Category Archives: Mediterranean

Dina’s Guide to NYC Old World Bakeries

I love old world bakeries.  Whenever I visit a new city, I always look for old bakeries.  I don’t care if they look dirty or grungy from the outside, or if they have outdated signs out front.  Those signs are a sure “sign” that deliciousness awaits me inside. I feel good that I am supporting a family and the local economy as well as eating something that was made with pride and craft.  So if you are visiting NYC or if you live here, when you eat at most of the bakeries on this list, you are supporting local families and businesses that represent the history and culture of this diverse city.

In this list, I’ve tried to include all old world bakeries in Manhattan.  If I missed one, by all means, tell me about it because I’d love to go there.  (I’m focusing on the more “touristy” part of Manhattan.  This list doesn’t include Mexican or Dominican bakeries in Upper Manhattan, such as Bakery el Panadero, Capri, De Colores Bakery, Dyckman’s, D’Lillian’s, El Barrio, El Manantial, El Nazareno, Esmeraldo’s, Floridita, Grinis, Kenny Bakery, Las Americas, Mi Querido Mexico Lindo or Sweet Life Bakery.  It also doesn’t include kosher bakery Gideon’s, Hungarian Pastry Shop, Asian bakery In & Out or Ethiopian Injera Bakery.  Sounds like a bakery tour of Upper Manhattan is in order!)

I’ve written about Italian bakeries in Manhattan before in Dina’s Guide to NYC Italian Bakeries.  My favorite bakeries are old school and traditional German, Jewish and Italian ones.  There is only one German bakery and only one Jewish bakery left in Manhattan.  (As far as I know–please tell me if there are more.  There are other places to get German and Jewish baked goods, ex. Zabar’s, but not other old school bakeries.  East Broadway Kosher on Grand near Kossar’s closed, but I’m not sure if it reopened?  Last time I was there, it was closed.)  In this list I’m including bakeries that have sweet bakery items.  Following that is a list of specialty old world bakeries that make bread, knishes, bialys etc.  Many of these places are cash only, so go prepared.

moishes

Moishe’sLower East Side, Grand Street at East Broadway, and East Village, 2nd Avenue at 7th Street, Moishe’s is my favorite bakery in the city–the quintessential bakery.  I am addicted to Moishe’s.  The best hamentaschen, the best black and white cookies, the best rainbow cookies.  I’ve never had anything here that wasn’t delicious.  It’s no frills with graffiti on the window, but who cares?  I’m here for the cookies, not the decor.  They do have a new sign out front, but I’m keeping this photo of the old one.  I’ve sung the praises of Moishe’s many times. 

Poseidon Bakery

PoseidonHell’s Kitchen, 9th Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets, At 90 years old, Poseidon is still family owned and the only Greek bakery in Manhattan, and one of the last businesses in what used to be a Greek neighborhood.  Here, you can get delicious Greek goodies like baklava and cookies.  The handmade phyllo dough strudels are a must-get.  I’ve written about Poseidon before.

Glaser's

Glaser’s Bake ShopYorkville, Upper East Side, 1st Avenue at 87th Street, Family-owned since 1902, Glaser’s is the only German bakery in Manhattan in what used to be a German neighborhood.  It still turns out amazing crumb cake, jelly doughnuts and danishes.  However, it also makes American favorites like brownies too.  This is an old school bakery at its best.  Check out the beautiful wood interior and tile floor.  I’ve written about Glaser’s before.

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La DeliceKips Bay, 3rd Avenue at 27th Street, La Delice is an old school bakery with a variety of classic baked goods and beautiful cakes.  They have many colorful macarons.

Andre’s HungarianMidtown East, 1st Avenue at 57th Street and Upper East Side, 2nd Avenue at 85th Street, Andre’s is the place to go for traditional, handmade strudel and other Hungarian pastries and gorgeous cakes.

