Travel Eats: New York City

I’ve spent a lot of time in New York over the years. My trips tend to be hurried, though: I’m in and out for a meeting or there for part of a weekend. Friends who live in New York have gotten used to emails like this: “I’m coming to NYC next Wednesday! Free after 10 PM or before 8 AM on Thursday. Does that work?!”

I gotta hand it to my friends: they’ve made a lot of crazy logistics work. But I’ve been itching to spend some quality time in NYC, so I booked a proper vacation for the end of April. My boyfriend and I spent 5 nights in the city, with a very simple agenda: see friends and family, wander, eat.

I’ve done a pretty good job trying NYC eats over the years, even when it meant running around like a crazy person. Like the time I detoured to Zucker Bakery between meetings, or when I met a friend at Clinton Street Baking Co. for dinner so I could finally try their pancakes, or when I dashed to Dominique Ansel for a frozen s’more on my lunch break.

This time I had the luxury of 5 whole days and a trip buddy who humors my need to try ever pastry in sight. Before we went, I made a list of restaurants and bakeries by neighborhood. Super Type A? Yes! But also very helpful while wandering around!

So without further ado: here are the top 10 things I ate on my last trip to New York City.

IMG_3895Tahini French Toast at Bar BolonatWhen I was researching for our trip, I fell in love with the brunch menu at Bar Bolonat. I couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome Tahini French Toast must be. It was indeed pretty incredible! The french toast itself is nutty, with a somewhat chewy texture. It’s complemented by halvah threads on top, plus a tahini maple syrup and fresh berries. We loved everything at Bar Bolonat, but this was my favorite. The service was fabulous, too…wish I knew our waiter’s name!


Pine Nut Citrus Babka at Arcade BakeryI was so sad when we finished our slice of Pine Nut Citrus Babka, and wished we’d bought two! This babka was a bit more like a brioche dough, light and airy inside. The mix of citrus with pine nuts was pretty much revelatory, and I’ve been searching for similar recipes since we got home!

IMG_3907Sweet Corn and Pepper Macaron at Confectionary: We stumbled on this chocolate and pastry shop while wandering the East Village. Such a good find! They had a really interesting set of macaron flavors, and I simply had to try this corn and pepper combo. The macaron shell tasted like sweet corn but had a bit of a lingering kick from the peppers. The filling was just the right amount of sweet. I looked up this spot later and learned their treats are vegan!

IMG_4026Beef Hummus at Dizengoff Hummus: I’ve read a lot about Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia, for years. So I was delighted to learn that its chef opened a casual hummus outpost at Chelsea Market. The Beef Hummus was the best hummus I’ve had in a really long time: creamy texture, incredible richness, perfectly spiced beef, chewy pita to dip in there. It tasted different from most hummus I eat, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. So I did a bit of research, and learned that many people attribute the distinct flavor to lots of high-quality tahini. Two more points for tahini!

IMG_4033Tahini Goat Milk Ice Cream at Seed + Mill: While we’re on the topic of tahini, let’s talk about this Tahini Goat Milk Ice Cream from Seed + Mill, also in Chelsea Market. Goat milk makes the ice cream taste fresh, while tahini lends a subtle nutty flavor. I got mine topped with bits of halvah, a sesame confection. It was a really refreshing and flavorful treat.

IMG_4071Spicy Lamb Cumin Noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods I’ve gone out of my way to eat at Xi’an Famous Foods many times over the years, and wanted my boyfriend to learn the wonders of these noodles. They’re perfectly chewy, hand pulled noodles, dripping in chili oil and topped with incredibly flavorful lamb. My boyfriend loved the noodles too, so now we’re determined to find something similar in San Francisco.

IMG_3917Kasha Knish at Yonah Schimmel BakeryThis place is a true gem. Yonah Schimmel has been selling its knishes on the Lower East Side of Manhattan since 1890. 1890!!! Their knishes are a satisfying snack: perfectly cooked, generous on fillings, and a firm exterior.


IMG_3961Bird’s Nest at Damascus Bread and Pastry ShopWe happened upon this bakery as we strolled west down Atlantic Avenue toward the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. It’s packed to the brim with breads, pastries and cooking ingredients. I loved the Bird’s Nest, a type of baklava filled with pistachios and drenched in a sweet syrup. We also got delicious spinach pies here.

