The senses never cease to amaze me. I love how I can walk into a bakery I used to visit from my childhood that smells exactly the same and all of a sudden it conjures up old memories and floods me with nostalgia. I can recall my mom taking me there after picking me up from my preschool which was right across the street in historic downtown Cary (or “Pleasantville,” as I like to refer to it as). I remember seeing petit fours and and cupcakes and that distinctive, wonderful but ambiguous smell that I’ve never been able to pinpoint. It’s funny because while that bakery has changed a lot over the last 25 years or so, it smells just the same. Such a powerful sense smell is. Except I rarely go there when I’m in the area and if I do, it’s not cupcakes I get like I used to, but their unique “Ranger cookies,” which are made of coconut, cornflakes, pecans and lots of glorious butter. They’re pretty phenomenal.
Elizabeth and I both agreed earlier today that if either of us ever lost our sense of smell or taste, it may as well be the end of it for us. We also decided even though we aren’t bumper sticker folk, that we want to make a bumper sticker that says “oil be damned – will drive for food!” We drove to Durham this morning to have brunch (the greatest meal ever) at Watts Grocery, one of my favorite places and we brunched with a fury! She with her eggs benedict (sausage instead of ham) and hashbrowns and two bloody marys and me with my shrimp and grits (Bill Neal’s classic recipe, which should truly be a paradigm for all other shrimp and grits out there), house-made english muffin with homemade preserves and a hibiscus blini! She’s the savory to my sweet and our drinks are proof. It was a lovely start to a Sunday.
Here are some things I am loving right now…
- Florence Welch’s cover of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.” It’s pretty amazing and I’m basically obsessed with it. Genius.
- Taking an afternoon nap with a snoring puppy dog.
- Taking an afternoon walk with a very excited puppy dog.
- Bradford pears and rosebud trees in full bloom.
- Frasier. Can’t get enough of it. Niles especially.
- The fact that my granny sends me aprons in the mail.
- Feeling nostalgic.
I’ve kind of been bursting at the seams to talk about my recent trip to NYC but have let the everyday tasks of life interfere. Well I say enough of that nonsense!
It was my favorite trip to the city thus far and an ambitious one at that, seeing as I managed to visit most of the places on my list. I am the same way with bakeries and restaurants as a womanizer is with notches on his bedpost. Even if it means trekking all around the city back and forth in unbroken-in boots, as long as I can cover my desired terrain, I’m a happy, accomplished feeling chick.
Here are the bakeries that were visited:
- Silver Moon Bakery (on the upper west side) – we went there early on a Sunday morning and my heart did a cartwheel when I saw hot cross buns! It was a tiny space and sadly we were in a hurry but I’d love to come back and try some of their bread, particularly their challah. It all looked fantastic.
- Zucker Bakery– (east village) – what a delicate and humble bakery this was. We settled into the cozy sun-soaked window seat nook and shared a latte and some chocolate roses (an Israeli version of a cinnamon roll but with chocolate). They were chocolate laced yeasty swirls or dough that melted in our mouths. It was such a charming place and the owner who was working the counter was so kind and lovely.
- Babycakes: Babycakes, you were not on my list. I quite literally stumbled upon you when I was exploring the lower east side near our hotel. You were cute, you really were and I was curious because I had heard such raving reviews about you from trustworthy sources, some of them even non-vegan. I ordered a chocolate cupcake from you and it crumbled apart in my hands. It was dry and not tasty and three frustrated bites later you were tossed into a trash can around the corner. Perhaps I just had an unlucky experience but I’m sure glad I’m not vegan.
- Locanda Verde: The adorable girl working behind the pastry case was reason enough for me to like the pastries here – after talking for awhile she even bought me an apple hand pie! So sweet. I felt like I struck out with this place because of the good karma and because every pastry was a delectable home-run, from the hand pie to the oatmeal sandwich cookie to the olive oil crumb cake (my favorite). The apple cider doughnut was also heavenly. I will definitely be returning and would love to try breakfast or dinner there sometime as well.
- Jane’s Sweet Buns: I had learned of Jane’s when it was featured on a recent episode of Unique Sweets (on the Cooking Channel). The food porn shots of booze-laced cocktail inspired sticky buns like “The Old-Fashioned,” and the “Rum Runner” immediately sold me and I added it to the list. It’s a quirky little shop in the east village with a hot pink neon sign advertising “Jane’s Sweet Buns,” and the enticing aroma of boozy dough luring you in from the street and it’s run by a fierce redhead bartender turned pastry chef (named Jane of course, last name Danger). I have a definite girl crush on her and she has now inspired me to sneak gin into buttercream. She’s been playing with alcohol, bitters, butter and sugar, concocting innovative pastries in her colorful, eclectically decorated bakery since last May and successfully so.
I originally wandered in there around 11 but they weren’t opening until 12 and I had somewhere to be. Later that evening on my way back from Williamsburg, I decided to revisit and much to my surprise, there Jane was, laboring away. After admiring the billowy sticky buns and champagne cupcakes, I ordered an old fashioned and sat myself down on one of the barstools. It was delicious and not too sweet or overpowering. We ended up chatting away for the next hour or so, about pastries and baking, vintage shops, boyfriends, living in New York, and work and we bonded over a mutual affection for Forever 21. She was so kind and genuine and it was such a serendipitous experience to get to try her creations while talking to her at the same time. Customers eventually started filtering in and I had to get back so I picked out some goods to take home to Jay and the Johns’, including a oatmeal cookie sandwich with roasted banana cream cheese icing that was absolutely heavenly and she bought me a bun! Such a nice, kick ass girl. She’s making things happen. I love random little encounters like that and feel like I was fortunate to have a lot of them on this trip.
Check her out!
*More NYC recaps to come, stay tuned!*