Parallel to our Pizza Mega-Crawl, we conducted Phase Two of our NYC Cheesecake Safari in mid December. Phase one was posted Oct. 29 (link below).
The benchmark cake tasted is "plain cheesecake" with no flavor or sauces. They were tasted "head-to-head" with coffee.
Now seeking recs for Phase Three from Any Boro.
The results of the Phase Two were, in no particular order:
1) Serendipity 3, 225 E. 60th. I was not as impressed as my GF, but found this serviceable. Soft and creamy, with lemony overtones, more interesting than Trecolori. A delicate, nutty crust. In the end I thought it was "okay but didn't knock me out". Graded it a "B or B minus".
On the second day we re-tasted most cakes and added a comparison slice from Andres Hungarian Bakery in Forest Hills, Queens. My notes were consistent..."a faint cottage-cheesy taste and texture. Very mild, not that interesting...", probably a B minus / C plus that would be good with coffee.
My GF noted "rich and creamy, just the way I like my cheesecake. Love the lemon/nutty aftertaste" - Grade B plus / A minus
BTW, an incredible logjam of people lined up to get in here. I wonder what they serve that everyone likes so much ? We just got the cake to go.
2) Trattoria Trecolori, 133 W. 45th St. A heavy Ricotta-style cake. From my notes: Dry, crumbly...lemony overtones, mild & pleasant aftertaste. Very delicate flavor, not that interesting. Grade C / C plus
My GF: Dry and not rich, not smooth (characteristic of Ricotta BTW). A "washed out" taste. Grade C
3) Eileen's, 17 Cleveland Pl...I noted: "stronger, bolder, tangy taste" and "lingering aftertaste". Nice with coffee. Very little crust (neither plus or minus, actually probably a plus). Tasted better with coffee than Seredipity. Not crazy about it, but just more interesting than Serendipity. Grade B or B plus.
I tasted Eileen's again the next day vs. this group AND an added slice from Andre's Hungarian Bakery in Forest Hills, Queens. On the second day I ranked Eileen's somewhat higher than Martha Frances, primarily because the over-sweetness of Martha Frances seemed even stronger on the second day. My second days notes read: "creamy, delicate, with lingering sweetness...very nice with coffee" and I would increase the grade slightly to say a "solid B plus"
My GF: was not as enthusiastic..."Rich and creamy but don't care for the aftertaste...hints of dry milk...it's okay, just a different taste than Serendipity"....Grade B or B minus
4) Martha Frances 1707 2nd Ave btw 88/89. This was my favorite of the MANHATTAN cheesecakes tasted on both Safari Phase One and Two. From my notes: "Walking away this is my favorite to this point...a more complex layered crust....initial taste is very interesting"....however...."aftertaste a bit overpoweringly sweet...if this cheesecake has a downside, some may find it cloyingly sweet" I also noted that this would be very lusciously good with a stout coffee or espresso. Grade A minus / B plus
On the 2nd day I wrote "very sugary with the heavy crust"...."creamy, very sweet, great with coffee..." I note that the word Great is underlined. BUT the ranking relative to Eileen's changed a bit on the 2nd day as I ranked Eileen's a bit higher at "solid Bplus" and Martha Frances at "B", so annoying was the sugar level on the 2nd day.
My GF was a bit more oppressed by the sweetness than I was, but both of us would highly recommend that Martha Frances reduce their sugar content by probably a third and judge the crowd reaction. Her notes: Rich and sweet, a little too sweet for my taste. I like it and the after-taste is pleasant. Still prefer Serendipity out of the bunch..."I would choose this cheesecake if I didn't have #1 as a comparison. Very nice with coffee which balances out the sweetness".
We should note that Martha Frances also has a wide range of "flavored" cakes. We tried the tiramisu cheesecake and both liked it. Probably the flavored cakes adapt better to MF's sweetness level than the plain cake does.
For the Manhattan cakes tasted, our combined ratings would be something like this:
Martha Frances: B/B+ (less sugar would increase our grade)
One thing my GF and I instantly agreed on was that Andre's was our favorite with a preliminary grade of "A" (see outer boards). Creaminess, taste, balanced sweetness, just right crust, it's all there. Defines "luscious"