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

Savino’s

After two weeks of dissertation-writing and manic packing, I am overjoyed to say I am back in NYC!  Nine months is far too long to spend away from home.  I would’ve gone back for the holidays, but taking a plane and dealing with wheelchair things is both a hassle and ridiculously worrying.  One main issue is that if you are the only person using a chair on the flight, you can sometimes store it in the cabin on the plane (but only if you have a manual chair, because powerchairs will not fit).  If you can’t store the chair in the cabin, it gets tagged and thrown in with the rest of the plane luggage, which means there is a very good chance you will not get your chair back in the condition it was in when it got tagged.  A trip with American Airlines in 2009 ripped one of my brake extenders off of my chair, which was…let’s just say inconvenient.  Ever since, I’ve been worried that plane travel could lead to a busted chair.  Imagine if every time you flew you didn’t know whether a flight attendant would unintentionally break your leg during the flight.  That’d kind of discourage you from flying, no?

But I digress.  Even though I’m back home, with the way I timed my Cambridge entries, I ended up having a slight backlog of places/recipes, so I’m just going to post these before I do my NYC entries.

When I found out I got accepted to Cambridge last year, I told my undergrad adviser about it, because he did his MPhil there several years ago and I was going to work with his former supervisor.  He started listing things I should do and places I should go to, and I ended up going to a couple of the places (including this one tea place in Ely that I would write about, except that the lighting was awful where I was sitting and none of my pictures look remotely appetizing, so I’d be doing that place a disservice posting here).  One place where I ended up getting better pictures is called Savino’s (3 Emmanuel St, CB1 1NE), a place conveniently located across the street from a major bus stop area (and across the street from Emmanuel College, which I’m told has a duck pond).

My adviser told me that Savino’s has the best chocolate croissant in Cambridge, so this felt like one of those “challenge accepted” moments where you kind of have to go just to see if it’s true.  I do not have a picture (oops), but I will say that their chocolate croissant is good, not amazing, but they have a nutella (or as they call it, “chocolate hazelnut”) croissant, which is worth the trip every time.  I mean, nutella?  In a croissant?  Please excuse me while I gleefully spin around in my chair until I get dizzy (five spins, I have a pretty low spinning tolerance…the room is dizzy).

It’s a pretty small place.  I mean, if I hadn’t been told about the chocolate croissant, I would’ve passed by without noticing it.  They have a sign outside that says they serve Illy coffee, so I guess I wouldn’t completely miss the place if I wheeled past.  I went one day with a friend who approves of Savino’s coffee.  She is Italian, so I trust her opinion on espresso drinks.  Am I stereotyping?  Slightly, so in my defense, my mom (a Taiwanese woman with a terrifyingly refined palate) refuses to get coffee from any other place in Cambridge, and if she decides to branch out, she compares whatever she gets to Savino’s espresso drinks.  Seriously, get your coffee here if you’re in Cambridge.  Pictures to follow shortly.

The entrance!
The entrance!

My friend and I got there around 4:30pm (did I mention that Savino’s is open until 8pm on weekdays during the spring/summer?  8PM.  OH.  SNAP), so there were a few tables available.  There are lots of small tables throughout the café and outside, so you can people watch all day.  Savino’s makes really good sandwiches, so they’re usually packed around lunchtime.  The staff there is super friendly, and after I said I was taking my coffee to stay, someone immediately removed a seat from one of the tables for me.

The counter is high.  I can’t actually see what’s on the counter, and I can’t get a great look at the pastries on the counter.  Savino’s makes croissants, carrot cake, lemon drizzle cake, and other baked goods in-house, and are definitely worth a try.  I’ve had their lemon drizzle cake before, and it was a little on the sweet side, but had a tangy lemony bite to it.  I’ve also had their croissants (1.55 each).  Their nutella croissant is my favorite, but the plain one is also quite good.  They’ll also warm it up for you if you’d like, which makes everything better.  I cannot remember whether there were gluten-free options available, unfortunately.

I got a decaf cappuccino, and my friend got a decaf latte.  They were pretty.

Cappuccino!
Cappuccino!
Latte!
Latte!

Some fun facts about cappuccinos and lattes: a cappuccino is supposed to have less milk than a latte (but they have the same amount of espresso), so it has a more intense flavor.  It also has lots of foam.  Lattes also have foam, but not as much.  You may notice that (at Starbucks especially), lattes and cappuccinos are not all that foamy.  As a foam enthusiast (there are dozens of us!  dozens!), this is disheartening.  But this isn’t a problem here.

DAT FOAM.
DAT FOAM.

