25 Years of Seinfeld’s New York

Seinfeld, probably the greatest sitcom of our time, premiered on NBC 25 years ago, on July 5th. Though ostensibly a show about nothing, Seinfeld proved to be about nearly everything. It had a unique way of honing in on every kind of social triviality, lending the most mundane interactions a comic ridiculousness and relatability. At its heart, it was a show about who we think we are versus who we really are. Jerry, George and Elaine all longed to be viewed as decent people and to pat themselves on the back for their good deeds all while doing some pretty reprehensible things. As an example: George buys a chair for a security guard so the guard doesn’t have to stand all day, and, in a separate episode, pushes children and the elderly aside so he can be the first to escape a fire. Kramer, on the other hand, was the foil, content to be just who he was.

Elaine Benes is one of my favorite female TV characters ever, despite being a not-so-great person. She could hang with the boys without having to emulate them. She was sexual without being sexualized. And she was funny. Like, really funny. And not funny by doing gender-specific schtick. Just, well, funny. I’d say, punch for punch, she landed some of the best zingers on the show. The character is a testament to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s range as an actor.

It was also a show about New York City. Yes, the situations were relatable no matter your zip code, but NYC dwellers had a unique window into the world of Seinfeld. A few storylines that would garner knowing nods from New Yorkers:

  • Elaine giving a false address in order to have really good Chinese food delivered to her apartment. (“If we deliver to you, then what, 85th Street, Wall Street, Mexico, 84th Street…?”)
  • George, Elaine and Jerry’s ultimately fruitless hunt for the perfect apartment
  • Elaine’s screaming inner monologue when the subway breaks down
  • Elaine leading a group that includes a pregnant woman and a priest under a set of bleachers in order to find an escape route out of the Puerto Rican Day parade
  • Elaine and Jerry’s determination to bring a chocolate babka to a party (“You can’t beat a babka.”), then settling for cinnamon.
  • Kramer telling Jerry that if he doesn’t want to be a part of society, he should move to the East Side.
  • Kramer, lost and scared, calling Jerry and telling him he’s in the “Nexus of the Universe”: the intersection of 1st Street and 1st Avenue. (“How can the same street intersect with itself?”)

 

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“Cinnamon takes a backseat to no babka”

The Artisanal Ice Cream Takeover of NYC

Back in October of 2012, my husband and I heard Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein speak to an audience of New Yorkers. The stars of the affectionately-hipster-satirizing IFC show Portlandia were asked what trendy import from Portland we New Yorkers could expect in the immediate future. Fred answered that weirdly flavored, super-popular, hyper-local, small-batch artisanal ice cream didn’t really seem like a big thing here in NYC, and that Portlanders were waiting in block-long lines for flavors like goat cheese-marionberry-habanero at purveyor Salt & Straw and many others around the city. “Ice cream is on its way,” he had declared.

Like a self-consciously ironic plot line straight out of Portlandia, he turned out to be right, off-handedly predicting NYC’s next big dessert trend. Is Fred Armisen some kind of soothsayer? Or are we just that predictable? American culinary ingenuity doesn’t always start here, the way we’d like to think it does. Small town shops across the country, like Jeni’s in Columbus, Ohio, have been doing this sort of thing for years, and it seems New Yorkers were ready for a deluge of some high-brow ice cream of their own.

Stalwart shops like Sundaes and Cones in the East Village (and before that Bay Ridge) and Cones in the West Village, both with impressive rosters of unique flavors, had been open for decades, but the wave really began about a year before Fred’s pronouncement, with the opening of Ample Hills Creamery in Prospect Heights in the spring of 2011. The shop, with addictive flavors like Salted Crack Caramel and Bubblegum, was so popular it had to close for a bit soon after opening in order to re-stock its ice cream supply. Ample Hills also had the pedigree of being one of the only shops in the country at the time to produce all of its ice cream, including the base, entirely from scratch, on-site. Very Portland-esque, indeed. The shop is now expanding to Gowanus, the site of their new production facility, and has an outpost at Brooklyn Bridge Park as well as a new cookbook.

I guess Fred saw the writing on the wall? After his pronouncement, Oddfellows Ice Cream Co., with flavors like Chorizo Caramel Swirl and Cornbread, opened in Williamsburg in the spring of 2013 and recently expanded to the East Village. Here are three more artisan ice cream shops, all opened since last summer, the last two just within the the last month-and-a-half.

