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THE BEST: Pastries in New York


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#1 VivreManger

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 12:49 PM

I am a sucker for French pastry. My favorites are tarte tatin, fruit tartes, but I am willing to try anything rich and lucious. Years ago I would swoon over the cassis cream cake at Bonte, a pastry shop on 3rd Avenue in the 70s, that is no longer.

Next week I will be in Manhattan on business and along the way I am hoping to find a good place to buy some pastry. I will be around Lexington in the 20s, with stops at 2nd Avenue Deli and Katz's, then onto 7th avenue in the 50s, and finally a quick visit to Zabar's to get some smoked fish before heading back to New England.

My question is geogastronomic. Given this itinerary, are there any places worth trying in these various neighborhoods?

I believe that Black Hound is right near the 2nd Avenue, but while their chocolates might be worth trying, their style is not precisely what I crave. Any other suggestions?

#2 menton1

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 01:09 PM

One of the best in NYC, if not THE best, is Payard. A really authentic patisserie, you almost feel like you are in Paris. Fill up your wallet before you go, however!

Payard Patisserie & Bistro
1032 Lexington Ave.
Between 73rd and 74th Sts.
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#3 marthapook

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 01:19 PM

One of the best in NYC, if not THE best, is Payard. 

Menton is pretty much right on the money.

I think equally as good, much cheaper and quite a bit out of the way would be my second pick


Financier
62 Stone Street
212 344 5600

#4 jogoode

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 01:31 PM

and finally a quick visit to Zabar's to get some smoked fish before heading back to New England. 

If you're going to Katz's, stop into Russ and Daughter's for smoked fish instead of Zabar's. More convenient, and a bit better.


And ditto on Payard. Great tarts. City Bakery, E. 18th St. (and close enough to Lexington), is not as French but very good for a tart.
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#5 Pan

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 01:37 PM

I have to admit I haven't tried any of the places mentioned so far, I think. Do any of you like Lafayette, on Greenwich Av. and Charles St.? I like it (though I obviously can't compare it to the other places) and it could be on your way. I don't think there's any seating, though. And where is Stone St., the Financial District?

VivreManger, if you'd be willing to go for Viennese instead of French pastries, I love the place on 1st Av. and 12th St.:

Something Sweet Inc
177 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003
(212) 533-9986

No place to sit there either, however.

#6 marthapook

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 01:52 PM

I have to admit I haven't tried any of the places mentioned so far, I think. Do any of you like Lafayette, on Greenwich Av. and Charles St.? I like it (though I obviously can't compare it to the other places) and it could be on your way. I don't think there's any seating, though. And where is Stone St., the Financial District?

Haven't been there - yet.

Financier is right around the corner from the now defunct Harry's of Hanover - a stone's throw :raz: from the Sea Port. Cute place w/ minimal seating

Eric Bedoucha, executive pastry chef for Bayards also bakes everything for Financier. (I believe he was Gray Kunz's original pastry chef at L'Espinasse)

His work is amazing. THE BEST madeleins in NY. What's more incredible is that Financier sells these beautiful (and delicious) confections and pastry for A FRACTION of what you would pay at Tribakery, Payards and Bruno - although I love them all.

Pan - also on Greenwhich - have you tried the Polka Dot Cake Studio - a bit different but very good.

#7 mags

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 02:18 PM

Pan, you LIKE Lafayette? Yeesh. Their prices are very appealing but jeez, all their stuff tastes to me like deeply mediocre "fancy" Jewish pastry -- the kind of stuff that used to appear on the "extravaganza of desserts" tables at Long Island bar mitzvahs when I was a kid. Bleh.

Payard all the way. Though what I really miss is Patisserie Friandise, which used to make the only chocolate cakes for which I would actually go to the Upper East Side. (Ok, my mother lives there, too, but that's a side issue :biggrin: .)

#8 Pan

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 02:24 PM

I haven't been to Polka Dot, but thanks for the recommendations.

I've had a few things at Lafayette, and yes, I liked them, or I wouldn't have said so. :raz: Since that shows a difference in taste between me and you, feel free to discount my recommendations to whatever extent is likely to be optimal for you.

