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

Mia’s Bakery

Last post, I said I’d blog about chocolate cream pie or Madison Square Eats.  I visited another bakery this week, so I figured I’d put the chocolate cream pie on hold for another week or so and blog about the new bakery.

Life updates: Applying for a Ph.D. program is unexpectedly nerve-wracking (especially when I’m jumping from medieval history to the modern period).  I’m totally fine with checking out school rankings, finding programs, and looking up faculty whose research interests kind of sort of mostly match with mine, but then I have to email those professors to see if they’d want to work with me.  I spend hours drafting email after email, reading articles/book chapters written by these professors, and trying to spin my topic to something that maybe sounds interesting to them.  Since I just spent a year researching perceptions of disability in the Early Middle Ages, I thought, hey, why not look at perceptions of disability in the American education system?  Because the system suffers from ableism and believe me, I am more than happy to undertake a large research project to examine different aspects of it (and offer suggestions on how to improve it).  I’ve emailed professors from four different schools, and whenever I hear a positive reply I just think, “YES, MY SUBJECT IS WORTH STUDYING,” but occasionally I’ll get a reply like, “Disability studies doesn’t fit into our program.”  And then I look like Sadness from “Inside Out” for a few minutes before I shift my focus to the professors who might actually want to work with me.

Yes, that was a whole paragraph about my Ph.D. applications to justify my understandable need for cake.  Also my Push to Walk trainer said I’ve moved on from planks (my favorite exercise ever) and then gave me something different/harder to do, so I decided that cake would alleviate my sadness.

I was getting bubble tea at Hanco’s (134 Smith Street, Brooklyn) one day and saw Mia’s Bakery (139 Smith Street, Brooklyn), a new bakery across the street.  Its entrance looked accessible, so I needed to check it outMias Entrance

The door was open, but there was a second door by the entrance that needed to be opened.  I was able to open the door while seated in my chair, but those with more limited upper body movement may need extra assistance to get in.

Inside, I became seized with indecision immediately.  The selection of desserts was just insane.

Cakes!  Everywhere!
Cakes! Everywhere!
Display cases on display cases!  Are those cronuts I see up there??
Cupcakes everywhere! And mini baklava! Display cases on display cases! Are those cronuts I see up there??

There was also a separate area for coffee, and I was slightly confused where to place my order, because I wanted coffee and cookies/cake.  I found out they were out of rainbow cookies and decided that I most definitely needed a slice of cake instead.  I should add that while there don’t appear to be any major issues with lighting, the text behind each of these counters is rather small.

So I order my coffee here and dessert at the other counter?
So I order my coffee here and dessert at the other counter?

Turns out you can order whatever at either counter.  I was not inclined to stay at the coffee bar, mostly because the seats were too high.

Okay, I'll just have my coffee at the part of the bakery with shorter chairs.
Okay, I’ll just have my coffee at the part of the bakery with shorter chairs.

The smart decision would’ve been to get a manageable-looking cupcake.  But I’m not smart with dessert.  For some reason everything looks smaller in the display case than it does on a plate, and I think, “Oh yeah, I could totally handle that.”  After a solid ten minutes of staring at the display cases, a friendly staff member recommended chocolate mousse cake (I was torn between that and what looked like blackout cake).  I ordered the cake ($5.75 per slice) and a decaf cappuccino ($3.75).  If you order your drink to stay, you get it in a mug, which may not seem unusual, but I like noting it because there are places that give you a paper cup whether you stay or go.  And I’m a fan of mugs.  They’re cozy and say, “Why don’t you pull out your laptop/book and work here a while?”  They have free WiFi and outlets, so…definitely a future place to work.

Mias Seating
I have a friend who says this looks like a Jersey diner. He’s from South Jersey and I’ve never been to a diner around there, so I’ll take his word for it?

The cappuccino was strong and bitter.  I liked it lots.

Mias Cappuccino

It also went really well with the chocolate mousse cake.

I shamelessly instragram-ed this cake.
I shamelessly instragram-ed this cake, because it is pretty.

I liked it, but wished that there was more cake and less mousse.  The cake part was lovely, but the mousse part tasted like the chocolate mousse I’ve had in most neighborhood bakeries (i.e. forgetful and in need of more cocoa powder/less sugar).  It was light at least, but I kind of thought I should have gotten a chocolate cupcake or something instead.  At least then there’d be more cake than frosting.  Given how huge the selection of desserts is, I think I should be able to find something I want to repeatedly get pretty soon (rainbow cookies, where are you?!).

Before I forget, the women’s bathroom, which includes a disabled symbol on the door, is accessible.  The men’s bathroom does not have a disabled symbol on the door, so it might not be accessible.

TLDR

Entrance: Flat, with two doors that may be difficult to open if you have limited upper body movement.
Bathroom: Definitely accessible for women, unsure for men.
Lighting: Great, although text for menu above display cases is rather small.
Counter: Good height for ordering, not so much if you want to sit at the coffee bar.
Coffee: Brooklyn Roasting Company
Pastries: Cakes, cookies, everything really.  They were out of rainbow cookies when I was there, though.  The chocolate mousse cake needed more cake and less mousse (or the same amount of mousse with less sugar).
Other: Some staff are friendly, some forget you’re there (not mentioned in the post: how I repeatedly had to flag down someone on the staff to get my check).
Recommended dessert item (not actually mentioned in post): Most recommended items based on internet reviews are cheesecake and rainbow cookies.  This breaks my heart because I really wanted to have a rainbow cookie.

Thanks for reading!  If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe, like, or follow my instagram (@valpiro221).  There will be a chocolate cream pie post in the future!

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