Saturday, February 26, 2011

City Bakery

There are a few magical New York landmarks that've stolen my heart. This particular gem has been my home away from home for over eight years. An innovative twist on the classic cafeteria, City Bakery is a mecca for the foodie. Their blueberry corn muffin is a staple in my diet. My favorite bakery celebrated their 20th anniversary on December 8th, 2010 and we toasted their success with champagne and mac ’n’ cheese (of course).

I recently sat down with baker extraordinaire (and fellow Baltimorian) Maury Rubin to delve into the man behind the famous pretzel croissant. Maury discovered his passion for pastry on a vacation to France (bien sûr). His serendipitous trip to the French countryside was the beginning of a new path which ultimately transformed this two-time Emmy winner for sports broadcasting at ABC into a veritable pastry guru. "I had planned to do television for the rest of my whole professional life, but knew I didn't like the collaborative part of it," explains Rubin. "Watching this guy [Denis Ruffel] make pastry out of butter, flour, and eggs...that was an especially appealing process; it's you, your brain, and your hands."

Inspired by the yoga––the process––of making pastry, Maury embarked on a year-long apprenticeship in Paris (sigh) and then returned home, anxious to explore the pastry shops of New York only to discover that they fell short of his expectations. "I began to realize how much I'd learned and [that period] became about deciding that I could actually do this." His eyes lit up as he described the beginning of City Bakery. "I spent three years imagining the bakery, conceiving the bakery, and raising money, and we opened in December 1990. I made a good business decision by being close to the farmers' market and I didn't know how fabulous the timing would be because that market was the impetus for the refurbishment of the entire neighborhood. I picked the perfect spot and rode a very big wave."

Following in the footsteps of Alice Waters, Maury took the concept of local/organic/seasonal restaurants and applied it to his bakery. Collaborating with the farmers of the Greenmarket, Rubin laid the foundation for his ever-expanding collection of bakeries. In fact, Birdbath takes the green factor to the next level, infusing consciousness into every layer of the business from the rickshaw pedal delivery to the materials used in building the space. They even offer a 25% discount if you arrive by bicycle or skateboard! I asked Maury when his passion for the environment took root. "In third grade. Someone came and gave an assembly on the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay and that stayed with me. That was my touchstone moment."

Homemade Marshmallows hanging from the ceiling.

I often find myself tucked away in his bakery, watching the world go by, and I'm struck by the community he's created. Fellow New Yorkers can find solace in their collective love of butter, flour, and eggs. The 19th Annual Hot Chocolate Festival is on as we speak, with a different flavor hot chocolate for each day (today, for example, is "Tropical Hot Chocolate"). Being in the midst of this great beacon of baked goods reminds me of the power of creativity. Maury's yoga is his devotion to the creative process. "I love that I get to think about ideas and then make them happen." It's a treat to see his ideas take shape and I, for one, look forward to the continued evolution of my beloved bakery.


  1. here here, lovely post! this became a haven for me years ago (before i even lived in nyc)after a workshop at be yoga with kofi busia. my friends and i happily filled our plates to find nourishment here at city bakery throughout that incredible weekend. it's a similar familiar path for me, and reading your stories brings me there with you. thank you!!!

  2. Bravo Chrissy! Beautifully written and a wonderful homage to a local gem. City Bakery will always remind me of the year following our first Dominica retreat when "yoga-to-brunch" (at the C.B.) was my Saturday ritual. I miss those days!

  3. Great story of creation! Excellent journalistic skills, Miss Chrissy. You look so beautiful and delighted in this picture.