#9 bloviatrix

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 05:01 PM

Financier is right around the corner from the now defunct Harry's of Hanover - a stone's throw :raz: from the Sea Port. Cute place w/ minimal seating

Eric Bedoucha, executive pastry chef for Bayards also bakes everything for Financier. (I believe he was Gray Kunz's original pastry chef at L'Espinasse)

All of those places (Bayard, Harry's, Financier) are owned by the same family. I believe they have a stake in most of the places on Stone Street.

I agree on Payard. I love going in there for a piece of cake and a cup of coffee. I feel so "ladies who lunch." :laugh:
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#10 Suzanne F

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 06:38 PM

I don't know, Pan -- every time I forget the LAST time and get something from Lafayette, like a lemon meringue tart, as soon as I bite into it I suddenly remember why it's been so long since the last time.

But I HIGHLY respect your opinion on Chinese and Malaysian food. :wink:

What does anyone think of Ceci Cela (on Spring Street and on Chambers Street)?

#11 Pan

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 07:07 PM

The thing I've liked best at Lafayette was their rum balls, but I'll shut up now. Glad you enjoyed your birthday.

#12 elyse

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 07:20 PM

VivreManager, you could try pecan pie by Elysean Foods. Ask for Le pecan pie. :wink:

#13 azlee

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Posted 03 January 2004 - 07:40 PM

I have to admit I haven't tried any of the places mentioned so far, I think. Do any of you like Lafayette, on Greenwich Av. and Charles St.? I like it (though I obviously can't compare it to the other places) and it could be on your way. I don't think there's any seating, though. And where is Stone St., the Financial District?

Haven't been there - yet.

Financier is right around the corner from the now defunct Harry's of Hanover - a stone's throw :raz: from the Sea Port. Cute place w/ minimal seating

Eric Bedoucha, executive pastry chef for Bayards also bakes everything for Financier. (I believe he was Gray Kunz's original pastry chef at L'Espinasse)

His work is amazing. THE BEST madeleins in NY. What's more incredible is that Financier sells these beautiful (and delicious) confections and pastry for A FRACTION of what you would pay at Tribakery, Payards and Bruno - although I love them all.

Pan - also on Greenwhich - have you tried the Polka Dot Cake Studio - a bit different but very good.

I love Financier and Le Bergamote on 9th Ave in Chelsea also has stellar pastry.

#14 marthapook

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Posted 04 January 2004 - 05:11 AM

All of those places (Bayard, Harry's, Financier) are owned by the same family.  I believe they have a stake in most of the places on Stone Street.

The family actually owns all of the places on Stone Street.

Harry's Of Hanover closed about two months or so ago - Harry's wife was a big part of the restaurant's operation and she passed away last year.

Harry's son Peter is part owner of Ulysses -also on stone- which btw has a really great Irish Cheese and Pate plate.

#15 marthapook

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Posted 04 January 2004 - 05:19 AM

What does anyone think of Ceci Cela (on Spring Street and on Chambers Street)?

I love Ceci Cela. I lke the Spring Street location better. Their product is the same but the spring street shop has a more rustic character.

Many of the croissant that are sold in coffee shops and bistros in the west village are made by Ceci Cela.

Their truffles and sandwiches are also very good - try the smoked trout if you get a chance.

#16 Mrs. B

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Posted 04 January 2004 - 12:39 PM

All the classic and fancy patisseries in the city have been mentioned. But if you want a rustic but great tasting tarte tatin,try the apple tart at Pain Quotidien, it is very good. They make the pie crust out of cookie crumbs instead of pastry dough and the apples are cut in large slices with the peel still on. I said rustic, not fancy but lip smacking good. There are lots of them all around the city: Madison Ave and 84th, Lexington Ave. and 63rd, at ABC carpet on 19th street between Bway and Park Ave. A big pie is $18.
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#17 R Washburn

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Posted 04 January 2004 - 01:22 PM

Fauchon (56th and Park ave.), and Petrossian (58thst. and 7th ave.) are my current favorites.

#18 jeff29992001

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 03:24 AM

what do you all think of the tarte tartin from Groupil and DeCarlos (lcoated in the Chelsea Market).

I haven't had a chance to try them, so wondering what you all thought.

