New York City Addresses
2167 Broadway (between 76th and 77th)
New York, NY 10024
Hours: 10 AM - 8 PM everyday
Train Directions: Take the 1/9 to 79th or 2/3 to 72nd; you should be right on Broadway when you get off (mind you, I usually walk up and back down from Lincoln Center rather than get off the closest stop so I am not sure).
Astor Place and Broadway
740 Broadway (at Astor Place)
New York, NY 10003
Hours: (Sun - Wed) 10 AM to 9 PM, (Thu - Sat) 10 AM to 10 PM
Train Directions: 6 to Astor Place, R/W to 8th Street.
Note: This is not a store like the other two; it is a stand inside a Japanese cafe.
41st and 5th Avenue
Train Directions: F, V, 7 to 5th Avenue.
Beard Papa is not a person, nor an amusing string of words that make absolutely no sense when strung together; intead, it is a bakery of buttery proportions, and the first store was opened the United States, in, no less, New York City. Originally a chain of stores located in Japan, the bakery has decided to conquer the world, with stores in Japan, Seoul (South Korea), Shanghai (China), Beijing (China), Taiwan, and Singapore.
suggests that the name "beard papa" could possibly come from "barbe de papa
", or better known as cotton candy. He might be right, or he might be tragically wrong as the Japanese are incredibly apt to stick any two English words together for maximum hip sensibility, or something like that.)
Mugin-ho has apparently promised to open a great many more in the upcoming years, so those not in the Big Apple, hope that one comes near you!
Imagine a store that is, at most, twenty feet wide. The front of the store is graced by a huge wooden cutout of a happy bearded Santa-like man, pipe in mouth, with a stack of flyers held out for your perusal while you wait.
Over half the store is taken up by a long, narrow counter that is fenced off by glass; little kids have to tiptoe to see the magical workings of the happy cheerful Japanese workers. The line patiently waiting for the cream puffs go out the door. The first thing that hits you when you're near the stuff is the smell: a buttery aroma wave hits you in full force, lightened only somewhat by the smell of coffee.
Beard Papa's main attraction is the darling cream puff. Just this one item alone has them kept busy by long lines stretching out the doors, every single one a Pilgrim of the Cream Puff. And mind you, at the prices they're sold at ($1.25 a pop), these cream puffs had better be damn good.
What is a Cream Puff?
A cream puff is a light little pastry shell filled with cream. It can range to heavy and cold and soggy (the first time I ever personally tried a cream puff), to light and smooth and warm and heavenly.
So, What Happens When I Witness the Birth of a Cream Puff?
You will coo at the darlings as they are brought forth with their cream-filled puffery to sit, nestled in their paper wrapping, in gorgeous little yellow boxes that are shaped cunningly with handles so you can go a-skippin' down the street with 'em like a prancing tool.
But wait! I must describe the process for those who are unfortunately not near such a bakery, and to induce those that are to go over and plunk their dollar bills at the counter and watch this magical occurance.
Do note that for each step, there is usually one cheerful Japanese girl dedicated to this particular task, and they are horrifying, frighteningly cheerful. Either they get paid quite well or are imported from Japan and excited to be in New York City, or something. Do subtitute "Japanese girl" with "Korean girl" if you are at the downtown Astor Place location.
Birth: cream puff shells are taken out of the oven and dumped into a giant box for your food pornographic pleasure. There are about one hundred in this box at any given time, and it is replenished often, as people easily buy half a dozen or more in one sitting. They are small rounded pastry shells, about the width of your palm in diameter, golden-brown. They smell absolutely scrumptious.
Adolescence: the cream puff shell is then violated by a Japanese girl wielding a handle that connects directly to a metal machine with a nozzle; freshly made cream is pumped directly into the shell's innards.
Cream: The cream is divine. While eating them, you'll notice little black speckles in the cream, which you might think is dirt, but do not despair! Their flyers, as well as their website, state, "We use handpicked vanilla beans from Madagascar, known worldwide as the best place for natural-grown vanilla beans. Recently, vanilla beans have been in short supply due to natural disasters.... However, we adhere to using beans from Madagascar because we only use the best ingredients for our cream puffs."
Those black speckles are, of course, little bits of vanilla. Mm, mm. What's also nice is that the cream is made fresh 4-6 times every day, so you are assured of having absolutely fresh cream when you bite down into a cream puff.
College: the cream puff, all grown up and full of cream, is settled nicely into a tray with other violated cream puffs to make acquaintances. Together, they experience a ritual that they will all share with them the rest of their short little lives: a girl takes a shaker full of confectioner's sugar, and dusts them all liberally with it, giving each cream puff a slightly snowed-in look. Then each one is given a small little greased paper wrapper.
Marriage: This is where all the cream puffs part in different ways, depending on how many the customer is buying. Some are plain and boring, and they get married in pairs. Some get to have swingin' lives with at least five other cream puffs, housed in a happy yellow box. And some, poor cream puffs, are destined to be bachelors and will die a lonely, creamy death very quickly.
Death: That's the part where you come in. You, with your monstrous teeth of doom, render them helpless, cream bleeding all over your mouth.
Beard Papa in New York City does not have a lot of sitting places; if I recall correctly, there are five tables, each accomodating anywhere from two people to four. This won't matter, because many of the people dropping by do it just to pick up a box and leave.
Do these Keep Well?
In a nutshell, no. Since they're made fresh every day, they have none of these "preservatives" I hear so much about. They are best when just bought, because the shell will still be warm and crispy and flaky and buttery and... Ok, I'll try to keep this PG.
You Mentioned Marriage. If I Leave Two Cream Puffs Alone, Will They Multiply?
The mating habits of the cream puff have not been divulged yet to the populace at large. Leaving two cream puffs alone will leave you with two very cold and beginning-to-rot cream puffs and not a horde of baby cream puffs. I'm sorry. As in the steps above, your involvement with the cream puff is to give them a quick and painless death.
Are there any nifty Flavoured Cream Puffs?
Why, yes! Take a look:
Wait, Aren't There Any Other Items On the Menu?
Well, there are various forms of coffee, I suppose. Priced accordingly to New York standards (read: bleeding expensive), they taste... coffee-like. As I am no expert on coffee, I can't say if it's good or bad coffee, but I have to say, it's the only cafe au lait I've ever tasted that was so smooth that it didn't need sugar (and I usually put a ten ton truck's worth of sugar in my coffee to hide the acrid taste), which leads me to believe that it might be some form of cold drip coffee.
What Other Cool Items Do They Have?
Happy allies to the cream puff: cheesecake sticks (wedges of cheesecake in a bar form), mango ice. They are equally delectable.
Any Other Cool Facts?
Apparently, if you went to the bakery on opening day and were one of the first 250 customers to buy over six cream puffs, you got a stainless steel thermos with the Beard Papa logo (the smiling smoking Santa) on it. So if a store opens near you, see if you can get there early!
The holiday season also promotes some very nice gifts. Purchasers of 12 or more cream puffs the 2004 winter season received a free t-shirt with the Beard Papa logo.
I Don't Care About All That! I Want Cold Hard Facts!
Japan Company Information
Company Name: Muginoho, Inc.
CEO: Yuji Hirota
Tenjinbashi 2-chome, 2-ban, 10-go
Wise Building 9F
Kita-ku, Osaka-shi 530-0041
Founded: December 22nd, 1997
Capital: 11,000,000 yen
Number of Employees: 1,300
Some info taken off of Beard Papa's English site, located at http://www.muginohousa.com/index.html.
Thanks to aethyr for giving me the heads up on the caramel cream puff. Mm.