Ferrara2

FerraraLittle Italy, Grand Street at Mulberry,  Ferrara, a legendary Italian pastry shop, opened in 1892 by Enrico Scoppa and Antonio Ferrara.  The fifth-generation pastry shop gained fame when Enrico Caruso became a regular.   Ferrara’s became well-known for its cannoli and torrone.  Talk about being a kid in a candy store.  I take one look at the glass case of glistening glazed fruit atop an array of pastries in a myriad of colors, and I’m mesmerized.  The pastry case at Ferrara’s is a work of art.  When I talk to people who’ve never been to an Italian bakery, I show them pictures of Ferrara’s.  Everyone in my family will attest to Ferrara’s being the gold standard of New York Italian pastries.

Ferrara's pastries

Ferrara’s pastries

La Bella FerraraLittle Italy, Mulberry Street at Canal, is an old school bakery.  Walk in here and the waft of fresh-baked cookies fills the air.  Many are displayed in the usual bakery case but there’s also a table of cookies that reminds me of the dessert table at a family party.

Veniero's pastry

Veniero’sEast Village, East 11th Street at 1st Avenue, Veniero’s claims to be America’s oldest pastry shop, opening in 1894.  Veniero’s is also owned by Bruce Springsteen’s cousin.  It has a beautiful display of traditional Italian pastries as well as a cafe.

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Pasticceria RoccoWest Village, Bleecker Street near Carmine, is the last man standing in this old Italian neighborhood even though the pastry shop itself is not that old.  (Rocco Generoso apprenticed with the owner of a prior bakery before purchasing it and renaming it in 1974.  Now, Rocco Jr. is at the helm.)  My family came from this area, lived on Carmine Street and went to Our Lady of Pompeii Church across the street.   The big fat cookies in the window beckon you into the bakery, but get the cheesecake.  It’s the best in the city, hands down.  (Yes, better than Junior’s.)

William Greenberg DessertsUpper East Side, Madison Avenue at 82nd Street, Rugelach, black and whites, hamentaschen, rainbow cookies and Linzers…need I say more?  Oh yeah, how about black and whites in custom colors?

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Orwasher’s, Upper East Side, 78th Street at 2nd Avenue, Orwasher’s opened in 1916 and was known for its Eastern European-style bread.  The bakery got a new owner in 2007 who added other European artisanal breads, and there are still the same wonderful pastries.  Did I mention fill-to-order jelly doughnuts and the sweetest staff in NYC?

Fay Davarious locations, While I’m not an expert in Chinese baked goods, I’ve been to many bakeries in Chinatown.  Fay Da is my favorite with consistently fresh and tasty pastries.

Specialty Bakeries

Russ & DaughtersLower East Side, Houston Street at Orchard Street, Celebrating 100 years this year, Russ & Daughters is a classic NYC institution.  It is in this category because it specializes in smoked fish and also has baked goods like babka, rugelach and macaroons.  But it also serves a bit of feminist history.  As the original owner had no sons, he left his shop to his daughters, hence the name.

Kossar’sLower East Side, Grand Street at Essex Street, Kossar’s specializes in bialys.

Yonah SchimmelLower East Side, Houston Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, Yonah Schimmel has specialized in knishes for over 100 years.

Parisi BakeryLittle Italy, two locations at Elizabeth and Mott Streets,  Family-owned for over 100 years, Parisi Bakery specializes in bread and deli sandwiches.

 

–Dina Di Maio

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Two for Tuesday: Greek and Middle Eastern Cookies

This week’s Two for Tuesday are Greek and Middle Eastern cookies.  On 9th Avenue is the Greek bakery, Poseidon, a family-owned bakery much beloved by locals.  Poseidon bakes Greek favorites like baklava as well as cookies like melomakarono (honey cookies), kourabiedes (walnut cookies) and koulourakia (sesame cookies), as well as fruit strudels made of hand-rolled phyllo dough.

