Atticus Bookstore/Cafe food & nutritional review @ New Haven, CT, USA.

So, this morning I had the chance to go to Atticus for breakfast. My brother and I were meeting with his friend, and this chic bookstore/cafe was the way to do it.

The exterior with wide window view and swaggering slogan; bright and unique interior with thousands of books lining the walls, and an island-style kitchen etc., were definitely impressive. But will the taste be the same? And most importantly, the nutritional value.

That morning, the cafe was packed. This could be due to: 1. it was the day after Yale College commencement, hence many relatives were still in the area 2. the food there is really delicious.

We were given bar seating (which I like a lot because it forces you to sit up straight during a meal)

Bar seating
Bar seating

We did not order “big” breakfasts aka bacon w/ scrambled eggs w/ bread, etc. Instead, we opted for croissants & muffin (which are still not the healthiest breakfast).

Here are our orders:

My brother’s

Amelie croissant (w/ coconut, almond, and cream)
Amelie croissant (w/ coconut, almond, butter, and cream filling). Can you spot the melted butter filling?
almond, raisin, coconut, butter, cream, etc.

Amelie croissant (w/ coconut, almond, butter, and cream filling) $2.85

Taste – the pastry definitely had a buttery taste to it, however, it was not flaky nor fluffy as it was not heated up when served. This also brought down the tasty factor of the filling which contained all sorts of texture like raisins, desiccated coconut, and a bit of almond pieces (?). The cream nor butter wasn’t smooth nor warm, hence making the filling taste more like icing (frosting). The flavor was mostly coconut, and its sweetness just right. This pastry had potentials but because of the dry and coldness, I can only give it 3 stars

Nutritional value – A typical almond croissant w/ filling (the closest to this creation) is ~560 calories. Most croissants are half fat (butter/vegetable fat) half carb (white flour). Butter has very little nutrient apart from vitamin A & D. Most of what you will get from the pastry would be a bit of protein, iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium from the flour. The filling contained too little raisins and desiccated coconut to amount to any real value. The almonds and cream may contribute a bit of calcium.

Nevertheless, there is more cost than profit here in terms of imbalance between calories consumed and nutritional value.

If you do not have time to make breakfast, instant oatmeal may be a better alternative with more vitamin Bs, iron, fibre, and less carbohydrate, (but also) less protein, per serving. Here is the catch though: Each serving of instant oatmeal is 1/5 the calories of one serving of croissant.

So, if you can fit it in your stomach, you can have 5 packs of instant oatmeal (choose different flavors too!) for breakfast, for the same amount of calories as one croissant, but 5 times the nutrients.

(nutritional value stars) 2.5 stars

My brother’s friend’s selection

Ham and cheese croissant
Ham and cheese croissant
Lots of ham & cheese inside
Lots of ham & cheese inside

Ham and Cheese croissant $2.85

Taste – Definitely tastier than the Amelie croissant. The cheese tasted real and not overdone, the ham was also not dry nor salty. The pastry was once again on point. This is ham & cheese croissant done in a classy way. 3.5 stars

Nutritional value – This croissant do a bit better than the previous ‘dessert croissant’ as the filling contains less fat and more protein. A typical ham & cheese croissant contains ~350 calories. Most of the calories will come from the pastry, which means it will contain similar nutrients as before, such as some protein, iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium. Some nutritional value will come from ham & cheese. These include a small amount of lean protein, vitamin Bs, vitamin Ds (rich in animal products) and some calcium. Nutrition rating 3 stars

Why such low rating? This is because although the croissant is not too high in calories (calorie ~a typical breakfast food), it still contains high amounts of fat from both the butter and cheese, which if consumed in high amounts and over time can cumulate inside the body as LDL (bad) cholesterol. 