That is the foam on my cappuccino, slightly stirred.  You are supposed to have a lot of foam with cappuccinos.  The barista isn’t ripping you off.  Want less foam and more espresso?  Get a latte with multiple shots of espresso, or if you’re desperate for caffeine, order your shots of espresso by themselves.

They don’t skimp on the latte foam either.

YAAAS FOAM.
YAAAS FOAM.
IT'S SO PRETTY.
IT’S SO PRETTY.

My friend was very happy with her drink.  Yes, I realize I’m being a bit nuts over the foam thing, but how often do you get an espresso beverage made the way it’s supposed to be made?  There are times when I order a latte and it looks like a café au lait.  It’s wrong.

But that’s enough of my rambling about textbook espresso drinks.  I am not, nor have I ever been, a barista, but I can appreciate a good espresso drink.

Savino’s has a bathroom, but it is not wheelchair-accessible, so I would not recommend that wheelchair users camp out there to get work done.  If you need some coffee while you wait for the bus or need to get some coffee and dash off somewhere to work, I’d definitely recommend coming here.

TLDR:

Entrance: Flat, door already open when I got there.
Bathroom: Inaccessible (boo).
Lighting: Excellent.
Counter: Very high.
Coffee: Illy (and textbook cappuccinos!), Tea: unsure of brand, Hot chocolate: Two types (normal and Italian, which has a thicker consistency)
Pastries: Homemade, including a nutella croissant.
Other: Super friendly staff, and excellent sandwiches.

Thanks for reading!  If you like what you’ve read, please feel free to follow this blog, follow me on Twitter (@Access_Bakeshop), or share this on the social media outlet of your choice.  The next post should be up sometime this week (giant ginger cookies!), as I’m trying to make up for missing posts for the last couple of weeks.  I’m going to have a hectic schedule because I’m trying to revise my dissertation (it’s due in August) and start prepping for the LSAT (ack!), but I think I’ve got 2-3 more posts to go before I start writing about Brooklyn/Manhattan places, so there’s that to look forward to!

Val

Espresso Library

I went to Espresso Library about two weeks ago, so why am I posting about it now?  Blame the dissertation chapter draft I handed in today to my supervisor, who, a little less than a week ago, said that today was a good time to give her something to read (translation: “I want your chapter on this date.  Or else”).  And hey, I’m convinced that if you give me one week or one month to do something, you will get similar quality drafts, so why not give me the earlier deadline?  But anyway, I won’t have to think about the chapter until I meet with her, so now I can think about other things, like baking sprees and coffee shops…or my next chapter.

I kind of miss writing academic things in America.  They encourage punny or slightly humorous titles.  Here it’s just: “Debiles in the 6th and 7th centuries” (seriously, that is the name of one of my titles, and I’m crying a little on the inside).  Last year I wrote about medieval tournaments and how they became socially exclusive over time, and I really wanted to use, “You Can’t Joust with Us!” as a chapter title.  Unfortunately, my thesis adviser had never seen “Mean Girls,” so that did not end up happening.

But all of this has nothing to do with the fact that one of my floormates told me about a coffee place that opened this February that she really liked, so of course I had to check it out.  Espresso Library (210 East Road, CB1 1BG) is a bit far from my college, but I thought I’d trek over there with a friend.  We both had presentations to give the following week in front of the Medieval History faculty + our fellow MPhilers, so we had to come up with things to say.  And it’s safe to say that coffee is an excellent word-creating beverage.

Not pictured: weird curve in the ground that is part of the sidewalk - why you gotta do that, Cambridge?
Not pictured: weird curve in the ground that is part of the sidewalk – why you gotta do that, Cambridge?

The door was open, so we strolled in.  The menu is written on a chalkboard, they have a Slayer espresso machine, fair trade tea, and bicycles everywhere.  I didn’t try the lunch, but I’m told they do a really good brunch/lunch.  They get their bread from Norfolk Street Bakery, and macarons from Fiona Patisserie (Ely).  Have I been to either of these places?  No, but the internet loves Norfolk Street Bakery, and Fiona McDuff of Fiona Patisserie won Cambridge’s first ever Bake Off competition in 2013, so we’ve got some pretty good credentials there.  If I get around to trying their brunch or a macaron, I’ll update this post.

Yes, Brooklyn hipsters, this is a coffee shop.  Now please put your hipster boners away, you're scaring the locals.
Yes, Brooklyn hipsters, this is a coffee shop. Now please put your hipster boners away, you’re scaring the locals.

