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An Ode to New York Bagels featuring Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company

Spelt bagel with bacon scallion cream cheese from Brooklyn Bagel

Spelt bagel with bacon scallion cream cheese from Brooklyn Bagel

Now that I’m living in New York, I have been on a mission to find the best bagel. I’ve been wanting to do an experiment (which I might still carry on with in the near future) where I test all of my neighborhood’s bagels to see which is the best. But, ever since I have discovered this particular bagel place, that experiment has been on hold because it’s fair to say that my allegiance lies here.

I’m talking about Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company.

When Buzzfeed posted their taste test of NYC bagels and BK Bagel won by a landslide, I knew I had to weigh in with my thoughts. Though commenters said that other bagel shops were snubbed, I agree with Buzzfeed that BK Bagel is the best.

Side note: I’ve always wondered why it’s called Brooklyn Bagel when they only have locations in Chelsea and Astoria. If anyone has the answer to this question, please let me know!

What has kept me coming back for more time and time again are their spelt bagels. Spelt is a whole grain from the wheat family. It is better for you than wheat because it requires less fertilizer and has high protein and fiber content. Bagels aren’t the healthiest things to eat, but if it has spelt that makes it okay, right? Right.

Not only do they offer spelt bagels, their cream cheese selection is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The heaping piles of cream cheese remind me of the grandeur of gelaterias in Italy. BK Bagel has the coolest flavors like diavolo chipotle, pimento olive, pumpkin during the fall/winter, and my favorite: bacon scallion. They also have tofu-based spreads for a healthier option, along with a flavor of the week. I tried this week’s FOW today: fluffer nutter. It was incredible! It was the beautiful marriage of peanut butter and cream cheese, which could’ve passed for a light cupcake frosting. And of course I had it on the plain spelt bagel.

Tip: If you want a bold cream cheese, pair it with a plain/low-key flavored bagel, and vice versa. I ordered the whole wheat everything bagel with the bacon scallion cream cheese and my mouth was overwhelmed with all of the flavors.

I’ve also been head over heels for BK Bagel because for the summer, they offer $1 iced coffee in any size on Tuesdays. They brew Toby’s Estate coffee (which is an excellent blend). How could you pass up an offer like that?

Side note: Ever since I’ve been getting really good coffee from BK Bagel and other shops, I understand why New Yorkers dislike Starbucks. They say it tastes burnt, and now I can distinguish the differences in flavor. Local coffee shops have been far more appealing than Starbucks. Sorry, green mermaid.

Blueberry bagel with cream cheese from New York City Bagel & Coffee House

Blueberry bagel with cream cheese from New York City Bagel & Coffee House

One thing that I wish BK Bagel had more of, however, are sweet bagels. New York City Bagel & Coffee House is my runner-up for best bagel in my neighborhood and they do a great blueberry bagel. It’s actually purple and tastes like blueberry juice. While BK Bagel has blueberry cream cheese, NYCBCH offers the same schmear AND you could get it on the blueberry bagel for double the flavor.

It’s almost like a curse to be spoiled with New York bagels because once you have them, the others from chains like Lenny’s or grocery store bagels taste terrible. New York bagels have the right about of crunch on the outside and are chewy and dense on the inside. I’ve read somewhere that the proper way to eat a bagel here is to have it untoasted, and it brings out the full flavor of the bagel. That’s how you know you have a good bagel.

They say that New York bagels taste better because “there’s something in the water.” BK Bagel hand-rolls and kettle boils their bagels, and I say the only way to test this theory is to try one out for yourself.


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Foodtastic Finds: Authentic Philly Cheesesteak

I had the privilege to visit Philadelphia this week to see a friend, and the first thing I knew I had to do was get a Philly cheesesteak.

"The Works" from Campo's Deli

“The Works” from Campo’s Deli

Growing up, Philly cheesesteaks were kind of a big deal in my house, even though my parents are not even from Philadelphia. It’s just one of those sandwiches that majority of people seem to love. And what’s not to love about it? It’s thinly-sliced, tender beef doused in grilled onions, pepper, mushrooms (if desired), and smothered in cheese. The thought of it makes my mouth water!

So my friend and I had one question: where is the best place to get a Philly cheesesteak? It seems that each street boasted the best namesake hoagie in the city. Even food carts had their fair share of bragging rights. We turned to our trusty Yelp app to help us find a place.

Initially, we were going to go to a different place a few doors down but off the bat I didn’t have a good feeling about it. It definitely felt like a “hipster” place with stark white walls and black letters to contrast. The line was long, so I suggested we go to a place that looked like more of a mom-and-pop, diner place called Campo’s Deli in Old City.

We knew it was going to be good because the line stretched out towards the door. I paid no attention to the other menu items because I went straight for the cheesesteaks. Something that struck me was how many ways you can have this hoagie prepared. Some of the sandwiches are topped with broccoli rabe, cream cheese, or pizza toppings. Definitely not what I expected because when my mom would create Philly cheesesteaks at home, she insisted that they only be topped with caramelized onions and peppers and Cheez Whiz. Naturally, I ordered “The Works,” which includes those toppings, mushrooms, and choice of Cheez Whiz, provolone or American cheese.

