This post is really a long overdue love letter.
Like, 24 years long.
Flash back to 1985: I’ve just graduated from architecture school, and there were only three firms that I wanted to work for. I was lucky enough to land a job with one of them, but I kept tabs on the other two – especially Kevin Walz.
Full disclosure: Kevin Walz – in addition to doing the kind of clean, modern design that I was such a fan of – was totally adorable (in that Phil Collins 1980’s sort of way, are you feelin’ me?) too. Yes, I had a huge crush on my would-be employer.
So, in 1990 – when I read about a new bakery he designed near Union Square – I raced down to check it out. And everything about the place was different. Unlike most upscale bakeries – which looked, for the most part, like Edwardian parlor rooms – this one was modern and minimalist. One long wall was simply adorned with a “frieze” of white bakery boxes. And the rest of the shop was equally spare. I was smitten.
And more than a little curious about the chef. Because the pastries were totally different too. Row upon row of clean, smooth circles, simply adorned with a dot and dash of chocolate, or a geometrically arranged series of fruits.
It was “modern” pastry – and I was hooked. Even more so when I saw the chef himself:
Hot (in that Richard Lewis 1980’s sort of way, are you feelin’ me?).
Maury Rubin’s Book of Tarts was one of the first baking books I ever bought and it still holds a cherished spot in my collection today.
I’ve also been a loyal fan of City Bakery (which moved a few blocks away to its current location) ever since, and send anyone who comes to New York to visit and sample the delicious soups, salads and of course – baked goods.
You might think – after all this gushing – that I would have a rough time narrowing down to my favorites – it’s all so good, of course.
But for me, City Bakery means two things:
Marshmallows and pretzel croissants.
I’ve had my share of homemade marshmallows, and have even made them myself. But they are nothing compared to City Bakery’s. I don’t know what it is but I love them to bits. Granted, they are “supposed” to accompany the bakery’s signature hot chocolate – but I’m not a chocolate fan, and so I simply buy a bag and eat them straight up.
Pretzel croissants. I don’t even know where to begin.
I know I’m not alone in thinking that the pretzel croissant is right up there with cheesecake, black and whites and curbside hot dogs as an iconic NYC snack. Like the name implies, this amazing treat is a supersized croissant that has a yet-to-be-duplicated salty pretzel crust (yes I’ve tried a few hacks – none come even close).
The whole thing shatters into flaky shards as you pull bits of it off to eat, and the sweet-salty-crispy-buttery goodness is, well, to die.
They even have their own website.
Take that, cronut.
These babies went straight into the freezer, and are my version of snow day “provisions” (to reheat, place in a 350 oven for 20 minutes).
It’s been a long time since I checked up on my two crushes – partly by design, as I want to remember them as the adorable architect/pastry chef I remember way back when.
But I am always happy to know that this special spot is still around.
And that they even kept some flavor from the original.