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Christina Tosi
Photograph: Mike Coppola

Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi on her favorite NYC bakeries and go-to holiday gifts

Plus: what makes New York a "city of desserts."

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan

Christina Tosi has helped shape New York's passion for all things sweet. Not only has the founder and co-owner of Milk Bar created now nationally-recognized delicacies like the Milk Bar Pie and Cereal Milk, but she's constantly pushing the industry to new limits through the launch of products that are as visually striking as they are creatively concocted and deliciously tasting.

Case in point: the Cup o’ Cookie, a limited-edition menu item only available at the New York City store through this upcoming Monday.

Inspired by and created alongside the Original Donut Shop Coffee, the dessert is served in a cup that features layers of cookie chunks and milk pudding. It comes with The Original Donut Shop Coffee Regular Medium Roast variety with caramel crème that you can either dunk or drizzle on top of the cookie.

But there's more to Tosi than unforgettable baked goods ideas. Here, the baker tells us about her go-to gift selections, what makes New York so special and the quintessential holiday flavor.

Her favorite bakeries in New York

“I will travel for a ham and cheese croissant or an almond croissant and there’s a great place on Eighth Avenue in the West Village: Aux Merveilleux de Fred. I had to get a COVID test on my birthday to travel and I was walking around and, when you’re a baker, you can smell a freshly baked good. Not a lot of places were open but I looked across Eighth Avenue and saw a tiny little shop with a tiny little queue on a random Tuesday in November. Aux Merveilleux de Fred is one of New York’s best-kept secrets.

Also, when you’re a baker, the cool thing is that when your friends go out to eat, they are always telling you about desserts. I was just at a kid’s birthday party and this friend brought an insane walnut chocolate cake cookie from this restaurant in Lefferts Gardens called Risbo. This cookie is more French than American and that makes it really special.”

On the quintessential flavor of the holiday season

"I think that chocolate always has a moment. Over the December holidays, the pairing of chocolate with something, whether it’s chocolate and mint or chocolate and coffee, always works. People are looking for things that are cozy this time of year but also that fuel a really fun, basic nostalgia." 

Her pick of the perfect only-in-New-York holiday gift

"If you haven't been to this diner which was once called Eisenberg's but now goes by S&P Lunch, I say get a gift certificate to it because, as New Yorkers, we don't know how to slow down and I think this is the perfect spot for it. There is no more classic New York diner than this one by Madison Square Park.

Another one of my favorite gifts I like to get people is a gift certificate to a hop on-hop off bus ride. When was the last time you rode on top of the bus? Just don't go during the holiday season but in January or May. Take an afternoon off and sit at the top of the bus and ride around, embrace New York City through a new set of eyes. A friend of mine was leaving New York once and asked me to do this thing with her and I kind of fell in love with the city again."

On what makes New York so special from a baker's point of view

“New York is always buzzing with new innovation, new business, new bakers launching businesses from their apartments, pop-up shops, new restaurants, new bake shops. These brilliant ‘regularities’ of the NYC dessert scene mean we are always pushing the boundaries of baked goods that this city can hold: the flavors, formats, collaborations. This leads to insanely exciting rule-breaking, challenging of the norm through the lens of dessert. It doesn’t hurt that NYC is full of folks hungry for things that are tasty, exciting, looking for their sweet teeth and imaginations to be fueled by. The result is a one-of-a-kind city of desserts, the very one I’m incredibly proud to call home."

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