The reason why I did not make this into a restaurant review was because this was my very first authentic Philly cheesesteak. And it was nothing short of amazing. What stood out most was how soft the bread was! It was not a tough as a grocery-bought hero/hoagie/sub. This melted the way a piece of freshly baked bread does in your mouth. Then mixed with the meat and toppings, it all blended so perfectly. Bread is such a key component to any sandwich because it holds everything together. Soft bread made this hoagie so much more enjoyable than other heros/hoagies I’ve had in the past. I also ordered my sandwich with provolone, which gave it a nice creaminess.

As I did my research afterwards, I learned that Campo’s was featured on Food Network, AOL City Guides, and all of these other awards. Like I said before, this may have been my first authentic Philly cheesesteak, but I can definitely see what all of the hype is about with this particular hoagie. Especially because of the bread. I can’t stop stressing how great it was! I highly recommend this place. And if you’re not based in Philly, take advantage of their shipping menu. The next time I’m in Philly, I want to try a different place just to compare. But this was a great starting point and set my Philly cheesesteak bar pretty high.

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Food For Thought: A Farewell to Crumbs Bake Shop

It seems that the whole country collectively freaked out when news broke that the Crumbs Bake Shop empire came crumbling down last Tuesday. Pun fully intended.

I have been soaking in everything I’ve been hearing and reading to fathom what comes next for the dessert world.

Crumbs’ History

So Crumbs was a mom and pop shop that first opened on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in March 2003 by Jason and Mia Bauer. They are best known for their over-the-top, oversized cupcakes like their Girl Scout Cookies range topped with half of either a Thin Mint, Lemon Shortbread, or PB Creme, or Red Velvet and Red Velvet Cheesecake with a surprise cheesecake filling. Most of their cupcakes had the surprise pocket of icing in the middle. Not to mention they also had monstrous cupcakes that were probably equivalent to four of their already-large cupcakes.

The company went public in June 2011 when ownerships switched hands to a large corporation. Crumbs had 79 locations in 12 states and Washington D.C., making them the largest cupcake chain in the nation. They’ve tried many different products, like brewing Starbucks coffee and teas, gourmet sandwiches, knock-off cronuts (dubbed “Crumbnuts”), and even opening an gluten-free shop.

On July 8, Crumbs announced that they were closing all of their shops and notified employees at the end of the previous day, thus ending the end of the cupcake empire.

Why Crumbs Lost Business

Powdered sugar-covered Crumbnut

Powdered sugar-covered Crumbnut

If you want cupcakes, there are so many other cupcake shops out there, so it’s not like it’ll be a huge loss for the dessert world. The two shops that come to mind are Magnolia Bakery and Sprinkles Cupcakes. What I think Crumbs made the mistake of doing was getting big too fast. And others have been saying the same. Magnolia always draws long lines because they only have locations in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles in the U.S.—seven locations in total. The exclusivity of Magnolia is what drives their business.

In an interview with Newsweek back in February 2011, Jason Bauer said that he wanted to make Crumbs “the dessert destination the same way Starbucks is everybody’s coffee destination.” He adds:

“Cupcakes are part of our dessert culture, like cookies and brownies. We’ve had double-digit growth eight years in a row from our oldest store. You can’t argue with the numbers. Cupcakes are here to stay. When people stop eating dessert, they’ll stop eating cupcakes.”

A cup of coffee and a cupcake are not the same. People rely on coffee to jump start their day or act as a pick-me-up. Cupcakes are a once-in-a-while treat. Even with chains like Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, the portions are small for a doughnut or cup of ice cream and cheaper. Definitely not as decadent as a $4.50 cupcake.

I know I sound like I’m hating on Crumbs, but honestly I really liked them. Last fall, I went to Crumbs a lot for the Crumbnut because I could not get (and still have not gotten) my hands on the highly-coveted cronut from the Dominique Ansel Bakery. When I used to intern in Chelsea, I would stop by the Crumbs on 6th Ave. for a cup of Americano and a Crumbnut. And you know what? I really liked the Crumbnut, even though they got a lot of flak for knocking off the cronut. Especially the apple pie flavor. Crumbs did get its fair share of customers, too. In March, I visited the Crumbs in Times Square and there was a long line—business looked like it was booming! And I passed by the gluten-free shop spontaneously a couple of weeks ago, which I was hoping I could visit. But I did see the signs of business dwindling when the a location on 7th Ave. near Penn Station shuttered sometime last fall. It just seems surreal that they are now closed.

The End of the Dessert Era?

Time Out New York claims that ice cream is the new cupcake. I can’t say I disagree, but I don’t think cupcakes are making their exit just yet. Magnolia and Sprinkles are still doing well. I just don’t think the world is ready for a cupcake conglomerate on every corner of a neighborhood. So here’s a final farewell to Crumbs. Thank you for your inventive cupcakes and for giving me a taste of what a cronut might taste like. You will be missed.

