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« Cakespy's Bite of the Big Apple: A Final Roundup of the Ultimate Cakewalk | Main | Batter Chatter: Interview with Kari Haskell of Retro Bakery, Las Vegas »
Thursday
Feb142008

Cakewalk in Grand Central Station, NYC

 

Little Pie and Co.
We can't help but think of NYC's Grand Central Station as Penn Station's better-groomed cousin. Where Penn Station has Houlihan's, Grand Central has the Oyster Bar; where Penn Station leads to Long Island and New Jersey, Grand Central will take you to old-money spots like Greenwich, or old-school spots like New Haven. And while we will always bear a loyalty to Penn Station (after all, much of the Cakespy crew is either NJ-raised or based), we can't help but wonder how the other half lives, and more importantly, what kind of pastries they eat; it was in this spirit that we recently took a grand tour of the Grand Station. Here's what we saw (and ate):

Cakespy Note: Grand Central Station is located at 42nd Street at Park Avenue in Manhattan. In terms of eateries, you'll see that we designate each spot as being located in one of three spots: the Upper Level, Grand Central Market is a Farmer's Market-esque setup, located in a corridor leading to Lexington Avenue; second, the Lower Level, Dining Corridor; third, the few miscellaneous spots sprinkled throughout the terminal are designated as being located on the Upper Level, Outer Corridors

Central Market Grill: We have never tasted the sandwiches or savory fare at this deli. But then again, why should we, when we've found what need and crave, right by the register? Their crumb cake alone is worth a visit: big, buttery, brown-sugary crumbs the size of walnuts (how we like it!) and gorgeous, hefty cake to anchor it. We hear they do offer other things too though. Lower Level, Dining Corridor.



Ciao Bella: What is gelato, anyway? We used to believe the direct translation was "Italian ice cream that costs five dollars", but with some help from one of our favorite books, Everything you Pretend to Know About Food (and Are Afraid Someone Will Ask) by Nancy Rommelmann, we are informed that

while Italian ice cream uses the same basic ingredients as American, the final product is not churned and aerated to the extent that American ice cream is; nor is it stabilized with things like gelatin, which is added to slow the melting process. The result is a more velvety ice cream of incomparable richness.

And certainly Ciao Bella's rich, velvety version has rendered us believers in this Italian treat, more than willing to shell over our cash, clamoring for a fix. Lower Level, Dining Corridor; online at ciaobellagelato.com.

 

Corrado Bread and Pastry: Nestled right by the Lexington Avenue exit, this place is worth holding out for before emerging into the city: featuring gorgeous cakes (just look at the texture of that frosting!), crisp, crumbly cookies, and a dazzling array of breads (including the Pain D'Avignon featured in NY Magazine), it's a delight, and we've found service to be very friendly here. Upper Level, Grand Central Market.


 

Dishes: Decisions, decisions: with two locations, one on the upper level and one on the lower level, which to choose? Upstairs, deli-style puddings and platters of creamy tiramisu reign, available by the generous scoop. Downstairs, carbohydrates have a more prominent showing, with a tantalizing display of cookies and the object of our affections, the delectable doughnut muffin. We say go carby: the spoon-and-fork only desserts, delicious as they may be, are probably not the best choice for a commute. Locations both in the Upper Level Grand Central Market and the Lower Level Dining Corridor; online at dishestogo.com. 

Hot & Crusty: Our review for the Penn Station locations holds true here: to paraphrase, we've had touch-and-go experiences here, as some of the pastries tend to look better than they taste. Nonetheless, their crumb cakes and sprinkle-topped cookies are usually a good bet, and it is always warm and smells like sugary perfection when you walk in. Upper Level, Outer Corridors; online at hotandcrusty.com.
 

Junior's: They're the celebrated cheesecake from Brooklyn, with its trademark sponge cake layer. But really, is visiting the Grand Central location the best way to experience it? We say hold out for the flagship location on Flatbush and Dekalb in Brooklyn; while the cheesecake itself may not be life-changing, savoring it with an authentic egg cream while gazing at the photos on the wall is certainly a rich experience in itself. Various locations, Upper and Lower Levels; online at juniorscheesecake.com. 

Li-Lac: They're not Godiva, nor do they strive to be; and while this is noble, this is not the main reason we love Li-Lac. We love them for their creamy, melt-in-your-mouth non-pareils and their creamy truffles...but of course, also for their visually stunning cases full of chocolates and candies which recall small-town confection shops from a simpler era. Upper Level, Grand Central Market; online at li-lacchocolates.com.

 

Little Pie and Co.: While we could spend a good deal of time rhapsodizing about their flaky crust, their tantalizingly golden, buttery-brown-sugary topped apple pie, we cannot ignore their equally excellent cakes, which far exceeded our expectations of what a pie-branded business might offer: moist, not too-light cake, with creamy, dreamy frosting. Lower Level, Dining Concourse; online at littlepiecompany.com. 

Paninoteca: As wrap sandwiches wither as a sandwich trend of bygone years, the panini is on top of the world; and while sandwiches may come and go, cannoli is forever. And Paninoteca's, while not the best we've had, is highly decent for a treat that is not easy to find in Midtown: crisp shells encasing a truly decadent puff of sweet ricotta cream. Lower Level, Dining Concourse.


