Say you are in the West Village or Soho (around the NYU area) and feel the need for French pastries. This is what this blog post is about. I tried a few of them in my last year and this is what I got:
- Francois Payard Bakery (FPB): this is my favorite one. I judge French bakeries by the quality of the chocolate eclair. The one in FPB is hard to beat. I usually go there and get the same things every time: 1 chocolate eclair, 1 gateau basque and 1 lemon tart (because my wife loves lemon tarts). Sometimes I run very early, then I stop there and get fresh bread — it never disappoints us.
- Lafayette Bakery: This is a small bakery inside a very chic French restaurant. I’ve never been to the restaurant (although I am constantly thinking about going there in a special occasion), but I stop by bakery almost every weekend. I get the chocolate eclair (as usual), get caneles for my wife (as she is crazy about caneles and this is the best I’ve found in NYC) and sometimes the praline. The praline is really good. I usually get the sweets and bring them home, but they also have 2 or 3 tables for the bakery and this is a great place to stop for a coffee with some sweets. Their bread is also very good and sometimes I buy their baguette. If you go there, you might also want to spend some time in the neighborhood. Across the street, there is Astor Wines — the best wine store in town. The staff is really knowledgeable and they have wines in all price ranges — and this is usually safe to buy cheaper wines there, as their selection is amazing. So probably you won’t be disappointed. Also around is La Colombe, which is a very nice coffee shop. Around is also a very high end butcher, where I haven’t bought anything — since this is a bit outside my possibilities, but sometimes I like to go there to admire the meat on display. This is also a place surrounded in mistery.
- Claude Patisserie: Claude is a hidden treasure — it is located in an ugly street and the store front is not welcoming. But once you are there, the sweets are just incredible. Their eclaires are amazing, so is their mille-feuille and their cakes and their petit feurs. We get their cakes for our birthdays.
- Macarons & Cookies is a small stand in Prince Street — when we are out of the subway we like to stop there for caneles (did I mention we love caneles?) and their alfajores.
- La Maison du Macaron: a bit further on the 23rd st, there is La Maison du Macaron. First, the chocolate eclaire is great and so are the macarons — they are very fresh and one of the few places in NYC I found the macarons worthy (even Laduree in NYC is not great, as they fly their macarons from France and they don’t get to NYC very fresh). La Maison is the opposite: you can see the kitchen where they are being made. They are so fresh, delicious and with creative flavors. Everything they do tastes good: their coffee, their croissant, their bread, …
You might want to know my opinion about coffee shops since I am a person that freely gives opinions about bakeries. I might tell you that coffee shops deserve their own post, but nevertheless I’d mention some that I really like: Joe Coffee (they are all over the place — the one near Columbia is a great place to work), Stumptown (where I usually get beans from), Gimme Coffeee (the most honorable outpost of rural New York in this big metropole), Ninth Street Espresso (I usually go to the one in Chelsea Market), Blue Bottle Coffee (the SF chain has now several stores in Manhattan. The one in Chelsea has a mezzanine with a Japanese coffeee bar, which is entertaining to go if you haven’t been to one of those) and Grumpy (which has great coffee, but they ask you not to work there).