Robicelli’s

I know it seems like I haven’t posted in a while, but in my defense, I had to draft a bunch of personal statements for PhD applications, and then send those statements to my recommenders.  Also postseason baseball has been happening, which takes up oodles of time because I feel a need to watch pre-game and post-game coverage (I mean, who doesn’t want to hear Pedro Martinez talk about the Mets, am I right?).  Oh, and I did a guest post for Guest of a Guest!

http://guestofaguest.com/new-york/brooklyn/7-dessert-spots-in-non-williamsburg-brooklyn

The post features a few places I haven’t mentioned on this blog yet, such as Leske’s (doughnuts!), Van Leeuwen (ice cream!), and Jean Danet (Italian cookies!), but I assure you, they are all wheelchair-accessible.

I’ve been talking about chocolate cream pie for two separate entries, so it’s time I delivered: Robicelli’s (9009 5th avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209).  They started as a gourmet sandwich shop in another part of Bay Ridge several years ago and closed that location.  That same storefront became an Italian bakery (with amazing biscotti), which has recently closed.  I’m going to guess that storefront must be haunted.  But anyway, Robicelli’s is now located on 5th avenue and 90th street in Bay Ridge, a neighborhood that frequently gets cut off of tourist maps.  Do I have a problem with this?  Absolutely not, because I can go through my whole day without having to dodge a tourist on the sidewalk, and that is a beautiful thing.

Robicelli’s has gotten a ton of press within the past year.

Robicellis Awards

Some of the press has been for their stellar baked goods, but lots of it has been for their creation, the Nutellasagna (now called the Nutella Lasagna), which is made up of lasagna noodles, cannoli custard, roasted hazelnuts, homemade marshmallow, and Nutella.  They (by they, I mean Allison and Matt Robicelli, the most badass baking couple ever) created the Nutella Lasagna during the summer of 2014 as part of their Jump the Shark Week, which was their way of mocking the “What’s the next cupcake?” question.  Because there are some self-proclaimed foodies out there who are not satisfied with a miniature cake (which, I’m sorry, how is that possible?) and who declared that they were “over” cupcakes after Crumbs went out of business.  These people wanted to know what was after the cupcake, and Robicelli’s created the Nutella Lasagna as a delicious joke, so of course it went viral.

It’s kind of silly that I went into that much detail over the Nutella Lasagna, mostly because I have never actually had it.  It was introduced the summer before I left for England, and I was too busy packing/figuring out how to ship physical therapy equipment across the Atlantic to go get a slice.  It then became popular while I was on another continent.  Perhaps this summer I will finally try it.

As much as I’d love to ramble about a dessert I haven’t tried, this would make for a more convincing review if I talked about something that I actually ate.

But first, I will show you the entrance, because it is flat.

Robicellis Entrance

I always go in with at least two items I definitely need to get in mind, but then I become painfully indecisive because they’ve started making something else that I must try (especially on weekends).

Robicellis Display
My cameraphone is not doing these desserts justice.

I should also mention that they have seasonal cupcakes named after the Golden Girls.

There is a cupcake named after my favorite southern belle and my day just got several times more fabulous.
There is a cupcake named after my favorite southern boss lady and my day just got several times more fabulous.

On this particular day, my sister and I wanted to split a cupcake.  What caught our attention instead were pudding cups (which were introduced to the regular menu while I was in England).

Robicellis Tiramisu

Okay, so we definitely had to get a pudding cup.  Wait, what is that cupcake?

I know I'm going to go broke if I buy everything I like, but holy crap that looks good.
I know I’m going to go broke if I buy everything I like, but holy crap that looks good.

My sister and I decided to get a Chocolate Kahluha banana pudding cup.  Because that sounded like the most logical thing to split.

This is the top of the cup.  I thought it'd be a good idea to take a cross-sectional picture once we were some of the way through, but then we finished it. My camera wasn't fast enough.
This is the top of the cup. I thought it’d be a good idea to take a cross-sectional picture once we were some of the way through, but then we finished it. My camera wasn’t fast enough.

I know Robicelli’s is famous for their Nutella Lasagna, and for their cupcakes, but I need to talk about their chocolate cream pie.  There’s chocolate budino (think dense pudding), which has a slight bitterness to it, and the top is a light and slightly sweet mascarpone chantilly.  It is a super heavy pie with an all-butter crust, but is worth the calories.  I ordered a pie to bring to a party last summer (I should mention, if you order anything, do it at least 48 hours in advance).  At the party, one of my sister’s friends told me that the pie changed her life.  It’s a magical pie.  I recently ate a slice before I could take a picture.  This has been happening a lot lately.

I did manage to take a picture once when I returned from England and wanted to buy a pie, but it was like, 90 degrees outside and the pie topping might have gotten jostled in the car:

Oh. My. Pie.
Oh. My. Pie.

The pie may not have been at its most photogenic at that moment, but it still looked mighty.

