It takes just one morning in Brooklyn to make me come over all funny, misty eyed with romantic notions. I’m not sure quite what it is about this place that tugs at my heart strings but I immediately want to pack my bags and move in. There was never any question that a visit to New York would include a trip to Williamsburg, it’s the home of Mast Bros, a kind of chocolate holy grail, it’s also the location of Daniel Young’s top New York doughnut when I ask where his favourite was, and he should should certainly know. Even better, it’s also where the famous Blue Bottle have a roastery.
It probably helps that on our first morning in New York we’re woken with the most beautiful clear, crisp and sunny skies, it’s enough to blow any of the previous nights cobwebs away and we take the subway with a spring in frosty steps. With no iphone data (I know!!) we rely on hand drawn hyroglifics to navigate our way to our three little prizes in an unknown land, I’m feeling fully like a child on a treasure hunt at this point. The sun streams down on wide residential streets, intermittently turning into little pockets of shops and cafes, I’m over joyed with the abundence of tiny dogs we spy on our journey, wrapped up in silly little jumpers and jackets, we follow one teeny specimen across the road as it dances a crazy, dotty prance.
Almost walking past the small red awning of Pies ‘n’ Thighs as it’s unmarked except for a huddle of people, we step through the doorway to be warmly greeted by both a waitress and a genuinely breathtaking display of assorted doughnuts. *squeeeeee*. We take a seat, but I can’t help turning around to eye up those doughnuts with excitement, I do cast a cursery glance over the rest of the menu but leave it up to the boy to do savoury, assuming my fork will be allowed free tasting rights. He’s about to order the chicken and waffles, egged on enthusiastically by me, fork poised, but some griping from the table next to us puts him off and he settles for scrambled egg and grits served with biscuit and grape jam.
I’m torn, do I go cake or yeast? Confusion. It’s only when I pop to the ladies and see some news cuttings that I realise I’ve made the wrong decision and should have gone cake, as this is their apparent speciality and winner of grand doughnut prizes. It’s fine. Really. The pecan and maple syrup a few tables along admittedly looks ridiculous, drenched in syrup like a Cinnabon on steroids. I have an eggnog filled, yeast raised beauty on the way, unable to resist the lure of a festive special. It’s arrives as a globe of puffy, fluffy loveliness, a crisp sugar and spice glaze pulls apart to reveal a globulous bulging middle of eggnoggy deliciousness, faintly boozy and flecked with vanilla, I drown it in bottomless mugs of coffee.
Thighs ‘n’ Pies is seriously cute and reminds me of the neighbourhood cafes in the Australia ‘burbs, the same simple local warmth that keeps me returning to one of my favourite cafe’s, Tina We Salute You, back in Dalston. It’s all casual, formica tabled cheery loveliness, crammed with local brunchers happy to squeeze into the tiny cafe for hearty comfort food. I replace my, admittedly not great filter coffee, when I remember our next stop…
Blue Bottle takes me to geeky coffee heaven. It’s simply magnificent. The vast space is split into a full on roastery at the back, a hive of studied activity stuffed with sacks of beans, the front puts those beans to great use. I love everything about the place, from a beautiful lever machine at the front, to the line of drip filters that’s in constant flow further up the bar and the Mast brothers chocolate bars sold on the counter to the brewing equipment for sale all around the cafe. I want to be the girl barista, she effuses effortless cool *sigh*.
I order a Guatemalan filter and take a sip of the boy’s espresso while I wait, it’s sweet and bright whist my brew is beautiful in it’s clarity, again wonderfully sweet and clean tasting.
I don’t think my morning can get any better, that is until we skip along to our final destination of Mast Brothers. I’ve long been a fan of the bean to bar chocolate made here, enjoying more recently such treats as the black truffle and sea salt, and vanilla and smoke bars that’s packaging is as beautiful and individual as the product inside. I’ve so far only been able to buy the bars online and in Paul A Young’s shops so it’s an absolute treat to visit the factory itself. The waft of chocolatey aroma that engulfs us as we enter is utterly intoxicating and as in Blue Bottle I’m struck with the buzz of quiet productivity and care, the back section again is sectioned off for making the magic happen, as again sacks of raw material are being transformed into something truly wonderful, whilst the front is a welcoming shop, all dark wood and rustic, tables groaning with tasters. It’s frankly awe inspiring and I drink it all in with fresh enthusiasm.
Feeling all excitable I pick a bar of chocolate, it seems only fitting to choose the Brooklyn Blend, an intense 73% bar that sings of rich wine, plums and a hint of tobacco. It’s beyond me not to get caught up in a wave of fervor and can’t also resist buying into the whole scene with a copy of Edible Brooklyn when I get to the counter.
I guess you’d label Williamsburg the East London of New York, with it’s thriving arts and music culture, there’s certainly no shortage of hipsters and I leave fancying myself a new tattoo or two and a beanie (and a be-jumpered puppy). I like that it feels almost like a work in progress and leaves me brimming with inspiration. I want to open a bar and make my own bitters, make beautiful coffee and just hang out. Most of all it gives me a touch of perspective, broadens my horizons a bit more, maybe allows me to see things back home with fresher, brighter eyes.
I may even have bought a bobble hat…