I've lived just a few blocks away from the Hell's Kitchen outpost of La Bergamote for several years now, yet I've never been. Maybe it's my allegiance to Billy's Bakery (whose Chelsea location is right near the Chelsea shop of La Berg); maybe it's the fact that it's out of the way of my typical beaten path. Who knows. What matters is that a few days ago, I finally stopped in and bought myself a pastry.
The cafe itself is airy and quiet, dominated at the front by a long pastry case vending all kinds of delights. It's truly hard to choose just one; they all look outstanding, and given that they are labeled simply with French names and no descriptions, it's easy to find oneself having just spent a half hour asking the poor kid behind the counter "What's in that? And what's in that? And what's in that?" My tip: Just pick one. You'll be happy.
I went with La Religieuse, a large puffed pastry topped with a slightly smaller puff pastry. It came in either chocolate, vanilla, or coffee; I chose the vanilla and made my way home with a delightful little white box. After dinner, I tore right in.
As the counterperson described, it's sort of like an eclair: pate a choux filled with pastry cream, topped with glaze. The pastry cream here is impossibly light, eggy and sweet and almost ethereal, miles away from the leaden pastry cream you can find clogging the insides of most pastries around town. The glaze was thick and sticky and delicious. And as a bonus, the tiny puff pastry was anchored to the larger pastry with dots of hazelnut buttercream. The only negative to this delightful treat (aside from the price: $6) was the pastry itself-- the pate a choux had a slightly off flavor which made it not entirely pleasant to eat. No matter; just drown that puppy in the ample pastry cream overflowing from the insides, and you'll still be happy.
I often forget that La Bergamote is there, but now that I've sampled its wares, I'll be back to try the many, many other tempting morsels on offer.
515 W. 52nd Street