Some moments in this city leave me wondering if I’m living in a dream. Manhattan is very conducive to dreams. In a city where one travels on foot and one odd turn, one corner can lead into another world, it’s not hard to find yourself in unexpected places Actually I guess, this city can be anything you want it to be.
This Sunday was a rainy day. But a warm one. And a windy one! My hat flew away at least three times, and now it is all dirty. I will put it through the washer tomorrow. I finished up the last of holiday shopping today. Last minute, I know. The rain grew harder as the night wore on, as I shopped my way across the East Village and Union Square. And the wind! Oh boy, was it nutso. Finding myself in the West Village after dinner at Maoz, I ducked into the bakery I frequent most often in evenings, arms weighed down by shopping bags, my hair resembling a birdnest on steroids. The wind – crazy.
I wanted to pick up a jar of creamed honey for breakfast. One of the most delicious things to eat in the early mornings is a slice of toasted brioche, topped with a smother of mascarpone, honey and then a handful of berries or any fruit you have on hand. I had my eye on this particular jar of honey during my last few visits, and with my parents visiting tomorrow, I figure what better way to usher them into my tiny apartment than with a fresh jar of honey, bread, and fruits?
As I paid for the purchase, the boy I always run into at the bakery asked, “how do you feel about our chocolate cookies?” I responded, “why, I enjoy them very much.” He put the honey into a big bag and along with the jar, wrapped up two double chocolate chip cookie. Well! I had not planned on eating sweets at the moment, but how can one deny the opportunity for a fresh cookie? So I put my bags down, nabbed a copy of the Sunday New York Times and had myself a little cooking & reading party on the brown bakery bench. Such is Sunday night. The cookie, is my favourite of all the Build a Green Bakery cookies. It intensely chocolatey, near fudgey with soft moist innards, but sharp crisp edges. A little bit and the best of all worlds.
Hat down low and the Sunday business section propped up high, I admit I was more focused on the steady flow of customers popping into the bakery for post dinner sweets than I was on reading the paper. Most of them were couples or single men, or men in groups of two. Do most women not come to bakeries alone? I even saw a stoner who stopped in to ask the time. He came back 15 minutes later for a cup of coffee.
In moments when the bakery was empty the boy and I had little chats on food and the city, and the strange and wonderful people in this city. It was nice. We debated on every single pastry in the shop, the pros and cons of each cookie, the vegan muffins and the lack of music. The bakery, when no one is speaking, is eerily quiet. We talked about steaks, and cubanos, and pizza. I really craved a cubano after the sweet cookie. He mentioned the apple miso muffin as his favourite item in the bakery. I said the bakers muffin was my weakness.
Customers came and customers went. And soon I had to leave. Had to leave to go back home and tidy the apartment and wash my hat. “Hey guess what?” he says. I turn. “We have extra bakers muffin that’ll be thrown away at the end of the night if they’re not sold.” The bakery was about to close soon. So he popped two into a brown paper bag. I thanked him and smiled.
Sometimes, it is very hard not to smile.
The bakers muffin is perfect as far as I’m concerned. I loves sweets that are not sweet, hence my affection for croissants and brioche. So this treat. It is a ‘muffin’ only by shape. It is a croissant by all other names. Bits of croissant dough torn, a la ‘monkey bread’, layered with walnuts and raisins into a muffin tin. Baked up high till the top surface is wonderfully golden with buttery edges that crumble upon bites. A dash of powdered sugar for the faintest touch of sweet.
We shook hands and I left. It was no longer raining out, and I daresay, the night was quite warm. I walked slowly to the subway station, taking my time, because tomorrow is Christmas and there is no reason to rush. I passed brownstones that I’ve owned in dreams and restaurants where content expressions, glasses of wines and perfect lighting all meet for an evening.
And then I ate the entire bakers muffin on the subway ride home.
Build a Green Bakery
175 7th Ave
NY, NY 10014