Thursday, December 9, 2010

City Bakery at 20

19 years ago Neil and I moved downtown from Washington Heights to a little apartment on Second Avenue and 19th street.  We had already been together nearly 5 years at that point and both of us were busy building our careers. So busy that Neil finally put his foot down and said that we needed to have a weekly date, a time each week when, rain or shine, we spent some time together.  It's hard to remember how we settled on City Bakery, but every Saturday morning for many, many years we would spend several hours at City Bakery lingering over mixed berry scones, pizza and tuna sandwiches.  We'd invite friends to drop by and join us and we would eagerly invite any visitors from out of town to come and eat with us there, our home away from home.  In fact, people just knew: "If you want to see Mark and Neil, go to City Bakery on Saturday morning."

And it really was an extension of home, one that we visited way more often than just on Saturdays.  It just hit the right note: the room was minimalist, almost austere, yet somehow also cozy, and the market driven savory food and butter soaked sweets were presented in a modernist style, but always as tasty and comforting as something your mom would make.

Not only did City Bakery always have what you wanted, but it also offered a great rest stop on 17th street after a morning of marketing at the Union Square Green Market.  At the time, 17th street had no restaurants.  City Bakery was the first, starting the street on the way to becoming the restaurant row it is today.

Over the years we became friends first with Maury, then with his wonderful chef of all things savory, Ilene Rosen.  And as the years passed, City Bakery grew and moved over a few blocks to much larger digs on 18th just west of Fifth avenue.  They also expanded the brand by creating Birdbath: Neighborhood Green Bakery.  The Soho branch is of particular note as they took over the classic old Italian bread shop Vesuvio's, keeping the original look and feel but adding City Bakery's wonderful food.

It was a little shocking when we got the invitation in the mail to join the festivities to celebrate their 20th birthday.  20 years?  How did that happen???

So last night we dressed "festively" as instructed and went to the celebration.  It was such a special night, complete with red carpet and all the goodies we have loved over the years:  pretzel croissants, killer hot chocolate and the best Mac n' Cheese in town. But best of all it was a celebration with old friends of a place very special in our hearts and the hearts and stomachs of many, many people.

As nice as it was to share in the celebration, it was even nicer to see how not only is City Bakery thriving, but its expansion continues to bring new people to share in the market driven, often organic, and always delicious food and gracious service that has become the hallmark of 20 years of City Bakery dining.

Congratulations!  Your fans and friends look forward to the next 20!

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