How are those two images related? They are both from Dominique Ansel Bakery, the wonderful sweet spot at 189 Spring Street in SoHo. If you do not live in New York City, a pilgrimage is in order.
The top photo is from the very high tech Japanese equipment providing this immaculate kitchen with the power to support a master team of pastry chefs. That team is led by Dominique, whose career includes seven years [a record] at famed NYC restaurant Daniel and many years at Fauchon in Paris [plus opening Fauchon stores around the world]. Imagine the complexity of opening a Fauchon store in Russia and you can appreciate that Dominique’s skills extend beyond pastry.
Oh, do you know Fauchon? The, the, the food store in Paris. You walk in, you point, you never touch under penalty of banishment, and white gloved attendants carefully pick up and package your goodies. It is about as intimidating as meeting the Pope.
Ansel’s SoHo spot has no intimidation, but it is packed with treats. It’s not just as good as Paris. It is Paris. A block of the 8th transferred west to SoHo.
That bottom picture is a Mini-Me cake. Those are little meringue buds on top of a cake with multiple layers of decadence.
When I first put my fork in one of these cakes — yes, I have had more than one — I knew it would be superb. How? Just the way the fork went through the texture of the cake. A bit of push to penetrate the ganache top, then a gracefully sliding passage through the mouse layers.
Of the five senses, we often think that touch is related to food only when it is in our mouth, and then only in broad terms: soft, hard, …
Actually, your sense of touch can be extended outside of your mouth. You can learn using fork, knife, or spoon what quality is and what textures you may expect to soon delight your mouth. It can be subtle, but if you eat enough mousse, you will learn. You might have to walk off some calories, too. For me, the Bakery is just 0.67 miles from where I live. I assume a walk there and back has to worth at least 2000 calories. Roughly. Approximately.
There is nothing rough or approximate about the Bakery’s treat. There are smooth and distinctively perfect.
Don’t leave without a macron. Or two.
New York is not Vienna, but the past few years have seen a pastry transformation in the city. First came the cakes with deep frosting [think Magnolia Bakery]. Then the cupcakes and the macaroon [or macarons depending on your spell checker]. There are stores aplenty and trucks floating about the city offering a myriad of colors and tastes.
Every week it seems a new bakery opens in a trendy location. Some are good, some are less good. A bakery ought to smell right, have a friendly staff, and have the ambiance that invites you to stay for a second bite.
And then, there is the occasional great new bakery. Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo, at 189 Spring Street near Thompson is as great as anything you can find. Now, you can skip that flight to Paris or Vienna.
Dominique Ansel began his culinary career at 16. He rose to become the pastry chef at Daniel, one of the world’s premier restaurants.
And now, God bless him, he’s opened this bakery one mile from where I live. Unless the chill factor is below 0⁰ this winter, I really have no reason to skip a weekly date at this wonderful spot.
The triumph dish is the DKA, Dominique’s Kouign Amann. This doughy treat is four inches across, flakey, tender, and composed of caramelized layers that fold upon each other in magnificent ways. Pair that roll with a cup of hot chocolate, and you have fuel until you return in the afternoon for coffee and a more gooey treat: I do recommend the salt-topped caramel éclair.
The space is beautiful, with an outdoor area that, come spring, will surely be filled from dawn to dusk. The staff is smiling and happy. They’ll guide you down the line of available pastries and charmingly educate you about what to expect.
This store is what every high-end bakery should aspire to be. If you are in the business, you ought to drop by and spy. Your eyes will open at the quality achieved here. If you are not in the business, but simply have a sweet tooth, then go, open your eyes, open your mouth, and taste the epitome of pastry.