Definitely my favourite place so far is the wonderful/heavenly Whole Foods Market.

I prefer the newer Columbus Circle store..so far!  Whole Foods Market – Columbus Circle

I found mature cheddar from London’s Borough Market (15 years old so journey time for the UK was not an issue). The dedicated cheese area is divine. Totally gushing with brilliant cheeses from all the most cheese-respecting nations i.e. France.

The Whole Foods Market kitchens are also a delicious way of taking out in the city. You are assured of the quality and bonus.. it doesnt break the bank.

I LOVE WHOLE FOODS MARKET.

PASTIS: French food. Wooden tables a little rough around the edges. Those chairs you associate with a compact cafe in Paris. Essentially warm and reassuring with a NY price tag.

I think you will agree there is nothing more comforting than a croque monsieur/cheese on toast. And even if you don’t there is always a steak to keep you happy. So when I am feeling homesick I will be returning to the Meatpacking District/Chelsea to indulge in a bowl of fries. I know.. I am not French but France is significantly closer than NYC.

The John Dory at the ACE Hotel (also home to the lamb burger at The Breslin) is a seafood bar. Quite expensive but a great and fun place to chew on a whelk or slurp an oyster. If you are looking to avoid carbs this is the place for you. Tasty dishes. We had the Spanish mackerel escabeche (Yum) and Whelks with parsely and garlic butter (ermmm interesting?)

What’s the buzz about The Apiary? Well take the 4 or 5 train to Astor Place and you’ll find out. I was treated to a 5 course tasting menu here (felt very grown up) and it was a truly delicious event. Can’t tell you what the first fish dish involved (we were a little overwhelmed by the Masterchef-like detailed description from the waiter). The second was monkfish ‘on a bed’ of curried seafood soup (sounds rubbish but I think it was my favourite). The third was sweetbread yummy-ness (not something I would ever choose on a menu so a glorious surprise) and then the fourth and main course arrived: a finely prepared duck plate. I liked a lot. However, as is always the case for me, dinner is entirely a build up to the finale. The dessert course. We chose a cheese course and the dessert. We enjoyed some funky displayed cheeses with a trio of seasonal honeys and toasted walnut bread AND WARM VALRHONA FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE with vanilla ice cream. No words.

Katz’s Delicatessen of Houston Street, Inc


Katz’s Deli is a Jewish Emporium of Pastrami and Pickles. I am using caps here. Just go and visit. You will get it.

Made famous by Meg Ryan’s *ahem* outburst in “When Harry Met Sally”, this diner is a great sightseeing must, if only for the attempt on the pastrami beast of a sandwich (see above)

Cafe Henri

Yep it’s French. I love a good old omelette. What can I say? Great ingredients. Cute spot. Go.

Chocolate by the Bald Man MAX BRENNER

Chocolate by a bald man? I have been here twice already. It is a perfect dessert venue since it is just off Union Square so is incredibly easy to reach relatively quickly if you are desperate for your daily cocoa hit. It is open really late so if you ever think “it is just too late” and “maybe I should just go to sleep or just settle for some Hershey’s stuff?” NO. DON’T DO IT. You can even get takeaway if there is no space in there. Convinced? You should be.

Locande Verde (ROBERT DE NIRO’S place. Need I say more?)

This is for the special occasion. It is a little steep for a regular trip (for me at least). However, this Italian American setting is just about perfect. A great space just moments away from the Hudson River in TriBeCa, Locande Verde is delicious delicious delicious. I want to go back but I need to save up first.

The Spotted Pig

The Spotted Pig is a British place for those ex-pats feeling a little homesick. Chef April Bloomfield is herself from Birmingham (the English one) and has created a cosy gastropub inspired by the intelligent pig. On the outside this restaurant looks a lot like a florist, overflowing with vines and leafy-ness but on the inside it is home to possibly the greatest burger in the city? Accompanied by elegant shoestring fries just glance around at your neighbours and just see if anyone has ordered anything else? No. I think that speaks volumes. My only advice: have a lie down planned for afterwards.

Camaje

Found this quaint eatery by accident (we couldn’t actually use a map at the time and were too hungry and cold to search any longer for the actual restaurant on our list). But what a find. The ingredients are obviously excellent. The dishes simple but just right in terms of amount (a constant challenge in this city) and yummy-ness. I will definitely be back and I may even save up my cents for a cookery class. We managed to dine alongside some aspiring chefs and it looked a lot of fun ending in a huge feast of their fare. Yes please.

Redfarm. Located at 529 Hudson Street is the cutest little kitch place for noodles and dim sum. I do love a design success and dim sum master chef Joe Ng and Chinese food expert Ed Schoenfeld have really made for a beautiful dining experience. Rustic communal tables with a countryside feel give the desired impression of “greenmarket sensibility” and then there is the food. Our party of 4 decided to do a little sharing as none of us could really commit to one plate. As fabulous and artistic dishes passed by on the way to other guests we were all mouthwateringly prepared for our dinner.