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Chocolate Tour of New York Review

Earlier in June, I had the pleasure of going on the Chocolate Tour of New York, hosted by Great New York Tours. I first discovered this deal on Groupon and couldn’t pass it up. It’s $25 for one ticket and $45 for two, as opposed to $50 for one ticket through the Great New York Tours website. If you have a sweet tooth and enjoy learning a little about New York City history, this tour is for you.

The tour is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a two-hour walking tour to eight locations to sample chocolate varieties, and it’s not just truffles or chocolate bars. We were given cookies, cupcakes, macarons, etc. I can guarantee that you will leave the tour satisfied and in a sugar coma. Make sure to bring lots of water and wear comfortable shoes. Also, I justified it as we are walking off what we try along the way, so that makes it okay, right?

Our tour first met in front of Chelsea Market, one of my favorite food meccas in New York City. This place has everything: an Italian grocery store, restaurants galore, and even Food Network, Cooking Channel, and offices. We then began our journey, starting in the West Village and ending in SoHo.

Chocolate heels at Li-Lac Chocolates

Chocolate heels fit for a princess at Li-Lac Chocolates.

Li-Lac Chocolates: This is the oldest chocolate shop in Manhattan. We were given the maple walnut cream fudge to try, which was amazing. And ironically, it wasn’t chocolate. What stood out most were the novelty chocolate items. It’s amazing to how chocolate can be sculpted to be anything you want it to be. There was an Empire State Building, cats, and even a life-sized handbag. It’s a great place to buy gifts, just make sure it doesn’t melt by picking up one of their cooler bags for $2.99!



Sign in front of Chocolate Bar

Sign in front of Chocolate Bar.

Chocolate Bar: This was probably my favorite place on the tour because although it boasts chocolate, they have a great coffee area. In addition, they have liquid chocolate, which is like a cold hot chocolate. My biggest regret was not trying out a mocha here or picking up a molé chocolate bar because I love coffee and spicy chocolate but didn’t want to be full so early on. But, I guess this just gives me a reason to come back.

Magnolia Bakery: Now I’m no stranger to Magnolia, as they were made famous by Sex and the City, but this was my first time at their flagship. In the past, I was not a huge fan of their cupcakes because their frosting is too buttery for my taste. But, the chocolate cupcake was amazing. We were each given our own mini cupcake. I definitely recommend those rather than something like their pistachio flavored cupcake.

Milk and Cookies Bakery: This was an adorable cookie shop. First off, there aren’t many shops dedicated solely to cookies. We tried the double chocolate cookie, which was the most chocolatey item on the tour. I also bought a s’mores cookie, which was pretty good. I kept hearing about a Bacon Smack cookie that I think is worth trying if you can get your hands on it. It’s has maple syrup, candied Neuskes cherry wood smoked bacon, dried cranberries, 72% dark chocolate chunks, toffee, and graham cracker pieces. Very cozy bakery and all of the cookies are made fresh.

Bisous Ciao Macarons: Macarons are one of my weaknesses. Not only are they adorable, when you eat one it’s like biting into a cloud with a dense, chewy center. Naturally, we tried chocolate macarons. What stood out to me here was the colorful selection! They had raspberry with a raspberry filling, lavender honey, rose, and black sesame. They also have delivery options to ship around the contingent 48 states, which is nice.

Pasticceria Bruno Bakery: This was a cute, Italian family-owned bakery that reminded me of a place that could have made an appearance in an episode of The Sopranos. We tried cannolis, which were better than the ones I had at a place in Little Italy that claimed to have the best in the world. Something that caught my eye was a pastry called the Daffle, a waffle-doughnut hybrid. At this point, my tolerance for sweets was dwindling, so I did not try it. But it definitely grabbed my attention with flavors like red velvet, Nutella, and maple syrup.

xocolatti: This was the most modern chocolate boutique of the tour with interesting chocolate combos like the olive oil basil truffle and sake truffle topped with a blue tint. We tried the mango paprika slate, which was a white chocolate bark with dried orange and mango bits and paprika. Honestly, this was my least favorite. I liked the spiciness, but the mango with white chocolate threw me off because it was so sweet.

Vosges Haut Chocolat: I looked forward to this place the most. Back in February, I bought my boyfriend their Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar, which is TO DIE FOR. Bacon and chocolate together are a heavenly pair. I highly recommend trying it because it is life-changing. We tried a sea salt chocolate, which was good, but definitely nothing like the bacon chocolate. Because this was my first time at their brick and mortar, I used a Foursquare special to get a free truffle. I was in the mood for spicy chocolate all day, so I opted for the Red Fire truffle with ancho chiles, cinnamon, cacao, and Venezuelan dark chocolate. It had a nice kick, but it definitely does not top the bacon chocolate bar. I’m not sure anything does.

I would most definitely do another Great New York Tour. Our tour guide was very nice and knowledgeable. He also kept us engaged and pointed out pieces of history along the way, like Chumley’s, a legendary speakeasy, and the timeline of the Meatpacking District. Get a group of your friends together to join, it’s the perfect girls day out activity. Happy sampling!