Okay, okay, we slept… but it definitely was a whirlwind trip! We ate, we walked, we drank, we walked some more, I made D take the subway, he made me take cabs, we walked some more as a compromise… and the cycle repeats the next day. And the next. And the next. Four fabulous days in Manhattan… and our days there were filled to the brim with amazing restaurants to try and neighborhoods to explore. Get ready, this is a really loooooooooooooong post.
Here we go…
The view from our room at Le Parker Meridien…
Do you see those trees in the distance? That’s Central Park!
First stop was the hotel bar for some bubbly.
D & I are both big fan of hotel bars because of the amazing people watching, and the bar here at Le Parker Meridien did not disappoint!
Look closely and you’ll see us in the reflection!
Then we were off to dinner at P.J. Clarke’s, D’s favorite spot to grab a burger in Manhattan. We like the original location, on 55th Street & 3rd Avenue – it has a great atmosphere and the bar area is really fun. There’s actually a lot of history here… it’s been in this spot for 129 years! And take a look at Sidecar, their secret restaurant located upstairs… I love the wood floors and exposed brick walls. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this until just now!
D said his martini was perfectly executed… he usually asks for three olives because he knows I like to steal at least one. And this picture shows two… hmmm.
“2 cheeseburgers please with vermont cheddar,
a side of shoestring potatoes and a side of onion strings”
The next morning we headed up to Le Pain Quotidien for an early lunch. We allowed ourself a bit of a sleep in due to the time difference, so it was almost noon by the time we sat down… not to fear though, all of our dinners were booked for 10pm or later, so this worked out really well for us to have our first meal at midday each day! I wish we had Le Pain Quotidien in San Francisco… it’s a European based bakery chain and has cafes all over the place in New York. Yet despite the surplus in locations it still manages to feel very non-chain like as each cafe is just a little bit different from each other. And the menu is great… simple delicious food, with a focus on fresh organic ingredients. Maybe someday they’ll expand to the West Coast!
cool old fashioned coffee dispensers above our table
We shared the tomato soup… bursting with fresh tomato-y flavor.
And they brought us out some more of their deliciously chewy organic bread to dip in.
I ordered the Ricotta Tartine, topped with mission figs, black pepper & organic acacia honey
And D had the Prosciutto Mozzarella de Bufala Tartine, sans sundried tomato. It should have come with basil pesto but they forgot that unfortunately. Thinking back, we should have asked for a side of it as his was a little bland… I really liked mine though, especially with the figs.
Their baked goods looked delicious but we didn’t partake… we had walking to do!
Hey it’s the opposite view from that of our hotel room…
it’s just on the other side of the Essex House!
The sailboat lake
Look closely at this building… top floor, middle window… see that brown blur above it? That’s the nest of “Pale Male”, the red-tailed hawk who has settled in on the ledge of one of the swanky Central Park East apartment buildings. He’s famous actually… a movie was made about his trials while living in this nontraditional environment – losing his mate, finding another, raising a multi-generational family – and now he even has his own website!
After relaxing back at the hotel for a few we took off for TriBeCa to explore a little before dinner at Locanda Verde later that night.
Mode of transportation? I win… subway! D hates it down there, but I love the ease of navigating Manhattan via train. I agreed to a taxi home as a compromise, but really I would have wanted to take one back to the hotel anyways since I don’t like taking the subway anytime after it gets dark… shhhhhh, don’t tell him!
So the plan was to hang out a wine bar until closer to dinnertime and we found a wonderful little spot, tucked away on West Broadway… Vino Vino.
From 5pm – 7pm they have a great happy hour with 50% off all bottles of wine, not too shabby! We decided upon a 2008 Domaine Fond Crozes Côtes du Rhône… delicious.
As we had 4 hours or so to go till dinner time, we also ordered some charcuterie and cheese… bresaola, sopressatta and speck, and then a young manchego, the La Tur, and I believe the Tete de Moine, but I could be mistaken.
Just kidding… I just realized I foodspotted our selections! How clever of me. It was the Mimolette, not the Tete de Moine!
I loved the interior.
And their wine shop was right next door with a glass wall separating the two… super cool.
When we left Vino Vino, we decided to stop by the Brandy Library as we had heard good things about this lounge-y bar. None of my pictures turned out because of the dim lighting, but the one above should give you the general idea. We almost walked right by it on the outside as there’s barely a sign to be seen, but once inside you immediately felt right at home and it was lovely and cozy.
