Free at last! Free at last! My New York Times pieces are finally free at last for me and everyone else in search of the delicious. Today I'm going to update my cheesecake story.
Although I remain resolute in my belief that New York is the best cheesecake town in the country, I am open to hearing about other cities and their cheesecakes. So, Serious Eaters, if you know of any commercially available cheesecake worth shouting about, we want to hear about it. Note: Junior's is not on my best cheesecake list. Don't get me wrong. I like Junior's cheesecake just fine, but there are others I like more.
Here are a couple of choice introductory paragraphs from the Times story:
Cheesecake is one of those quintessential New York foodstuffs that in some circles is thought of as unsophisticated. Certainly its name does not roll off the tongue like tiramisù, or tarte Tatin. But cheesecake at its best is a perfect sweet—a smooth, creamy confection with only a hint of tart.
You read that correctly. Any discussion of cheesecake in New York City must begin with a few stipulations. While Italian and postmodern cheesecakes have their place in the pantheon, the proper New York cheesecake has a simple and unchanging list of ingredients: cream cheese, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream. The result is light as gauze. It also packs the wallop of a professional boxer.
Here are seven indisputably delicious cheesecakes:
Eileen's Special Cheesecake
Eileen Avezzano's mother used to make cheesecake for special occasions. To honor that memory, and because she needed a way to support her two young children, Ms. Avezzano started baking her own version of those cheesecakes for a Queens deli owner almost 30 years ago. Eileen's cheesecake is ethereally light, and not too sweet. It's sold from one of the cutest stores in Manhattan. 17 Cleveland Place (at Kenmare Street), SoHo; 212-966-5585; eileenscheesecake.com
Mona Lisa Pastry
This place has been around for more than 90 years, and still bakes all its cheesecakes in a coal-fired brick oven. The ricotta cheesecake has a wonderfully creamy consistency and a thin golden brown crust, and it would be Italian cheesecake heaven if it weren't quite so infused with orange flavor. But the traditional cheesecake is excellent, with a custardy interior and a perfect crust. 1476 86th Street (15th Avenue), Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; 718-837-9053; monalisabakery.com
Even with all the sturm and drang surrounding this long-delayed Italian bakery merger, baker and owner Lenny Cristino still makes a Sicilian cheesecake in the Veniero's tradition, though with three kinds of ricotta cheese. The result is a light, moist cheesecake with plenty of body and plenty of flavor. 355 Court Street (President Street), Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; 718-852-5600
Monte's Venetian Room
The ricotta cheesecake is so ridiculously good and creamy it's hard to believe it's not made with cream cheese. I asked an owner about that. ''What are you crazy?'' Tony Monte said. ''Does Coke tell Pepsi what they put in their soda?'' It can be ordered to go. 451 Carroll Street (between Nevins Street and Third Avenue), Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; 718-624-8984
Porter House New York
This is the new kid on the cheesecake block. Wayne Harley Brachman takes great ungummy cream cheese from Pennsylvania and makes an amazingly light and creamy cheesecake. They serve it here with raspberry suzette sauce. 10 Columbus Circle, New York, Time Warner Center; 212-823-9500; porterhousenewyork.com
Two Little Red Hens
If I had to choose a first among equals, Christina Winkler's cheesecake at this perfect little shop on the Upper East Side would merit trumpets and shouts. Hers is the very definition of a phenomenal New York cheesecake; rich, light, and the perfect balance of sweet and tart. 1652 Second Avenue (between 85th and 86th Streets); 212-452-0476; twolittleredhens.com
Yura & Company
Yura Mohr is the most unpretentious top-drawer baker I know. I asked her how she developed her wonderfully lemony, fluffy cheesecake recipe. ''It's from a magazine,'' she said, laughing. But she wouldn't say which one. Her ''turtle'' cheesecake, with a layer of perfect caramel on top that complements the tart sour creamy taste of the cheesecake below it, is the best topped cheesecake I know. 1292 Madison Avenue (92rd Street); 212-860-1598