Baker, Cook, Writer, Pursuer of Gastronomic Joy

Levain Bakery

Another cloudy weekend day had befallen the city, and as I have want to do on such days I made my way up to the upper west side to spend some quality time at the performing arts library at Lincoln center. There is a sense of comfort that envelops me as I walk from the 72nd St. station down to the wide-open plaza in front of the Beaumont Theatre, rainwater puddling on the stone. A day that gets me just cold and soaking enough that the feeling of relief when I enter the library is justly sublime. While of modern design, the stacks of books containing the of stories of Arthur Miller, William Shakespeare, Lynn Nottage, Annie Baker, Steven Adley Guirgis, and Stephen Sondheim have a warmth in them that dries any rain-soaked theatre lover. I am always inspired in the performing arts library, vigorously typing alongside others vigorously typing up goodness knows what, but something full of passion as we all look out at the Lincoln Center Plaza.

As I sat studying my Sondheim, there was something I could not get out of my mind on this perfect rainy day: the thought of a warm, gooey cookie. What could cap off this rainy day and reward my studying more perfectly than a glob of chocolate chip goodness? And being on the upper west side I knew exactly where I needed to go.

I had often heard glowing talk of Levain Bakery. Supposedly it was the home of the best cookie in town (some say anywhere) with little debate over the supposed fact. And indeed, I had seen many videos of the specimen that gave solid evidence. But with all this hype in mind, I had planned on saving my taste test of their cookie for later, after having tried some quality cookies from other establishments. However, when the timing I right, there is no use in denying it. So to Levain I went.

As the upper west side location (there are 4 locations in the city) is a small shop, with little in the way of standing room, much less room to sit and enjoy, I expected a line well down the block. However, when I got there I was pleased with no line at all! Thank you, rain! While they offer a variety of flavors (oatmeal raisin, double chocolate, chocolate with peanut butter chips) I went for the classic chocolate chip with walnuts. Now, I am not typically one to desire nuts in my cookies. To me, they are usually an unnecessary distraction from the main flavor stars and don’t add anything texture-wise that I would have been looking for without. A truly well-crafted chocolate chip cookie doesn’t need anything extra. But I put my faith in Levain and went on for the nut ride. I speedily handed over $4.50 and received my cookie, and with bag in hand I left seeking a viable spot to consume it, as inside the shop was not an option. I settled myself in front of a small area of greenery, trees with bits of red tickling their tips, and drew my cookie from its container. I had barely even gotten a good look at it in the shop, as I was hasty so as to not clog up their tiny establishment with other customers following me close behind, so I had not gotten a chance to see how truly beautiful this cookie was. A craggily mound of cookie from which I could still feel some warmth escaping from the bottom, this was the rough and rustic cookie of my dreams. The smell was full and friendly and just asking you to take a bite.

Let me tell ya, the masses ain’t wrong. It was a damn good cookie. Easily the size of most of my hand, it was truly a glob of goodness, mountainous and rocky and crisp on the outside, while the inside was soft and melted. This combination of textures is what set this cookie apart from your everyday cookie fare for me. I truly don’t know how they do it. The flavor certainly didn’t disappoint either. The chocolate chips were rich, bittersweet pockets flowing down from the supportive, sugary cookie. I was not even distracted by the nuts, which actually provided a pleasant hearty backbone to the cookie. Standing outside in the rain, watching the plant life soak up the rainy goodness, this cookie was the perfect friend to experience a fresh rainy day with and warm my heart.

It has been a while since this glorious cookie. It’s still on my mind. When I want a cookie, this is the cookie I think of and the cookie standard I hold all others to. I have eaten other cookies since, which shall be discussed in further posts, but let us just say that none have been able to hold a candle to Levain.