City Bakery

France vs. the US: Croissant Chowdown

by Anne Maxfield on September 23, 2013

Accidental Locavor the ContendersMy friend, Julie Flanders, and the Accidental Locavore are always searching and debating the merits and sources for the best croissants in Manhattan. Together and apart, we’ve tried a lot of them from the usual suspects. Most have been lacking, some surprisingly awful-total wastes of money and calories (stick to making chocolate, Jacques Torres) and others redeemable with a little heat and the addition of some butter and jam.
This particular morning, since I knew we had a full day ahead of us, I volunteered to trot downtown to compare an old favorite, City Bakery, with the latest French import, Maison Kayser.
Accidental Locavore Deux CroissantsEverything is different, the prices, the bags, the spaces and the croissants. City Bakery’s croissants are big, whole wheat beauties, costing $3.00 apiece and wrapped in a standard bakery bag. Eric Kayser’s are in the more classic (i.e. smaller) French style and packed in a traditional almost-tissue paper bag, barely big enough for a pair and slightly less expensive at $2.75 each.
Funnily enough, when I got to Julie’s house, her husband was more than willing to taste and provide a tie-breaking vote if needed. We plated the croissants and pulled off a corner of the darker ones. They seemed a little over-baked and were more doughy than flaky. To my mind, a good croissant should be a constant mess maker. No matter what you do, there should be a shower of flaky pastry. Not so much with these.  They weren’t terrible, and a smear of maple butter made them pretty delicious.
Accidental Locavore the WinnerThe lighter colored ones were next. Same procedure, pull off an end and eat. Ahh…flaky pastry with a distinct buttery taste (and crumbs everywhere). We looked at each other and smiled-no tiebreaker needed here. Just for fun, Emil briefly heated them to bring out their deliciousness, and then they were gone.
The big winner? Maison Kaiser. Probably one of the best croissants I’ve had in New York. Just the right size, full of flavor and a perfect texture. Try one and let me know if you agree.

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A Hot Chocolate Tour of New York. What Are The Top Three?

by Anne Maxfield on February 13, 2012

Accidental Locavore Choco Bolo

The Accidental Locavore decided to metaphorically take lemons & make lemonade today. Out of the blue, the afternoon was going to be spent meeting people for coffee at three different places, all known for pouring a reasonable (or better) hot chocolate. So, in the interest of sugar and caffeine, I decided to do an informal taste test (just hope my trainer isn’t reading this).

First stop: Choco Bolo on the Upper West Side. It’s cute, like an American idea of a French tea shoppe. One of those places with heavily painted and over-painted walls with rickety looking little tables that are impossible to budge. There is the token good-looking waiter/actor who brings the carefully decorated hot chocolate to the table. It’s a big cup, of a pretty straight-forward chocolate, not too much foam and no whipped cream (both pluses in the Locavore’s book).

Accidental Locavore City BakeryFurther downtown is one of the pinnacles of hot chocolate in New York — City Bakery. If their regular blend wasn’t rich enough for you, during the month of February they celebrate with a different flavor of hot chocolate every day. Today it’s Vietnamese Cinnamon. Being a purist, I’m always fine with the  normal blend, but while I was waiting for Susan of Naturally Susan’s, a line of natural beauty care, one of the baristas asked me if I wanted a free cup that he couldn’t get anyone to claim. It turned out to be the cinnamon special with a marshmallow. Thick and dense, with the cinnamon giving it a nice warm spice. The marshmallow, although delicious, was definitely overkill! City Bakery’s chocolate always reminds me of the amazing stuff at Angelina’s in Paris. Big difference? At Angelina they give you a big pitcher of whipped cream, so you can thin the chocolate out.

Accidental Locavore Eataly Hot ChocolateThe third and thankfully last, was at the coffee bar in Eataly. Now you’re going to be surprised, but yes, Italians (or their NYC counterparts) do make hot chocolate. This cup was the darkest of all three, looking like a thicker version of a very large espresso. The texture was a more like syrup, less like what you would associate with the cocoa of your childhood. It was very good chocolate, dark and dense.

My verdict? Of the three, City Bakery was the winner. The chocolate is really good, the drink is thick and rich, but you always know you’re drinking hot chocolate. Eataly was a surprising second. Their chocolate was also good, but the texture was just a little slick. Choco Bolo came in third. That cup is closer to the cocoa you had as a kid, probably made with cocoa powder and milk rather than by melting chocolate like the other two. There are other major contenders here in NY, but this is just where I ended up on a particular winter Wednesday. What’s your favorite?

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