#19 rshorens

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 10:43 PM

If you go to Payard, try the "Louvre"-my favorite dark chocolate/hazelnut cake.
Payard also offers an early bird/pre-theater dinner(usually including excellent appetizer, fish, and your choice of pastry/desserts)which i think is excellent value for the quality.
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#20 jordyny

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 11:19 AM

If you go to Pain Quotedien you should geta few baguettes. BEst bread in the city. The brioche is also good.

#21 ankomochi

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 11:52 AM

If you are around 7th ave and 50's street, stop by at Petrossian Bakery on 7th ave between 57th & 58th street. I love their tart. This morning I had Plum Tart, it was yummy. :wub: Their berry tart and pear tarts are delicious, too. As some posts suggested, le Pain Quoitidien has good tarts. There is le Pain Quotidien on the corner of 7th ave and 58th street.
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#22 jordyny

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 03:57 PM

Mondrian in 61st and third is a good place also.

#23 mjc

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 08:01 PM

Mondrian in 61st and third is a good place also.

I would say its a great place.
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#24 SethG

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 07:48 AM

This thread has been a revelation to me. I work just a couple blocks from Chambers Street.

So I went to Ceci Cela the other day, and got a very good croissant, pain au chocolat, and a pretty darn good cup of coffee. I can't really articulate the quivering excitement I feel at the prospect of having these products available daily!

But Financier beckoned. I went there on Wednesday, braving frigid temperatures and a howling lower Manhattan wind. I decided to do an informal sort of comparison, so I bought another croissant and a pain au chocolat, but I couldn't help but notice a much wider array of tortes and cakes than are available at Ceci Cela. After much hemming and hawing, I bought a slice of Sacher Torte, my least favorite dessert in Vienna but something to be treasured if found here in New York.

I brought this stash to my office, again courageously walking the frozen city streets, bag in hand. Once I finally reached my office, I bit into the croissant. It was substandard, I'm sorry to say. It was heavy, neither creamy with buttery goodness nor crunchy with flakiness. I was crestfallen. But then I tasted the pain au chocolat. It was transporting. A revelation. Light, flaky, the perfect thin layer of dark delicious chocolate.

I saved the Sacher Torte for lunchtime, and shared it with my officemate. It went in a blur. All I remember is that it was moist. It was gone in seconds, so obviously it must have been much smaller than it seemed at the time of purchase.

This morning I decided it was well past time for a rematch, so I went back to Ceci Cela for a croissant and pain au chocolat. Both were very good, but I didn't feel the same kind of euphoria that enveloped me when I had the Financier pain au chocolat. But was this feeling the result of the Financier pain au chocolate alone, or were other factors at work? Did the long walk in the cold have something to do with it? Were my expectations lowered by the subpar croissant?

Clearly a side-by-side comparison is in order.
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#25 VivreManger

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Posted 09 January 2004 - 09:47 PM

As I indicated earlier in Manger Munches Manhattan, I wanted to offer a report on patisseries and other sites sampled on my visit.

Payard, disappointing.
Petrossian, good.
Ceci Cela, very good, a very nice surprise.
Pain Quotidien, mixed


First to dispense with the one not in the running: Pain Quotidien. As the name suggests it is a bakery not a patisserie, but since one of its branches is across the street from Petrossian and a few minutes from where we were staying I thought it worth trying. Their bread is respectable. Pain poilaine it is not, but they bake an honest loaf. The baguette was rustic, chewy, and tasty. The large wheat round bread is a substantial piece of gluten with good hearty wholewheat flavor. I have yet to sample the multi-grain, but it smells good.

Their croissant is better than the supermarket variety, and is comparable to the sub-standard issue all too common in Paris, but it does not match what a croissant should be, a flaky, light buttery, brief crumbling communion with warm and wonderful wheat in a field of sunshine. The contrast between the outer dark crunchy crust and the inner yielding white dough should have been more elaborate.

They make a so-called Belgian brownie that is bigger and better than the standard supermarket issue, but nothing spectacular.

On the other hand their pastries are horrid. I bought two tarts: one lemon and once caramel creme brulee. The base of crust might as well have been cardboard. It was nearly hard as a rock. The toppings were even worse. The so-called creme brulee tasted like a layer of cookless -- the kind kids whip up in the kitchen -- butterscotch pudding on top of a thin layer of vanilla pudding.