The location itself isn’t exactly a “stay for five hours writing your statement of purpose” place.  It’s pretty small and has a table with super tall chairs.  I also don’t think there’s a bathroom for customers.

Robicellis Table
Looks like I’m eating my pudding cup on my lap.

There’s also an area for kids to play with toys while their parents stare at dessert items.

Robicellis Kids

If you need coffee, by the way, they serve Stumptown.

Also, I have to say that for much better food photography than my post has to offer, please check out the Robicelli’s Instagram feed (@robicellis), which features all the food porn you could ask for.

TLDR

Entrance: Flat!
Bathroom: I don’t believe there’s one for customers.
Lighting: Great
Counter: Easy to see most things on display, but it’s a little difficult to reach up to pay.
Coffee: Stumptown
Pastries: Everything. Just get everything.  But the chocolate cream pie is my favorite.

Robicelli’s website: http://www.robicellis.com/
Current menu: http://www.robicellis.com/uploads/4/4/9/0/44906969/fallonlinemenu2015.pdf
Robicelli’s cookbook (filled with great recipes and a delightfully unexpected amount of swearing): http://www.robicellis.com/buy-our-book.html

Thanks for reading!  If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe and/or follow my Instagram (@valpiro221).

Val

Bien Cuit

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.

I think you need a longer interior ramp.
I think you need a longer interior ramp.

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.

Bien Cuit Interior

In case you have ever wondered what the difference is between a latte and a cappuccino, look no further!
In case you have ever wondered what the difference is between a latte and a cappuccino, look no further!

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.

These pastries need to bask in photogenic lighting.  Is there an Instagram filter that fixes this?
These pastries need to bask in photogenic lighting. Is there an Instagram filter that fixes this?

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.

You look so pretty when you're not in a display case!
You look so pretty when you’re not in a display case!

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.

Bien Cuit Passionfruit

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).

TLDR

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).

Val

NYC Doughnut Showdown: Part One

I said I would finish my Cambridge entries, but eh, no one wants to read about a crepe chain.  And in any case, I’m home now, and I just went to two doughnut places over the 4th of July weekend and feel a need to tell people about them.  NYC’s got some lovely doughnut places, so I thought I’d post two per entry that seem pretty similar to each other.  Today: fancy doughnuts.  Some call them “artisanal,” but I really prefer the term “fancy,” because they really are fancier (and more expensive) than your average doughnut.

Today’s Showdown: Dough (originally from Brooklyn, but I checked out their Flatiron location (14 W 19th street between 5th and 6th avenues)) and The Doughnut Plant (220 W 23rd street, between 7th and 8th avenues).

Dough is a pretty new place (I think they’ve been around since 2010/11), but it has already been ranked as the best doughnut shop in NYC by GrubStreet.  They specialize in yeast doughnuts, which they top with various glazes.  The Doughnut Plant has been around for a bit longer, and has been featured on multiple travel shows (not gonna lie, that’s kind of how I found out about them).  It has four locations in Manhattan (five if you count the Shake Shack in Battery Park City).  They invented the square jelly doughnut (imagine a square doughnut with a hole in the middle, and imagine jelly piped through each side of the square) and the creme brûlée doughnut.  I was excited to go to both shops.

I was thinking of doing some kind of ranking system with numbers so that I could judge both places on accessibility and awesomeness of doughnut, but I think it might just be better to talk about each first, and then put some kind of win/loss column at the bottom (can I make charts on wordpress?  Let’s find out).

First stop: Dough

Dough Entrance
Slight bump at the entrance, but I think a powerchair could go over it.

Door opens outwards, so it’s a bit tricky to open while seated.

There was a line.  Because doughnuts.  My sister (who valiantly agreed to join me on this quest for fancy fried dough) waited in line while I took pictures of the counter.  It was right at my height, which I thought was a bit dangerous.

I'll have one of everything okay thanks bye.
I’ll have one of everything okay thanks bye.

We decided to share a doughnut: the chocolate salted caramel.  Don’t let the above picture fool you.  They had more doughnuts on the other side of the counter.

The table at Dough is long and at the perfect height for my manual chair.

Dough Table

My sister and I looked at our glorious doughnut.

Okay this needs a knife and fork.  Otherwise I'm going to leave here looking like I stuck my face in a vat of chocolate.
Okay this needs a knife and fork. Otherwise I’m going to leave here looking like I stuck my face in a vat of chocolate.

Holy crap it’s like biting into the innards of a homemade zeppole (Italian fried dough).  I need to show you just how dough-y the middle of this thing is.  Dough wins for more accurate name ever.

Dough Cross Section
SO SOFT. SO DOUGHY. WHY AM I SHARING THIS?

The glaze was also fantastic.  The salt balances out the sweetness of the chocolate, and when it’s done I’m sad that I split the doughnut.  It’s a salted caramel doughnut, but I don’t think I got too much caramel.  It’s okay, the salt and chocolate make up for it.

