Newsletter #39 In Search of Pastry and Chocolate NYC

As the Covid numbers drop I’m off to my next venture, or shall I say “adventure”?  As long as my health holds out I’m travelling the globe in search of grate chocolate and pastry.   Maybe great cooking schools, too.  Add to that, how about recipes from Michelin starred restaurants?  So many ideas and it’s time to get rolling.   The hope is that it will culminate in a book or set of books.  So pardon me for the change in format from my usual newsletter but I hope you enjoy.

As a cooking teacher I always find it fun to shop at cookware supply stores.  New York Cake was on my list.  It was such a wow with an incredible array of dishes and tools to make chocolates, cakes, tarts and cookies.  I decided to purchase holly shaped and Christmas cookie plungers.  I’ve never used these but they will be debuting in my Holiday Cooking Classes, holiday cookies on December 10 and buche de Noel on December 24..

I went in search of pastry and chocolate after a lovely dining experience at Benno in New York City.  I have been hopping in and out of New York City for the past few years, pandemic time excepted, and had a tough time finding a magical chocolate shop.  There are plenty of transplants from other cities.  La Maison de Chocolate from Paris.  Royce of Japanese origin.  But it was only on this trip that I was to find exactly what I was looking for, a small shop where hand made chocolates were crafted.  

On a morning with scant to do I searched Google maps for “chocolate” near my hotel.  It pointed me to Chocolat Moderne and I thought, “Why not?”  I had nothing to lose.  Google maps led me to a door looking like the entry to an apartment building at 27 West 20th street.  There was no chocolate shop to be seen but I asked the doorman.  He indicated I should take the elevator to the 9th floor.  This seemed rather crazy but again I thought, “What do I have to lose?”  I entered a very orange but very closed door apprehensively but was so excited to see bon bons being made en masse by hand.   It was so fun to chat with chcolatier Joan Coukes.  She gave me some tips on how to pop molded chocolates out of hard plastic molds.  It seems best to refrigerate them right after pouring the chocolate in and freezing them a bit if the chocolates stick and won’t unmold properly.  And I found out they are mostly a wholesale shop and sell to Allegio in Palo Alto, right down the street.  I adored their raspberry marzipan bon bon in the Christmas box selection.  And it was so interesting to find out they specialize in chocolate from Valrhona. They made dark milk chocolate bars.  With the milk yum and not so much sugar.  I thought this such a find I brought my dear friend and chocoholic, Laila, there the next day.

I ate a LOT of pastries on this trip but most of them were forgettable.   If in New York City I would definitely steer to Chelsea and visit Dominique Ansel’s Workshop, a recommendation from another dear friend, Nathalie.  This is the heart of Ansel where the pastry creations are made.  I have heard they make cronuts (so says my friend, investment partner and fellow traveler Jocelyn) but I chose the S’More Pastry, one they were showcasing that day with had made marshmallows atop a pastry with a dollop of chocolate.  I took a Salted Caramel pastry to go.   

Then off to Le Maison de Macaron, with a display case of so many flavor choices.  It’s a small shop managed by a husband and wife.  She was at the front counter taking orders while he crafted macarons in the back.  If you love macarons, head here and not Laduree, the Parisian transplant.  Le Maison is the only macaron specialty shop in NYC and a great find.

Chocolat Moderne, 27 West 20th St.

NY Cake, 118 W 22nd St.

Le Maison de Macaron, 132 W 23rd St.

Dominique Ansel Workshop, 17 East 27th St.

Benno, 7 E 27th St.

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