I remember when we were living in Los Angeles, early in 2006, and we heard that a New York institution was coming to the Brentwood Country Mart to satisfy the cookie needs of NY transplants and to introduce West Coasters to the bakery’s gourmet fare and retro-Cafeteria aesthetic. We braved the westside traffic to check it out, but I can’t say we really understood all the fuss. And now, I can’t understand how we underestimated it so.
The flagship City Bakery is located in the Flatiron district—on 18th street—and indeed has the charming appearance of a cafeteria, only with much better food.
The City Bakery that we love, however, is the one right around the corner on First Avenue, a small “green” bakery (with a storefront made from recycled materials like cork, denim, sunflower seed husks, and sporting an old 1936 cash register) designed to be a neighborhoody spot.
At first we went primarily for the cookies. Not so much the straight chocolate chip as the chocolate-chocolate chip (so rich!), the ginger (spicy!), the peanut butter (so flaky and buttery!). I’ll admit that we rarely buy cookies there anymore, only other pastries; David Chang’s Milk Bar and its Compost Cookie now reigns supreme in our neighborhood. But Aron, I later learned, also made routine trips in the morning. They came to know him and would often toss in an extra pastry; he got a discount for days he came on bike. I think there is little he wants more in the morning than their cornbread and blueberry muffin—though we both could also wax poetic about the lemon and apple tart, the dense sesame banana agave cake, or the seasonal deep-dish pumpkin pie.
The real star at City Bakery, however, is the pretzel croissant. Just about anyone who has written a word on food in New York City has shared their opinion—and most often their adoration—of City Bakery’s pretzel croissant. In a recent edition of Edible magazine, New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik claims that it is the reason he and his family moved back to New York from Paris—so unparalled is it. The croissant even has its own website: www.pretzelcroissant.com. Even Aron, who is still never swayed from his beloved cornbread because he can usually steal a bite from me, confirms that it is the best croissant he’s ever tasted.
Topped with sesame seeds and salt, and made with whole wheat flour, it is still incredibly light and airy and has the perfect balance of crunch and flake to soft and buttery. Toasted slightly on a cold morning—that first bite will ruin you for all the others.