IMG_4093Beet Lox Bagel at Black Seed Bagels
I’m not a huge bagel person, but that’s largely because they tend to disappoint. A friend had tipped me off to Black Seed a while ago. We made it to their Nolita shop on the last day of our trip, and I’m glad we made it happen! The bagel had a crisp exterior and perfectly chewy interior, and the lox and other toppings were super flavorful.

18121522_10101383003526672_1971040716930476426_o.jpgBlack and White Cookie at Dean and DelucaI’ve tried MANY a NYC black and white over the years, but the cookies at Dean and Deluca always take the proverbial cake. Which is fitting, because the cookie is just the right kind of cakey, with icings that are perfectly balanced (not too sweet, not too bland). I forgot to write down the name of the bakery on the cookie’s label so if you know who sells these to Dean and Deluca…please tell!

And some non-edible recs for your next trip to NYC:

  • Stop by Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in the East Village. She has an amazing assortment of cookbooks, vintage menus and old signs. Plus, she was a delight to chat with!
  • As we wandered Alphabet City one night, we heard jazz from the sidewalk…and had to check out its source. Rue B is a small bar with awesome live music. We happened upon a jazz jam session, and loved every second of it.
  • The Wyndham Garden Chinatown was a great find. We’d wanted to stay on the Lower East Side but didn’t find a good option that fit our budget. Chinatown is super close to the LES, plus it’s just a hop, skip and jump from Nolita, SoHo, Tribeca, etc. The hotel was clean and well-maintained. It also has a “sky” bar with an incredible view, which was an unexpected bonus!

My San Francisco Favorites

People often ask me about the best bakeries and ice cream shops in San Francisco. Friends joke that I’m like a walking encyclopedia to San Francisco’s best desserts: name a neighborhood or dessert type, and I’m sure to have a tip. I’m always happy to help other people experience SF’s best. So after quite some time of planning to do this but not actually doing it… I finally built my own San Francisco Treat Map.

This handy map plots out my top picks for baked goods, ice cream and coffee. You’ll find a mix of celebrated gems and places that don’t seem to get much press–but should. You can find the full map at the bottom of this post or over on its dedicated page. Click on the map markers to see menu tips and other notes.

And just in case you don’t feel like clicking all over a map… here’s a quick guide to my San Francisco favorites:

Where to find the best…

Cookies: Nob Hill’s Batter Bakery is my go-to for delicious cookies with a great texture. I love the cherry ginger, and they’re directly responsible for getting me hooked on herbs in cookies (their lavender sea salt shortbread is incredible). They’re known for their “sand angel,” a sort of molasses/snickerdoodle hybrid. Bonus tip: they do a cookie happy hour every day from 3-6 PM.

Croissants: Neighbor Bakehouse is one of my favorite 20160327_105821bakeries in the city, and their croissants are incredible. Imagine layers of the perfect buttery croissant dough, complemented by flavorful fillings. My favorite is the pistachio, which also includes a layer of blackberry jam. Their savory tarts are incredible too. (Review here)

Scones: Arizmendi is a co-op with locations scattered around the Bay Area. I’m particularly partial to their scones: they have the best crusty top and fluffy interior. Their mixed berry scones are my #1 pick. Their menu rotates, so if you’re lucky enough to visit when they’re offering chocolate cherry sourdough, make sure to scoop it up!

IMG_1957.jpgSticky buns, morning buns, etc: Marla Bakery is one of my favorite spots in the city thanks to their delectable baked goods, laid-back atmosphere and stellar brunch. Start your brunch with a sticky bun, or whatever morning pastry is on offer that day. (Review here)

Cake: Alright, my answer here depends on what you’re looking for. Seeking slices of American cake-and-frosting classics? SusieCakes is your place, and you should get the Celebration Cake or red velvet. Looking for more of a Euro-style cake that pairs spongey cake with denser fillings (jam, pastry cream, etc.)? Go to Moscow & Tiblisi Bakery and pick up the Sunshine Cake. And for cupcakes, make your way to Sift Dessert Bar in Pacific Heights, where the almond cupcake makes me swoon.