1. Davey’s Ice Cream, East Village According to Grubstreet, David Yoo, owner of Davey’s Ice Cream is a former graphic designer whose true calling was ice cream. He quit his job and enrolled in Penn State’s ice cream short course. (Incidentally, it’s the same course taken by Ample Hills founder Brian Smith, who was a Sci-Fi writer in his pre-ice cream life.)  Per EV Grieve, David, like Smith, produces all of the ice cream from scratch right in the his tiny shop and with local ingredients like Battenkill Valley Creamery cream and milk. There’s a cast of permanent flavors like Strong Coffee and Mexican Vanilla Bean as well as a handful of rotating, experimental flavors. I missed out on Ultra Babka from a few weeks ago (the babka is supplied by Moishe’s Bake Shop, a block away-not sure you can get more local than that), but enjoyed the below super-chunky Brunch! flavor filled with brioche French toast, cinnamon-maple syrup and coffee-glazed bacon. daveys2 Daveys

2. Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream, Lower East Side Started by restaurant alum Nick Morgenstern, who’d amassed an ice cream-lover following thanks to a cart outside Fort Greene’s General Greene restaurant, this parlor kicks things up far higher than a notch. A few nights ago I observed NYC’s own “Mr. Chocolate” Jacques Torres sampling the Durian Banana ice cream. He remarked that it had “a very distinct durian flavor.” Durian is a Southeast Asian fruit often banned from public spaces because of the offensive odor it produces when its studded exterior is cut open. Also on the menu: American Egg ice cream, a Jungle Bird cocktail sorbet and dozens of other flavors. My husband was angling for the Szechuan Peppercorn Chocolate. The ice cream is eggless and low in sugar (for flavor-not health-reasons, per Grubstreet), but doesn’t taste discernibly less rich or flavorful than standard ice cream. The below Chocolate Oat ice cream in a waffle cone was a winner. morgensterns3 morgensterns2

3. Hay Rosie Craft Ice Cream, Carroll Gardens I wasn’t 100 percent sold on the encompassing nature of this trend until I walked over to this brand new shop two weeks after it first opened. It was around 3 p.m. on a beautiful early summer day-in other words, prime ice cream time. The door was locked and a sign hanging outside the shop read “sold out,” invoking the great Ample Hills rush of 2011 and proving that New Yorkers have a seemingly insatiable appetite for uniquely crafted small-batch ice cream. Shop owner Stef Ferrari, like Yoo and Smith, is also an alum of the Penn State ice cream course, and churns out everything-from-scratch eggless flavors like Sriracha popcorn, which is distinctively hot, and the satisfying Bananas Ferrari (bel0w), with brown butter, Muscovado sugar, bananas, salt and malt. Her focus is on manufacturing, with the shop functioning as a tasting room on weekends.

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Summer Date Ideas by Neighborhood: Prospect Heights

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I love summer in the city as much as the next gal, but there’s something about it that for New Yorkers can be, well, a tad anxiety inducing. It’s more than the obsession with getting the most we possibly can out of the warmer months, it’s also that fact that New York in the summer is almost too awesome. There’s so much to do, and so little time in which to pack it all in. Every non-humid 80° F day feels like a gift from the heavens, one that must be enjoyed to the fullest, lest we conclude that the day –and if the day, then the week, the month, and obviously the season–has gone to waste.

In order to help, I’ve started a new series focusing on summer dates, whether romantic or plutonic, that take full advantage of the city’s neighborhoods in a low-key way.

Prospect Heights is a Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhood northeast of Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Take advantage of both the park and gardens, if you’d like, or, escape the heat at the Brooklyn Museum, a large, stately museum with one of my favorite permanent collections. Currently on view is an exhibition featuring more than 40 works by subversive modern Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Head to the museum for First Saturdays (the next one is July 5) to enjoy reduced admission to the Ai Weiwei exhibit as well as music and entertainment from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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After museum-ing, take a 2-minute walk up Washington Avenue to craft cocktail bar Tooker Alley. Enjoy inventive cocktails (in the $11-$12 range) and a short menu of small bites in their low-lit bar or in the spacious backyard (open until 10 p.m.). Free jazz on Monday evenings if that’s your thing. Check on the wait time at Bar Corvo (below) so you can imbibe a few drinks al fresco until they call to tell you your table’s ready.

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Bar Corvo, a neighborhood-y Italian restaurant, is a more casual offshoot of the insanely popular Park Slope spot Al Di La. The food here is hearty and delicious. I’m especially a fan of the anchovy-and-breadcrumb cauliflower and their pasta dishes (tagliatelle, squid ink, semolina gnocchi). The string light-illuminated backyard is a romantic spot in which to wile away a summer night over a glass of red.

