Though Bagel Hole opened in 1985, the staff’s knowledge of the old-fashioned hand-rolled art form goes back to the 1940s. That’s when their teacher began making bagels as a young man in Germany, and it’s his expertise that still guides their craft today. The staff uses all-natural ingredients to make 11 types of bagels, which are all hand-rolled, boiled, and baked until they reach a crispy, golden-brown exterior and chewy, hot insides. To bedeck the rings, they add slices of nova lox or slather them with cream-cheese spreads such as fresh scallion and walnut-and-raisin. For afternoon staff makes it a point to pile Boar's Head cold-cuts high, or stuff sandwiches with the same amount of fresh-made whitefish salad found in a typical teddy bear. The old-fashioned bagel-making methods take more time, but they've paid off. CBS hailed Bagel Hole as one of the top six bagel shops in the city, and the staff of Serious Eats awarded them the coveted title of best bagel in New York.
Handbags, backgammon boards, and hippopotamuses may not sound particularly appetizing, but in the hands of Duet Bakery Boutique’s chef, Diana Rodova, they become the unlikely themes of her delectable custom cakes. She tailors her designs to fit clients’ special requests while tempting taste buds with cake flavors ranging from chocolate to lemon chiffon. Beyond cakes, she whips up cupcakes, crème brûlée, and other sweet treats that add a climactic finish to meals, much like announcing to dinner guests that they’re all receiving a new car. For sensitive systems, Rodova can alter her dessert recipes to be lactose and gluten free.
Rodova complements her sweeter offerings with an array of hearty lunch staples, such as sandwiches, soups, and salads. Her bakery also stocks imported European chocolates, breads, and cheeses, which add a more glamorous international touch to the shop than a croissan’wich dispenser.
Artful swirls of buttercream and cream-cheese icing adorn the signature cupcakes at Vanity Sweets, whose satisfying array of flavors ranges from classic red velvet to a banana-split concoction laced with pink-tinted icing, drizzled with chocolate, and carefully crowned with a cherry. This elaborate preparation might be bit over-the-top for a single cupcake, but the bakery prides itself on its uncommon attention to detail and handmade confections. When they aren’t busy perfecting the recipes for dozens of cupcake flavors, the bakers dress cake pops in smooth coats of chocolate and craft stunning full-size cakes to celebrate birthdays or throw in the faces of unsuspecting prime ministers.
Green Perrier bottles line the wood-paneled walls of the dining area, which is dotted with framed artwork depicting rainy afternoons and Moulin Rouge performers. Fragrant aromas emanate from the kitchen, where Chef Vincent Tropepe prepares Parisian bistro fare. A roster of celebrity clientele including Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bolton, and Hillary Clinton has enjoyed the refined techniques that Tropepe brings to his preparation of traditional French fare such as escargot Provençal, duck à l'orange, and crepe suzette. The menu also includes selections from Chef Tropepe's new cookbook, From Behind the Kitchen Doors, which details his career and favorite recipes. The rotating dessert selection includes a range of handmade pastries artfully adorned with meringue, fresh berries, and abstract chocolate renderings of local news anchors.
For 14 years, Tea Lounge has served as much more than just a spot to meet friends or hunker down with a laptop and a warm drink. The folks here have put a great deal of stock in the idea of community, and they do so by making a point to remember their regulars, support local musicians, and decorate the walls with art crafted in the area. And then, of course, there's the tea. Black, herbal, spicy, mild?the options are many, ranging from classic jasmine green tea to organic Persian Peach black tea, and even a hangover tea. The baristas also craft espresso drinks and craft cocktails for those looking for another excuse to stop in for the hangover tea.
A seasonal cache of more than 20 flavors of organic soft serve and all-natural hard ice cream topples into cups and cones at Pagoto Organic Ice Cream. At any given time, incarnations of pumpkin swirl may perch next to organic versions of black raspberry and pistachio ice cream and sorbets such as mango and pink lemonade made from 80% fruit. Inside the display freezer, soon-to-be-formed scoops await their journey to a cup or waffle cone where patrons can customize them with sprinkles, fruit, and candy toppings. Gourmet toppings add an extra layer of decadence, including adornments of red velvet crumbs or "Black Widow," a combination of dark-chocolate chunks, dried figs, almonds, and sea salt scraped from a mermaid's potato chips.