10474609_10100721491442192_1525715483481751452_nIce cream: Swensen’s opened at the corner of Union and Hyde in 1948. They’ve since expanded into an international chain but this location is the classic, and way old-school. My favorite flavors are the Swiss Orange (chocolate orange) and the peppermint that appears during the holidays.

Gelato: Lush Gelato has a few locations around the Bay Area. Their gelato tastes very fresh and you can tell they use high quality ingredients. They offer a range of classic and edgier flavors. I especially like their cheese flavors: mascarpone, ricotta and the like.

Macarons: Chantal Guillon, without a doubt. They offer everything from chocolate to Persian rose to seasonal flavors like yuzu hazlenut. The shells have just the right amount of crisp, and all the fillings are balanced and delicious.

Bread: The Mill, which gets extra points because their lead baker’s name is actually Josey Baker. Mondays and Wednesdays are pizza nights, so you can grab tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s bread in the same fell swoop.

IMG_3047.JPGCoffee: I spend a lot of time at coffee shops, and Contraband Coffee Bar is my favorite. I get the Black Market every single time–it’s a medium dark specialty drip. Friends go gaga for their espresso. Contraband also gets bonus points for being the first place I tried a Neighbor Bakehouse pastry!

Avocado toast: Avocado toast is a strangely contentious category in these parts, and my vote goes to Cafe St. Jorge near Bernal Heights. Wheat toast is topped with a generous helping of smashed avocado, chili and lemon. Mmmm.

Spin on s’mores: Yes this deserves its own category, and the honor goes to Dandelion Chocolate in the Mission. Their version includes a homemade graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate ganache. They toast it to order, too!

Think I’m missing somewhere special? Drop me a line at

Travel Eats: Portland

I’ve found that one of the best ways to reset my brain is to wander a new city or neighborhood. Wandering provides the perfect mix of adrenaline, curiosity and relaxation. As I explore, my brain is so wrapped up in discovery mode that it forgets stressors and to-do lists.

I switched jobs recently and wanted to reset my brain a bit before heading into something new. Portland, Oregon has long been on my mind as a potential vacation destination. I’d heard such good things about its scenery, its people… and of course, its food. So when I realized I’d have a few days between jobs, I booked a rather last-minute trip and finally got to see what Portland’s all about.

We spent 2.5 days wandering every neighborhood we could, and sampling every dish we could. We also rented a car so we could drive to Multnomah Falls, the second highest waterfall in the U.S.

I’d compiled our list of “must dos” based on lots of advice from friends, websites like Eater and a bit of Yelping. We found so many delightful spots on our trip, but today I’m just going to share the very top eats. This was supposed to be a top 5  list… but I couldn’t narrow it down to 5! So, here are my top 8 places to eat in Portland:

1. Chizu 

IMG_0636 Chizu focuses on cheese, and its menu is mighty impressive. You can pick cheeses by the ounce to make your own plate or order “omnikase” style and let the staff pick cheeses on your behalf. We ordered $20 of cheese plus some duck charcuterie and were incredibly pleased with what we got. The platter included an awesome mix of hard and soft cheeses, served with accompaniments like honey and dried fruit. The staffe explained the back story for every single cheese we ordered. Plus the staff was super friendly and chatted with us about recommendations for our stay.

2. Hat Yai

IMG_0870Hat Yai is all over the “best new restaurant” lists for Portland right now, and the hype is definitely substantiated. We loved our meal of meat skewers, curry, roti and grilled corn. Everything was so flavorful, and so satisfying. We stopped here on our way back from the Falls and it was the perfect post-hike dinner!



IMG_0907Maurice calls itself a “luncheonette” and is only open until early evening, so make sure you stop here for lunch! It’s adorable inside, and its food is simple but delicious. We got a wonderful shaved carrot salad, delicious scones and yummy open face sandwiches.



4. Shalom Y’All

IMG_0632.JPGThis recommendation came from my mom (hi Mom!). I love falafel, and Shalom Y’Alls take on falafel was truly incredible. Spiced with sumac, accented by the unusual additions of walnuts and feta – this falafel sandwich keeps calling to me in my dreams. I usually find falafel options disappointing and really wish I had a Shalom Y’All in the Bay Area! The PDX location is in a “food hall” with several other local favorites.