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NYC Oddities: Grand Central Dirt Spot

There is something magical about Grand Central Terminal. Perhaps it’s the large windows or the vaulted ceiling or the people scurrying around the central axis of the clock perched in the middle of all the chaos. For me, it’s the aqua-and-gold-colored depiction of the night sky’s constellations. The colors are pure and vibrant, and they lend the space a kind of incandescence. It wasn’t always this way. Before the interior’s restoration–completed in 1998–the ceiling and surfaces were grimy, stained with decades of tobacco smoke and dirt. The restorers left a reminder of the ceiling’s previous condition–a patch of grime left untreated in the northwest corner of the open-air terminal, right neat the Cancer constellation. It’s a vow to never again let the building deteriorate to such a state.

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An Insider’s Guide to a Russian Food Store

New York City is rich with ethnic enclaves. This means culture-specific restaurants, bookstores, and perhaps most excitingly, food markets. If you’re not well versed in that specific culture, stepping inside can be a tad intimidating and overwhelming. Where to start? How do you make sure you’re picking up the right products?

As a Russian immigrant, I often go to Brooklyn’s beachside Brighton Beach neighborhood to fill up on provisions. One of my favorite grocery stores is Brighton Bazaar. It’s clean, expansive and easy to navigate. Here are some of the things I like to pick up when I make a trip.

1. Pickled things are the antipasti of Russian meals. The cabbage is tart and refreshing as are the full sour and half-sour pickles. You can also pick up pickled mushrooms, tomatoes and even watermelon.

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2. The hot bar is a cornucopia of Russian specialties, from bread pockets to meat cutlets to mayonnaise-y salads. The meaty, fatty, flavorful borscht is hearty enough for a full meal.

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3. The aroma emanating from the sliced meats counter reminds me of the sliced bologna and salami we indulge in during family gatherings. For salami, I’d suggest one of the more expensive varieties, like Hungarian (Vengerskaya) or Tzar’s (Tzarskaya), or, if you don’t eat pork, an all-beef salami referred to as “Jewish” (Evreyskaya). I have a soft spot for the alarmingly cheap Doctor’s pork bologna (Doctorskaya), which is smooth and strangely refreshing. My husband insists my love for it is a product of misplaced nostalgia, but I would still recommend it for the Russian food novice–it has a universally appealing taste that’s much less gritty than the Oscar Meyer variety.

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4. Apparently this shop’s bakery department orders their breads all the way from Germany. It makes sense; German bread is renowned in Russia, and the varieties offered here are top-notch. The darker breads are dense, delicious and perfect for sopping up sour-cream drenched things. I usually get the “crusty bread”, which is on the lighter side of dark, and has a nuanced sourdough quality. Feel free to pick up a poppy seed roll–the favorite dessert of every Russian father–if you’re looking for something sweet.

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5. There are a few varieties of dried fish in the seafood section. The one I’m most familiar is vobla. It’s the fish of post-banya meals and lazy afternoons. It requires a a bit of softening, so you can either hit it against the table a few times or bend it back-and-forth until it’s pliable enough to pick at. It’s salty, so pair it with a refreshing beer–a Baltika, maybe?–for a truly Russian experience.

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6. Buckwheat kasha or grechnivaya kasha (on the floor) is to Russia what French fries are to the United States. It’s a a staple side in nearly every home and restaurant. It’s not only a side, though. Add some sauteed mushrooms for a complete meal. My favorite dish as a child was buckwheat kasha mixed with cutup hotdogs.

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7. Russian-style dumplings or pelmeni are my go-to frozen entree when I don’t have time to cook. There are over a dozen varieties to choose from, including sweet versions with cherries, often referred to by their Ukranian name, vareniki. I usually go for the chicken dumplings, but the most popular are “Siberian”-style, a mixture of beef and pork. Boil until tender and top with a spoonful of sour cream or melted butter.

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8. When I was younger, one of my favorite items from the Russian food store was a bag of pryaniki, Russian gingerbread honey cookies. There is an abundance of choice when it comes to picking your favorite. Do you like them smaller or larger, with a more pronounced gingerbread flavor or a more pronounced honey flavor, with more sugar glaze or less? They’re delicious, but also a bit of an acquired taste. They tend to be slightly drier than American-style gingerbread cookies and may require a dunk into tea or coffee.

