Not long ago, I heard about a group of artists who do the most wonderful thing to keep themselves inspired: they will navigate that city with a map of a different city. The idea, of course, being that sometimes, removing yourself from your natural element can help you see the world through new eyes. Well, to say I was enamored of this idea would be a bit of an understatement, and I have since tried to incorporate this idea into my pastry-eating and adventuring.
So when I was headed to NYC, to create an adventure to rival my pastry half-marathon, I knew I'd have to think of something good.
And then it came to me: a literal cakewalk. Here's the 411:
- How: I took a map of Manhattan, and on both the upper east and west sides, I wrote the word “Cake” and transcribed it into a walking route (can you see it on the map above?)
- Why this route: Well, because it was going to involve a lot of backtracking, I realized that choosing these neighborhoods, which bookend Central Park, would result in not only an interesting comparison, but would also ease up the physical amount of walking.
- But what if I missed a good bakery? Well, I made a few side trips, but the idea in general was to have a route that might take me by places I might not otherwise have heard about and to possibly make some new discoveries.
- Total Miles Walked: Many.
What did I find? So many sweet discoveries. Read on for the chronicle of the Upper West Side trek (you can also find the East Side Cakewalk here):
Necessary Side Trip: Hungarian Pastry Shop. How could you not stop here? It's a treasure.
105th and Broadway: Silver Moon Bakery. If you've never visited this breadmaker/bakery, you are in for a treat. Carb-o-load on freshly baked pretzels (if they still have any left), which are salty, yeasty, and completely addictive; get your sweet fix with pastries and truffles of all manner. Do it.
96th and Amsterdam: Maybe you've seen one before, but I never had: an Altoid Gum machine.
96th and Columbus: Sing Sing Market, where they have good crumb cake.
Also at 96th and Columbus: I saw a girl wearing a t-shirt that said “Stupid raisins stay out of my cookie”. No, I wasn't looking in a mirror. I will be, soon, though, because I found it online and ordered myself one.
Side note: Not that you asked, but I fell in love with a new building: 498 west End Avenue.
80th and Amsterdam: Sarabeth's. Favorite two things there: cookies, and jam. Not necessarily together.
81st Street at Broadway: Zabar's. Oh em Gee. Same family that owns Eli's on the East side. The crumb cake is some of my favorite in the city, and everything else—the cookies, the babka, the Hello Dolly bars—isn't so bad either.
72nd and Broadway: Grandaisy Bakery. A teeny tiny storefront, this spot offers a variety of pastries and cookies, as well as little pizzas; this time, I tried the Lumaca, or as I was told to call it, “the snail”, a sweet flaky roll filled with apricot, honey and pistachio. Sort of like a morning roll gets kissed by baklava.
Necessary side trip: Levain Bakery. With half pound cookies that taste as good as they weigh, you'd better make a short side trip to this place.
70th Street and Columbus: Muffins Cafe. This place has my favorite corn muffins, but they sell out early and I'll be honest, I've never tried anything else.
70th and Columbus: Soutine Bakery. Like a little dollhouse bakery at the first level of a brownstone on a side street, this place is as charming as can be, and has a loyal following.
69th and Columbus: Magnolia Bakery. If you've never had a cupcake from one of their outposts, do try the ones at this spot, the second location they opened. If you're so over cupcakes, dive into their banana nilla wafer pudding, which is a strong second-bestseller.
...and to finish, at Columbus Circle: Time Warner Center. You must go here, because they have two things of interest to the avid pastry-eater. For one thing, Whole Foods sells a variety of baked goods from many local bakeries, so if you aren't going to get to visit every neighborhood, you can find sweets from places like Two Little Red Hens, etc, here. Also, you must visit Bouchon, where you can get the most pinkies-out homemade oreos or Ho-hos you've ever seen.