Who doesn’t love to eyeball the food first!?

Okra & Thai Eggplant Yellow Curry: to die for. A generous bowl of curry greatness. We practically resorted to licking the bowl.

Stuffed Squid, Wild Mushrooms & Roasted Pepper: Not a huge fan of squid but this dish really pleased me. Beautifully presented and vanished promptly.

Diced Lamb with Chinese Broccoli & White Asparagus: Top dish of the night. Wonderfully flavourful. I couldn’t get enough of it. This is a moment when sharing results in regret.

Five Different Mushrooms, Yellow Leeks: I love mushrooms. Enough said.

Having found this place by pure chance, as we wandered down Hudson Street in a starved haze, this is truly now on my list of top picks. Thanks RF. Will be back.

Rustic communal table dining

Tara Thai Cuisine

A little gem of a place in the East Village

Tara Thai Cuisine, located at 137 1st Avenue (between 9th and St Mark’s Place), is a low key Thai joint serving delicious and yummy food. I have been there twice now and this family run restaurant does not disappoint. Sharing optional but preferred (means you get to taste more off the menu)

Of the Momofuku chain (see my previous post on the Milk bar and all it’s sugar) the next on my list was the Noodle bar. And I don’t need to go into too much here, all that is required is a brief nod at the smart, clean decor. Comfy yet efficient and I like dining at the bar, makes me feel grown up. However, I would like to spend a little time on the Pork Buns (see below for mouth-watering temptation). I don’t even remember what I had for the main course now. However, I do know it was GOOD. But the Pork Buns. My goodness. Just go now. Promise me you won’t delay.


Pork Buns from another world

Snazzy setting. Delicious ingredients. Welcoming staff (they shout at everyone individually in Japanese in salutation). I now LOVE Ramen Noodles.

If you are British and feel like a bit of home (posh home) then this is a place for you. Beautifully decadent with some standard NYC taxidermy blanketing the walls we dined upstairs in the lounge at a bureau table and two very country home armchairs. Pork cheek pot roast was sufficiently squidgy (because, I was reliably informed, it was “braised” and so would fall apart in my non-functional mouth). I should mention at this point that the newly acquired braces I have succumbed to are prohibiting me from dining freely and thus I must be choosy with my plates. “Does it need a good chew?” “Possibly”, “Then I am sorry. Not for me!”

Too cute. Too quaint. Go on a date.

I tend not to put food emporiums up if I don’t absolutely love them to pieces. Les Enfants Terribles is no exception. Having visited this French/African gem more than 5 times already I can safely say it is a top pick for me. The food is wholesome, think stews, lamb shanks and steak frites, and the atmosphere in the grungy surroundings of the Lower East Side make for quite the ambience. Basically it is a great start to a weekend night out and when you call up to book they welcome you with some delicious French accent and always find me a table.

A relatively new spot, it didn’t take long for Danji to establish itself on The New York Times Top 50 (most of my picks are from that very site: NYTimes The Scoop). So armed with empty tummies, my work colleagues and I ventured out to Danji, West Midtown, after a trip to the flicks. This place was very reminiscent of a previous dining experience Red Farm (see above). Specifically Korean style dishes this modern and classic style menu really offers a yummy selection of beautifully decorative plates. We may have got a bit carried away with the ordering, as one can often do in these tapas-like situations, and so I would highly recommend the following:

steak tartare w. quail yolk toasted pine nuts, asian pear

tofu w. ginger scallion dressing

crispy calamari w. wasabi mayo

bulgogi beef sliders

spicy pork belly sliders

OK OK so we overdid it. But with a menu this cute I bet you will succumb just the same.

Right I don’t need to dwell on this place at all. Go to Kin Shop NOW. I only had the Massaman: Braised Goat with fried shallots, purple yams, mustard greens & toasted coconut, but I think this dish spoke volumes for the quality of the menu. If I could have ordered and second and then a third of the same I would have done it in a heartbeat. But I was low on funds and so had to settle for only one time entree time. This time.

What a jolly experience. If you call yourself a carnivore (see my post on such matters) then this is the place for you. German for “Fat Pig” (ouch) Fette Sau is a self serve beer fest of barbeque goodness. In typical Brooklyn style this back room dining experience is oozing with a super cool hipster feel. Once you have loaded up your tray (and I mean load up people) you slide down the communal benches and get stuck in. If you are not dripping with meaty juices, your fingers greasy with the lack of cutlery effort then you have not had the true experience. Just go back in there and try again will you!?

PS There is a Momofuku Milk bar almost exactly next door. Birthday Cake Truffles anyone?