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 9. There’s no American food product my parents hate more than factory-made marshmallows. They’re convinced American marshmallows taste of chemicals, and well, they’re kind of right. On the other hand, they love zephyr, a Russian dessert with a similar texture. It’s made with fruit puree, sugar, egg whites and some type of gelling agent. It’s airy, pliant, sweet and even better when covered in chocolate.

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10. Let’s get one thing out of the way: Russian chocolates look better than they taste. And well, that’s okay, because they still taste pretty good. The packaging is the star, though, especially in the case of the awesomely retro paper-covered chocolates. All feature bright Soviet-era illustrations, some inspired by Soviet realism, others by 70s-era children’s books. They’re mostly chocolate-covered and the interior is usually a wafer or a nutty nougat filling.

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11. Russians tend to prefer their desserts less overwhelmingly sweet than many Americans. They love flaky, buttery, Napoleon-style French pastry, and go ga-ga for layered meringue cakes, like the crazy-popular Kiev cake. The oblong, walnut-looking sandwich cookies (below, middle) called oreshki (the Russian diminutive word for “nuts”) are a wedding staple, made from a mayonnaise batter and filled with caramel cream and crushed nuts.  The long, purple, candle-looking dessert is called churchkhela and is popular in the Caucuses. The long spokes are made from nuts which are repeatedly covered in a gelling fruit juice mixture and left to harden.

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Favorite Things Lately, Volume 4

1 Dried squid from Aji IchibanThe New York City outpost of this Chinese snack shop makes me feel like a kid in a candy store…the kind of candy store that’s actually filled with an extensive collection of dried fish, fruity jerky, dried fruit and even dried olives. My favorite is the below, a spool of Haikkodo dried squid sheets. The squid is sweet, salty, delicious, and annoyingly addictive. You can buy it by weight or in prepackaged bags for $7 a piece.

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2. Degenerate Art at the Neue GalerieThe Nazi regime didn’t censor the works they found most abominable, instead, they staged an exhibition in Munich in 1937, labeling the works as degenerate–a product of mental illness–and deriding the artists in a public setting. The exhibit went on tour, causing an uproar from citizens around the country who were appalled by the grotesque nature of German Expressionism and the part they thought it played in the supposed degradation of German culture. The works were mirrored by a collection of propaganda-style acceptable art creating a dichotomy of “disgusting” expressionism versus safe, heroic realism. The same technique is used by Neue in this exhibition of the same name, featuring many of the same works from both sides. To stand in the room of competing works is to bear witness to the artistic manifestation of stifling totalitarianism versus artistic freedom. It’s quite a thing to see.

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3. Poetry in MotionSince 1992, the Metropolitan Transit Authority Arts for Transit program has filled the walls of subway trains with specially-selected poetry, enriching the commutes of many New Yorkers. There was a four-year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, but for the past two years since the program’s return, the poems chosen, in collaboration with the Poetry Society of America, have seemed especially poignant. They add a dose of inspiration to an everyday activity that is at best, non-memorable and at worst, horrifyingly rage-inducing. The below poem by Dorothea Tanning, Graduation, was the inaugural poem selected for the program’s return in 2012. It’s layered, poignant, and sticks with you long after you’ve read it.

Courtesy of Metropolitan Transit Authority Arts for Transit

Courtesy of Metropolitan Transit Authority Arts for Transit

4. Brooklyn Bridge ParkThis 85-acre waterfront park recently opened two new sections, including a beach (for hangin’, not swimming) near Pier 4 and an sporting area on Pier 2, which includes basketball courts, bocce and handball courts, and soon, a roller rink. There’s also a 30-foot-high berm of soil that separates the park from the BQE, blocking out traffic noise. A newly landscaped area near Pier 3 features installations by artist Dahn Vo–the bronzed life-size replicas of the various sections of the Statue of Liberty (below), on view until December 6th. Though there is ongoing discussion about whether more money should be going toward small, underfunded parks, instead of behemoths like Brooklyn Bridge Park and Central Park, there is something to be said for the transformation the waterfront has undergone, morphing from abandoned eyesore to one of most beautiful and most unique multi-use landscapes in the city. Plus, the view of the Manhattan skyline from the park’s various hills and walkways never gets old.

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NYC Oddities: The Berlin Wall in Manhattan

The Berlin Wall was a literal iron curtain; it was a tangible representation of the divide–physical, cultural and ideological–between communism and the West during the Cold War. Erected overnight in 1961 by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the wall stemmed the flow of immigrants from East to West. Prior to its construction, Germans could easily cross between the two Berlins. Afterward, many were caught on opposite sides of the wall, unable to see their loved ones until the wall’s eventual fall in 1989. Over time, the wall became more and more impenetrable as the GDR added miles of armed guards, attack dogs, freshly brushed sand (in order to track defectors’ footsteps), floodlights, barbed wire, beds of spikes and other hazards to make escape extremely difficult (about 5,000 managed the feat, while about 200 died attempting to cross the border).

