One of the busiest – and happiest – hubs of activity in Manhattan, City Bakery has a flavour all of its own. Drawing discriminating locals and clued-up visitors with its baked goods, healthy lunch fare, spot-on coffee, and special events like the “Hot Chocolate Festival” (that’s February, with a new specialty flavour every day), there’s never a dull moment at this New York bakery. Presiding over all is owner Maury Rubin, who worked as a TV producer and director of ABC Sports before yielding to his pastry obsession and opening City Bakery (in its first location, near its present locale) in 1990.
“I wanted to bake, and I wanted to have a bakery that was unique to the city,” says Rubin, whose admiration for chefs like Alice Waters of California’s Chez Panisse instilled in him a devotion to local, seasonal, organic ingredients – long before it was the trend. “At that time, all of the multigenerational New York family bakeries of last century were fading away. Those places became my guide, but I didn’t want a museum piece. I wanted a thoroughly updated, modern, and forward-looking bakery.”
Ask any of City Bakery’s thousands of weekly visitors – the tech guys taking pitch meetings upstairs; the fashion execs noshing on kale salad and ginger rice; the travellers chomping on their legendary chocolate chip cookies, pretzel croissants, baker’s muffins, and fruit tarts”¦ Rubin’s brainchild is not your Grandma’s establishment. “It’s real and it’s New York,” Rubin says. “As time goes by and daily life becomes more technologically driven, City Bakery is a manifestation of community that’s harder and harder to come by in physical form.”
In addition to City Bakery – Rubin’s centre of operations – he has a series of “green bakeries” called Birdbath throughout the city. Rubin considers Birdbath a feminine counterpart to the more masculine sentry that is City Bakery, and a clear expression of his views on climate change. “In the first decade of City Bakery, I never believed it was my proper place to speak out on what seemed like a political issue – such as the environment,” he says. “Then, climate change entered in, and I saw my visibility in the community as a responsibility not to be ignored. Birdbath became the expression, then, of a bakery business that was thinking about its impact on the environment.”
Truly happy meals with a heart”¦ Be it at a Birdbath counter or in a banquette upstairs at City Bakery, Maury Rubin’s tasteful influence can be felt throughout the city.
Maury Rubin’s top NYC treats
Despite spending most of his time at City Bakery, Maury’s sweet tooth has taken him all over New York in search of the city’s best baked goods. Here are a few of his local favorites:
1] Olive Oil Panna Cotta at Via Carota: “This is a relatively new Italian restaurant in the West Village. The food is great, and this panna cotta is better than all the great food. Stellar. Hands down the best thing I’ve eaten so far this summer.”
2] Carrot Cake Doughnut at Doughnut Plant: “For years I was partial to their yeast doughnuts, then one day the Tres Leches cake doughnut landed in my mouth, which led to this Carrot Cake doughnut. It’s humble and it’s delicious. Doughnut Plant is a favorite place because it has actually gotten better through its 20 years, which is so hard to do.”
3] Flourless Chocolate Cake at Balthazar Bakery: “This is if I want chocolate for breakfast. This cake + iced coffee is a great breakfast.”
4] “Speaking of coffee: I always have a double Macchiato at La Colombe when I’m out of the bakery.”
5] Banana Ice Cream at Rosie’s Mexican restaurant in the East Village: “Banana can be an elusive flavor, but this is perfect banana ice cream.”
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Have you tried any of Maury Rubin’s top New York treats? Have you been to The City Bakery? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Andrew Stone