Cheesecake - I always loved it and have been craving it these past few weeks in NYC, so I have set on an altruistic quest to find nothing short of the best. My stomach will know no rest until I have tried all the renowned cheesecakes of NYC; I have been compensating the tender creaminess with a side order of chilling and complex Norwegian thriller, The Redbreast, by Jo Nesbø.
Of the cheesecakes I have tried, the one from the exquisite, tiny bakery Two Little Red Hens, at 2nd avenue and 86th street East, is by far the best I have ever had - ever. Light, not too sweet, tart and fluffy, it's just perfect and well worth schlepping up to the Upper East Side. The people who work there are friendly and you can see how much they care about what they bake. My only regret is that the cakes are served on paper plates with plastic spoons.
The same is true at Magnolia, one of the city's most famous pastry places since a popular TV show I loathed featured it in one episode. The place has a bit of a "chain" atmosphere (I went to their outlet on Colombus and 69th), with an uninvolved staff, and the vanilla cheesecake was pretty good, if too sweet. I took delight, however, is spying on the trendy and elegant girls who came in for a sugar fix - don't you love this young woman's shoes (below)?
As for Yura on Madison (Madison at 92nd), though it came highly recommended, don't bother. The pastry is just okay and the staff just acts bored, barely paying attention to you.