The staff are super friendly.  When my friend and I entered the coffee shop and saw that all of the tables on the right side of the café were taken, the staff cleared some space at the communal table on the left side of the café and asked a patron who was already sitting there to move down a couple of seats so that I could park there.  Usually I have to do that, and I do it pretty awkwardly.  Their help was very much appreciated.  My friend and I set up camp and went to get caffeine.

I approached the counter and, to my delight, the pastries were all at eye-level.  The lunch was a bit harder to see.

Okay those macarons look pretty darn good.
Okay those macarons look pretty good.

I got a slice of the date and port pound cake and a chocolate rooibos chai latte (because how could I order anything but that combination of droolworthy beverage ingredients?).  My friend ordered a cappuccino. Silly me did not write down the prices, and now I can’t remember how much I paid because I was there two weeks ago.  Sorry about that.  I will say that it cost less than five pounds total, and that students get a 10% discount when they show their university ID (which I had on me, so hooray!).

Espresso Library Port and Date cake

I’d never had a date and port pound cake before, so this was pretty interesting.  It reminded me of the brown sugar bundt cake I had at Afternoon Tease a while back, but with dates instead of pears.  The crumbly topping it had (you can kind of see it in the picture) was not too sweet, and had a nice crunch to it.  The cake itself wasn’t too dry or moist (probably very slightly closer to dry), and was a bit sweet, but definitely nowhere near the level of sweetness of non-scone Fitzbillies pastries (I realize I’ve just made two references to places I’ve blogged about that you may not have read, which is either mean of me because I’ve given the impression that I expect you to read my other posts, or clever of me because now I’ve implicitly suggested that you now go read those posts if you haven’t yet).

Espresso Library Chai

Admittedly, because this place is called Espresso Library, I should’ve tried the espresso.  But I saw “rooibos chocolate chai latte” and that sounded too good to pass up.  It really should just be called “rooibos chocolate latte,” though, because I did not taste the chai at all.  Espresso Library may want to rethink its rooibos chocolate chai supplier.

Thankfully, my friend did the sensible thing and got something with espresso.

Espresso Library Cappuccino

She said good things about it.  I did not press her further, for she was revising her presentation and deep in thought about Greek manuscripts.

We worked there for a solid three hours.  They were broadcasting the Giro d’Italia cycling race on projection screens on the walls that weren’t covered in bicycles, but the volume was at “You can listen if you’re actually interested, otherwise you can fade it out pretty easily” level, so it was excellent background noise.  I was way more productive than I thought I would be, and got through most of the primary sources that would make up my second chapter.  I mention this just because there are some places that are great for studying, and others that, however lovely they are to sit in or how nerdy they feel, are not the greatest work environments.  When I was an undergraduate, I tried to work in the main undergraduate library café.  There were other students working there, plenty of outlets, and usually a free table if you were smart about when you went in, but I could never focus there.  I went there with a friend to study for a midterm, and we got absolutely nothing done.  The next day, I took the exam and couldn’t locate Constantinople on a map (bit embarrassing for a medievalist, I have to admit, and now I feel like all the people who study Byzantine history are judging me).  Or sometimes I worked in a Starbucks, went back to my room, and realized that most of what I’d written had to be scrapped.  But the student café in one of the upperclassmen houses that blasted “Closing Time” when they wanted you to get out?  That place was great.

That said, it is a bit of a trek for me to get to Espresso Library.  But the bathroom is accessible, so this is a place where you can really just camp out for the day (seriously, they’re open from 7am-7pm Mon-Sat, 9am-6pm Sun), eat your meals, drink your coffee, and get stuff done.

TLDR:

Entrance: Flat, door was already open when I got there.
Bathroom: Accessible!
Lighting: Excellent.
Counter: Good height to see pastries, not the lunch items.
Coffee: They use a Slayer espresso machine to make study-friendly espresso drinks; Tea: Rooibos chocolate chai latte needed more chai; Hot chocolate: Did not try, but will have to try next time I camp out there.
Pastries: Good accompaniments for the coffee, but I wouldn’t go there just for the pastries.  They feature Fiona Patisserie’s macarons, which look delightful.
Other: The staff is super friendly.  10% student discount if you show your university ID.  Combination of espresso drinks, fair trade tea, and bicycles everywhere would make a Brooklyn hipster feel less homesick.

For more information: You can like Espresso Library on Facebook or follow them on Twitter (@EspressoLibrary).

Thanks for reading!  As always, if you like what you’ve read, feel free to like this post, share this on the social media outlet of your choice, follow this blog, or follow my Twitter (@Access_Bakeshop).  Next week: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cherry Walnut cookies!  Or something with a shorter or snappier name that still contains those ingredients.

Val