New York City's food culture, like just about everything else in this city, is massive. The constant rotation of restaurants, trends, and celebrity chefs keeps the spirit of innovation alive and well in the industry, providing exciting new tastes and techniques. It also develops a cultural diversity unparalleled in most countries, let alone cities. This cross-cultural hub has every take on regional and national food under the sun. For any single person, the extreme quantity of options can be overwhelming, at least it is for me. What soothes me is the age-old idiom, "How do you eat an elephant?"
But New York itself has its own historical traditions of food. Originated from immigrant recipes, the gastronomical customs brought to New York were transformed from their originals into a subcategory specifically of Manhattan. These uniquely New York foods lie reserved in those rare establishments that have stood the corrosion of an ever-shifting population. If you look carefully, you can see them. The dusty, imprecise enterprises that no longer buzz but rather hum like vintage automobiles.
I recently visited one such place: Glaser's Bake Shop of Yorkville. This bakery has been handcrafting pastries, cakes, and bread for over a hundred years. Originally from Germany, the Glaser family have been serving Upper East Siders since 1902. 1902.
They must be doing something right.
When I walked in at nine in the morning, the Black and White I ordered was so fresh, the frosting had yet to dry.
It wasn't perfect. But it tasted like what my Jewish grandmother would make, if I had a Jewish grandmother. Handmade, imperfectly shaped; slathered with frosting; carrying a confidence fed by baking know how. A gem of the neighborhood if every I saw one, who's identity is linked to its age as much as to its baked goods.
Nowhere else can you find a shop but in New York. These places should be appreciated and loved, if not always talked of. Too much hype can sour a cheesecake, as they say.
Remember: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.