Monday, September 19, 2011

Levain Bakery

Sorry this post is getting published today rather than yesterday. It was totally meant for Sunday, it really really was.  It just didn't happen though.  Classes have been going on for only two weeks and I've already had my first all-nighter in studio (aka work until 5:50 am, go to sleep at 6:15 am, wake up at 8 am for 9 am studio class).  Sigh, so much work to do, in so little time.  There was just too much work to be done yesterday.  So sleepy…hopefully this will be mildly coherent. 

Let's talk cookies. That should wake me up I think.  Let's start at the beginning.  

On Saturday, my boyfriend and I planned an "explore-day," something we usually do on the weekends. We plan trips to museums, restaurants, parks, different neighborhoods, music festivals, concerts, and the like.  Everyone needs to go out and explore their surroundings.  If you don't, then you really should. It's so much fun to see new things and experience places and situations that are different from what your everyday surroundings are.  But anyway. For this Saturday, we planned on picnicking in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, which I had never been to, and then going downtown to peruse Chinatown and check out the San Gennaro Festival. Sounded like a good day to me!  We obviously needed to stop by a bakery of sorts to pick up some treats for our picnic.  Levain Bakery seemed like the perfect place to go.

I heard of Levain Bakery many years ago, and ever since I heard of their humongous chocolate chip-walnut cookies, I knew I would simply have to go someday.  I mean, how could I not?  These cookies just seem too amazing.  Story goes that the cookie was developed by Levain's owners as they trained for an Ironman competition and wanted to create the perfect cookie- and thus their signature six-ounce (yes, that is six whole ounces) chocolate chip walnut cookie was created.  I may never find myself training for an Ironman competition, but that definitely won't stop me from heading over to Levain Bakery every now and then for a cookie.

We went to the Levain Bakery location in Harlem, on Frederick Douglass Blvd.  The shop has a tiny store front, with a small glass display case showcasing all the varieties of their delicious cookies, scones, bomboloncini, and brioche.  The great thing I thought about this location was that despite the store front being rather small, the kitchen and baking area are completely exposed behind the counter.  I love when bakeries are like this.  It's so nice to see the baked goods actually being made, and maybe it's just me, but I think it legitimizes a bakery in a way.  Kinda like the bakery is saying, "yeah we only use really fresh and natural ingredients, so we're gonna show you that we mean what we say…we have nothing to hide." But then again I don't really know.  That could just be a feeling that only I get, who knows. 

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked.  I had a hard time choosing what cookie I wanted to get, they all looked so delicious!  I was pretty torn between the chocolate chip-walnut and the dark chocolate chocolate chip, but in the end, I went with their signature cookie.  I had also heard a lot of really good things about their bomboloncini, which are their raspberry jelly-filled doughnuts, so I figured I would get one of those too.  My boyfriend is a huge scone person, so he bought a scone to eat as we walked towards the subway.  I obviously got a couple bites of it too.  Let's just say that it was one of the most delicious scones I've ever had.  That's all the review the scone needs.  It was simply delicious. 

After some time in the park, I just couldn't wait anymore to try the things I had bought.  We started with the bomboloncini.  I couldn't believe how delicious it was.  It was so light and fluffy, and totally full of raspberry jelly.  The cake itself wasn't terribly sweet, which was good, since the doughnut was covered in powdered sugar and the jelly obviously adds some sweetness.  Honestly, I think that I would even eat a plain bomboloncini without raspberry jelly if I had the chance, I really just couldn't get over how perfect the cake was.  Without a doubt one of the best jelly-filled doughnuts ever.

It was finally time for the cookie.  I was so excited.  The cookie had a nice crisp exterior, and the inside was just soooooo chewy and gooey and melty-in-your-mouth, and just mmm so good.  That's the best way I could describe it.  Actually that's not true, I'm sure I can sound a bit more refined.  I have to admit that when I first saw the cookies, I actually thought they would be bigger than they were, since everyone talks about their size, but after I took a bite out of it and held the cookie back to look at it, I saw how small my "normal-sized" bite was in comparison to the rest of the gigantic cookie.  After one bite I really saw just how big this cookie was, and that there was no way I could eat it by myself!  Good thing I had someone with me to help me out!  The cookie was outstanding. The interior of the cookie was moist and with every bite, you'd get a mouthful of chocolate chips and chunks and walnut pieces.  You could taste the butter in the cookie, which was actually a really nice thing. It's good to have a rich and buttery cookie every now and then.  It just makes your whole day so much better. 

Overall, Levain Bakery is pretty fantastic, and I'm very happy I made my way over there during the weekend.  You might say that it is a little expensive (cookies are $4.00 each, bomboloncini are $2.25 and the scone was $3.00), but keep in mind that all these are best when they're shared with a friend!  Imagine paying only $4.00 for a delicious dessert for two that will leave you feeling completely satisfied; I think that's a good thing.   I definitely plan on heading back to Levain again, for the dark chocolate chocolate chip cookie, but more importantly for the bomboloncini, because I dare say that the raspberry jelly doughnut beat out the chocolate chip walnut cookie.  It was a close call though, promise.  But whatever.  I need to go back soon.  If you haven't been to Levain yet, go soon! You won't be disappointed. 


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