Suuuuper late post but better late than never no? So my youngest sister graduated from NYU in May (which makes me feel so old, she’s the baby and she is graduating!) and so the whole fam went to NY to sit through not one, but two incredibly long and boring graduation ceremonies :) I can sum up those combined 7 hours of my life like this: Graduation 1 was at Yankee Stadium, Janet Yellen was the speaker and her speech was meh but she is so TINY and CUTE. Arethe Franklin came!….and didn’t sing. Graduation 2 was at Radio City Musical Hall. Don’t remember speaker but good speech about failing and I fell asleep 1/4 way into roll call.
Don’t worry I was awake when they called my sister so it’s all good.
The best part about graduations is that I get to see my whole family, Dad is in Shanghai, Mom is in Toronto, baby sis is in NY and me and middle sister are in SD so we are truly spread everywhere (with all our extended family in Brazil and other parts of China too). Best part about NY is da food. So here I’ll do the sweet stuff, namely Laduree bakery on the Upper East Side and Levain bakery on the Upper West Side.
Levain has won many awards for the best chocolate chip cookie ever and I have to say I wholeheartedly agree. They get my vote. This is not the place for you if you like those thin crispy chocolate cookies. There is a time and a place for thin crispy chocolate chip cookies but BEST EVER? Thin and crispy is lovely with some tea (particularly Earl Grey and milk) but the chocolate chip cookie of your dreams is probably something like this behemoth. Crisp outside and golden edges with lots of pillowy soft dough inside, striated with huge dark chunks of chocolate. Perfection. This first one is the Oatmeal Raisin but look at the size! Roughly half the size of a baby’s head. Or your fist. I guess the latter is a more normal size comparison sorry about that fractioning a baby’s head in order to demonstrate the scale of a cookie.
But I think I am stuck between the Chocolate with Peanut Butter Chips and the Chocolate Chip Walnut. If I HAD to pick? Well then I’d say the best course is to buy both and alternate a bite of one with a bite of the other.
Now for some cross-sections:
There is a lot of discussion of what kind of black magic and sorcery goes into making these cookies as the recipe is very secretive but supposedly there is bread flour in it and that’s how they stand up all plump and round. A lot of blogs have attempted to make copycat Levain cookies and if you search for ‘Levain copycat cookie’ you can see how well they fare. I think Parsley Sage Sweet has the most convincing pictures/research to back it up; she DVR’d the episode of Bobby Flay’s throwdown when Levain was on the show to see if she could sneak a peek of their ingredients and has secret spies that were giving her hints to what the leavening was! Intense. I like it.
Averie from Averie Cooks also has some cookies that look like dead ringers for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip cookie, they even puff up the same way! Namely the Quadriple Chocolate Soft Fudgy Pudding Cookies and Soft and Chewy Nutella White Chocolate Chip Cookies. But just sub in peanut butter chips for the chocolate/white chocolate chips naturally :)
Oh and my mom got the Brioche because she thinks the cookies are too huge. Brioche is good but not outstanding as it was a bit dry on the outside edges, would stick to the cookies here.
They are definitely worth trying if you go to NY, there have only been short lines when I’ve been and they always have cookies – unlike some bakeries that have mile long lines and then are sold out of everything except for madeleines when you wanted the Wafflegato or Frozen S’mores – I’m looking at you Dominique Ansel -____-
CHECK: Price per cookie $4
167 W 74th St New York, NY 10023
b/t Columbus Ave & Amsterdam Ave in Upper West Side
Ladurée macarons are a Paris based patisserie and they are quite good. The best I’ve ever tried for sure, although I have not tried that many macarons. They are made in Alsace in France and shipped to NY which internally makes me cringe as those tiny macarons have a huge carbon footprint but I comfort myself in thinking that the planes will most likely fly carrying stuff anyways it might as well be tasty little gem-colored macarons. Now I am not a plain vanilla person when it comes to almost anything. I like my ice cream with swirls and chunks, I prefer my cakes of the chocolate variety, I like my cookies with chips (or peanut butter) and in general I prefer chocolate or fruits or something. But not so with macarons. I have tried quite a few macaron flavors (pistachio, rose, lavender, passion fruit, fig, strawberry balsamic, hazelnut, marshmallow, etc. you name it) but finally came to terms with the fact that the humble vanilla is still my favorite macaron. When it comes to good macarons anyways, you want the vanilla that comes from the real beans so your macaron is flecked with tiny black dots. And this one is a great Vanilla Macaron.
Also tried the Pistachio and Chocolate Macaron. These macarons should be eaten the day of although I have brought them back on occasion and they can survive a a day of travel and not be too much worse for the wear. Ladurée are the one macarons that I’ve tried that have everything – perfect crisp shell, moist chewy interior, top notch ingredients and a variety of interesting flavors as well as good basic flavors too.
They also have other desserts and if you go to one in Soho in NY they actually have a whole sit-down tea house with mini sandwiches, pastries and tea. Here at the Upper East Side one they are quite a few desserts. We ordered some (no pictures sadly) and it was hit or miss.
I heard the food in the tea house is just ok and when we stopped by that store had a huge line for the macarons as its newer. A critic also said the macarons tasted better at the UES one. So I would say go to the UES one for the macarons but if you want to do the whole cute tea house (its a very nice space) deal the Soho one is the one to go too. For San Diego I think my favorite macarons are at Lette macarons in UTC. They lack the crisp shell and are soft throughout but I quite like the vanilla and passion fruit flavors. Check out Jinxi Eats, Kirbie’s Cravings, and This Tasty Life’s take on them.
But overall definitely think although Levain and Ladurée have a lot of hype around them for a relatively inexpensive price they are worth the hype. Not that the cookies and macarons are cheap for cookies and macarons but overall for spending $5-10 dollars they are worth trying.
CHECK: Price per single macaron $2.25-2.50
864 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021