It was here, sitting in old-fashioned Windsor chairs, that Sarita Ekya and her husband, Cesar, got the idea to open their own comfort-food outpost, S’Mac, short for "Saritas Mac and Cheese," on 12th Street in the East Village. There, a baked Parisienne macaroni dish, prepared with brie, roasted figs and shitake mushrooms, costs $10 for a "major munch" size.
"At some point in their life, anyone who was born in the United States or Canada, someone has some kind of emotional attachment to mac and cheese," said Ms. Ekya, 33. "Whether it was because their grandmother or their mom had a killer recipe, or it was all they survived on in their college dorms, people have a nostalgia for it."
Mia Bauer, 39, started her Upper East Side Crumbs Bake Shop five years ago, also based on what she calls "the nostalgia factor." One of her most popular items is her $3.50 "Hostess;" her "Twinkie" and "Fluffernutter" cupcakes are also big sellers. All of them resemble in taste or texture the original packaged pastry.
"I grew up in a house where there was a lot of baking and cooking, and store-bought stuff full of preservatives wasn’t really allowed in my home," Ms. Bauer said. "For me, those things were—it was just an amazing treat, an amazing surprise; it was kind of a reward, for me, even to this day."
And she’s not alone.
"What I really love is when people come in and say that the Twinkie cupcake tastes exactly like the Twinkie in the store," Ms. Bauer said. "And we’re fine with that. We want to re-create those feelings for people, that excitement."
Her fellow Twinkie tinkerer Ms. Magid, meanwhile, scoffed at the idea that it is desirable, or even possible, to sit down and enjoy the original, mass-market snack cake in New York these days.
"Living in Brooklyn and going to delis and seeing [Twinkies] just sitting on the shelf and gathering dust on it, it’s just not appealing, and it’s not meant for human consumption, if you break down what the ingredients are," she said. "Across the board, people just have this idea of an old-fashioned, you know, a place and time when things were better and food was more natural. But it kind of wasn’t."
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