Monday, September 08, 2008

Letter from Manhattan: Once in Love with Amy’s

Transplanted Oregonian Mark Dundas Wood, GSNW's Man in Manhattan, has been pleased to find that New Yorkers love their bread as much as we do, whether as loaf, bagel or pastry. And also that, as on Alberta or Mississippi, small businesses can start the rejuvenation of a whole neighborhood.

In August I flew back to Oregon briefly for a couple of family reunions. I was hoping to find some traditional New York City bagels to share with my Oregon family members, but there wasn’t enough time to schlep around the city to find them. (After 11 years in Manhattan, I feel I’ve earned the right to use the word “schlep”—at least when it’s used to describe a bagel quest.)

With my departure time looming, I called off my bagel beagles and turned instead to a reliable standby outlet, Amy’s Bread on 9th Avenue, about a block and a half away from my apartment.

The love affair between Amy’s and New York City has blossomed and deepened in the 16 years since Amy Scherber opened her bakery in a storefront in Hell’s Kitchen. In those early days, HK was still a bit of a combat zone, adjoining a not-yet-tidied-up Times Square. Disney has been credited with a lot of the rejuvenation of the area, but it’s also been intrepid folks like Amy—willing to take a chance on a creating a business in a sketchy neighborhood—that have made a big difference. In recent years Amy’s has grown like kudzu along a highway in the Bible Belt, and there are now two other locations in the city: one in Chelsea Market and another in Greenwich Village.

The Magnolia Bakery in the Village may be more famous nationwide than Amy’s, thanks to that Saturday Night Live short “Lazy Sunday.” But Amy’s more than holds its own. On any given lazy Sunday (or frantic Friday, for that matter), you can expect to find a line of customers stretching outside Amy’s front door, eager for scones, cupcakes and an array of fantastic breads and rolls. Just the sight of the store’s turquoise facade can set mouths a-watering. Sandwiches and other lunch items are also available, although there’s not much of a seating area on premises. As weather permits, you can take your purchased goodies a couple of blocks uptown to Worldwide Plaza and feast there, alfresco.

For my Oregon relatives, I selected two large loaves of olive bread—one with black olives and the other with green. I had hoped to purchase some of Amy’s deadly chocolate bread—but there was none available on that particular visit.

My own particular Amy’s favorites are the be-raisined wedges of Irish soda bread (which come in regular as well as whole wheat). You can also purchase by the ring rather than the wedge. Microwave to approximate fresh-baked temperature and then top with butter and raspberry jam. Begorra! The thought of such breakfast dainties waiting in your fridge will help you decide that you really don’t need that extra sleep cycle.

And don’t get me started on Amy’s Red Velvet Cake—because it’s likely I’ve already finished it. Actually, when you’re counting calories, having Amy’s RVC on hand is a good measure of your portion-control will power. If I’m exercising sufficient discipline, I can make a single slice work for three—sometimes four—servings. Then there are the days when you’ll find me scarfing it all down in one setting, scraping the container with my finger to get every crumb and dollop of frosting, then putting on my shoes for the short trek back to Amy’s for more of the same.

Schlep, schlep. Oy vey ist mir!

Details: Amy's Bread, 672 Ninth Ave. between 46th & 47th Sts., New York, NY. Phone 212-977-2670.

Photo by Anthony La Russo.

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