Five slabs of the wall are nondescriptly displayed at 520 East 53rd St, between 5th and Madison, in a small plaza outside Valbella, a fancy Italian restaurant. According to the New York Times, the wall was purchased in 1990 by developer Jerry Speyer of Tishman Speyer Properties, which owns the adjoining building.

If you don’t know to look for it, you might miss it. Office workers and tourists eat and rest in white Bertoia chairs in the shadow of the concrete. Most seem uninterested, or perhaps more likely, unaware of its historical prominence. The plaque that identifies the decorated concrete as the Berlin Wall is small and positioned far below eye level.

The slabs are covered in graffiti by French artist Thierry Noir, who spent five years–working nearly every day–painting the western side of the Berlin wall in the 1980s, and German artist Kiddy Citny. The graffiti artists’ work is striking, but what caused me to catch my breath was a date spray painted on the two left-most slabs: 3-5-89. Looking at it feels a bit like traveling back in time. I imagined myself there on the western side, months from the wall’s collapse, on the precipice of one of the most exciting moments of the 20th century. How would it feel? Would I be able to fully grasp the importance of what was about to happen?

There are slabs displayed at four other locations around New York City: in Battery Park City, outside the UN, inside Ripley’s Believe or Not! and outside the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

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Tip: Free Museum Days

“That card lets you into a bunch of museums for free,” remarked the cashier at the BBQ place. My generic Bank of America debit card?

Apparently, yes.

The deal, in its 17th season, is called “Museums on Us,” and grants free access to museums across the country to all B of A cardholders on the first weekend of every month. In New York City, this means free admission to the Whitney, the Met, the Museum of the International Center of Photography and others.

The program is barely advertised and the cashier’s remark was the first time I’d heard of it. But now you know, too!

Take advantage this weekend. And spread the word.

 

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How NYC Does Spring

It got up to a respectable 60° F this past Sunday, but for most of the day it was colder–and windy–making it feel down right chilly. If you were to take a stroll through Central Park, you’d think it was the middle of summer. Everyone was out. The city was a picturesque tableau of the pleasures of urban life. People were picnicing, playing baseball, and sunbathing as though they were in balmy San Diego. If you looked really closely, you could see goosebumps on their bare arms, and if you listened, the sound of teeth chattering.

And who can blame them? We’re desperate here. We’re like a people emerging from a millennia-long ice age. We’ll sit out side if temps reach past 50 and bare our legs if they climb above 55. We know it’s all so fleeting, that before we know it, summer will have passed us by, and then once again, the descent into the big freeze.

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A Sweets Tour of the Upper East Side

Now that it’s finally beginning to feel like spring outside (knock on wood, spit thrice over your left shoulder, pray to the god of your choosing), it’s time to let your hair down and once again set out on foot across this great city. What better place to start than the Upper East Side? Yes, that Upper East Side. While we weren’t looking the buttoned-up ‘hood has transformed, with the help of a few longtime standouts, into the greatest dessert destination in NYC.

Bakeries and Patisseries

Maison Kayser:  The flagship NYC location of a Parisian-based patisserie, this shop is known for breads and pastry and a healthy collection of American treats like cookies and brownies. A sit-down restaurant is filled with ladies-who-lunch enjoying open faced sandwiches and salads. If you’re sitting down to lunch or dessert, make sure to ask for a bread basket filled with an assortment of bread samples; they won’t bring it to you otherwise.

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FB Patisserie: The fancy older sister to Francois Payard’s downtown bakeries, this location specializes in mousse-based pastry, tarts and French macarons. It’s a best-of compilation of French pastry. In front, there’s a casual cafe perfect for enjoying an eclair and a coffee, while the back is host to an upscale full service restaurant–with prices to match.

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Lady M Confections: This slim minimalist shop is home to one of my favorite cakes ever, the original mille crêpe cake, shown below at right. It’s not cheap ($7.50 a slice), but with 20 paper-thin crêpes and light, not-too-sweet cream layers, it’s an ideal celebratory indulgence. There are other flavors and other cakes, but the original is the superstar. The guidebook writers seem to think so, too, as the shop was packed with tourists during a recent visit.