5. Nuvrei

IMG_0900This Pearl District bakery has the most beautiful display of varied pastries and croissants. I opted for the Kare Pan, a brioche bun stuffed with Japanese-style curry. This thing was SO GOOD.






6. The Meadow

IMG_0939This shop specializes in salts, chocolates and bitters. So in other words, it’s a foodie’s dream. I snapped up awesome saffron salt, and resisted the urge to buy every kind of chocolate they had in stock. There are two locations in Portland and one in NYC, plus an online store!





7. Cheese & Crack Snack Shop

IMG_0783I found this shop by Yelping “pickles” and man, am I glad we visited! We stopped here for snacks on our way to the Falls. We got a “cheese plate to go” that had a great selection of cheeses, crackers and spreads like honey and mustard. We ended up eating this overlooking a vista point. Turns out that cheese + vista points = the perfect combo.

IMG_06148. Simple Local Coffee/Sterling Coffee Roasters

Ok, I’m cheating a little, but both these shops serve the same brand of coffee. First we bumped into Simple Local Coffee, a charming shop downtown that serves Sterling Coffee. A couple days later, we sought out Sterling’s own shop over in the city’s Alphabet District. I drink my coffee black, and loved their flavorful roasts. Fun fact: there are remnants of an old tunnel in the lobby adjacent to Simple Local Coffee, complete with old tools. Pretty cool!



Here are just a few more snapshots of our wonderful trip. If you’re ever headed to Portland, let me know. I’ll give you all the dirt on different neighborhoods, eats, etc.!


(This entry is cross-posted on my other blog, Culture Cookies

Web-Hopping vol. 23


From Hearth’s website

I’m going to start off this edition of Web-Hopping by mentioning the goodness that is Brie en Croûte. Imagine you have baked Brie, but it in a more individually sized portion, with a buttery, flaky exterior. That, dear readers, is the Brie en Croûte pastry that I sampled at San Francisco coffee shop Hearth this weekend. Delicious Cowgirl Creamery cheese, enveloped in buttery pastry and sprinkled with a topping of sea salt. I can’t claim it was the healthiest breakfast ever but it sure was satisfying.

File_000I also stopped by the Dandelion Chocolate Factory and Cafe for dessert this weekend. I picked a simple chocolate chip cookie – not my usual strategy, but I had a really strong craving for this classic treat. I may have also had an ulterior motive… but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out what that was! My boyfriend picked up their take on s’mores: house-made graham cracker, a layer of delectable chocolate and a generous portion of marshmallow. They make all the components right there at the cafe.

Alright, enough about what I ate in real life this weekend – and on to the links!

Carrot Tahini Muffins: I am so intrigued. There is just no other way to put it. I loved using tahini in cupcakes, and now I’d love to see how it impacts other kinds of baked goods, too.


Fun idea from Betty Crocker

Teddy at the Beach Cupcakes: Let’s be real – I’ll probably never make these. But they were on my Pinterest feed and they’re adorable, so here you are.

Mini Lime Cheesecakes with a Chocolate Crust: I love the idea of lime cheesecake! These look nicely dainty with a layer of lime curd-enhanced whipped cream on the top.

Citrus Croissant French Toast: Immediately added this to my list for whenever I actually bother to make plated breakfasts. A.k.a. whenever I get a bigger apartment and can host company again…

Neighbor Bakehouse (San Francisco)

This is another story of my coffee addiction fueling a new bakery addiction. One of my favorite San Francisco coffee shops is this little place called Contraband. It’s in a cozy corner of Nob Hill, and it’s the type of place that just oozes a community vibe. It’s small, but always feels lively, and has huge windows bringing in some of the city atmosphere. My boyfriend and I spend quite a bit of time there- in fact, I’m nursing their delicious Black Market blend right now.

A year or so ago I tried one of their pastries and was so wowed by it, I immediately asked where it came from. It was this delicious savory tart, with the perfect blend of vegetables and cheese on top. They told me it came from a place called Neighbor Bakehouse in the Dogpatch neighborhood. I added Neighbor to my San Francisco “to do” list… but somehow never made it there. Fast forward to last year, when I moved closer to Contraband and started going there more. My boyfriend has gotten hooked on their ham and cheese morning bun, while I’m hooked on seasonal iterations of that delicious savory tart. And so last week we decided it was time to right a wrong, and finally made it to Neighbor.

