I've always had good luck when it comes to winning stuff. As a kid, playing black jack with Nana was risky because I'd always win and then she'd turn all ornery. In high school, I pulled my own name out of the hat for the magazine drive grand prize - a trip to Hawaii. (Alas, I couldn't go - it just had to be the weekend of our big dance show.) As I got older, my mom swore she'd take me to Vegas when I turned 21. Still waiting on that one. Mama B - meet you there next weekend?
Anyway, my most recent free-thing win was getting put on the VIP list for Meet Market Adventures, allowing me to attend their events for free every so often. So a couple weeks ago, Becky and I went on a walking dessert tour of Chelsea.
First stop: D'Auito's Bakery on 8th Ave between 30th and 31st streets:
According to our tour guide, this place has been around since the 50s (or maybe even longer than that). They specialize in New York cheesecake, and I gotta admit, it WAS pretty good. But the question of the hour was whether or not it was better than Junior's. Hmmm, let me think about that:
No crust to taint the cheesecake goodness + manageable slice size = 2 points for D'Auito's
Eating a giant piece of cheesecake after eating a giant challah grilled cheese sandwich after seeing a Broadway show = a gazillion points for Junior's.
Interesting - it seems I'm still partial to Junior's. Must be all the Broadway stuff that comes along with the cheesecake. Still, if you're in the Penn Station neighborhood and need a quick cheesecake fix, D'Aiuto's will suit just fine.
Second stop: Billy's Bakery on 9th Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets
No, that's not Billy (Billy's a girl!), but this guy was a frosting maniac.
The brainchild of a former Magnolia Bakery manager, Billy's specializes in cupcakes. Becky and I attended a cooking demonstration hosted by Billy's at the 2009 Chocolate Show. (Yes, the Chocolate Show is as awesome as it sounds):
Sadly, we weren't impressed with Billy's cupcakes that day. No worries though - there were plenty of other treats for us to try at the bakery:
From left to right: Chocolate Layer Cake, Banana Creme Pie, Icebox Cake (like Nana's! - we'll post that recipe eventually), and our trusty spoons and forks. Of everything above, the Icebox Cake was by far the best. They make a chocolate variety too.
Third stop: La Bergamote Patisserie on 9th Ave at 20th Street
That's John, our jolly MMA leader, very much enjoying a creme-filled pastry. The rest of us had pretty full bellies at this point. Beck and I bought three macaroons. Don't they look pretty on the left?
Alas, they didn't survive the trip home, so I can't say how they tasted. Note to self: next time, either eat macaroons on site, or insist on a takeout box instead of a takeout bag. The patisserie did have a lovely atmosphere, though - a great place for a lazy cup of coffee and some weekend reading.
Fourth Stop: The Donut Pub on 14th Street between 7th and 8th Ave
This place has also been around since the 50s (along with some of the employees, it seems). I love me a good old-fashioned donut. No glaze, thank you - just good old deep fried dough - and this place didn't disappoint. And this "pub" is open 24/7. I'll definitely be coming back here at some point.
Final stop: Max Brenner's on Broadway between 13th and 14th Streets:
See that vat of chocolate? There was this little kid peering into it just like Augustus Gloop over the chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And Max Brenner's was so crowded, I had this sudden vision of the kid falling in and no one even noticing.
Then I snapped out of my sugar-induced hallucination and realized there was glass over the chocolate. Phew.
I have to be honest - at Max Brenner's I'm always overwhelmed by the crowds and underwhelmed by the chocolate. The riculously high prices don't help the experience either. That said, it's a great place to take your tourist friends. Munching on chocolate pizza while people watching from the steps of Union Square definitely makes for an entertaining evening.
All in all, it was a fun day. But you know what the best thing was after all that sugar? The burger I ate for dinner. Even my sweet tooth needs a break sometimes!