Poseidon cookies

Sugar and Plumm‘s flagship store is on the Upper West Side, but they have a patisserie on Bleecker Street.  There, they have their signature chocolate pumps and purses that look more like the real thing than like chocolate.  They also have these divine little cookies from Vivel Patisserie in Dubai.  My two favorites are the Caramel and the Nocochi.  The Caramel consists of almond slices caramelized in honey and saffron.  Nocochi is a chickpea cookie that is soft as sand with a dash of cardamom.  The Nocochi white is a chickpea flour cookie with cinnamon, walnuts and white chocolate.  This had the chickpea flavor of the nocochi with this lovely spicy hint of cinnamon.  The Noir is a hazelnut biscuit filled with raspberry jam.  At first glance, I thought this would be my favorite.  But it wasn’t.  I’m a big fan of jam cookies, and this was not one of my favorites.  The Almond Rock is an almond biscuit topped with pistachios.

Vivel

Two for Tuesday: Eastern Mediterranean Cuisines

When we think of Mediterranean cuisine, we think of Spanish, French, Italian, Greek but not the Balkans or the Druze culture.  Last month, I visited two restaurants off the beaten Mediterranean path.

A taste of the Balkans in Hell’s Kitchen, Balkanika is a delightful restaurant.  It has a warm, cozy atmosphere with friendly, helpful staff.  We weren’t sure what to order.  We knew we’d start with dips, but they all sounded so good, so we got the plate of all 16.  Boy, were we glad we did, as we had a blast scooping our way through them with the accompanying fresh bread (of which there was plenty).

Balkanika dips

We also ordered the mesana skara, a meat platter for two.  This consisted of ground lamb and turkey patties, sausages and chicken rolled in cheese and bacon.  We scarfed the dips down with a bottle of Croatian wine, with barely enough room for the meat.  It made a good next day lunch.

mesana skara

Gazala’s Place in Hell’s Kitchen specializes in Druze cuisine.  Druze are a religious community in the Middle East, and the chef and owner is from a Druze village in Israel.  Their food is similar to Lebanese.

We went here for lunch, and it wasn’t crowded.  We were seated at a comfy table.  I love labneh, so I got the lebanee, or handmade goat cheese.  The lebanee here had more of a cream cheese consistency than a sour cream consistency.  I’ve had both types and both are very good.  This was delicious with olive oil and fresh bread–thin, large sheets of pita.

lebanee

I also got the fattoush salad, one of my favorites.  It was very good and filling.

fattoush

My friend got the hummus plate with hummus, babaganoush, a very tasty cabbage and corn salad, falafel, lebanee and pita.

hummus plate

Mahlab

Mahlab, a spice made from the ground kernels inside cherry pits, was unknown to me until I recently had an American Spoon milk caramel that listed it as an ingredient.  A fan of dulce de leche, I saw American Spoon’s version at Chelsea Market Baskets in Chelsea Market.  It listed mahlab as an ingredient.  Since I love Midwestern cherries, I thought I’d love this.  And, indeed, I do.  It has a spicy, bitter taste with a floral hint.  I’ve been eating it on yogurt and ice cream.

milk caramel

I saw a cooking show today with a recipe for crepes with cajeta, and this milk caramel would be great for that too.

I since learned that mahlab is used in Greek and Middle Eastern baking, and  it comes from St. Lucie cherries.  Now I’d like to experiment with it myself.  First, I have to find it.  Know where to get it in NYC?

Almayass

Almayass is a restaurant specializing in Armenian-Lebanese dishes.  The flagship restaurant is in Beirut, and the New York City location opened in April 2012.   The atmosphere is quiet and romantic with a modern feel.  Colorful glass artwork, such as a centerpiece of blue flowers, adorn the lobby and dining area.  The friendly staff are more than happy to recommend dishes and explain items on the menu.  All menu items, not just the mezze, but the entrees and salads too, are meant to be shared.  Each table gets a basket of pita bread with a sesame seed dip.

We ordered fattoush, a bread salad with mint,  sumac and a lemon dressing.  This refreshing version had fried pita pieces that gave a nice crunch.