For a quick, high-protein, and delicious breakfast opt for one egg omelette w/ cheese, ham (1 slice each), tomatoes, and frozen veggies for ~250 calories. You can have this with whole wheat toast for ~100 calories more (total of ~350 calories) – same amount as the ham & cheese croissant but w/ more variety & nutrients. These include: all sorts of vitamins and minerals from the egg, calcium from cheese, and a boost of vitamin A and C, and definitely fibre (that the croissant lacks) from the vegetables. With wholewheat bread, this will add a small amount of protein as well.

The amount of fat in this omelette will total to around 14 g comparing to 18 g in the croissant, of which half of the fat will be healthy fats/Omega 3 found in egg yolks.

My choice

Good ole bran muffin
Good ol’ bran muffin
Dense with bran and raisins
Dense with bran and raisins

Bran muffin (the seemingly healthy muffin) $2.5

Taste – Lots of spice flavors coming through (ginger, clove, cinnamon – I suspect allspice was used), branny texture (you can smell the oat bran in one bite), and raisins. Despite the bran, the muffin was still soft. The topping was the most delicious part – it was a mix of brown sugar and rolled oats. Not too sweet neither. 3.5 stars. Why such low rating? Because bran muffins are not very tasty in the beginning.

Nutritional value – I had presumed this bran & fruit-filled muffin that looked the most wholesome out of all three, would be the healthiest. I am not entirely correct. A typical innocent-looking (large sized) bran muffin is ~375 calories – more than a cheesy ham & cheese croissant! I’m not entirely surprised. Muffins require more flour to hold shape as it is not a yeast product (compared to croissants), and also a large amount of oil/butter/egg to give it moisture and shape. A bran muffin may contain less fat than a croissant, but it certainly will contain at least double the amount of carbohydrate. However, since a main component is bran, the muffin will at least contain a lot more of certain vitamins & minerals than the refined flour croissant. These include iron and magnesium. These mineral amounts may be even higher than those of instant oatmeal (1 serving). However, oatmeal (1 serving) are also 1/3 of the calories of muffins, and contain (although not in as high conc.) more variety of minerals & vitamins. 3 stars (because why refined sugar for breakfast?)

A quick and healthier option would be raisin bran cereal w/ a dairy alternative i.e. soybean milk. Your typical raisin bran cereal (not the super sweet, “crunch” kind) may not be that nutrient rich, containing trace amounts of iron or calcium unless it has been fortified. This is simply because bran is not a super nutritious food (it’s mostly fibre) in the first place. Cereal fortified with so much vitamins & minerals you can replace them as supplements, simply reveal that the cereal is so processed and junky they must pump all those nutrients back in. Soybean milk is a much better alternative to regular milk as it contains almost all the same vitamins & minerals i.e. vitamin D, Bs (besides calcium), no cholesterol, good fats (that may help lower LDL levels) and lots of fibre (which milk doesn’t contain). All in all, this breakfast would amount to ~310 calories, which means you can also supplement the cereal with a side of 1 navel orange (69 calories) OR 1 boiled egg (78 calories) OR 1 medium banana (~100 calories) for ~379-410 calories, which is roughly about 375 calories (muffin). If you choose these kinds of healthy sides, you will definitely get a much more variety of foods, textures, flavors, and greater volume and nutrients, for about the same calories as a bran muffin. Also, better for your blood sugar & waistline!

Across from out bar seats
Across from out bar seats

I liked the welcoming atmosphere of the store. They also had delicious-looking selections of artisan bread, which (if you sat at the bar) you can see being sliced up for you right from the loaf.

Speaking of which, Atticus is also known for super tasty breakfast menus (which they often serve up with their artisan breads) that “taste like the comfort of home”, and great service (aside from not heating up pastry that time). Also, of course, the scone (which there was only one left by the time we arrived at 9 am!)

Here are some interesting-looking cakes.

All sorts of delicious-looking cakes
All sorts of delicious-looking cakes
Coconut cream cake
Coconut cream cake

I also spotted a coconut cream cake in the display.

