Saturday, November 29, 2008

There was an odd period this past Spring when I was up for a job at an online reveiw site, and as a result was cranking out reviews at an almost preternatural pace. I just looked some of them over - and they were strange. I can really see why I wasn't hired. Here's one:

It has been suggested by the less charitable of my associates that if something is mediocre and more than a hundred years old, I automatically love it.

This is true.

It is certainly true of Glaser's, which celebrated its 106th birthday yesterday. It's the kind of no-fireworks bakery that you used to be able to find on every block: basic cookies and cake; brownies; not-terribly-strong coffee, and that New York classic, the Cheese Danish.

No, nothing is spectacular, although plenty of things - the cinnamon roll, the very basic hot cross bun, the sugar donut - are just fine.

Nevertheless, Glaser's is one of my favorite places in the city and, with all due respect to my grandparents and Museum Mile, my favorite reason to come to the Upper East Side. It's a total time capsule: utterly old-fashioned and friendly, with rock-bottom prices. (A coffee and donut will run you about $1!) The somewhat mediocre pastries are somehow comforting: you know exactly what you are getting and nothing ever shocks or surprises. Things taste exactly as they did when I used to come in for a leaf cookie when I was three. And, probably, just the way they did in 1902.

Cakes etc. are shockingly cheap. I don't know who gets wedding cake here (although I totally will) but I'm sure the dusty specimen in the display case would not be hard on the wallet. When I was in yesterday, a young mother was ordering cupcakes for her 3-year-old's birthday party.

"I'm going to write "vibrant colors" very clearly on this order form," said the lovely woman taking down her order, "otherwise the baker might write "vibrant' on the cupcake. Recently, he wrote, "leave this space blank" on a chocolate cake; he's very literal at 4 a.m."

There is a wonderful parade of Yorkville old-timers who come in and out; the ladies know everyone by name. Last time I was in, a smug old man in a "USS Missouri" cap snickered and sneered at everyone who came in from a corner. He was there for at least two hours (I checked.) I wanted to die and be reincarnated as a mediocre 75 cent chocolate cupcake in that ancient display case, to be eaten by a strange old person of German extraction who may or may not have been involved in The Bund as a youth.

The End."