Photo: Virgil Bastos
In the push for better bakeries in New York, City Bakery has played a special role since 1990. It is not just a croissant-and-hot chocolate joint (though both are famous) but also a place that has stretched the boundaries of breakfast and brunch. Savory options and seasonal dishes abound, such as tofu skin with egg, cabbage, soybeans, and bok choy, replete with locally grown and organic produce from the Union Square farmers' market, which is two blocks away. Breakfast is what drives Maury Rubin—literally. A typical day for him usually starts between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. His fuel for those early starts: the idea of creating and eating a delicious breakfast—for himself and for others. "We're in our 22nd year of City Bakery, and what's outright thrilling to me about being a baker and having a bakery is getting to enjoy good pastry." He rarely eats it all, but he savors every bite. While most of us don't have the run of a bakery, there is much to learn from Rubin's thoughts on the morning meal and the mindful way he eats his own.
MAURY'S TOP 5 TIPS
- Carve out calm. "Breakfast is like my sacred do-not-disturb time. I sit in the store, but I kind of hide in the farthest back corner upstairs. I squirrel myself away with my pastry and coffee. Those 20 minutes are my sanity and equilibrium time."
- Make breakfast a sweet treat. "Everyone should treat themselves with food. To me, that's a big deal—it's not superficial and it's a great truth. Breakfast is often my sweet treat for the day, and I make it about the enjoyment and the pleasure at the start of the day. Every once in a while, I have dessert after dinner, but usually breakfast is my dessert."
- Or make it savory. There's no rule that says breakfast has to be something sugary, though. "Some healthy muffins, for example, went from having the texture of a Birkenstock 25 years ago to being overly sweet like cake. We found a balance with something that's nutritionally solid and tastes wonderful. We have rice milk muffins made with red beans, ginger, and spelt or kamut. We also have miso muffins that are tofu-based with lots of carrots and sunflower seeds." Muffins are great make-ahead items, too. You can bake a batch of our savory Bacon Cheddar Corn, Pistachio-Chai, or Morning Glory muffins and keep them in the freezer, defrosting as needed.
- Get into a good groove. "Breakfast is so tradition-bound for a reason—most people don't have a lot of spare time in the mornings. Breakfast probably has habit attached to it more than any other meal. Most people have the exact same things for breakfast most mornings. I know people who have come in the bakery for 15 years and—I am not exaggerating—get the exact same thing. I do it, too—I develop these mini-obsessions with something and then have the same food for breakfast every day for three to four months in a row, and then I switch."
- "Find what you love," Rubin says. If that means leftovers from last night's rice bowl or a few slices of roast pork on toast swiped with mustard, that's OK. Do what works for you.