Tag Archives: levain bakery

Lame Adventure 292: Food Porn

One of my dear friend Milton’s great passions is cake.  The man can speak rhapsodically about long-shuttered obscure bakeries with the same degree of affection others reserve for a departed mate, relative or pet.  He can be merciless in his opinion about red velvet cake for that confection proves reliably disappointing.  One cake that consistently delivers his seal of approval is the Magnolia Bakery’s Hummingbird cake.  Unfortunately, I have searched my extensive personal photo archive of thousands of images that I have shot over the course of the years but much to my regret, I have yet to photograph a slice of one my buddy’s favorite cakes.  To fill this void, I am posting a picture of the Valentine’s Day cake he had made last month.

Yellow cake with white butter-cream frosting and strawberry filling.

I would like to add that he ate this entire cake himself in a single sitting at his desk at work, but I jest.  That is something one of the more dysfunctional nabobs at my place of employ would do.  Milton is very good at sharing with others, so  his colleagues very likely view him as “the cake guy”.  I am sure that he’s quite a popular and adored member of the staff.

Unlike Milton, I’m not much of a cake woman.  I like cupcakes, but I’m not a fan of a large slice of anything with frosting. Last month at work, to celebrate my sidekick Greg’s birthday, he wanted a chocolate banana layer cake.  I could barely eat half a slice.  It was a struggle to get down.  When I had given up I emailed an image of it to my Special Someone under the subject heading “I. Am. Stuffed.”


Me: Jesus, what a dense cake!  I feel like I ate the Alien.  I did the best I could with my piece of it.

SS: LOL. That’s it?! I wish I had your petit appetite.

Me: Oh, cut me a break!  That thing is enormous!  It weighs as much as a Buick and feels like a Buick idling in my gut right now.

SS: I could eat half that [entire] cake and not look back.

Like Milton, my Special Someone has a sweet tooth for cake.  Although I am not much of either a cake or dessert fan, I do like cookies, in particular the legendary six ounce warm chocolate chip cookies that are baked fresh throughout the course of the day at an Upper West Side institution, the Levain Bakery, conveniently located just a short trot from my sanctum sanctorum.

If this picture was scented it would reek of the aroma of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.

During a casual email exchange with Special Someone, I mentioned Levain and sent her the link to the cookie portion of the site.  She thought their cookies looked amazing.  The next day we visited Levain so she could try one.  My favorite is the traditional chocolate chip walnut variety, but Special Someone hates walnuts to a near violent degree going so far as to claim they’re racist.  I resist the urge to fall into the trap of asking for an explanation of this intentionally absurd declaration. Since it’s the weekend, the line outside is long, and the aroma of warm chocolate is intoxicating.  We have both been subject to far worse New York City line-waiting experiences.  At least this one smells like paradise.  I don my little spender cap and ask:

Me:  What flavor would you like?

SS:  Can we get the dark chocolate chocolate chip?

Me:  Of course.  We’ll get whatever you want.  I like them all [muttering] and I’m perfectly fine with ditching the dream of eating my favorite flavor with you.

Special Someone is fixated on the cookies on display.

SS:  I think I want the dark chocolate peanut butter chip.  Let’s get that!

We get both the chocolate chocolate chip and the chocolate peanut butter chip.  We hightail back to my lair, open our bag and place them on a plate.  I am eager for us to dig in.

SS:  Hey, I thought you wanted to photograph these for your blog?

Me (salivating):  Huh?

She whips out her iPhone and takes a picture.

Dark chocolate peanut butter chip on left and dark chocolate chocolate chip on right. Cookie bliss somewhere in-between.

We first try the chocolate peanut butter chip.  The center is warm, ooey, gooey, and the peanut butter chips are melty, too.  This cookie is like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on steroids.  For those of you that are peanut and nut-averse, take it from us that the chocolate chocolate chip is equally satisfying; like a chocolate lava-filled brownie with a crusty shell.

