Quick Balthazar (& Bakery), Ceci-Cela, Little Pie Co. reviews, brownies from Chris's and Betsy's Place reviews
Balthazar: Had brunch at this bustling bistro this Sunday afternoon. Great, lively atmosphere and slightly grungy decor make this a really fun place to hang out for an hour and eat some ratatouille omelet. That's exactly what I ordered, and while the eggs were fluffy, the ratatouille itself was bland. The home fries, cooked with onions, were not paragons of creativity but were tasty. I finished off with their tart of the day, a raspberry-jam and pastry-cream layered tart with berries on top. The tart looked beautiful and tasted good but not great. The best things about it were the appearance, the flaky crust, and the creme anglais sauce pooled at the side of the tart for extra flavor and color. The pastry cream lacked some zest, though.
Balthazar Bakery: I was disappointed with this vaunted establishment. A pistachio macaroon came off as ok but not tender enough. The chocolate croissant I ordered was just plain bad -- tough and kind of flavorless.
Ceci-Cela: Another overhyped French bakery, it seems. A taste of their mini-croissant revealed a pastry that was better than Balthazar's, but not by all that much. It was tough and did not have the flaky, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness that to me defines a great croissant. I also tried a little of their "paradise cake," a cake-and-custard concoction topped with kiwi and some othre tropical fruit. The fruit was fine -- it was, well, fruit. And the custard and cake were competent. But the whole was not particularly memorable, or worth the cost ($6.75 for an individual portion).
Little Pie Co.: I'd been here before and been blown away by the sour cream apple pie. The caramel brownie was delicious too. I decided to try a little of their Mississippi Mud Pie this time -- a pie with three layers of chocolate and an oreo crust. This was just delightful. The chocolate and sugar melded into a marvelously craveable creation. Highly recommended.
Betsy's Place no-nut brownies & Chris's Ultra-Premium Brownies: I tried a bit of each at Oren's coffee shop at Grand Central. I really like BP's chocolate chip cookies when I tried them at Dean and Deluca's, so I had high hopes for the brownie. The brownie turned out to be good but not great: a great soft texture and mild chocolatey taste. But there's some kind of spice put in that tastes similar to what's put into the CCCs and that doesn't quite work for the brownies. Chris's brownies I just didn't like. They, too, have an excellent, crumbly texture that is decadentially appropriate. Unfortunately, they also have a strange, processed flavor -- I think I just don't like the type of chocolate they use.
We just tried Ceci cela for the first time. I never even knew it was there tucked away on the edge of Little Italy/NoLita. The little room in the back was quaint, had about 20 seats. They were out of almond croissants so I had an almond brioche. It was okay. Financier downtown is much better.
Ceci cela is not overhyped!
Their full sized croissants are some of the city's very best. Light, fluffy and buttery. Also, try the almond croissants-I have yet to find them better anywhere else.
Next time, I would suggest the pear william cake. I have often recommended this cake to friends, who have all gone back time and time again for this amazing treat.
This place is truly the jewel of the neighborhood.