We planned an entire Sunday Funday, with Neighbor slotted as the first stop. Between us, we got 5 different things: the Everything Croissant, the Twice-Baked Pistachio Blackberry Croissant, the Ginger Pull-Apart, the Mushroom Tart, and a croissant that had smoked trout/cream cheese inside. Yes, 5 pastries for 2 of us- we’re such diligent researchers!


Inside the Pistachio Blackberry Croissant

We thought everything was wonderful, but we did have some favorites. My favorite was definitely the Pistachio Croissant. It had this great crunchy texture on the outside, but perfect buttery layers on the inside. Most nut croissants have pastry cream inside, so I expected a pistachio cream but was actually pleasantly surprised to find that the filling was more like a paste. The employee we spoke to explained that they mix the pistachio cream with a type of flour, so it creates a distinct texture. They then lather in blackberry jam, too. It is the perfect treat: a standout croissant plus this unique blend of nut flavor and fruit flavor. We couldn’t stop raving about it the whole day after we finished!


The Mushroom Tart and Smoked Trout Croissant

My boyfriend’s favorite was his Mushroom Tart. Neighbor does base doughs so well. And while that may sound like a given to you, it isn’t- a lot of bakeries disguise mediocre base doughs with lots of add-ins or other flavors. You can taste the quality in these pastries, because every bite tastes outstanding. Whether you get a bite with Mushrooms or just the pastry base, it wows you. I realize this sounds very hyperbolic but trust me- you have to try their flaky doughs to see what I mean. I think I liked it more than Arcade in NYC, actually.

After finishing our pastries, we walked 5 miles wandering around San Francisco. Let’s just say that makes up for eating 5 pastries, ok?

If you’re ever in SF, I recommend checking out Neighbor. Make sure to plan ahead: they’re only open Wednesday-Sunday, and they close by noon. Their space is more bakery than cafe, so they only have benches outdoors rather than indoor seating. We enjoyed sitting there on a lovely SF morning, and found it very relaxing. Neighbor is actually really accessible by car and transit here, so if you’re visiting, you could definitely make it work. I suggest going there for an early breakfast, and then spending some time exploring the pleasant residential/commercial streets nearby. You can also walk all the way north on 3rd until you hit the ballpark; then take Embarcadero the rest the way up toward downtown. By the time you get to Market Street you’ll be ready for lunch- and then the goodies at the Ferry Building are perfectly positioned for your next meal!


So much more to try…

We will definitely head back to Neighbor to try more of their great assortment of savory and sweet items. In the meantime, since we couldn’t make it there today… we got a morning bun and croissant at Contraband! The combo of Neighbor pastries and Contraband coffee is a marvelous way to start your day.

Info: Neighbor Bakehouse, 2343 3rd St. San Francisco, CA 94107

Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 6:30 AM – 12 PM 

Fun facts: If you’re worried they will run out of something specific- order ahead. You can email orders of any size to pick up, as long as you give 72 hours notice. We didn’t end up doing this but I did consider it since I really wanted to try that Pistachio Croissant! 

Moscow & Tblisi Bakery, San Francisco

Sometimes, messing up directions can take you on a better path. This sounds like a big life lesson- but really I’m just talking about pastries.

little russiaA couple months ago I missed my bus stop and ended up a few blocks out of my way. No big deal, really. And it became even less of a deal when I smelled the most wonderful smell coming from one of the shops nearby. I was over in San Francisco’s Richmond District in a stretch known as “Little Russia,” which hosts a number of Russian bakeries and grocery stores. I’ve tried a number of the businesses in that area, but only now do I have an absolute favorite. Because on that day when I was so lost in my book I missed my stop, I bussed right up to the door of the Moscow and Tblisi Bakery.


There was no way to resist this Sunshine cake. I did resist the adorable Creme Brulee, but only because I am not a fan of Creme Brulee! Now, if that’d been smiley cake….