Jean-Georges Vongerichten has a new place. ABC Kitchen was awarded the James Beard Best New Restaurant of 2011 and I was eager to take my lovely friend Charlie to check it out. He’s paying.

And boy was I delighted I did. The design is outstanding. Yellow bulbs hang from rustic fittings in this excitingly pleasant environment.

As expected the food is divine but it was the little touches that impressed me the most. Every plate, fork and knife, every bowl and glass were different. This was a true kitchen feel. I was so comfortable in the superbly executed surroundings that I will be coming back here for more. And probably more again.

Israeli fare, this cute little place on Mulberry Street is top notch grub. A wonderfully authentic open kitchen, Balaboosta offers some exquisite classics such as Hummus “Mortar And Pestle”: with Tahini, Lemon, Roasted Garlic (sound good. Yes it was thank you) and then a modern Israeli twist on other dishes, take Dr. Dave’s Grilled Pizza with Carrot Purée, Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese & Fresh Cilantro! Dr Dave I don’t know who you are but you sure can pull off a pizza slice. Balaboosta, the service was magnificent. Even if the food had been average, which it certainly was not, I would come back for the service. Spot on.

You are probably going to get mad with me but this is another (yes I know another gem) legendary eating establishment. Actually after taking myself (and Giles) all the way out to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg on Bedford Avenue I was not expecting such a perfect dining experience from the newly opened Allswell. It was cold outside, the wait was more than 10 minutes (for obvious reasons as you will soon see) and I was hungry to the point of fainting.

And let me stress. This was not a divine meal just for the details listed above. This was a true triumph in cooking. I cannot even remember the exact title of my meal (because that menu no longer exists, such as the constantly evolving offerings) but it was pork belly on some heavenly vegetable based delight and if I could have licked the plate I would have done it. Actually I think Giles insisted I do not embarrass him in the hipster world of Williamsburg and put the plate DOWN. Allswell that ends well as they say. True story.

Brand spankingly new, il Buco Alimentari & Vineria is a spin off of the classic il Buco on Bond Street. Situated on the short stretch of Great Jones Street, this quaint open plan kitchen is all about the authentic and delicious. We started with a plate of meat and it was one of those “shall I embarrass my friend” moments when the olive oil and bread came along. I almost had the bowl to my lips, to drink the final drops of olive oil, waste not want not after all, when I checked myself and remembered I was not at home, and nor was I alone. I should probably just sit still and wait for the main course. And so I did. And By Jove was it worth it. Homemade pasta, a smattering of braised goat and some vegetables to die for. Il buco alimentari & vineria, see you soon yes I will.

As I walked the few blocks from the subway to meet a buddy of mine, my phone buzzed as she had already arrived and was wondering where I was hiding. “Really sorry Beth, it is a lot posher than I remember. Typical Midtown”

Pretty sure “typical Midtown” is not a compliment so I was ready for a big hit on my debit card.

I would have taken the hit too. The food was outstanding. Luckily for us we were not keeled over with hunger and so decided to share a salad and then an entree. What a great service. They gave us our own plates, split right down the middle with the same level of pristine presentation as our neighbours.

Now it is hard to get overly gushing about a salad but if you can picture the scene. Two young friends, having not seen each other for several months, sit opposite one another in absolute silence. We later discussed the contents of the salad with awe as we had each been trying to work out every single ingredient so we could recreate this delightful combination at home. The dressing had a hint of spice and with the crunchy toasted nut variety and the mixture of tangy berries we were doomed from the start and therefore will have to return. Oh well.

The entree was also split right down the middle and with the Mexican slant on the flavours we were again moved to a hush as we marveled at our excellent selection. Pampano was spot on despite the overly pretentious setting.

After a brief excursion to Optical 88 to get my latest example of unnecessarily HUGE spectacles, I decided to wander further downtown into the belly of Chinatown to take away some authentic dinner at Joe’s Shanghai. Overwhelmed by the menu and basically lacking in any formal knowledge on the cuisine of China I stumbled through with a dish of egg fried rice and pork buns (see my obsession with pork in bun).

Regarded as one of the top spots in Chinatown for authenticity I fear I am not the best person to judge. I LOVE egg fried rice and enjoyed that immensely but the pork buns were possibly a little too bona fide and my palate was just not up to the job!

 

Balthazar for brunch. Eggs-travaganza. I had the Eggs Bella Donna and I would recommend every inch of it. The setting is French scruffy and that is exactly how I like to dine. Posh but a bit rough around the edges. Boy, am I pretentious.

If you happen to have a match at Streetsquash like I did then you may be lucky enough to find gems like Harlem Tavern on your wander home. Keen for grease and burger goodness after a round of sweaty squash competition, this was the perfect setting for a gorge. Amused by the live brass band and a varied menu of all things I am learning to crave in American cuisine, this was a wildly pleasant school night.

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