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William Greenberg Desserts: This shop has been an Upper East Side institution for nearly 60 years. Their famous black-and-white cookies are made in the traditional way (more spongey cake than cookie, fondant icing) and are customizable when ordered in large quantities. They also specialize in Jewish desserts, which for the next two weeks or so means kosher-for-Passover favorites like chocolate-covered matzoh and flour-less brownies.

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Glaser’s Bake Shop: Open for over 100 years, this no-frills shop harkens back to the Upper East Side of yesteryear, back when Yorkville (the name of the eastern section of the neighborhood) was filled with central European immigrants. The influence is evident in their large selection of Danish pastries, but the bakery also specialize in American favorites like cupcakes, brownies, pies and layer cakes. The customer favorite is the black-and-white cookie, which, in contrast to William Greenberg’s they top with fondant and buttercream frosting.

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Orwashers: Our tour of the historic bakeries of the Upper East Side continues, and this one’s a real gem. Orwashers–opened in 1916– churns out award-winning artisan breads; their French baguette was recently declared the best in NYC by Serious Eats. They have pastries, too, as well as filled-to-order doughnuts (chocolate or sugar) with your choice of one of 5 fillings. The red raspberry ($4.25) was everything a jelly doughnut should be.

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Two Little Red Hens: This all-American bakery is extremely popular with the locals, even now, when it’s situated on the wrong side of Second Avenue subway construction. On a recent visit, the shop was out of a lot, and patrons were crowding in to enjoy oversize buttercream-topped cupcakes. The Brooklyn blackout cake is a favorite for birthdays.

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(Image courtesy RichardBerg, Flickr.com; made available via Creative Commons license)

Specialty Bakeries

Canelé by Céline: This tiny adorable bakery specializes in mainly one thing–canelés. These ridged French pastries are marked by a soft, custardy center and a browned caramelized exterior. The shop sells unique flavors like caramel, dark chocolate, raspberry and rum, and even a few varieties of a savory canelés, with chorizo or parmesan cheese. It’ll set you back $4.90 for a pack of three.

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Ladureé: It’s hard to overstate the importance of Ladureé in the Parisian collective consciousness. The mint-green bag is ubiquitous around the city, and Charles de Gaulle airport even has an outpost of the famous shop. The speciality here is French macarons in a rainbow of flavors. The Upper East Side location is the first in the U.S. (one recently opened in Soho as well) and the macarons are just as good as the ones overseas–light meringue, flavorful filling. Their raspberry macaron ($2.80 a piece) is the macaron by which I judge all others.

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Sprinkles Cupcakes: This L.A. transplant is all about the cupcakes ($3.75 a piece). Yes, the cake is moist and the frosting is flavorful, but I think what people are drawn to most is the minimalist design of the shop, something mostly absent from American throwback-style bakeries. Next door is a 24-hour cupcake ATM, which is exactly what it sounds like. You pick your cupcake from a touchscreen, swipe your card, and within seconds, a little door opens with your cupcake of choice enclosed in a to-go box (add $.50 for the convenience). Is it at all necessary? Absolutely not. But it sure is cool.

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Dough Loco: There’s some debate about whether this shop’s location, on Park Ave. and 97th St., constitutes the Upper East Side or East Harlem. We’re not concerned with realtor definitions, just with dessert. The doughnuts ($3 a piece) remind me a lot of the ones from Dough in Bed-Stuy. Both shops feature yeast doughnuts topped with unique coatings. The ones here are smaller, though more dense. Flavors include maple miso, blood orange, raspberry Sriracha, and the below, peanut butter and cassis. Blue Bottle coffee products help you wash them down.

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Le Churro: I have a soft spot for churros. After all, what’s not to love? Freshly fried dough drenched in sugar and served with a chocolate dipping sauce. The ones here (4 for $3.95) are thin and light, in contrast to the heavy churros of the subway platform and Costco cafe (hey, if you’re in a bind…). They offer multiple dipping sauces (chocolate hazelnut, sweet mocha, to name a few), chocolate covered churros, bite-sized churros and even filled churros, for those too lazy to dip.

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Ô Merveilleux Belgian Meringue: I had never heard of Belgian meringues before, but they’re the specialty at this quaint new Second Avenue shop. These treats, which come in two sizes, layer meringue and whipped cream and are topped with chocolate shavings or speculoos cookie crumbs. The small, at $2.70, is plenty sweet to satisfy a serious dessert craving. They have other offerings too, including cupcakes, croissants, cakes, cookies, brioche and tarts.

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