After our nighttime hike through the urban jungle we finally arrived at Locanda Verde. I loved it from my first step inside. First of all, I love cloth napkins, but I especially love ones that look like old dishtowels. Plus the menu was amazing. D & I had decided that on this trip, with the exception of P.J. Clarke’s on the first evening, we would try new places for dinner each night. I stumbled upon Locanda Verde when I was reading erin a la carte, and knew Locanda had to be one of our choices. Of course I realized this about a week before our trip, so we were only able to get a 10:30pm reservation, but they ended up taking us a little early and since we had adjusted our NY schedule so we didn’t eat our first meal until noon, 10:30pm was actually the perfect time to eat. And eat we did…
great bar area… love the lighting
some focaccia bread to hold us over with while we peruse the menu
We decided upon the lamb meatball sliders with caprino & cucumber as a starter…
… as well as the fava bean crostini with mint & pecorino on prosciutto bread. The sliders were good, but I think the crostini is one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time… really delicious. I do wish we had tried the sheep’s milk ricotta with sea salt and herbs though… ah well, next time!
For our main we shared the pappardelle with lamb bolognese, ricotta and mint…
…and a shaved porchetta sandwich with grilled onions and provolone. Yes, it is a bit odd to order a sandwich at this modern italian taverna, but D loves sandwiches, so I couldn’t not order this after seeing the excitement on his face when he saw this on the menu! It was good, but to me the pappardelle was the star of the show. I loved the combination of lamb with ricotta and mint and definitely will be recreating it at home!
We really didn’t need dessert at this point, but the menu had been so good up until this point, we knew we had to select something sweet.
D had his eye on the pear & ginger crisp, but since he’s nice he let me choose the dessert. Right, D?! So I swiftly bypassed his selection and we ended up with the chocolate budino with coffee creme fraiche gelato, hot fudge & coffee granita. Since he chose the sandwich for our main I figured this was a fair trade. And, wow was this delicious. The creamy chocolate, matched by the cool gelato and then the rich gooey hot fudge… so yum. I loved our meal here. I hope next time we visit New York we don’t pick new spots because I want to come back here again and again.
The next morning we headed down to Balthazar for a late breakfast. I had already taken a peek at the menu online and knew exactly what I wanted to order… two soft boiled organic eggs with toasted soldiers. This has been my favorite breakfast since I was a child and the only other place (besides my mum’s!) I can order boiled eggs is at Cafe Zinc in Laguna. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was very very excited for breakfast.
Balthazar has a great buzz about it. I’ve never been for breakfast and usually like camping out at the bar and taking in all the hustle and bustle, but I loved our corner spot!
D ordered the scrambled eggs in puff pastry with wild mushrooms and asparagus. When I looked around there were at least three other people in our vicinity with the same choice so it must be a popular item!
Afterwards we wandered around SOHO… a trip to the Dean & Deluca, as well as the MUJI store (I was pretty excited about this since we don’t have MUJI in SF and I love this brand) and then we walked up Broadway, through Union Square and then onto the Flatiron district so we could check out Mario Batali’s new endeavor – Eataly, a 37,000 square foot mega store of Italian everything you could possibly imagine. I don’t even know how to describe it fully, it’s so massive.
There’s a gelatoria, an expresso bar, a panini counter, a cheese and salumi section, fresh pasta, dried pasta, fish, meat, vegetables, wine, a full scale restaurant, smaller restaurant areas dedicated to the various food types, a wine bar, a pizzeria… and that’s only the half of it. I’ve decided I’m going to write up a separate post on Eataly. It’s just too amazing not to. I ended up back there on two more of our days in NY, it’s that good.
Dinner that night was at another erin a la carte recommendation… Minetta Tavern. I had emailed Erin to see if she had any good recommendations for a steakhouse type restaurant and she immediately responded with Minetta. The funny thing is this literally was directly opposite the old apartment building that I lived in when I lived in NY but I had never noticed it. Or even heard about it. But then I found out that the Balthazar group took over the space in 2008 and transformed it into a hotspot, while still managing to maintain all of the original charm. I guess that explains why I never went… I moved back to California in 2006!
we started by sharing the classic steak tartare
and one of their specials for the night…
a salad of asparagus, grapes, and some greens with creme fraiche
We had heard so much about the $26 Black Label burger we knew we had to order one, and it did not disappoint. Super juicy and flavorful, with just enough of a charred crust. Later I found out the secret… clarified butter and a patty made from a selection of dry-aged beef, the ratios of which are undisclosed and closely guarded.
We matched that with the Tavern Steak which was good, but nothing like the black label burger. There really was no comparison, and since the burger was made with such high quality beef it almost shouldn’t be described as a burger. Next time I think I’ll be happy to order a burger and nothing else.
The next day D had a bit of work to do, so I headed down to 9th Ave (bt 15th & 16th) so I could spend some time at the Chelsea Market, an upscale food court with vendors such as Amy’s Bread, Eleni’s, Fat Witch Bakery & Sarabeth’s Kitchen. This is really cool building as not only does it house some amazing foodie hotspots, but it also is where the Food Network’s offices are! And the oreo cookie was invented here – the building was originally home to the National Biscuit Company!
