We all grew up hearing the old adage that raisins are nature’s candy. You know what? Candy is nature’s candy. But raisins are indeed a great little invention: they’re sweet, compact, and way more nutritious than the candy bar I was planning to eat instead. Raisins are simply dried grapes, of any grape variety, and can be eaten raw or used in cooking or baking. Since they’re just concentrated grapes, they have a load of sugar but also a ton of fiber, little fat, and no cholesterol. They’re great for little bursts of energy you need throughout the day without all the crappy chemicals you’ll find in lots of processed sugary snacks. (Remember those little red boxes of Sun Maid your mom put in your lunch bag for school? …Did you trade those with your classmates for junk food, too?) Raisins are top on the list of things I should definitely eat more of for both taste and nutrition, whether alone as a snack or as part of a delicious meal or baked dessert…like these great raisin dishes below!

Levain Bakery is known for a lot of things; their baked goods are raved about up and down Manhattan, and almost 1500 reviews giving it a 4.5 rating on Yelp is possibly the best sample size I’ve ever seen on any establishment on that website. But one of their most coveted confections isn’t anything fancy or decadent or even that difficult to make: it’s the cookie. Known for having one of the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, Levain doesn’t scrimp on the quality nor the quantity of their ingredients, making cookies so large and sinfully good, patrons can hardly eat a single order by themselves. Their oatmeal raisin cookies are unparalleled: they have some kind of magical formula to make the oatmeal dough soft and chewy, but not mealy from the oats, and never do you feel like you’re eating something healthy (heaven forbid!) And the raisins give the cookie that natural sweetness–the cookies are filled with them. At $4 per cookie, they’re far more expensive than the Cookie Hut in Brooklyn’s Kings Plaza, but you can definitely be satisfied with just one–unless you eat it all at once to fully envelop the awesomeness into your body, then you get the immediate disappointment of having eaten it all in one go. Then you just buy two 😉

Levain Bakery
167 W 74th St (between Columbus Ave & Amsterdam Ave)

http://www.levainbakery.com

Some reviews from Yelp.com:

“Needless to say, I now know how delicious an oatmeal raisin cookie can be. Fresh from the oven, this massive cookie was packed with the most delectable raisins that I have ever eaten (and I’ve been to many Tu B’Shevat Seders, so raisins are not unfamiliar to me) and the gooey dough on the inside was absolutely delectable. Had it not weighed approximately 16 pounds and cost $4, I may have opted for a second one.”–Ryan K.

“This is a real treat! I was in the neighborhood so I thought I’d stop by at this infamous bakery! I tried the Oatmeal Raisin cookie, and was really blown away. At first, I was telling myself, “How good can a cookie be if it’s not baked by me??” Jk. I really think they have the recipe down to a science. The outside is crispy and crunchy like the texture of a coconut macaroon, and the inside is soft and slightly doughy. Not overly sweet – just the right amount of sweetness.”–Caroline K.

 

But one of my favorite raisin baked goods to indulge in is a cinnamon raisin bagel. You can’t get a better bagel anywhere in the world than New York City, that’s just a fact, and though some people scoff at the cinnamon raisin bagel as too sweet for a classic bagel, it’s one of my favorites. (My absolute favorite however is the everything–so long as the bakery’s “everything” doesn’t include carraway seeds. Yuck.) But then again, I’m more of a flavored bagel, plain cream cheese kind of person. (Apart from my Special Bagel days, like my birthday, when I order a plain or eggwash bagel and a lox schmear. Then, it’s all about the salmon and the bagel’s merely its vehicle to my mouth.) But when you’re looking for that great plain-bagel, flavored-cream-cheese combination–or you live on the wild side of life and get both a flavored bagel and a flavored cream cheese!–Ess-A-Bagel has the best cream cheese for you. Today they offer a walnut raisin cream cheese that’s sweet with just a hint of maple syrup, and has the surprising added texture of the raisins and walnuts. Try it with a plain bagel or–go nuts!–have a cinnamon raisin bagel with the cream cheese. Their cinnamon raisin bagels are also recommended, baked fresh every morning, with a firm, crisp crust and a soft, buttery interior. Get one warm, then indulge as the cream cheese melts into all the bagel’s crannies. You’ll definitely be celebrating Raisin Day in style!

Ess-A-Bagel
359 1st Ave (between 20th St & 21st St)

http://www.ess-a-bagel.com/

Some reviews from Yelp.com:

“Stopped by here this evening around 7:00 craving a little something to fill me up before a rehearsal. I didn’t have any cash on me, so I asked if they had a credit card minimum–nope! So I looked at the spreads to see what there was…blueberry cream cheese? Apple spice cream cheese?! Walnut raisin cream cheese?!? Unbelievable choices that all sounded good, but I went with the walnut raisin (I will say that their egg salad looked iffy, but it was 7pm, so meh). They were out of wheat so I got a 9-grain bagel, and oh, what luck! It was an amazing bagel all by itself. It tasted crazy fresh, soft on the inside and just a bit crunchy on the outside. Absolutely perfect! It filled me up and it cost about $3. I’ll definitely be back.”–Theresa C.

“I’m not much of a bagel person at all and I was blown away by the BEST bagel I’ve had yet! I tried a cinnamon raisin bagel with raisin walnut cream cheese and it was simply ORGASMIC. The bagel itself had a great crispy exterior that gave way to the softer interior that wasn’t doughy or overly chewy like the vast majority of bagels out there. As for the cream cheese…dear lord it was delicious. Such a light and creamy consistency enhanced by the raisins and walnut pieces…I savored each and every bite. I jokingly said to my friend that I could eat a pound of the stuff straight…not the healthiest thing to do, but def worth considering ;)”–Eric F.

 

Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!

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