Molly’s Cupcakes

Bakery blog, I have returned! And I’m going to ramble about a cupcake shop on Bleecker Street, which is a pretty magical street in the West Village. So magical that if I had the pictures for it, I’d devote a whole post to its glory. Between 7th Avenue and Carmine Street, there’s a gelato place (Grom), an ice cream place (Cones), a cheese store that makes arguably one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches in NYC (Murray’s Cheese), a pizza place (John’s of Bleecker Street), a doughnut shop (The Doughnut Project – not technically on Bleecker, but close enough), and several bakeries. You could spend your whole day eating your way through this street.

But today, cupcakes. Molly’s Cupcakes (228 Bleecker Street), to be specific. My mother and I wandered in because we were in the neighborhood, and it was too cold for gelato or ice cream. The entrance is mostly flat. I think a power chair could get over it with enough momentum.

MC 1

Molly’s Cupcakes is pretty adorable. Even the chalkboard outside assures you that you’re in a cupcake judgment-free zone.

MC 2

There are also cute signs around the store.

MC 3
I understand why cupcakes should be held securely instead of held while frolicking, but it’s just so much fun to frolic.

The owner of Molly’s Cupcakes says on their website that Molly was his third grade teacher. She baked cupcakes whenever one of her students had a birthday, which is so sweet. This is probably why the store looks like a cross between a swing set and an elementary school classroom, with chalkboards and desks galore.

MC 4

MC 5
These desks are giving me flashbacks of spelling quizzes, and times that I worried over my first grade GPA (which wasn’t actually a number, but I still felt a need to cram for quizzes).

Not that I’m complaining. Elementary school cupcake birthday parties were a highlight of my childhood. Except our cupcakes were usually comprised of cake mix and store-bought frosting, which the cupcakes at this establishment most definitely are not.

MC 7
This lighting isn’t doing the cupcakes justice. I really need to fiddle with my filters more.

Molly’s Cupcakes has an impressive display case and selection, with each flavor written out in neat, occasionally small handwriting. They have vegan options, and one flourless chocolate option (the Flourless Molten Chocolate). They also have the option to build your own cupcake.

MC 6
You too can live your dream of getting a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting and brownie chunks.

My mother and I decided to split a chocolate raspberry cupcake (we had just eaten lunch at Murray’s Cheese Shop, and their grilled cheese sandwiches are very filling), which is a chocolate cupcake with raspberry filling and a chocolate ganache. Had I gone there alone, I might have gone after the Oreo cupcake or the often-Yelped crème brûlée cupcake, which both looked lovely. We wanted a decaf latte to go with it, but we were told that they didn’t have any decaf. Apparently West Village residents have no need for decaffeinated coffee or espresso. Alas.

The cupcake itself was pretty good. Then again, my requirements for a pretty good cupcake are: 1. the cake is not dry, and 2. the frosting is not overly sweet. This sounds like a low bar, but I assure you that it is not. Most cupcake shops suffer from one of these ailments, and Magnolia Bakery is terrible on both counts (seriously, why is it so popular?). But the cupcake I had at Molly’s Cupcakes was solid. I’d definitely go back for another (and maybe sneak in some decaf coffee in a thermos).

TLDR:

Entrance: Mostly flat. A power chair should be able to get into the shop.
Bathroom: Although I did not use the bathroom there, it has a handicapped sign, so it looks promising.
Lighting: Good, although writing on labels for cupcakes might be a bit small at times.
Counter: Easy to see display, slightly difficult to reach for the counter to pay.
Coffee: No decaf.
Pastries: Chocolate raspberry cupcake is solid. Vegan options are available, in addition to at least one flourless option.

Website: http://www.mollyscupcakes.com/ny/home.aspx
Twitter: @MollysCupcakes
Instagram: @MollysCupcakes

Thanks for reading! If you like what you’ve read, then be sure to subscribe to my blog/follow me on 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

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

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