However I can recommend them for one virtue, a virtue that flows from their vice. Since they are not a patisserie, they know how to pack their product to go. In striking contrast to Payard, the villain of the piece, they know that not all their customers transport their products home on a gyroscopically and aerodynamically balanced pastry conveyor mounted on a special platform of their chauffeured Rolls. PQ offers small hard plastic containers that snap shut and neatly hold the pastry in place. Better to buy them than the pastry they hold.

I should have realized what Payard was like when I called them early in the day to place my order. I explained that I would be carrying the pastries home a distance and I wanted to pack them carefully. I suggested that each tart could be placed in a small box all its own and that would minimize damage. They evinced no idea of what I was talking about. In Paris, I take that reaction for granted since one shops at the neighborhood patisserie -- as one should -- and the walk home is only a few feet away. But in mobile car-driven America, I would expect a different response. Their reaction actually encouraged me to expect something as good as Paris, one explanation of their cluelessness.

When I picked up my order that evening the tartes were all crowded into one weak large fancy yellow Payard box, more decorative than effective. I suggested that they could put some bakery tissue paper between each of the half dozen or so pieces so they would not move so much. Two responses: the paper would itself acquire the adjoining pastries and why don't I buy one more so there would be less free space. Of course I should have said better the paper than the pastry. I don't really care for chocolate berry melange mousse, but a bit of berry mousse on its own wrapping paper can always be licked off.

By the time I got around to ordering, the Louvre -- various mousses in dark chocolate -- was gone, but I did try a Japonais, Manhasset, Chocolate chiboust tart, two NY, NY, and a chocolate mousse in a tin cup to fill the box. I also picked up a few macarons, rose and chocolate.

Payard love mousses and I do too, but they are not Bouley mousse makers. I tried the cassis mousse in the Manhasset, the chocolate mousse in the Japonais and in the Notre Dame. None of these were bad, but none of them puts Payard in the major pastry league. Their problem is that for all their mousse might, they don't know how to make pastry dough. The sable Breton in the Manhasset Cassis mousse was as hard and tasty as a rock, a horrid contrast to the delicate cookie at Bouley the night before. The sweet dough in the Chocolate Chiboust Tart made the cookie at the base of the chocolate bas relief in Lu's Le Petit Ecolier, seem like a gossamer fairy delicacy. The pastry is not well-baked. I wonder if they share recipes with Pain Quotidien.

As for the macarons, their center was dry and tasteless. I expect the best French patisserie in New York to be inferior to those in Paris, but at least they should be comparable. The divide in quality between Pierre Herme and Payard is far greater than the ocean between them. Payard could not survive in Paris.

As I was getting ready to pay, I did notice they had a tarte tatin for sale, but I had already bought enough and the apples on this tarte were far too pale and insufficiently carmelized to tempt me.

For your convenience here is what appears on their website.

Japonais Milk Chocolate Mousse, Yuzu Citrus Cream, Sacher Biscuit

Louvre, Hazelnut Mousse, Milk Chocolate Mousse, Hazelnut Dacquoise Covered in Dark Chocolate.

Manhasset Cassis Mousse, Passion Fruit Cream with a Sable Breton

NY, NY Lemon Sponge, Berry Syrup, Fresh Berries and a Cream Cheese Mousse with a
Manhattan Skyline Silk Screen -- incidentally the twin towers till stand.

Notre Dame, Chocolate Biscuit, Chocolate Mousse and Vanilla Bavarois.

Saint-Honore, Pastry Filled with Sweetened Whipped Cream and Dipped in Caramel

Paris Brest, Choux Pastry Filled with Praliné Cream.

Mont Blanc, Sweet Dough, Chestnut Cream, Meringue, Whipped Cream, Chesnut Vermicelles and Candied Chestnuts.

Chocolate Chiboust Tart Sweet Dough, Caramel Ganache, Candied Nuts and Chocolate Chiboust Cream.


I know Petrossian as a purveyor of caviar and smoked salmon and I was surprised by the suggestion that I try their pastry. Their website lists none and when I appeared at their shop in the morning none were yet on display. Sight unseen and on blind trust I ordered a few. Quickly I realized I was dealing with a staff very different from Payard. One pastry I intended for a friend with a very rare digestive disorder that restricts her diet. One of the few fruits she can eat is blueberries. When I learned they make a blueberry blackberry tarte, I asked if they could make it all blueberry. Though surprised, Gigi quickly agreed.