I know I’ve walked into this bakery before, and think I might have tried a hamentaschen sometime a couple years ago. This time I decided to buy a treat  called the “Rose” that looked like a bun with meringue wrapped into a sweet outer layer. But then as I went to pay I noticed their cake. Oh, the cake! So many options of beautiful, layered cakes, in so many tempting flavors and intriguing combinatons. I decided to add a slice of Sunshine cake to my order because I just couldn’t resist its citrus-y orange base or the its delicious-looking pastry cream.

Boy am I glad I did that. The cake was wonderful, the perfect combination of light spongey cake, cream, and spots of zest throughout thanks to the jellied fruit layer and orange essence baked in there. My Rose was delicious too: rather had to describe, but a mix of a chewy sweet bun with a crunchy meringue layer, as well as meringue inside too.

So of course I went back. The next time I was in that area I purposely went a block too far to make sure I ended up back at the door of Moscow & Tblisi. That time I went in with advice from friends who grew up in the area. I picked up a Mushroom Piroshki, a cheese blintz and a piece of what’s called “Popyseed Cake.” I resisted the urge to also buy another cake but just barely- it was sure tempting! The blintz and piroshiki I ate on the spot as lunch. I loved the piroshki especially: a deliciously chewy outer dough and a nice, balanced filling. The piroshki is huge, and cheap- combined with the blintz, I felt full for a while.


My most recent trip’s bounty

I managed to go back yet again a couple weeks ago, this time bringing my boyfriend with me and therefore getting to try more baked goods at once. Genius, right? We got 3 piroshki to split, as well as a cherry danish and a mini pistachio cake. We liked the potato piroshki the best out of all 3. By the time we got done with those, we barely had room for the cherry danish but like real bakery troopers, we persevered. I really loved the cherry filling- just the right balance of tart and sweet.

And finally, the piece de resistance: our pistachio cake. Like the Sunshine Cake I’d tried before, this cake had so many layers: cream, fruit jelly, cake, mousse. It’s incredibly well executed, so all those layers work together for a fantastic flavor combination. I think it’s really hard to find good cakes in the U.S., especially cakes with more intrigue to them than a simple cake/frosting pairing. So I certainly salute Moscow & Tblisi for their great cakes.

In fact, I salute them for everything. If you ever find yourself in San Francisco, I highly recommend venturing out to the Richmond to visit them. In fact- why don’t you do it on your way back from visiting Marla Bakery in the Outer Richmond? Now that’s my kind of tasty, tasty tourism.

Address: 5540 Geary Boulveard, San Francisco, CA, 94121


Pi Bakerie, NYC

This story starts with my friend Scot (hi Scot!). I was in NYC a bit ago for work, but on a weird schedule. Still, I told Scot I was dropping by to see if it could possibly work to meet up. We’ve made weird logistics work before, so I had faith it might work out. And indeed, we decided to get a very early breakfast one day before I headed to Amtrak to train to D.C.

Scot suggested we stick near my hotel, so I went to look up options. We needed a good plan, because the last time Scot and I tried to wander and find an early breakfast in Tribeca, we ended up essentially failing: nothing was open yet! This time I turned to Yelp. When I set the “open at 7 AM” filter a few things came up- but one caught my eye right away. It was called Pi Bakerie and the minute I read it was a Greek bakery, I knew we had to go. I am a huge fan of Greek food, but aside from things like spanakopita and baklava, I hadn’t had many Greek pastries in the past. I was excited to try out Pi Bakerie and see what else Greek baked goods had to offer.


Savory pastries

Pi Bakerie is in the south bit of Soho, pretty close to the Holland Tunnel. It’s conveniently near many subway lines, so it’s easy to get to from a good part of NYC. Let me tell you: going to this restaurant is a very good choice. It was just opening up as we got there, which meant no line and plenty of time to deliberate what we wanted to eat. We tried several things: a flaky pastry called the Egg Painerli, a piece of spanakopita, a salmon Koulouri, and some cookies to go.


Our breakfast

Let’s start with the egg pastry. It was a most satisfying, delicious breakfast. Imagine layers of flaky dough with a perfectly cooked egg in the middle and warm cheese. It was so good, I was actually sad when I finished eating it. The koulori is closest to a bagel,  with a nice taste of sesame. Our koulori had really fresh toppings on it and helped round out our breakfast feast. The spanakopita ended up being my lunch that day and I was happy it still tasted amazing hours later. It was the perfect blend of cheese and spinach inside an equally indulgent buttery shell, more like a filled pastry than the usual slice format I find with spanakopita at restaurants. And let’s not forget the cookies: I enjoyed them all, but especially liked the ones tinged with honey (can’t remember the name!)

