No this is not a potential blog name change.
I just couldn’t resist, based on a day spent in the city recently at three new (or new to me) spots that I wanted to share with you all.
While not as unusual as a doughnut shop housed in a car wash, this charming little bakery exudes its own version of cool-factor-meets-hidden-places-to-eat.
Located in the lobby of a century-old office building in lower Manhattan, only a small sign outside hints at the bakery within.
The challenge of setting up shop in a building lobby actually resulted in a most clever and beautifully executed space. The display cases that originally lined the hallway were refitted into mahogany-paneled seating alcoves, with brass light fixtures and drop-down tables.
It was perfect for sharing a bite with my pal PJ, who met me there for a tasting. And from the moment you enter the beautiful vaulted-ceiling lobby of 220 Church Street, you are greeted with the insanely delicious aroma of freshly baked breads and pastries.
And oh my – the pastries.
Roger Gural has some serious baking chops – honing his craft at the likes of Bouley, Amy’s Bread and Almondine, to name a few. It was hard-not-hard to choose, as the chocolate-walnut babka all but shouted my name.
There are gorgeous breads and delectable looking sandwiches and pizzas too – I can’t wait to return!
Next was Black Seed Bagels.
As a life-long New Yorker I consider myself somewhat of an expert on bagels – and most of what’s around today is a far cry from the bagels of my youth. Twice the size, puffed-up and with little to no “tooth”, I have long given up on enjoying a quality bagel (East River Bread at Smorgasburg being a beloved exception).
And while the bagels at Black Seed are not exactly as I remember them from my childhood (they are actually a New York/Montreal hybrid), they are in a class all on their own – and worth a trip to Nolita to taste for yourself. The bagels are hand rolled, boiled in honey-sweetened water (that’s the Montreal part) and baked in a wood-burning oven.
The space is tiny and beautifully done up in rich materials like sycamore and Carerra marble – with a full view of the open kitchen. I devoured my everything bagel with a fresh lox-dill spread, and brought a dozen more home for the family.
Finally, I stopped at the been-there-forever (since 1977), but-I-just-discovered-it The New York Earth Room.
Simply put: it is a 3,600 square foot room filled with 250 cubic yards of dirt. Seriously.
You enter the space (on the 3rd floor of a Soho building) via a tiny hallway, and are immediately greeted by the smell of fresh earth – a not unpleasant sensation to this gardener.
You then turn the corner to an open doorway – protected only by a waist-high sheet of plexiglass – through which you view the room.
It was strange, yet peaceful, with light streaming in from opposite ends. I imagine the space everchanging due to time of day, weather and season. I learned that mushrooms will spontaneously sprout up from time to time, and that the caretaker (who has held that role for over 20 years) regularly waters and rakes the soil, and scrubs the walls to keep them free of mold.
To see the room on-line you can go to the Dia website (or do a quick Google search for more views).
I’ve read that the space is worth millions of dollars and yet remains exactly as it has been since it was installed – with no plans to ever be sold. It is, for sure, one of the most unusual places I’ve yet to visit in the city.
Babka, bagels and dirt – a pretty perfect day.