These East Village bakeries offer unique pastries
New York’s premier walkability has always made it a perfect place for exploration – to bars, galleries, “Sex and the City” filming sites. There are so few places inaccessible on foot. (gateway to Governors Island when?)
I’m always looking for a new crawl. And since pacing desserts and pastries could be a full-time job, I was thrilled to find three bakeries in the East Village area that all offer their own unique delights. Let’s start with…
This new bakery on Cooper Square, pronounced lee-BRAY, bills itself as a cross between Middle Eastern ingredients and Danish baking culture. How do these elements mix at Librae? Well, there’s sourdough bread served with strawberry-sumac jam, as well as flaky croissants filled with orange blossom pastry cream.
But the clearest indication of this mixing of cultures is the lumee babka made with a key ingredient of Bahraini cuisine: lime, a completely dried lime. Librae doubles down on that sharp citrus flavor by topping it all with lemon curd. The result is a babka that isn’t cloying but rather crisp and tangy, like a morning roll slathered in lemon or orange zest. I can guarantee you it is unlike any babka you have ever tried.
Once you’ve finished this babka, it’s time to do the six-minute walk to La Cabra on Second Avenue. There will almost certainly be a line; but it does buy you time to ogle the pastry case and wall of neatly organized breads, and watch the baristas bustle around expertly prepared lattes.
This Danish bakery offers impressive versions of favorite pastries like croissants, choux and canelés, but the real draws are the pies, morning rolls and sandwich cookies. They’re delicate and beautiful, and I think they’re better enjoyed in the quiet of your apartment or in Tompkins Square Park than in the small outdoor seating area of the bakery. My favorite is the rye tart, a hand-sized offering in a flimsy shell filled with an earthy hazelnut sponge and praline, and topped with a panna cotta and rye mousse to trouble there. But nothing I tried on a recent visit failed.
(Tip: if you prefer to skip the lines, the West Village cafe and wine bar Saint-Jardim sells a small sample of La Cabra baked goods daily.)
With your Third Wave coffee in hand, walk south on Second Avenue and turn immediately left on East Ninth Street. Half a block later you will find Lady Wonga Southeast Asian bakery where every delicious pastry you’ve tasted so far will literally pale in comparison to the colors featured here.
Seleste Tan and Mogan Anthony, the chefs behind Lady Wong, don’t shy away from using shades of lilac, mint green or poppy red in their creations, which feature flavors like pandan, passion fruit, plum sour, ube, calamansi and durian. The number of options can be overwhelming, so here’s what I enjoyed the most: the black sesame passion fruit tart, which hides a bright fruity center beneath a dark, crisp, nutty dome; pandan panna cotta topped with a cane sugar crisp; and the mango curd pudding, which will make you wonder if you’ve ever had a good mango dessert.
And while it’s not sweet, try angku kuih, a sticky, fluffy rice-based turtle shell filled with mung beans. It symbolizes longevity, power and tenacity – and couldn’t we all use a little of each right now?
In other news…
Openings: Al Coro fills part of the old Del Posto space next to by Mel in Chelsea; from New Jersey Cornbread holdings comes to Crown Heights, Brooklyn; Mezze on the river offers cuisine inspired by the hot spot of Mykonos Nammos, two outdoor terraces and water views galore in Battery Park City; and more.
With his mobile cart, the oyster farmer known as Moody hopes to make oysters ubiquitous in New York City and honor the heritage of black oyster farmers, reports Korsha Wilson.
Julia Moskin wrote about the 2022 Cheesemonger Invitational in Brooklyn, where the contest was narrowed down to five finalists who were speed tested on their everyday cheesemaking skills.
For those who love to dine out, but might not feel comfortable in their own kitchen, these 10 new recipes will teach you how to cook.