Eleni’s was probably my favorite spot here
and what they’re famous for… the hand-iced sugar cookies
aw, hello cute little bears. I think I just may buy one of you.
After purchasing my bear I decided to head over to my old stomping grounds, Greenwich Village so I could walk around. The weather was not cooperating with my plans though, and as the wind whipped up and the rain poured down, walking wasn’t looking like such a great idea, especially when I looked up and saw some major storm clouds gathering overhead.
What’s a girl to do?
Why head back to Eataly of course and wait out the storm!
After spending what felt like hours scouring every inch of the store (check back soon for my full Eataly post), I decided a glass of bubbles was in order and snagged a coveted counter spot at one of the bars in La Piazza.
The man next to me had ordered the mixed charcuterie & cheese plate and it looked so delicious I knew I had to order one as well. Take a look at this menu… fantastic, right? I probably spent over a couple of hours perched on my bar stool just taking it all in. At this point D had finished his work so we decided to meet for drinks at Otto, Mario Batali’s casual pizzeria which has one of my favorite bar scenes in New York. I guess it was a Mario type of day for me.
And actually, it was… when I arrived at Otto guess who was there! Mario!! Okay, so I’m not so sly with my stalker picture taking… I know this picture is terrible! Unfortunately my hair fell down in front of my camera phone and covered him up, but if you look through my hair you can see him there on the corner of the bar! He left shortly after and I wasn’t able to snap another shot.
When I finally contained my excitement I ordered a glass of nero d’avola and waited for D to arrive. Luckily he arrived in time to see Mario as well!
With our bizarro eating schedule we started to feel a bit peckish and decided to order the pizza margherita to hold us over till our 10:30 dinner at ABC Kitchen.
As I filled D in on my excursions from the day I noticed a casualty.
I think I broke Mr. Bear’s heart.
Of course we couldn’t leave without my favorite dessert in life… the olive oil gelato. D’s not as big a fan as I am, so we did the half and half with half olive oil, half creme fraiche. It’s hard to describe how good the olive oil gelato is, it’s just so unique… a perfect balance of sweet and salty, with a delicious fruitiness from the olive oil.
And then Dennis, Otto’s wonderful bartender, surprised us with some their house-made limoncello. Eimear, you would have loved it! The perfect end to a perfect afternoon.
We headed back to the hotel to relax and clean up a bit before our late night dinner… I love that the hotel shows old school cartoons in the elevator!
ABC Kitchen is located in the ABC Home Store in the Flatiron District… I loved the overall vibe. Even though we were one of the last parties to be seated, this place was still hopping!
more dishtowel napkins!
Great use of space… I bet it’s a great lunchtime spot.
We decided to share the appetizer sized portion of the bucatini with bacon, broccoli rabe & sage. We thought it was just okay… nothing amazing.
And the fresh ricotta, crispy prosciutto, & date pizza… I like that they make all their pizzas with a whole wheat crust. They also sprinkled some endive & radicchio on top.
All in all we weren’t too excited about ABC Kitchen. Great space, but I guess we were expecting more based on all the reviews. I would go back for lunch if I were shopping in the area, but probably not for dinner again.
On our last day we headed back to Eataly one more time. Yes, that makes three times for me! The pizza just looked so delicious when I was there the day before, I knew we had to try it. I even gave up my chance to go eat my favorite pasta dish, the rigatoni pitti, at Bar Pitti, which was our original plan for the day. Anyone who knows me will realize the significance of this… I never go to NY without a meal at Bar Pitti!
As we were early birds again we were able to be seated super fast… it’s so cool how there are all these little restaurant areas within the store. The pizza menu was incredible, but it was hard not to order a pasta as well. Take a look at the pasta menu… the ladies at the table next to were ordering some and it looked and smelled amazing. Another one for next time I suppose! Oh, and btw… that’s an endive and fennel salad with sliced asian pear that we ordered while we perused the menu!
I had La Varace TSG… a fancy version of a pizza margherita. I’m sorry, I know I always order the same pizza everywhere I go, but I’m a purist, what can I say! Tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, DOP extra virgin olive oil from Sorrento and fresh basil… perfection.
And D ordered the Massese… mozzarella, tomato sauce, spicy salami & basil. He was equally pleased with his choice.
Afterwords we went for a quick walk to my favorite graveyard, and then we had to head back to the hotel to pack up before leaving for the airport. D had the genius idea to pop back into Eataly and grab some paninis for the flight… we both got the soppressata with provolone cheese as we figured it would travel well and keep at room temperature for quite a few hours. So I guess that actually means I was Eataly four separate times over our four days… pretty impressive!
I hope you enjoyed our trip… if you’re still with me at this point, thank you. I realize this is a very, very long post!
Can’t wait to share our next trip to NY with you all!