Every time we leave New York City, my mom always tells me how we’ve covered more ground than she did when she lived there as a child. This year’s trip was no exception, despite the fact that our weekend in the city was shortened to about two days.
On our most circuitous excursion, we started out walking from our hotel in Battery Park City to Hotel Chantelle, a rooftop club that serves brunch during the day, on the Lower East Side. After we ate, we did some shopping at a tiny ‘pencil boutique’ a few blocks away, then got on an uptown subway.
After about four transfers and forty minutes, we emerged at 72nd Street and Amsterdam, all the way on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Even my mom had given me a raised eyebrow when I explained to her how far we would have to go. But I was determined: the world’s greatest cookie awaited me.
Levain Bakery was just a few blocks northeast of the subway station, and as we approached its minuscule façade we were greeted with a line that stretched long down the block. Luckily, one of our good friends we were visiting had already gotten a spot, and we didn’t have to do much waiting. But in retrospect, it would’ve been so worth it either way.
As we stepped down from the street level into the tiny bakery, we were enveloped by the smell of all that is good in the world: breads, cookies, coffee, chocolate, all swirled into one delectable aroma that makes you forget about how long it took you to get there. I knew then that this place was legit.
The cookies sat stacked up on four cake stands, one for each flavor (chocolate chip walnut, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter chocolate, and double chocolate), and were constantly replenished with freshly baked descendants in order to satisfy a constant stream of hungry customers. We bought three (each flavor except double chocolate), each of which were roughly the size of a regular human hand and about as thick as George’s wallet from that one Seinfeld episode. We got some hot chocolate and coffee to go and raced up the stairs and along 74th Street towards the park.
We entered the park at Strawberry Fields where, coincidentally, a man sat on a bench playing a bunch of Beatles songs on his guitar. A circular plaque in the brick was surrounded by people leaving flowers. I got a closer look at it and noticed that in its center lay the word “Imagine”, a veritable tribute to John Lennon himself.
A light breeze was rustling through the still leafy trees, and there were no signs of clouds anywhere. We sat down on a bench near the memorial, broke out our cookies, and listened to the strumming of the man’s guitar. I held my cookie—the peanut butter chocolate one—in my hand. It was a mountain, and still warm. I removed a piece and took a bite. The warm, gooey, chocolate was dotted with occasional bursts of nuttiness from the peanut butter chips, like a brownie, a cookie, and a Reese’s cup all in one. It was—and I can say this with complete and utter confidence—the best cookie I have ever eaten.
The man started to play “Imagine”, and the crowd began to sing along. I thought of how in his song Lennon sang about just wanting peace, wanting us to stop dividing ourselves and share this world that we live in with each other. Then I thought of how great it would be if everyone on earth could take a bite of that cookie. It’s impossible to eat it and not slow down and think about the beauty of life. Eating that cookie was experiencing pure happiness, and if everyone had the opportunity to taste it, I’d imagine that we’d all just live life a little more peacefully.