Saturday, January 21, 2017

NYC: Bakery Review - Levain Bakery

Levain Bakery - visited November 18 and 20, 2016
After all my posts about the various Levain Bakery copycat recipes I've been trying out, it's a given I'd go to the real Levain Bakery on my New York trip. Matter of fact, I went twice. So I'll end this NYC series with the post about the real thing.
I went twice because the first time was a practice run, so to speak, to make sure I knew where it was. I mapped it from our hotel and since it was only 2.5 miles away, that was eminently doable on foot so while Shawn took a break (euphemism for she probably thought I was crazy to do a 5-mile round trip for a cookie), I set out for my cookie mecca, I mean, Levain Bakery.
This is another one where you have to follow them on Instagram. Be warned you may find yourself drooling more often but such lapses are forgivable when you see their posts.
It wasn't hard to find the bakery even though they were in much smaller premises than I expected. It's slightly below street level so you have to go down a few steps to get into the bakery. Don't rely on finding the bakery via their signage though because the line of people outside will block your view. But look for the line and you'll know you're in the right place. Not only is there a line because their products are in high demand but there's literally not much room for customers inside so a line outside forms by default. More than 6 people inside and you'd be standing in sin. Okay, that's a wee bit of an exaggeration but not by much.
The kitchen behind the counter had bigger space and that's what you want because you want all the hard workers back there with enough space to keep cranking out those amazing behemoth cookies.
For my first foray, I got the Levain classic of the chocolate chip walnut cookie. Yes, my lifelong prejudice not just against nuts in cookies but walnuts in particular (I don't care for walnuts - too bitter) was held in check. It was New York, it was Levain Bakery and I had a fresh cookie in my hand.
Just look at that goodness. Need I say more? Actually, what I will say is, as I suspected, all the earlier copycat recipes I've done were mere pale shadows to the real thing. I've been able to duplicate the inside of the cookie with its moist chewy goodness. But the outside crisp-crunch? Nope, haven't even come close. This is a cookie worth my 3000-mile trip, even if it did have walnuts in it.

My second visit was on the morning of our last day in New York. I'd promised my nieces I would bring them back some Levain cookies. And let's be real, it's not like I was going home empty-handed myself. I presumed they would freeze nicely so what's an extra cookie or three to take home? Plus I needed a snack for the plane ride, 'kay?

The bakery opened at 9 am on Sunday morning. I got there 10 minutes before 9 and this line above was already happening. I was #14 in line. But it was a good thing I got there when I did because by the time the bakery opened 10 minutes later, there were a good 2 dozen people behind me. Apparently, I'm not the only one who knows my cookies.

I do think it worthwhile to mention that Levain Bakery doesn't just do cookies. As you can see from some of the pictures below, they offer other baked goods as well. I was tempted to try at least one non-cookie item, particularly the Valrhona chocolate roll, but we had plans to go to Shake Shack for lunch, I was only doing 5 miles of walking that day and I didn't think I'd have room for a Levain cookie and a chocolate roll. Regretfully, I passed. Maybe next time.

I will save you my (further) rhapsodizing about the cookies, especially since technically I didn't try all the different flavors I bought, but I will call out the chocolate chocolate chip. This is the one my friend Caroline had sent me long ago and I had even made a copycat recipe of it which I thought turned out pretty well.
Chocolate Chocolate Chip - $4
I still like that copycat recipe but I have to admit, that too pales in comparison to the real thing. Look at the inside of that cookie. That's pretty much perfection when it comes to a chocolate cookie. It's set, it looks and tastes like baked fudge that's just barely in the cookie category and it was rich decadence. I could only eat a half cookie at a time since it was so rich but you better believe I went back for that second half later once my sweet tooth came down from its sugar high.

Seriously, if I could only have one Levain cookie, I'd probably get the chocolate chocolate chip one. Then run a marathon.

Alas, that ends this series and the 20,000 calories I consumed in New York (it was probably more than that but let's not quibble). My 3 days were up - until next time, New York.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookie - $4

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie - $4

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