Unfortunately, Dough does not have a bathroom.  The staff there tells you to go to the Bed, Bath & Beyond down the block (and by block, I mean down to 6th avenue, which feels like going down two city blocks).  This was not an issue for me and my sister, because their espresso machine was broken that day.  This was kind of a bummer, because they serve Intelligentsia coffee (another high-end coffee brand), and I wanted to try a latte.  Oh well.  Another time.

Dough does have a water fountain, but it’s way too high for me to reach.

I know you're trying to look cool, Dough, but us wheelchair users cannot hydrate ourselves.  Not cool.
I know you’re trying to look cool, Dough, but us wheelchair users cannot hydrate ourselves. Not cool.

My sister and I trekked a few blocks over to our second location, The Doughnut Plant.  There’s a slight incline going up to the door, which also opens outwards.  What is up with that?

The door handle is shaped like a doughnut?  Does that make it harder to open?  Eh, a little.
The door handle is shaped like a doughnut? Does that make it harder to open? Eh, a little.

The Doughnut Plant specializes in yeast and cake doughnuts, so my sister and I decided to get one of each, along with an iced matcha latte (because we both love matcha).

TDP Latte

The latte was milky and not too sweet.  I would’ve thrown in another teaspoon of matcha, but that’s just me.

There are doughnuts everywhere in this store.  I mean this in a cute way.  The walls are covered in pillows that look like their doughnuts.

TDP Wall 2

Pinstripe doughnut YEAH.
Pinstripe doughnut YEAH.

The counter is a little taller than I am, but I can still get a good look at the bottom level of their doughnut case.

The counter.  You can see some of The Doughnut Plant's swag in the background in case you want to buy a bag or t-shirt or something.
The counter. You can see some of The Doughnut Plant’s swag in the background in case you want to buy a bag or t-shirt or something.
Hi doughnuts, if I had the stomach capacity, just know that I would eat you all.
Hi doughnuts, if I had the stomach capacity, just know that I would eat you all.

The Doughnut Plant has lots of small tables and a bench, which is covered in doughnuts.  They’re at a wheelchair friendly height.

TDP Table

My sister and I got a Valrhona chocolate yeast doughnut (to compare with Dough’s doughnut), and a matcha cake doughnut.  I was excited.

A star-shaped doughnut.  Because 'Murica.
A star-shaped doughnut. Because ‘Murica.

First, the Valrhona doughnut (star-shaped just for the 4th of July weekend).  I have to say, Dough does a better yeast doughnut.  It’s no contest.  This doughnut could’ve used a little salt in the glaze.  Which isn’t to say it was too sweet, just that I expect something a little more intense when it’s advertised as Valrhona chocolate, or at least something that tastes just as good as the glaze at Dough.  Boy did that sound snobby.  You get this round, Dough.

But the matcha doughnut.

Is this my new cellphone background?  Maybe.  Okay, it is.  It definitely is.  I stare at it daily.  I'm staring at it right now.  I want one.
Is this my new cellphone background? Maybe. Okay, it is. It definitely is. I stare at it daily. I’m staring at it right now. I want one.

Like the latte, it could’ve used a teaspoonful more of matcha, but that’s just personal preference.  It was a very good cake doughnut.  This is only available on Saturdays and Mondays, but I definitely recommend getting it if you’re a fan of green tea.

The Doughnut Plant has a bathroom, but it is not wheelchair-accessible.  Blast.  On the bright side, I can actually reach the water.

See, Dough?  You don't have to let your wheelchair-using customers dehydrate.
See, Dough? You don’t have to let your wheelchair-using customers dehydrate.

THE RESULTS (to substitute for TLDR):

THE GOOD:

Dough: Better yeast doughnut, counter at good height, table at good height.
The Doughnut Plant: Inventive cake and filled doughnuts, counter at good height, tables at good height, water reachable, delightful matcha latte.

THE BAD:

Dough: No bathroom, water not reachable, broken espresso machine.
The Doughnut Plant: Bathroom not wheelchair-accessible.

So, where should you get a fancy doughnut in NYC (well, in the Flatiron district)?  Depends on what you’re craving.  If you want a yeast doughnut, go for Dough.  If you want anything else, go to The Doughnut Plant.  Just remember to use the bathroom at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Thanks for reading!  If you like what you’ve read, please follow this blog or follow me on Twitter (@Access_Bakeshop).  Or share this post on the social media outlet of your choice.  I’m so ecstatic to be back in NYC.  Don’t get me wrong.  Cambridge has its charm, but there’s no place like home.  Especially when you can buy a big container of peanut butter and another one of marshmallow fluff.  Not joking.

I think this is what those "I <3 NY" shirts are referring to, right?
I think this is what those “I love NY” shirts are referring to.  Right?

See you next week!  Well, if my dissertation allows it.

Val