When I returned later to pick them up, I was not disappointed. Petrossian uses as its base, fillo-like flaky dough, a mille-feuille. The result is an extremely light and delicate foil for the fruit above. I gave away three of the pastries to friends at home and so have fully tasted only the raspberry tarte, but it is a very impressive creation. Not too sweet, a slight date-like base below. I could not identify the fruit. I took a small taste of the apple in another tarte. I did not like it as much, but the dough below it seemed equally scrumptious.

I also bought a fruit strudel and a savory cheese role. The strudel I have yet to try. I have had better cheese rolls.

A detailed review of the last patisserie, Ceci Cela will have to wait. As a neighborhood shop, it does have an element that makes Paris patisseries so charming and appealing. The product is not as pretensious as the other two, but it is closer to what I had in mind when I posed my request.

Financier Patisserie way down in Chinatown, I did not try on this trip, but DSethG's report makes it well worth a visit.

#26 Pan

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Posted 09 January 2004 - 09:59 PM

Thanks for the detailed report. I look forward to reading about Ceci Cela when you have a chance to write them up.

#27 jeff29992001

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Posted 10 January 2004 - 05:36 AM

Anybody tried, and have any opinions on Groupil and DeCarlos' tarte tartin, or their other stuff, tarts, danishes, etc.


(they are located inside the chelsea market across from buon italia).

#28 jeff29992001

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Posted 10 January 2004 - 05:47 AM

the only thing good at payard is the lemon tart. good lemony sharpness, less sugar flavor. the fancy cakes I tried once over a year ago. dind't like em. the flourless cookie is ok, (just ground walnuts and chocolate.)

at petrossian, the pastries are not good if you order them late in the day (soggy because of the filling soaking into the phyllo). they also offered a hard plastic (Acetate) box for yoru pastry a long time ago, but look slike they don't anymore...

#29 VivreManger

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Posted 10 January 2004 - 09:18 AM

Actually Petrossian offers two kinds of packages, the clear acetate which is quite elegant and the normal hard paper box.

Soggy phyllo dough means that their pastries do not have a long shelf-life, but at least they are better to begin with.

Edited by VivreManger, 10 January 2004 - 09:35 AM.


#30 Bux

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Posted 10 January 2004 - 11:22 AM

First to dispense with the one not in the running: Pain Quotidien.  As the name suggests it is a bakery not a patisserie, but since one of its branches is across the street from Petrossian and a few minutes from where we were staying I thought it worth trying.  Their bread is respectable.  Pain poilaine it is not, but they bake an honest loaf.  The baguette was rustic, chewy, and tasty.  The large wheat round bread is a substantial piece of gluten with good hearty wholewheat flavor.  I have yet to sample the multi-grain, but it smells good. 

Their croissant is better than the supermarket variety, and is comparable to the sub-standard issue all too common in Paris, but it does not match what a croissant should be, a flaky, light buttery, brief crumbling communion with warm and wonderful wheat in a field of sunshine.  The contrast between the outer dark crunchy crust and the inner yielding white dough should have been more elaborate. 

Croissants seem to have gone downhill in NY again. There was a time when I found the croissants at Ceci-Cela on Spring Street, superior to even good croissants in France. They have slid considerably since. The ones at Pain Quotidien down in Grand Street, although almost twice the price, have been much better, but they have begun to suffer from great inconsistency. The least hint of humidity in the air and the crispness plummets. I'm not sure if they come from a central oven or not. The Grand Street location was a commerical bakery before Pain Quotidien moved in, yet I have the impression, the croissants are delivered to the shop. On the other hand, I've been told their bread seems better than at some other branches.

On the other hand their pastries are horrid.

We've very much enjoyed their apple/almond tart. It has a nice dense rustic cookie crumb crust and overall a nice rustic quality. For instance, the apples are unpeeled. It is perhaps, the antithesis of Payard's mousses. I've not tried any of their other cakes or pastries and truthfully, might not have tried the apple/almond tart had it not been recommended to us by someone.
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