Zaro's Bread Basket: If a tree falls in the woods, does another Zaro's Bread Basket open? It sure seems that way based on how many of them there are between Grand Central and Penn Station. But this is a chain whose proliferation is just fine with us: their cakes are tasty, their displays are gorgeous, and they tailor to their surroundings: we love the "Grand Central" cupcakes (left). Upper Level, Grand Central Market; online at zaro.com.

Did we miss your favorite Metro -North hotspot? Let us know!



 

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Reader Comments (41)

I find that I have to open a new tab to write comments in, while I read your posts. There is so much to comment on!

MMM..crumbcake.

I've always wanted to go to Ciao Bella.

I also want to go to Junior's and have an egg cream.

So this confirms that NYC is the place to be.

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterEmiline

Oh my! I can't look at your blog. It makes me hungry!!!

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterKieutiePie

I haven't been to NYC (or Grand central Station) for 8 years - seeing all this great food makes me ache to get back. Thanks for the review!

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterCakelaw

I love NYC for all its chaos and charm and food! Love the crumb cake... I love your blog and your artwork is so cute!

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterAran Goyoaga

In many respects, Grand Central is a culinary mecca. You can't beat the Grand Central Market, (pick up a wedge of cheese from Murray's on the way home) and you mentioned another one of my favorites, Little Pie and Co. Dinner on the go!

Oooh. You're killing me, here! Must. Get. To. New York!!

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterRicki

ooooh Crumb cake looks divine and gosh looks at those cupcakes at Little Pie and Co they all want to make me drool....

Wishing you a very Happy Valentines Day!

I would like to present you on this Valentines Day a Red Rose

http://rosiebakesapeaceofcake.blogspot.com/2008/02/for-my-valentine-cupcakes.html

Rosie x

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

those grandcentral cupcakes are real killer!! I WANT SOOOOOMEEE!!!

btw, for the sweetest spy on earth..im sending you my warmest kisses and love: happy hearts day!

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterDhanggit

A native LI-er, when I went to school in Westchester and discovered Grand Central, I thought I had died and gone to heaven:

The trains are waiting there for you, so if you want to get there 20 minutes early and sit on the train you can do so.

The heavenly ceiling in the huge rotunda.

The quaint info center that is a landmark for any group meeting there.

The shopping during the holidays - tons of crafts and objets d'arte.

The immense variety of foods of all sorts in GC. I've always wanted to meet my man at the bar that overlooks the hustle and bustle of the rotunda.

The mud pie at Little Pie is a "don't miss"!!!

Everything looks sooooo good!

Regardless of how many times I go to Grand Central, it still takes my breath away. I love being surrounded by such a beautiful structure, and great food at the same time.
One of my favorite things to eat there if I am in a hurry is pizza from Two Boots. I love the cornmeal crust!

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Emiline: Yes, clearly you need a cakewalk of your own in NYC!

Kieutiepie: We're doing our job then! :-)

Cakelaw: Time for a return trip we think!?

Aran: Thank you, and yes...isn't crumb cake just the dreamiest? Thank you again for your kind words!

T.W.: Yes, isn't it just a wonderful place to walk around? I remember the first time I ever visited the Market there. Whoa.

Ricki: Buy your tickets now!

Rosie: You're so sweet! I think you'd love Little Pie and Co.!

Dhanggit: Visit soon! Happy heart day to you too! xoxox.

Curly Glamour Girlie: Forget 20 minutes, go 2 hours ahead! Sounds like you have some lovely memories. Isn't it just a wonderful old-school spot?

Teachin': Oh, it was.

Sarah: You have a good point, sometimes you do need something to warm up your appetite for dessert, and we have been partial to Two Boots' lovely crust ourselves. YUM.

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

I'm making a flourless chocolate cake for dessert tonight. I'll report how it turns out.

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterGeggie

I think I could get lost in all those delicious eateries!! And oh how I love the ciao bella sorbet.... I could live on that alone!

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterVegan_Noodle

Happy Valentine's Day! And a belated thank you for the red velvet cookie recipe and I love that you call your interviews "batter chatter," so cute. :)

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Ok I'm going to die from perfect cuteness via CBCG cupcakes and cap wearing slices... oh lordy!

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterEB of SpiceDish

I'd always wondered what the difference between gelato and ice cream was, but never took the time to find out. Thanks!

February 14 | Unregistered Commenterchou

Beautiful blog! As a fellow food writer and cake lover, I'll be eager to come back for more.

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Jio

Those look so good. Especially that pie on top.

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

love the little ice cream and pizza illustration!

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterBethany

You are killing me - as an ex-New Yorker I totally love & miss all these places...how much time do you spend there anyway ;) I am SO checking out that NY art you did...love it..love it! Any plans for cakespy shirts??

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterMango Power Girl

So I think you might be writing that manual Tea and Cookies was talking about...but a cake guide to life-illustrated...sign me up.. this is great!
All best. Jan

February 15 | Unregistered CommenterJanice C. Cartier

Doughnut muffin?!? I have to try that.

February 15 | Unregistered Commentereatme_delicious

I second that. Doughnut muffin?! Guess I have to hit Grand Central this weekend.

February 15 | Unregistered Commentertheblognut

I just posted my roasted chicken recipe, I'll be posting the rest of the V Day Dinner menu in the next days. Keep an eye out for the flourless chocolate cake. Man, it was wonderful!

February 15 | Unregistered CommenterGeggie
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