Pi Bakerie only opened in the last year, which explains why we didn’t find it the last time we went wandering Tribeca in search of breakfast. Now that we know it’s there, we’ll definitely need to go back! I have my eye on many of their lunch-time “pi” specialties (you can see the full menu here).


Web-Hopping vol. 10

My favorite controversy lately has been the battle over Starbucks’ “holiday” cups. I don’t care what color the cup is, as long as it has coffee in it- I’m happy. So I’ll let others do the griping, and I’m going to focus on more important things: like pastries. My baking feed is getting pretty holiday-inspired itself: snowmen, pumpkin, a peek into holiday gift ideas. Care to take a look at this week’s picks?


From Mr. Holmes’ Instagram

Gifts for a Baker: I will happily accept any of the baker-themed gifts on this list, if you’d like to send one my way!

Reuben Danish: I’d planned on staying in my apartment most of Saturday but my boyfriend talked me into getting pastries for a mid-morning breakfast. I know, hard to believe he’d have to talk me into baked goods… but I didn’t feel like going anywhere! It definitely was a good choice, though. We went to Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, which has a fantastic array of creative pastries. We split an artichoke danish and this Rueben Danish, a buttery flaky pastry filled with delicious pastrami and topped with tangy sauerkraut.

So cute!

Melting Snowman Cookies: These cookies are so adorable- they’d be great for a wintry-themed cookie swap!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Bread: This looks wonderful, and I fully trust Two Peas and Their Pod to bring quality recipes.

Lemon Bars with Olive Oil and Sea Salt: I’ve always liked lemon bars in small doses, but usually don’t want to eat a ton of them at a time. For better, or for worse? I love the idea of adding olive oil into this recipe and putting some sea salt for an extra dose of special.

Arcade Bakery, NYC

I ended up on a last minute business trip to New York last week. In all, I spent about 36 hours in the Big Apple, with a good chunk of that time dedicated to work and sleeping. And yet, despite the time crunch, I enjoyed one of the most delectable croissants I’ve had in recent memory.

Whenever I go to New York, I look for bakeries in whatever neighborhood I happen to be. Though I’ve stayed in Tribeca a multitude of times over the past few years, I figured it was worth a shot to see what popped up on Yelp if I searched for “bakery.” Ta-dah: a place called Arcade Bakery caught my eye. It had 4.5 stars and, importantly was within a 10-minute radius of both my hotel and my company’s NY office. I was surprised I’d never noticed Arcade in the past, so I did a bit of light web-hopping to learn more. And thus I learned a couple of important facts: first, that Arcade had been nominated for Bon Appetit’s “Best New Restaurants” list mere months ago. Second, it’d been open since spring 2014- but it was tucked away in an office building, beyond the reach of the average pedestrian’s eye. It’s down a street called Church, which I don’t think I’ve ever wandered down before… but now I know better!


Entering Arcade’s arcade

Fresh, flaky croissants 10 minutes from my office? I knew I had to try it. So Monday morning I set out to see if Arcade could live up to the hype. Arcade is located on the ground floor of an office building and it doesn’t actually have any retail space fronting the street. Still, when you get close, you’ll know: a rich, buttery smell wafts all the way out to the street. Open the building’s door and you’re in a beautiful hallway arcade with vaulted ceilings and wooden walls.The space is split between people racing into the office building for a hard day’s work, and people lined up to sample Arcade’s tempting treats.

As the line inched closer I got a better glimpse at the pastries on display. A mix of croissants, viennoiseries and breads greeted me. I knew I had to have a chocolate croissant, and I decided to also try a pear chocolate pastry. Because when in the Arcade… why not?


