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

The Chocolate Room

Dessert blog, how I have neglected thee!  Dissertation madness kicked into full gear for the past three weeks, but now the full draft is complete and has been sent to my adviser for feedback.  Once I hear back from her, I’ve got some editing to do before I print it, bind it, and send it off to England.  In the meantime, noms and more noms!

One of my favorite things about coming home is that my physical therapy/exercise schedule becomes way more intense, which totally justifies greater consumption of chocolate goodness.  Right?  Right.  There’s a gym in New Jersey called Push to Walk that I go to a few times a week that specializes in providing workouts for people with spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions.  I can’t go to a normal gym because I can’t use any of their equipment (oh great!  a treadmill with no harness!  what could go wrong?), and I avoid regular hospital outpatient physical therapy like the plague because the physical therapists there force me to work on my wheelchair transfers.  Like all the time.  I remember I once told a physical therapist that I could feel my abs and wanted to do abdominal exercises, and she told me I was imagining things.  So not cool.  That was a rambly paragraph to say that I get my ass kicked (in the best possible way) by a trainer three times a week, which means I get to eat ice cream.

Cue the Chocolate Room (269 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11231).  It’s actually in a part of Brooklyn where you can find parking, so, kudos to them.

TCR Entrance

The entrance is slightly bumpy, and I do need to pop a wheelie to get in.  I think with enough force, a power chair should be able to get in, but please do not quote me on that.  Sadly no power door to get in, but there’s always a staff member by the entrance, so if you wave, you will be noticed.

I went with my mom and dad after a Push to Walk workout (you will notice that many of my future blog posts take place after a Push to Walk workout).

If you're sitting here, odds are you can smell chocolate from the kitchen and hear a Beatles song on their speakers.
If you’re sitting here, odds are you can smell chocolate from the kitchen and hear a Beatles song on their speakers.

We sat next to a window, where, if you put in enough effort, you can spy on people who live in Cobble Hill.

How creepy would it be if I brought binoculars with me?
How creepy would it be if I brought binoculars with me?

We each got a sample of their Valrhona chocolate sorbet when we sat down at the table.  I usually am not a huge fan of sorbet, but this is delightful.  Don’t let the picture below fool you – the spoon is small.  Regardless, it is a lovely sample.

I once came here with a friend who had the sample and then said, "Can I get this, but more?"
I once came here with a friend who had the sample and then said, “Can I get this, but more?”

My mom loves getting the banana split (but only if someone shares with her, so that’s what I did) ($12.50), and my dad likes the milkshakes ($7.50) here.  Between everyone in my family, and a few of my friends, I have tried or seen pretty much everything on the menu.  I’m only going to show pictures of the banana split and chocolate milkshake, but let it be known that The Chocolate Room has a phenomenal chocolate pudding, and the best mint chip ice cream I have ever had in my life.  And yes, they make it all there.  I’ll post a few more things in the TLDR section, only because I feel awkward reviewing things in the main post without an accompanying picture.

My dad’s chocolate milkshake looked fabulous.

See that metal cup next to the milkshake?  That holds more milkshake.  You're welcome, world.
See that metal cup next to the milkshake? That contains more milkshake. You’re welcome, world.

The banana split that my mom and I shared needs some elaboration and two camera angles, because it is a thing of beauty.

BRULEED BANANA YAAAS.
BRULEED BANANA YAAAS.
I would eat this and make questionable moaning sounds, but my parents are here, so I won't.
I would eat this and make questionable moaning sounds, but my parents are here, so I won’t.

The banana is split and then bruléed.  That’s right.  Bruléed.  The sugar in the banana crystallizes and makes bananas even more wonderful.  Between the halved banana there’s a scoop of Madagascar vanilla bean (where you can legit see the vanilla bean), Belgian chocolate, and strawberry ice cream.  To accompany the vanilla, there is caramel sauce.  Chocolate ice cream has strawberry sauce, and the strawberry ice cream has hot fudge on it.  All made in-house.  All amazing.  The ice cream is topped with homemade whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and a real cherry.  My mom and I asked if we could substitute their whipped cream with coconut whipped cream (which they also make there), which they did, and which was amazing.

If you’re not in the mood for a banana split, they make a frozen hot chocolate (called the Not Hot) here that would make Serendipity 3 (an Upper East Side tourist trap that gets way too much good press) cry tears of jealousy.  Seriously, I have had both, and there is no comparison (also the frozen hot chocolate here is cheaper so you have no excuse).  They also do excellent ice cream sodas and hot chocolate floats.  I like to pair their hot chocolate with their mint chip ice cream, because at some point you end up with minty hot chocolate.  My sister also loves their Black Bottom Butterscotch custard.  I guess it would be easier to say that you cannot go wrong with anything on their menu.

And they have a wheelchair accessible bathroom.  Score.

The Chocolate Room gets crowded at night, so I recommend going in the afternoon.  If you want to get stuff to go, they have a counter in the front where you can order ice cream, milkshakes, brownies, cupcakes, chocolates, and a number of other Chocolate Room items.

TCR Shelves

TCR Popcorn

TCR Chocolates
Knipschildt chocolates. Yes, please.

There was also this super accurate mug:

TCR Mug

There totally is.  I bought a shirt from The Chocolate Room a few years ago that said the same thing.  They have another location in Park Slope, but I cannot vouch for its accessibility.

For more information: http://thechocolateroombrooklyn.com/

TLDR:

Entrance: Small bump.  You can pop a wheelie in a manual chair, more effort may be needed with a power chair.
Bathroom: Accessible!
Lighting: Better the closer you are to the window.
Counter: Not too high at the front, but there are seats at the counter that are way too high.
Coffee: Brooklyn Roasting Company (Fair Trade Certified and Organic, and locally roasted), Tea: Harney and Sons, Chai latte: bit on the sweet side.  Also, they sell chocolate beer and dessert wines.
Pastries: All homemade, all stellar.  Oprah loves their chocolate cake.
Other: Super friendly staff.
Recommended dessert item: Although not pictured, my all time favorite thing to get here is a scoop of mint chip ice cream with hot fudge.

Thanks for reading!  As always, if you liked what you read, please like the post, follow my blog, or follow me on Twitter (@Access_Bakeshop).  Hope to have something up in the next week or two, but I have to mail in my dissertation next week, so we’ll see how that goes!

Val