in the city for years before moving to Boston, and it did not disappoint. This bakery opened in 1990 and since then has crafted itself into something unique: “part bakery, coffee bar, cafeteria-style lunch and a chocolate shop.” City Bakery was billed as an old-school spot, not the place to go if I was looking for something new and hip. According to the bakery’s website, they created “created hot chocolate that changed how hot chocolate is made everywhere.” I love new and hip, but I also appreciate a classic, so City Bakery made my go-to list.
These people know their pastries. The least senior baker on their roster has been at the company for fourteen years—fourteen! (And from reading their other web content, it seems like that was written a few years ago, so add a few years to than by now.) Put together the bakers on staff have been baking for nearly 150 years. And the fact I love most about these bakers is that not one of them—Rosario Apolinar, Juan Landi, Hector Gonzaga, Miguel Ramos, Elizabeth Medina, Floriberto Barrerav—had baked professionally before landing at City Bakery. If this doesn’t speak to the power of a great workplace, I don’t know what does.
Walking into the bakery, you’re greeted by a wall of City Bakery cups and a cascade of their house-made marshmallows. Standing in line, I had that familiar feeling: “I want all of these pastries…how do I know which one to pick?” That indecision stayed with me until I got to the register and I made an impulse pick: a cheese Danish, which did not disappoint, and a cappuccino served in what was basically a soup bowl. Very satisfying on a cold March morning. This was another perfectly flaky pastry, but this one had some weight to it. The ricotta filling had a pleasant tartness and tiny flecks of vanilla peeking out.
As I ate the massive pastry and sipped my bowl of cappuccino, I watched shoppers hustle past outside and soaked in my last moments in the city before the trip back to Boston.
Meanwhile in Between
In the midst of all that pastry-eating, I also learned how to edit audio, and made my very first podcast project. Listen to my first audio project to find out just what happens when we decide to go phoneless for 90 minutes.