Things have gotten very busy at Padoca Bakery. The Upper East Side shop’s signature pastry, the savory Brazilian cheese puff called pão de queijo, is the bread of the month for October at Eataly Downtown, and that’s got pastry chef Rachel Binder working overtime. “We upped production threefold,” she says.
The bite-size treats, which are just called PDQ at the bakery, began with a family recipe from her Brazilian business partner Marina Halpern. Binder says it took months of experimenting with various cheeses and flours — and rigorous taste-testing by Brazilian expats — to find the right ingredients. They eventually settled on gluten-free cassava flour, which is classic but difficult to find here.
Binder herself was born in Canada, grew up in Israel and has cooked in NYC kitchens as varied as Union Square Cafe and Floyd Cardoz’s much-missed Indian spot Tabla. She describes the bakery as a melting pot of all of her culinary influences, with babka being a perfect vehicle: You’ll find peanut butter and jelly, chocolate dulce de leche and the Romeo & Juliet, a Brazilian term for the “perfect pairing” of guava and cheese.
We caught up with Binder to get her favorite spots around the city when she has time to leave the kitchen again.
Late night spot: For drinks, this is going to sound very cliche, but Maialino. I used to work there, and I love the cocktails and wine list. They do have a late night menu, usually with a burger — it’s a very well kept secret. Gramercy Park Hotel, 2 Lexington Ave., Flatiron District
Out-of-town guests: I love to go to Russ & Daughters. It’s food that I grew up with, but it’s also very New York. 179 E. Houston St., Lower East Side
Good for a group: Either to RedFarm (2170 Broadway) or Kefi (505 Columbus Ave.) on the Upper West Side, they have really great Greek food. It’s fairly inexpensive, and there are a lot of vegetarian and meat options on the menu.
Best meal under $10: One of my favorite places, and I was actually there last night, is Hummus Place;there’s one right in my neighborhood and it’s one of my favorite things to eat all the time. It’s super cheap to just get a bowl of hummus, some pita bread and Israeli salad, it’s one of my staples. 305 Amsterdam Ave., UWS
Date night: I don’t stay up late, so often it’s lunch instead of dinner. I love Del Posto (11 Madison Ave., Chelsea) for lunch — they have the prix fixe menu that’s a great option, and I think it’s very romantic. For dinner, Eleven Madison Park (11 Madison Ave., Flatiron) if you’re really gonna splurge.
Solo dining: I love to go and eat at the bar at Gramercy Tavern, especially on my days off. It’s just very intimate, they take really really good care of you, and the food is always delicious. 42 E. 20th St., Flatiron
Favorite bar: There’s a tiny wine bar in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side called Riposo 72. They have a really nice wine list, and if you’re hungry there’s always good stuff to eat, too. 50 W. 72nd St.
Hidden gem: We just got the new Blue Ribbon restaurant, The Ribbon. They may not be so under-the-radar but people don’t know about their new location on the Upper West Side yet, which is awesome for me because it’s not super crowded. 20 W. 72nd St.