This year (2021) Epices rises as the third assailant confronting the former tenant formidable—Soutine—which for thirty years (until 2012) held a reputation as a great and important Upper West Side bakery.
Epices is now en garde in this tiny storefront on West 70th, just west of Columbus Avenue, a sleepy location compared to nearby Levain (also tiny) at Amsterdam and 74th and its long lineups of tourists seeking $6 chocolate chip cookies.
My search for a Parisian-caliber baguette and croissant—made more difficult since the 2021 closure of the Eric Kayser chain of Parisian/NYC patisseries—ended the day I bought a plain croissant to eat while flâneuring along the avenue. From that experience I learned that Epices’ is a genuine ‘back to the wind’ kind of croissant—so buttery and flaky that the only way to avoid its crumb cascade from littering your front is to put your back into the wind.
Sambe, the baker in charge brings to Epices culinary training from Paris’ Hotel Meridien. His two small glass cases are filled with croissants made plain or with chocolate or ham and cheese (pictured)—a kind of NYC riff on a croque-monsieur, fruit tarts, layered cream cakes, quiches and other delicacies suitable for eating while ambling along Columbus or for a sit-down in Central Park, if you can hold out for the ten minutes it will take you to get there.
A New York description of any great pizza parlor comes to mind—’fucking fabulous’.