It’s officially Spring in New York City! Celebrate the season with raspberry cake from Laduree, colorful macarons from Vendome Patisserie, blueberry tea at Saks, and a walk up Madison Avenue.
Owings Mills Mall circa the late 80’s and early 90’s was the place. On Friday nights, there was nowhere else in suburban Baltimore to see and be seen other than the mall food court. All your neighbors were waiting in the epic, long line at Boardwalk Fries or Talking Turkey and the young kids were eying the candy at Scoops. The fancier people were dining at Ruby Tuesdays, which was a separate restaurant attached to the food court. My family preferred One Potato Two and Villa Pizza, which became our Shabbat dinner for a decade. We’d take our punch cards to the potato place and earn free potatoes (Tuesday night was double punch night when a family of four could really clean up) and chat with our friends and neighbors until the mall closed for the night.
The food court offerings were delicious, but the stores at the mall were the real draw. There was an Abercrombie and Fitch from the days when they carried high end sportswear, Banana Republic when all they sold was tan clothes in case you had to blend into jungle surroundings or were seeking employment at Jurassic Park, and The White House before The Black Market came along (which is where I bought my high school graduation gown). Back in my tomboy years, I was obsessed with the electronics department at Macy’s. I would stare at the big screen TVs and VCRs for hours while my mom shopped, and pretend it was all mine, and the other customers were just there admiring my stuff. Macy’s was also where my parents bought me and my sister our Cabbage Patch Dolls; they waited in line for hours with the other crazed parents while my sister and I lyed on the piles of rugs and mattresses in the bedding department and played Princess and the Pea.
There was also Nine West and The Gap, but the real treasure was Saks Fifth Avenue. I’m not kidding, Baltimore used to have a Saks. It was small and carried mostly boring lines like St. John, but it was there. After Nordstrom came to Baltimore and the crime started getting bad in Owings Mills, Saks went out of business and was replaced by a JC Penney. Pretty tragic. But in that last glorious month they were going out of business, I went with my mom almost every day for new markdowns, and I’ll never forget the nylon DKNY backpack I scored at 70% off.
Every year, the mall would put on a fashion show sending the models down the main staircase in the latest fashions. My friends and I would push our way to the front row and watch in awe. After the show, we’d collect all the confetti and feathers from the finale and use them for art projects. My father still keeps some of my creations on his office desk. The show was produced by the store, Cache, best known for knocking off the clothes from Julia Roberts movies. All the girls bought their prom dresses at Cache, except me; I wore Laundry by Shelli Segal.
Now Owings Mills Mall is hanging on by a thread, if its even open at all. But it lives on in the memories of everyone in Pikesville and Owings Mills, and I have the fondest memories of my Shabbat dinners at the mall.
Laduree epitomizes French elegance and decadence. People wait in line for hours for their famous macarons, which tantalize even the most sophisticated palates. The restaurant features Laduree potatos and the most extravagant dessert menu on the planet. The walls are painted in murals with angels and clouds and finished with gold molding. You can’t help feeling like Marie Antoinette dining at Versailles. Laduree recently opened two locations in New York City and they collaborated with Emilio Pucci for a limited run of new flavors, boxed in Pucci’s signature prints. What I wouldn’t do for one of their macarons right now!
In La Madeleine, Paris, in the 8th arrondissement, there is a small outdoor cafe with Nutella crepes, scrumptious croissants, and cafe au lait that warms your heart. Businessmen hurry by, clutching their newspapers and coffee to go, and the women move even faster. Across the street, L’Eglise de La Madeleine, the Roman Catholic Church, stands in the center of it all, across from Maxim’s, Laduree, and the Rue du Faubourg Saint- Honore. Time stands still for the cafe patrons, slowly sipping their drinks and buttering their food, delighting in every rich bite, and observing the hustle in the street.