Maybe you'll be drawn in by the window, displaying baskets filled with rustic baguettes and sweet tarts. Or perhaps the enticing aroma of freshly baked bread will beckon you inside. Either way, it's hard to walk by Choc O Pain's storefront. Step inside one of the bakery's two locations, and you'll be greeted with glass cases displaying French treats such as flaky croissants, fresh fruit tarts, and cookies just like the ones hanging on the walls of the Louvre. Though the menu abounds with treats for sweet teeth, guests can stop in for simple, yet elegant meals of veggie quiche and sandwiches served on homemade ciabatta.
Jim Lahey may have set out to shape stone and clay, but—to the delight of just about everybody else—dough was the medium he was destined to mold. While studying sculpture in Italy, Lahey became invested in the art of Italian bread baking, and brought that passion and a hand-cultivated wild yeast back to the kitchens of New York. There, he developed an innovative no-kneading technique of bread making that spawned a revolution in artisanal breads, thanks to a recipe spotlighted by ¬¬New York Times food critic Mark Bittman. Since then, critics from sources as diverse as Bon Appétit and the Martha Stewart Show have praised him between bites of his sought-after loaves.
At Sullivan St. Bakery, the wild alchemy of Jim’s oven-teasing ways is on full display. The filone, a dark loaf prepared with mature fermentation and coated with wheat bran, gives off nutty and sour flavors, while the pane pugliese's lingering caramel aftertaste could convince a swarm of bees to surrender their hive so that their honey could broach its soft interior webbing. Panini and pizza are also available, gracing the same breads that made Jim famous, as well as signature bomboloni Italian doughnuts, with cores of vanilla bean custard or seasonal fruit fillings bursting through sugar-powdered shells.
Lauded by the New York Times for creating ?first-rate indulgences,? Mille-Feuille confectionary guru, Olivier Dessyn, honed his dough-centric savvy under the tutelage of some of France?s leading pastry chefs during a yearlong stint at Paris?s famed Ritz cooking school. With Chef Olivier at the helm, the bakery?s sparkling open kitchen bustles with culinary wizards concocting sweet and savory goodies using only organic, all-natural ingredients and free-range pixie dust. Throughout the day, Mille-Feuille staffers replenish the shop?s display cases with fresh treats, including gluten-free French macarons and golden croissants that ?[rank] among the city?s best? according to Time Out New York. The shop boasts a warm Parisian ambiance bolstered by glossy, white-tiled walls, a percolating espresso machine, and occasional visits from the chatty ghost of Victor Hugo.
Alice's Tea Cup is a self-described "dream come true" for sisters Haley and Lauren Fox, Upper West Side natives and fervent believers in the magic of tea parties. Three Manhattan locations—nicknamed Chapters I, II, and III in homage to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland—welcome patrons into cozy, light-filled spaces for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and light supper, in addition to traditional afternoon tea. Whimsical interior touches abound, such as Chapter III's giant wall mural depicting the great hall Alice encounters in the book. Tiered trays of housemade sandwiches, cookies, and scones with jam and clotted cream share the menu with more than 100 varieties of tea, all precisely steeped in 180-degree double-filtered water for optimal flavor. After polishing off elevenses, patrons can also peruse funky clothing, tea accoutrements, and eclectic gifts at the retail shop, taking care to avoid dashing rabbits frantically checking their watches.
Grandaisy Bakery is all about saving the art of hand-crafted bread. Founded in 2006 by Sullivan Street Bakery alum Monica Von Thun Calderon, Grandaisy Bakery has taken its bread-making pedigree and pushed it in a distinctly Italian direction. Stirato, filone, ciabatta, pane alle olive and pizza are joined by raisin walnut loaves and seven grain breads, along with a host of sweets. At the Upper West Side location, one of Grandaisy’s two locations, customers will find budino di pane, a rum-soaked brioche bread pudding; lumaca, a flaky pastry with apricots and currants; chocolate torts and a wall full of panetone during the holiday season. Grandaisy also makes pizzas – the cauliflower is the most popular – and sandwiches for easygoing lunch options, and the white-tiled space has room for a few small seats at the front, where customers can sip coffee and munch pastry.
Don't let the name fool you: butter cookies are made from more than just butter. At Cutest Cookies, each from-scratch batch incorporates 10 ingredients, including vanilla, flour, and meringue powder. From here, however, the similarities between each peanut- and tree nut-free batch end. Customers determine every cookie's color, shape, and design, ranging from wedding cookies decorated like tuxedos and dresses to birthday cookies ornamented with replicated pictures of the birthday boy or girl.
Bakers make the order one to two days before a customer's event, hand-decorating each cookie with individually mixed icing colors. To ensure freshness, they place every cookie in a cellophane bag fastened with a matching ribbon. If left in original packaging, an airtight container, or your mouth unchewed, the cookies will stay fresh for an entire month.