Whether you’re a devoted vegan, vegan-curious or just love a good sweet treat, The Fragile Flour — a new tiny, charming bakery on E7th Street creatively helmed by a veteran pastry chef is serving up plant-based versions of the city’s most popular signature desserts.
The East Village outpost — outfitted with floral accents and multicolored chandeliers — has a small but welcoming seating area, a hand-picked menu of natural wines and an appealing glass case full of everything from traditional birthday cakes to plant-based brownies, pies, cupcakes macarons, ice cream and a wide range of cookies to enjoy.
Having recreated New York classics like the Black and White and Rainbow Cookie, Chef Ashton Warren told us that “I wanted to make sure that we hit all of the New York City bakery staples that everybody is used to — all the things that you may not have been able to get as a vegan,” she said. “Banana Cream Pie is actually one of our best sellers — because everybody's like, ‘I've never been able to have banana pudding or banana cream pie that’s vegan!” As for their seasonal ice cream, Chef Ashton hopes to conjure a nostalgic flavor profile with the bakery’s newest creation. "We want it to taste like the aerated, light feel of a Mister Softee or McDonald's cone," she said.
Chef Ashton began her pastry career at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Marc Forgione, where while working as a hostess, she helped the resident chef develop a new chocolate cake recipe. It was an instant hit, and she became the Executive Pastry Chef at Forgione before leaving to work as a pastry consultant and lead the Fragile Flour.
She’s now worked as a pastry chef for the past 12 years and has been a vegetarian since 2007. “I just started doing vegan desserts about eight months ago,” Chef Ashton told us when we stopped by the bakery in its opening weeks. “For me, it’s about making sure that everything tastes exactly the same as it should — that you can't taste the difference between a dessert being vegan or not,” she added. “The sign outside does say ‘vegan bakery’, but you should just be able to order something and not know if it's vegan or not. And if you are vegan, then you have everything here!”
In addition to developing limited-edition, seasonal treats, she constantly experiments with new challenges in vegan desserts, working on plant-based versions of pavlovas and cream puffs using aquafaba (chickpea cooking liquid) instead of eggs. “We’re going through the steps and figuring out what our limits are — and then manipulating them,” said Chef Ashton.
Patrons thus far have also been willing to experiment. “We have a lot of regulars already — people are pretty excited that we’re here and that they can pick something up after dinner,” said Chef Ashton. “We recently had a guy come in who said, ‘I’ve never had vegan desserts, but I’m willing to try!’. And I thought, ‘Ok - I’ll make a believer out of him!’” Having tried one of the Fragile Flour’s signature rainbow cookies, we’re believers, too!
"The Two Faces of Italian Food" is the tagline at this restaurant and wine bar. The perfect blend they are referring to is tradition and innovation. The menu boasts homemade and traditional options - the wine list is not limited to Italian varieties, though the beer is. We stopped in briefly and relaxed with a glass of wine in their quiet back garden and spoke with one of the restaurant's partners as waiters set up for that evening's meal. When we asked him to describe the food that Giano served in a short sentence he told us humbly: "Italian food. No big deal. " Can't wait to try it!
Most business owners know how difficult it is to bounce back after being robbed. Makoto Wantanabe has done it twice and, ironically, has a thief to thank for the very birth of Tokio 7. Makoto was globetrotting in the early 1990s when he arrived in Southern California on what was supposed to be the penultimate stop on his tour. He befriended a homeless man and let him stay in his hotel room for the night, but Makoto awoke to find everything except for his passport was stolen. Stranded with no money and far from his home in the Japanese countryside, Makoto called one of his only contacts in the U. S., who worked at a Japanese restaurant in Manhattan. He scrounged up enough money for a bus ticket and was off. While in New York, Makoto felt that men’s clothing suffered from a lack of style. Having always had a knack for fashion, he knew he could change that but lacked the funds to open a store with brand new clothing. So, after several years of saving his wages as a waiter, he founded one of the first consignment shops in New York City. Tokio 7 now carries men’s and women’s clothes, with the overarching theme being, as Makoto says, that they are simply “cool. ” The clothes are mostly from Japanese designers and name brands with unique twists. In the store, clothing that has been donated with a lot of wear is labeled “well loved. ”Despite its importance in the community, the shop fell on tough times during the COVID-19 pandemic. To make matters worse, Tokio 7 was looted in the summer of 2020 and had 300 items stolen. When Makoto contemplated closing his doors permanently, longtime customers begged him to reconsider. Resilient as ever, he set up a small photography area in the back of the shop and sold a portion of his clothes online to compensate for the decline of in-person purchases. Reflecting on his journey, Makoto marveled at the whims of fate. Had he not been robbed all of those decades ago in California, he had planned to start a life in the Amazon rainforest
This small, old-world neighborhood barbershop is loaded with personality. Everything about Barbiere is unique: the whimsical wrought-iron gate out front, the retro hair and shaving products along the walls, and the high-quality, old-fashioned service. When we poked our heads in to chat with the barbers and their clients—all seated in vintage leather chairs—they were proud to tell us that James Franco is among the celebrities that drop by for a haircut or a classic shave.