Cookies and Cocoa: The Best of the West Side

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Cookies and Cocoa: The Best of the West Side

GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY LARA FOLEY/THE OBSERVER

GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY LARA FOLEY/THE OBSERVER

GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY LARA FOLEY/THE OBSERVER

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Hot chocolate sits atop the list of Americans’ favorite holiday drinks: On a cold winter’s day, a steaming cup of hot cocoa is sure to brighten someone’s spirits. Many Fordham students make it in their dorms to celebrate the holiday season, but sometimes nothing beats having a premade cup handed to you to warm your hands. Living on the Upper West Side brings with it a host of hot chocolate opportunities, many boasting the best cup in the area. 

To ring in the season and find the best cup of hot chocolate near Fordham’s campus, I decided to embark on a hot chocolate crawl. With Asst. Multimedia Editor Caitlin Bury and Copy Editor Libby Lanza along for the ride, I was on a mission to find the Upper West Side’s best hot chocolate. Proximity, price, milk-to-chocolate ratio, availability of choices and aesthetic all factored into the one- to five-marshmallow rating, with five being the best there was. 

Amorino Gelato

414 Amsterdam Ave.

Rating: 3 marshmallows

The first stop was Amorino Gelato. Known for its beautiful floral gelato creations, this dessert shop is also renowned for its hot chocolate options. With 10 different flavors of hot chocolate, a choice of whipped cream and a macaron on top, this place seemed as though the owners had truly thought of everything. I chose the classic dark chocolate flavor, but Amorino had every flavor ranging from hazelnut to coconut. This is the hot chocolate for a whipped cream lover: Thick and rich, the cream flavored the whole cup. While the choices seemed endless, this hot chocolate only scored a three out of five marshmallows because of the high price tag and emphasis on the whipped cream as opposed to the hot chocolate itself.

 

Irving Farm

224 W 79th St. 

Rating: 3.5 marshmallows

Next was Irving Farm, a favorite place for many Fordham students to study — and a very busy spot on a Saturday morning. While Irving features an extensive menu of coffees and breakfast items, we were there for one thing: the hot chocolate. When I finally received my cup, the milkiness was the prominent taste as opposed to the chocolate, and it boasted a healthy dose of foam on the top. While artful, this hot cocoa only scored 3.5 marshmallows out of five, given its price, distance and lack of chocolatey flavor.

 

Mille-Feuille

2175 Broadway

Rating: 3.5 marshmallows

As we stepped inside Mille-Feuille, it was clear that this stop was a blogger’s paradise: Delicate French pastries lined the displays and an elegant neon sign illuminated the servers. Small in size, Mille-Feuille made up for its lack of space with a beautiful ambience. Hot chocolate was not the main draw for the many visitors, but this refreshment still aimed to please. This cup featured a rosetta design in the foam and a light milk-chocolate flavor. Given its hefty price tag — $5.25 — and emphasis on milk flavor as opposed to chocolate, this cafe scored only 3.5 marshmallows.

 

Da Capo

322 Columbus Ave. 

Rating: 4.5 marshmallows

Da Capo is a bar and coffee-bar hybrid featuring interior design with modern charm inside. As you walk in, a bar lines the left side of the room, with dark gray walls and beautiful modern art adorning the opposite side. While customers are welcome to have table service in the back of the cafe, we ordered a hot chocolate directly from the bartender. This hot chocolate was cheap, at just $4, and was extremely chocolatey with a light layer of foamed milk on top. Simple and delicious, this hot chocolate earned 4.5 marshmallows out of five.

 

Jacques Torres Chocolate

285 Amsterdam Ave.

Rating: 5 marshmallows

Da Capo seemed as though it couldn’t be beat, but then we arrived at Jacques Torres Chocolate. This shop’s dedication to chocolate showed; its classic hot chocolate featured its famous 72% dark chocolate, and it could be ordered iced as well as hot. Jacques Torres’ multiple options for styles of hot chocolate did not distract them from the final product. Smooth, chocolatey and our cheapest hot chocolate of the day at $3.99, this hot chocolate was the winner, earning five out of five marshmallows. 

This crawl was not for the faint of heart, as five cups of hot chocolate was a difficult order to stomach. However, with a little bit of determination, we ultimately found our favorite cup of hot chocolate on the Upper West Side. There are so many places to have a great cup of hot chocolate in the city, with every cafe having its own variation of the drink and claiming to be the best. These five places were a small selection of what NYC has to offer, but each proved to be delicious in its own way for the right person in front of them.

Key: 1. Amorino Gelato (midtown location), 2. Irving Farm, 3. Mille-Feuille, 4. Da Capo, 5. Jacques Torres (GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY LARA FOLEY/THE OBSERVER)

Whether you bake them or just eat them, Christmas cookies are a hallowed hallmark of the holiday season. Those in the latter category need not wait to go home for a fresh-baked, handmade cookie because bakeries abound in New York, and at least one is guaranteed to have an offering for any taste. Members of The Observer staff picked their go-to spots for a warm cookie in this cold (and warm) weather. They may not beat your mom’s, but they might come pretty darn close.