Coconut Cream cake

This type of cake is increasing in popularity in Thailand, and also increasing the waistline of Thai people. For those of you who like to believe: since this cake contains coconut (and in Thai variety, also coconut meat), it must be healthier than other cakes (or is it just me who thinks this?) That is wrong.

I have experimented a lot with healthy cake recipes which was a mammoth task. So different kinds of cake simply mean varying ratios of fat : flour : sugar.

Although coconut oil has gained plenty of attention the past few years for being an elixir of great health and forever youth (just kidding), this doesn’t make sugary coconut cream any better!

Nutritional value (not on this particular cake, but judging from past experience and typical ingredients) – Most coconut cream cakes will be based on white cake recipes which are basically plenty of delicious sugar, flour, butter/oil & eggs. Just from the cake base, you will get quite a bit of protein (about the same as eating an egg) & LOTS OF fat (saturated & cholesterol) & carb (including sugars). When the coconut cream filling, icing, and desiccated coconut are added, there will be an addition of trace amounts of protein, minerals i.e. magnesium, calcium, iron, ‘animal vitamins’ aka A, D, Bs, fibre (from the coconut), and definitely MORE cholesterol and saturated fat, well above 100% recommended daily intake (although the ones from coconut is considered medium-chain and not as bad). This means if you don’t want the fat to start piling up, your diet for the rest of the day (after eating this cake) should be plain salad. 2 stars

Snickers made into dessert? Wasn't it already?
Snickers made into dessert? Wasn’t it already?

Snickers bar bar – I’m sure you baking experts out there would know the deal with ‘desserts into desserts’ or ‘snacks into desserts’ desserts. What you are doing is no other than doubling the caloric value of those desserts by combining them into one i.e. Snickers salad (3/4 of a snickers + cream cheese + whipped cream per serve), Reese’s pie (all sorts of cream, reese’s cups, oreos, etc.), and definitely cake pops (cake made into more cake…) Nutritional rating… (without having tasted it) 2

Danish & croissants - seemingly wholesome breakfasts
Can you spot the lone chocolate scone?

Danish & croissants – seemingly wholesome breakfasts. European breakfast staple. Classic continental breakfasts must-have. I have talked about the unhealthiness of croissants already; in fact, danish pastries are no better. They contain the same basic ingredients: flour, sugar, butter/fat; but danish pastry recipes actually tend to contain more carb, sugar, and also eggs, which most croissants don’t have, and hence taste sweeter + denser. Danish pastries also always comes with sugary fillings and/or glazes and/or powdered sugar. They tend to come at about ~350 calories with no significant source of nutrients, similar small amounts of protein, but more calories than plain croissants of similar size (although this comparison is before the croissant is smeared with jam & butter). But what about the fruits/cheese fillings, do they add any value? The fruit preserves are pretty much pure sugar, ‘fruits’ that has gone through so much processing, heat & baking, that all that remains is simply desiccated fibre pieces. The cheese used is cream cheese, which should be called more like dairy fat than cheese. Nutrition rating 2.5  

Chocolate Pecan Flourless cookies
Chocolate Pecan Flourless cookies

Finally, a healthy dessert? These kinds of flour-less desserts tend to be lower in calories than their flour-containing counterparts. Without the recipe, it is very difficult to make any nutritional evaluation since there is so much variety in cookie recipes, let alone flour-less ones. Nevertheless, there is a trend with flour-less desserts in which they would either:

1. Contain LOTS of powdered sugar & egg whites (like macaroons)

2. Contain LOTS of fats & eggs

So, although less caloric dense, they will still contain very little nutrients but lots of unhealthy fats & sugar.

Overall, our breakfast orders have an average taste rating of 3.3 stars, and average nutritional rating of  2.8 stars. The atmosphere was great, waiters/waitresses were friendly. They had both unhealthy and healthy options for breakfast and other meals. Health & taste-wise, I would not recommend the dessert pastries nor the $1.5 coffee unless you are not a fan of coffee and just want a hot beverage. Not bad!

– Izzy