With the thin pita bread, we scooped labneh with dried mint and extra virgin olive oil.

Subereg, a layered pastry with cheese, recommended by our waiter:

Chicken wings provencal in a cilantro and garlic sauce:

I couldn’t get enough of shrimp provencal, shrimp sautéed in a very pleasant lemon juice, cilantro and garlic sauce:


We didn’t leave anything on our plates! All of the garlic dishes were well seasoned, with just a hint of garlic to make the dish sparkle.

Museum Meals

Museum restaurants and cafes can be surprisingly good places to eat.  New York City is one of the best cities to get great cuisine at a museum.  I had brunch recently at Robert, a restaurant at the top of the Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle that serves American and Mediterranean cuisine.  Talk about one of the greatest views in the city!  Full frontal Central Park.

If you haven’t been to the museum, I highly recommend it, as I’ve gone on a few occasions and enjoyed it very much.  The gift shop has unique housewares and jewelry as well.

To get to Robert, take the elevator to the 9th floor.  The contemporary space is white with sci-fi see-through chairs with purple cushions and pink and yellow lighting from above.  The bathroom doors are pretty cool too with fluorescent pink lighting through the glass door.  The lounge area has couches or you can get a table near the window in the dining area.

We were served a basket of mini baguettes and chocolate muffins with creamy-good butter and sea salt.

For starters, I got the chilled corn soup with avocado and cilantro.  My friend also ordered this dish, and though visually pleasing, it didn’t work for either of us.  I thought the olive oil flavor didn’t mix well with the corn.  It was a little overpowering and the consistency was an unpleasant thickness.

For my entree, I got the ricotta cheese pancakes with tomato-dried fruit jam and whipped cream.  Pretty, pretty pancakes!  These were wonderfully fluffy and light.  I enjoyed switching between the jam for a little sweetness and the whipped cream.

For dessert, cheese cake with peach compote and chocolate tuille.  This was a light, fluffy cheese cake and the peach flavor was a sweet variation.

My dessert was a perfectly round scoop of house made vanilla ice cream.

Restaurant Week: Gastroarte

I always like to catch a few restaurants during Restaurant Week in winter and again in summer.  A lot of New Yorkers do not like Restaurant Week because they feel that the quality is not as good and that portions are smaller.  Most Restaurant Week regulars, however, know that there are a few great bargains for fine cuisine hidden in that extensive list of restaurants.  Gastroarte is one of them.  I’ve written about Gastroarte before, as I’m a fan of Chef Jesus Nunez’s beautifully artistic creations modernizing Spanish cuisine.

Chef Nunez greeted us before we ordered and recommended we try the pear salad and hake fishballs, as being signature dishes.

pear salad with Valdeon cheese, quince and walnuts

Where are the cheese, quince and walnuts, you ask?  Hidden beneath the pleasantly dressed mixed greens.

Another appetizer option: a creamy golden corn soup studded with English peas, fava beans and Serrano ham.


My friends ordered hake fishballs, mussels, shrimp and roasted cauliflower in a Mediterranean sauce. Hake, similar to cod, is abundant here in New York and very popular in Spain.


I ordered the marinated pork ribs with vegetables, a spicy sauce and cumin yogurt. I enjoyed this dish very much.  The perfectly cooked pork was topped with a lovely, spicy barbecue sauce.  With a sizable portion, it was quite filling.

For dessert, we all opted for the torrija with vanilla cream and strawberries. None of us had had torrija before, but it is similar to French toast. This dish was like a comforting, warm bread pudding with berries.

torrija

The Restaurant Week menu at Gastroarte provides an opportunity to try the restaurant’s classic dishes and whets your appetite for more of Chef Nunez’s creations. Chef Nunez will be put to the test against Chef Michael Symon on the July 29th episode of the Iron Chef. Judges include Jose Andres and Andrew Zimmern. It’s no secret I’m rooting for Chef Nunez!