Schmackary’s

362 W. 45th St., 35 Cooper Sq.

By GILLIAN RUSSO

Arts & Culture Editor

If you know me personally or follow me on Instagram, you’ve heard me talk about Schmackary’s. You’ve seen my photos of the trademark blue-and-white striped awning on the corner of West 45th Street and Ninth Avenue, and in front of it you’ve seen several colorful, fresh varieties of cookies that are all big enough to be a meal (we’ve all done it). If that hasn’t been enough of a motivator for you to take the 15-block walk there or the 15-minute subway ride to the downtown location — neither of which feel too long when there’s the promise of a delectable dessert at the end — then let this be it. 

In addition to classic daily offerings like chocolate chip, cookies & cream, and funfetti, the shop’s cookie flavors rotate each day, so there’s always something new to try. All baked in-house and served warm, they range from takes on familiar recipes — think red velvet, double chocolate and Schmackerdoodle — to deliciously eccentric specialties, such as Schmackaroni & Cheese, Cereal Killer, and the Hangover — a sweet and salty receptacle of potato chips, nuts and chocolate candy baked into a sugar cookie. 

My personal favorites include the chocolate duet, a year-round offering, and the candied yam, one of the shop’s newest seasonal flavors. Only at Schmackary’s would I have tried a cookie with yam baked into it. The marshmallow frosting, dash of pumpkin spice and melt-in-your-mouth softness make it a winning combo in my book.

If you want to save some money (especially if you get hooked and return often) and are willing to wake up early, you have a chance to snag cookies from the shop’s “day-old” bin. They’re only $1 each (as opposed to the normal $3.25) and taste just as fresh as the ones on display. As Schmack’s is noted for being a favorite spot of Broadway performers seeking a pre- or post-show treat, you never know who you might run into on your cookie run. Aside from, most likely, me.

 

Levain Bakery

167 W. 74th Street

By ISABELLA SOTTILE

Contributing Writer

For those who desire the thickest and gooiest cookies, Levain Bakery will satisfy all of your cravings. The bakery was founded in 1995 and has since opened four locations, but the original bakery is just a 15-minute walk from Fordham at the corner of W. 74th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. The shop, hidden a few steps below street level, is easily identifiable by the long line of cookie-lovers trailing outside.

The bakery exclusively sells four signature flavors: Oatmeal Raisin, Dark Chocolate Chip, Dark Peanut Butter Chip and Chocolate Chip Walnut (which also comes in a gluten-free option for those with dietary restrictions). With $4, you get more than just any ordinary cookie. Each is two inches tall and four inches wide, with a crisp shell and gooey inside to satisfy cookie lovers of all texture preferences.

As the weather in New York City plunges below freezing, Fordham students need not trek through the cold for the delectable desserts. Levain’s Amsterdam Avenue location offers delivery through Caviar, a third-party service. An order can be placed for individual cookies, or you can opt for the best seller — an assorted box of 4 cookies for $16. Alternatively, Levain serves as the perfect place to seek refuge from the cold if you’re running errands on the Upper West Side. With finals season approaching, a freshly baked cookie could be all you need to get in the holiday spirit or motivate yourself while studying.

 

Chip NYC

298 Bleecker St.

By CLEO PAPADOPOULOS

Staff Writer

As a native New Yorker, I have tasted the delights of numerous pastry shops around the city, and I am always on the lookout for something new and exciting. So, I was overjoyed when Chip NYC opened in Astoria, Queens, in 2017. Since then, Chip has opened several locations in the Astoria/Long Island City area and, more recently, in the West Village. The cookie chain even has a mobile truck called the “Chip Mobile” that travels around the Upper East Side and Forest Hills. Chip is becoming a New York staple and it’s not hard to see why.

What’s so special about Chip? A Chip cookie satisfies more than just your taste buds; it satisfies all your senses. It’s large enough to be a small cake, and when you cut it in half, it’s so fresh that it nearly falls apart in your hands and all but melts in your mouth. It smells better than anything your grandmother ever baked, and the variety of flavors is a temptation to even the most committed dieter. This is a cookie-lover’s cookie; other cookies look amateurish by comparison. 

Chip offers 14 delectable flavors, including cookies ’n cream, s’mores, peanut butter & jelly, oatmeal apple pie, and funfetti (my personal favorite). In addition, Chip has seasonal flavors like falalalafetti, chocolate peppermint crinkle and red velvet hot chocolate. The owners use family recipes that give each cookie a gooey center that tastes like a little piece of heaven. The stores keep us intrigued by rotating the flavors and offering only four flavors daily. Chip posts the flavors of the day on its Instagram story. 

All you have to do to get a Chip cookie is take the 1 train to Christopher Street and walk two minutes to 298 Bleecker St. Treat yourself to a cornucopia of flavors for $3.50 per cookie, or take advantage of the “buy five, get one free” deal. You won’t regret the trek to the West Village once you’ve tried some of the best cookies New York has to offer.