The Pear and Chocolate Pastry

I don’t buy many croissants, because I find they tend to hit one of two extremes: amazing, or not worth the butter. This croissant was so worth it. It was flaky on the outside with  a perfect dough, and chocolate melted out of the middle the minute I bit into it. That warm buttery dough with melting chocolate was a most delectable taste. It was the most satisfying, buttery pastry I’ve had in a really long time. I tend to buy a lot of the “intriguing” pastries with uncommon ingredients versus classic, but this croissant was a good reminder of just how great the classics can be. The pear pastry was wonderful too. Its outside was also flaky, opening up to layers of pear bits and chocolate and a satisfying, almost moist, dough. I was bummed that they didn’t have their famed babka out yet, but they don’t start selling babka til 10 AM and my pre-work run was too early. I also read they have magnificent pizza so I’ll need to go back sometime around lunch.

A picture from Arcade’s Facebook page, because my phone photo was horrible.

Arcade is literally in an arcade, which feels almost poetic. As I sat at one of their clever pull-down tables taking the first bites of my croissant, I loved the feeling of the vaulted ceilings and the constant action racing through the hallway. I had to head to work, though, so after those first couple bites, my pastries went back in the bag, and out on the road. Next time I’d love to linger longer.

Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not at our NYC office more often, because it’d be really hard to stop myself from walking the short walk between our office and Arcade on a semi-regular basis. Actually, our office is also within a short walk of Dominique Ansel, and the renowned brownie masters Baked. I don’t know when I’ll be back at our NY office, but you can imagine I plan to make another trip over to Arcade. Maybe I’ll get my timing to match up with the babka this time around….

Marla Bakery, San Francisco

As an a frequent coffee shop lounger, I’ve conducted a rather thorough assessment of the food available at my local cafes. Most the time, the pastries fall somewhere in the range of underwhelming to depressing. Especially at the cheaper coffee places, you’re lucky if the baked goods taste like they were made with real ingredients vs. artificial replacements.

And then I went to Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters over in the Marina neighborhood of San Francisco. I went for their coffee, which was outstanding. We were also hungry, though, so we bought a scone. And in that moment, our San Francisco breakfast game changed forever. The scone we picked was savory, with the perfect blend of cheese and herbs. The scone “shell” had a nice bite to it, revealing a soft, flavorful crumb. My boyfriend and I gobbled it up. And then we went back later that week. And then again the following week. And then – we asked the barista where their baked goods come from.

DSCN2790Turned out they order baked goods from a place called Marla Bakery in the Outer Richmond of San Francisco. Wrecking Ball sells a small selection of Marla’s pastries everyday to go with their fantastic coffees. But after many trips to Wrecking Ball for coffee and a scone, we decided to seek out the source. On a beautiful San Francisco day, my boyfriend and I ventured out to Marla Bakery to see what else we could sink our teeth into.

What a wonderful experience! We were so glad Wrecking Ball tipped us off to this marvelous place. We ordered a slew of breakfast dishes, punctuated by starting and finishing pastries. Every bit of food was housemade, which meant really flavorful meats, great breads and inventive twists on simple vegetable preparations.


Confit Garlic, Parmesan and Black Pepper Scone

We recently returned to Marla for Round 2 and were just as pleased. This time we started with a Confit Garlic, Parmesan & Black Pepper scone. Then we shared a plate of cured salmon with assorted pickles, housemade cheese and a delicious bagel. We also got a “baker’s breakfast” plate that included a mix of cheeses, vegetable condiments and breads. Everything was so fresh and flavorful. The menu may sound simple, but simplicity lets ingredient superiority shine through- Marla’s definitely offers food with superior flavor to other brunch spots in the city. The restaurant itself is beautiful, too. Tasteful decor inside, and then a nice patio and garden in the back. Our last trip there we lucked out with a sunny day and picked a table in the back.

If you’re in San Francisco, I highly recommend checking out Marla’s. I don’t think many tourists venture to the Outer Richmond, but you can make a really great day of it: breakfast at Marla’s then a stroll through Golden Gate Park makes for a beautiful SF day.Marla takes reservations, which makes it easy to slot it into a busy schedule. After breakfast you can wander east through the Richmond and you’ll hit a fun stretch of stores spanning everything from Russian groceries to Chinese bakeries.

And if you’re ever near the Marina, you have to check out Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, too. The coffee is really high quality and the store is decorated with the cutest pineapple wallpaper you’ll ever see!

Update: Marla now has a kiosk at the Ferry Building downtown, too. It’s a much smaller selection than their Outer Richmond location but if you’re unable to make it to the full restaurant, at least check out their kiosk!