Special Someone enters cookie-bliss and I follow her lead.  As we eat our cookies, I realize that cake-connoisseur Milton is onto something when he laments the loss of the many bakeries he’s loved that are no longer around. If the Levain Bakery ever shutters, that will be a sure sign that the Upper West Side is on the decline.  In fact, it might be yet another indicator that western civilization on a whole has entered freefall.

Levain Bakery ever going away! I can't face it!

Lame Adventure 115: Shape shifting

Although I do not possess an ounce of elite, or even sub-par athleticism in my DNA, if ruminating were a sport, I would be on that varsity squad.  For several months, I have been thinking about getting back in shape.  For several years, I used to work out six mornings a week riding my exercise bike and lifting free weights for a combined total of 45 minutes.  Therefore, I was quite lean and fairly fit.  I cut back on that masochism when I started my current job as Minister of Tile, but I continued my workouts for at least four or five times a week.  When the economy tanked, and my pay was slashed forcing me to live low on the hog, I started writing more, staying up late and exercising less.

Now I feel like a slug.

All summer I promised myself I would start riding and lifting again, but this past summer was so brutally hot, I was certain that extreme exertion could result in a heart attack, or at the very least some excruciating stiffness.  Now that the weather has cooled considerably, my new excuse for avoiding exercising is that my terrycloth headband is loose.  Naturally, my first thought was how did I manage to lose weight in my head?  Then, a fear shot through me; do I have osteoporosis of the skull?  I examined my headband and diagnosed that it was simply stretched and I needed a new one.

Recently, a Modell’s sporting goods store opened on Amsterdam Avenue.  As I was walking up the street towards Amsterdam, my D-cup nose inhaled the decadent aroma of something freshly baked with chocolate.  This sensual smell was emanating from the Levain Bakery over on 74th and Amsterdam and I knew that another batch of their giant 6-ounce chocolate chip walnut cookies had just emerged from their ovens.  A hot and gooey Levain cookie fresh out of the oven is one of life’s greatest indulgences.

Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie -- cookie shaped heroin.

With my spastically sniffing nose trying to pull my entire body into the Levain, I reminded myself that the sole reason I have yet to look like a full replica of the Liberty Bell is because I avoid that bakery, and must continue to steer clear of it until I resume working out.

Therefore, I made a beeline for Modell’s.  I enter the store where I am greeted by a six-year-old, Tilda, the friendliest rescue Schnauzer on the Upper West Side.  She stands on her hind legs, wraps her paws around my thigh (no, she’s not a humper), looks up at me and says, “Pet me!  Are you blind to how cute I am?”

Happy to oblige Tilda.

With gusto, I pet Tilda around and over the ears and under the beard beneath her jowls.  She basks in the attention and I love giving it to her.  Julie, her caregiver, tells me that she named her people magnet after Tilda Swinton, an actress she loves.  I tell Julie that I’m also a big Tilda Swinton fan and I add that I have just seen the stage adaptation of Orlando.  Julie is a big fan of that film.  Meanwhile, Tilda the Schnauzer, asks, “Are you going to pet me more or what?”   Since she is also a hypoallergenic breed, that does not activate my allergies in the least, I comply.

Julie tells me that she adopted Tilda from Biscuits and Bath five years ago when she was around one-years-old.   Her favorite hobbies are eating and lying on a pillow in front of the fan.  I think, “Wow, she’s just like me!”  As other customers enter the store, Tilda give a little howl that almost sounds like, “Hellooooooo!”

Once Julie and Tilda depart, I find the selection of terrycloth headbands, but the joy rapidly drains from this visit.  All of the headbands they have are decorated with logos for either Nike or Adidas.  Since I am endorsement-averse I ask a clerk if they have any plain headbands but he says no.  The clerk working the register suggests, “Turn it inside out.”  Inside out, there will be an unsightly seam showing while the pressure from the logo will leave my forehead embossed with either a Nike or Adidas logo.  I ride the subway.  I don’t want anyone staring at my forehead.   I leave still headband-less and flabby, but content that I at least had a spontaneous fix of adorable dog petting.