Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eating NYC: Fat Witch Bakery, Chelsea Market

Today, we're finally back in Chelsea Market - more specifically, Chelsea Market's Fat Witch Bakery. I'm not sure how I missed the memo, but I'd never even heard about this famed purveyor of decadent brownies until I started blogging this year. This quirky, small-batch bakery has been churning out thick, fudgy brownies since 1991 - and as I am an unapologetic lover of brownies, there was really no longer any excuse for my ignorance!

Fat Witch Bakery was started by Pat Helding, a former Wall Street trader (more on her story here), which makes sense since their stock with foodies and bloggers is sky high. Based on this valuable reputation, I made a beeline for the bakery as soon as I hit the ground in NYC.

The tiny Chelsea Market location sells a variety of pre-wrapped Witches - including the original Fat Witch, the Blonde Witch, the Breakfast Witch, and the Red Witch - and a handful of freshly-made, unwrapped varieties each day. They also sell miniature brownies, called Baby Witches, in a variety of flavors. Since I was planning on saving my treat for later I chose a wrapped version, finally settling on a thick, perfectly square slab of white chocolate brownie goodness called the Snow Witch.

While deliberating over my choice, I heard a rumor that unwrapped witches would be sold for half price at closing time. With a lot of luck (and a tiny bit of planning!) we were still hanging around a couple of hours later and managed to snag a Caramel Witch and a Double Chocolate Witch to add to my horde of goodies. I'm always excited to try different flavors (for research purposes, of course!) and these treats made a great after-dinner dessert for my sister, her husband and me. The reduced price made them almost a bargain, even by non-NYC standards!

The presentation of the brownies was certainly adorable; wrapped Witches are folded into tiny squares of plastic and topped with illustrated stickers individual to each flavor and variety. Inside, the brownies themselves are picture-perfect. Each brownie is thick, moist, and tender, with a thin, flaky crust that just begs to be broken. I love the fact that these brownies have a bit of heft to them - you really have to chew, and a single brownie fills and satisfies in a way that a whole tray of box-mix brownies (which I still love, by the way) just can't.

Fat Witch brownies apparently contain 30% more chocolate than most recipes, and you can certainly taste the richness. Unfortunately, you can also taste a lot of butter, and the brownies - especially the Snow Witch - were just a little too fatty for my taste. Those that were unwrapped left large, greasy stains on their paper bag, so I'd recommend sticking to the wrapped version if you're planning on picking up a few for later consumption.

Excessive oiliness aside, the best choice by far was the Caramel Witch. With it's extra chewy texture and amazing layer of sweet-and-salty caramel, this unassuming little brownie earned top marks from each of us! This brownie might be worth the visit to Fat Witch alone, which is good because the other two varieties were less impressive.

Caramel and Double Chocolate Witches, up close

While I can't speak for the local crowd, the bakery is incredibly popular with tourists - I'm just not so sure that its cult-like status is entirely deserved. Perhaps my expectations were unfairly inflated by their fame and reputation, but it didn't help that we received rather poor service at the bakery. Even though our first visit was during a particularly slow period, our server appeared exasperated that we were taking up her time by making a purchase. We had a better experience with a different employee in the evening, but the same girl was helping another customer at that time, and gave them the same unpleasant treatment she'd given us earlier.

It's unfortunate, because even though I believe the quality of a product should stand on its own, I can't help but be influenced by the whole consumer experience. I'm sure our treatment doesn't reflect the company's philosophy (their website is adorable, informative and a lot of fun!) and I certainly hope it was a one-off, so that other Fat Witch customers won't leave with a bad taste in their mouths that even a tasty Caramel Witch can't quite take away.

Cute poster outside the Fat Witch Bakery

Fat Witch Bakery on Urbanspoon

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