Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Journey to Levain

When I was in New York, a friend told me I had to visit Levain Bakery on 74th Street for the best cookies in the city.

So one afternoon, I traveled with another friend of mine across the city to the Upper Westside just for a taste. We had Google Maps as our navigator. And it brought us to our destination, but to our dismay, it was just a another street of suburban apartments. There was no cookie shop in sight. We walked the whole stretch, scouting for a cafe or deli that read "Levain Bakery" to no avail.

We even walked the next block and refreshed Google Maps several times to be sure. It led us back to that street. Still no sign of the bakery. 

Frustrated and tired, we were just about to visit the neighboring streets for cookies, when I spotted it. 

There it was, framed in blue, a tiny little shop sandwiched between other colorful apartments. It was easily mistaken for another house. If not for the sign painted in mustard yellow across the glass window, I wouldn't have noticed it. 

So we walked in and to our surprise, there were only four kinds of pastries on sale and all of them were cookies: chocolate chip walnut, oatmeal raisin, dark chocolate chip and dark chocolate peanut butter chip. I suppose the bakery sells a variety of other pastries but I must have gone right before it closed, so everything else was sold out apart from the cookies. It worked out well though, because I'd traveled a half hour from the other side of the city just to taste the famous cookies.

My friend I each bought a dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookie.

It cost no more than $5 per cookie. I guess we both underestimated it. We thought we could finish the cookie ourselves. 

But no. It wasn't an ordinary cookie. It was huge. I cradled it in its white paper bag as we left the shop, feeling its warmth in my palms. It actually weighed a lot heavier than most cookies.

It was a massive slab of dark chocolate, embedded with peanut butter chips. Biting into it, I realized I had never tasted anything quite as good. It was soft and chewy with a hint of saltiness from the peanut butter, but drenched in rich sweetness from the chocolate.

The warmth of the dark chocolate dough melted the peanut butter chips, a creamy brown filing that curled out of its cookie cage, luring me in for another bite.

This was supposed to be a pre-dinner snack. But the cookie stole our appetite. Halfway through my treat, my stomach told me to stop. I was getting full. Really, really full. 

"This thing itself can be a meal!" my friend joked.

But she was right. It could. And maybe some people actually made it a meal. A substitute for a sandwich, or a plate of rice. A sweet, delicious, chocolatey and peanut-buttery substitute.

Our journey to Levain Bakery was worth it.

Photographed and written by Carissa Gan.

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