The dissertation is in, and I plan to distract myself from thinking about potential typos I may or may not have caught as I read over my final draft. Distraction can take many forms: watching sports, reading (…about sports), documenting various family baking projects (which can all be found on my Instagram account @valpiro221), shamelessly streaming T-Swift on Apple Music (because free trial yay), and blogging about where you might want to get pastries. Because pastries are awesome.
To be fair, I actually went to Bien Cuit (120 Smith street, between Dean and Pacific, Brooklyn) about a month ago and only found time to write about it now. They’re located in the Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill area, which is now home to lots of Williamsburg-esque coffee places and artisanal ice cream shops. Some of these locations have steps, which means I will not feature them on this blog. If there is any demand, however, I will compile a list of inaccessible coffee shops as a warning to mobility-impaired New Yorkers and travelers.
Some bakeries/cafés used to have steps, and storeowners have tried to solve this problem by installing interior ramps or by covering the outside step with enough concrete to create something of a slope. Sometimes this works spectacularly, and other times it kind of sort of needs more work. I mention this because of the struggle it took to get into Bien Cuit. Outside their entrance, there is a steep concrete slope that I needed a push up. Their door needed to be held open by a stranger while my mother, who luckily happened to be with me, pushed me into the bakery.
This was a bummer, because it is quite cute inside, with wooden floors and cute signs that actually describe the components of each drink on the menu.
The counter is at a wheelchair-friendly height, but I couldn’t get over the lighting within the display case. I mean, it just did not do the pastries justice.
After briefly chatting with a very friendly barista, I opted for the apple cardamom danish ($4) and for a passionfruit-mint spritzer ($4). The coffee at Bien Cuit comes from Joe, a brand name that’s up there with Stumptown and Intelligentsia, so you know your espresso beverages are going to be fabulous. I figured if I went with one of their “summer spritzers” (check the bottom righthand corner of the chalkboard picture), I’d be able to try something different and blogworthy. Or, who am I kidding, it was really hot outside and I wanted something fruity with ice in it.
Bien Cuit is known for their bread. That said, the pastry surrounding the apple cardamom filling was definitely more bready than flaky, almost to the point of being kind of chewy. The pastry tasted good, but its consistency was a little too dense for my taste. The apple filling tasted like apple pie, with the consistency of applesauce. The crumbly topping was good, but as hard as I searched for the cardamom flavor in the topping, apple filling, and unexpected cream filling beneath the apple, I could not find it. For those unfamiliar with cardamom, it’s usually an ingredient in most chai tea blends. Its flavor is pretty distinct, and you’d know if you had it. Either my palette isn’t as snobby as I’ve been led to believe, or someone forgot the cardamom. Or perhaps detecting the cardamom in this danish is like tasting wine, where someone tells you there are flavor notes and you nod in agreement for fear of looking silly in front of your wine connoisseur friends (even though you cannot for the life of you detect any of these so called “flavor notes”). In any case, I tasted apple (and some delightful cream below the apple), but no cardamom. Perhaps I should’ve gone with the raspberry muenster danish.
I had another issue of “wait, where is the second flavor?” with the passionfruit and mint spritzer. I checked the menu after my first sip to make sure that yes, there was supposed to be mint in this. I did not taste mint. If it was there, it was overpowered with the sweetness of passionfruit. For those who adore sweet drinks, look no further. I used my straw to mix the passionfruit around my cup, and tried sipping from the top of the cup. It was of no use. It was too sweet for me. I would later take this home and heavily dilute it, because I could not bring myself to throw out a $4 drink.
The bathroom at Bien Cuit is technically not accessible, for it lacks the bars/handrails you would ordinarily see next to the toilet. It is, however, large enough for my wheelchair to fit into.
Overall, I really wanted to love this place. I’m a sucker for hipster-esque coffee places, and will pay for their overpriced pastries and coffee drinks if they are worth it. This visit was less than stellar, but I’ve been happy with other purchases from this establishment. I’ve had their pain de mie bread before (think French milk bread), and it’s fabulous with peach jam or nutella ($6 for half a loaf). I am certain that Bien Cuit’s espresso beverages are worth trekking up the super steep entrance (i.e. sitting around awkwardly waiting for kind strangers to help you), but I have no intention of being a regular here. It’s just too much of a hassle to get in, and I can get really good coffee at the cookie shop around the corner (oh there will be a post on that).
Entrance: Super steep. Interior ramp does not help the steepness. You will need people to help you in.
Bathroom: Not exactly accessible. No handrails, but space is large enough for a wheelchair to fit in.
Lighting: Great everywhere except for the display case.
Counter: Good height.
Coffee: Joe; Tea: Harney and Sons; Spritzers: Avoid.
Pastries: Made in-house, kind of bready danishes, cardamom not detectable in apple cardamom danish.
Other: Friendly staff.
Recommended dessert item: Grab yourself a pain de mie loaf to go and either put jam or nutella on it, or turn it into French toast. Not exactly dessert, but it’s a sweet breakfast item.
Thanks for reading! If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe. My next post will either cover the dessert vendors at Madison Square Eats, or the bakery that has the best chocolate cream pie in NYC (and Zagat agrees with me, so I’m not making it up).