When people either ask (or Google) - "What is the best cookie in NYC?", the common answer is the chocolate chip cookie at Levain Bakery.
I know this because I was once at my desk... Maybe trading some GameStop pre-Reddit... And I suddenly got in the mood for a really good cookie. So I did that same Google search, visited what I believe is Levain's original location on West 74th (there are eight locations now), and then snuck 4 of their signature chocolate chip cookies right out of their ovens and into the Lowes 13 Theatre on 68th Street along with a quart of ice-cold whole milk.
I sat there, by myself, with a napkin tucked into my shirt collar, dunking cookies and watching a 4:45 PM showing of The Nice Guys starring Russel Crowe and Ryan Gosling in a theatre that contained exactly one person other than me... That gentleman entered my almost-empty theatre after the movie had started, walked over to where I was sitting, introduced himself as Steve, and proceeded to sit down next to me in a room with probably 250 empty seats.
It was then I realized Steve's choice of seats was a not-so-subtle attempt at seeing if I was a different type of "Nice Guy"...
… So as soon as Steve sat down, I got up and moved 10 rows away in order to maintain my raw heterosexuality.
Even in a dark theatre, I still got it, fellas.
(In retrospect, my milk mustache may have sent Steve the wrong message.)
Anyhoo… Other than the potential gay sex, I remember both the cookie AND the movie being so much better than I expected.
For those of you who haven't seen The Nice Guys, you should check it out if it pops up wherever you consume movies. I knew nothing about the movie going in (I went to see it because it was the only non-animated flick playing at the time-slot I was there.), and I was pleasantly surprised.
Looking at LCB's Movie Database, I see the boys gave it a 94 out of 100, so apparently - "Nice Guys is worthwhile.", is not exactly a "hot-take."
Perhaps my hot take is - "The Nice Guys is especially worthwhile with still-warm smuggled-in chocolate chip cookies and a potential same-sex suitor sitting just 10 small rows away."
But back to those cookies.
One of the reasons I write this blog is because I think it is going to provide me with a lot of free meals.
Another reason is that I enjoy writing about food.
I know it can get long-winded and it is certainly not for everyone, but the handful of people who are now loyal readers have been supportive AND I think ultimately it is a very "sellable" piece of content, so I am going to keep at it.
And yet another reason I write it is to give people recommendations.
Out-of-towners can hit Zagat and Yelp for everything they need to research spots to dine, but sometimes hearing it from a familiar fat face resonates a tad more.
And that is why I brought up Levain.
If you are visiting New York City, particularly with kids, and you want to take your crew to a place that you heard had the best cookie in the city, then what kid wouldn't get excited to make that trip?
So Levain checks that box perfectly.
HOWEVER… Here's the thing… Levain doesn't have the best cookie in NYC.
It has very good cookies and enough locations to make it easily accessible no matter where you are in Manhattan, but if you want New York's best cookie, you're going to have to dust off the old passport and get your ass over to Brooklyn for my favorite cookie in the world.
The Black and White cookie at Leske's Bakery in Bay Ridge Brooklyn is the best-goddamned cookie in town.
Right away, you can see what sets this beauty apart from every other B&W you can buy.
A traditional Black & White is technically not a cookie… It's what they call a "drop cake" and it is almost always covered evenly with 2 flavors of fondant… One-half vanilla and the other chocolate.
The first black-and-white cookie in New York City is attributed to Glaser's Bake Shop, which was founded in 1902 by Bavarian immigrants in the Yorkville section of Manhattan. Their version resembles an old German cookie called the "Amerikaner" which was named after a baker's mispronunciation of its leavening agent, ammonium bicarbonate. Unlike the more racially-diverse American version of the "Amerikaner," Germans often frosted their version of the cookie entirely in the white frosting because… Well… Because… You know… They're Germans.
And in the former East Germany, the name Amerikaner was replaced with Ammonplätzchen (which translates to "Ammonia cookies") due to anti-American sentiment… Again… Fucking Germans, amirite?
But Leske's is not a German bakery… It is Scandanavian. And for some reason, that beautiful race of people skip the gummy fondant topping on their version of the B&W, opting instead for a thick layer of whipped fudge frosting.
The cake is perfectly dense with a thousand air pockets inside to capture the coldest milk you can find to dip this bitch into. And the frosting does what frosting does… Makes everything more delicious.
Unlike the Manhattan cookie shops I sometimes frequent (where a kitchen utensil tattoo on your forearm is a prerequisite), this old-school Brooklyn bakery is just an unassuming storefront in a neighborhood that used to be primarily Irish and Italian but has since taken a turn towards the Middle East.
The hot bread sign is a beacon for fat people like me, who ordered nearly $80 worth of cakes and cookies, and STILL threw in a hot loaf of bread (straight out of the oven) to tear apart on the car ride home.
And I mentioned the demographic change in Bay Ridge, but this Scandanavian bakery is still not only surviving with its new neighbors… It is thriving and pumping out Black&White cookies that are the best cookies this God-forsaken city has to offer.
I've posted my fair share of racks on the pages of this blog in the past, but this rack of confections may just be my favorite.
(Or at least my favorite rack that is made with eggs.)
(Well, at least my favorite rack that makes my hands all sticky.)
Would love to write a little more, but meeting Steve at the AMC to see the new Wonder Woman and stuff.
(that is from The Nice Guys)