If you hate having to sit through other peoples holiday photos, then look away now, because this is a total snap fest.
It's also a great guide if you're planning a trip to New York.
Chris and I are obsessive planners when it comes to travel. We know how to relax on lazy holidays, but if we're going somewhere with a lot see and do, those Excel spreadsheets, Tripadvisor reviews, custom google maps with a million pins, and full-on tick-able checklists are coming out. We'll also interrogate anyone we know who's been there to get any inside info, and we'll spend the entire airport transfer time questioning the cab driver. We're those people.
We went for my 40th birthday in March (I REALLY didn't want a party. Eating our way round New York sounded much more my style), and it's taken us this long to write up a blog post and edit the video. Travel videos are waaay harder to edit than a recipe video. I think Chris has probably spent a week straight on it, and we ended up with a video that was an hour long that he had to go back through and cut down.
You can check out the video at the bottom of the post where we delve further into the eateries we visited, where I tried (and failed) to eat pastries without covering myself in pastry creme, and where Chris tries to dislocate his jaw a few times trying to get the biggest bite possible.
Places to eat in New York:
One of our favourite places was Eataly - right outside the Flatiron building on fifth avenue. It was a recommendation from a friend (thanks Dougie!) and we loved wandering around the indoor market. We ate at Il Pastaio - which is a fresh pasta bar. They make the fresh pasta and cook the dishes right in front of you whilst you enjoy a (large) glass of wine. The pasta was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. We will be going back there next time we're in New York.
Chris had the beef prosciutto tagliatelle and had the carbonara with guanciale (both delish, mine won).
This place was full of character - like something from the set of Mad Men. It was a speakeasy back in the prohibition years and now, 80 years later it's a stylish restaurant with a glitzy cocktail bar, a meat-aging room and steaks that are cooked to perfection over hickory coals.
Oh my gosh I LOVED this place! They only sell tonkatsu ramen, and they do it SO well. The restaurant is set out as solo booths that run either side of the waiter's walkway. You order your ramen with personalisations (extra meat, extra spicy, extra noodles etc) via a form that you circle. Then the hatch in front of you opens up and your food and drinks are presented. Then the hatch is closed again for you to enjoy your food in complete privacy without needing to talk to anybody.
The introvert in me loved this idea, and the constant queue outside showed I'm not the only introvert in town. We went to the midtown restaurant, but there's one in Brooklyn too.
There are at least 6 Friedmans scattered around New York. We went to the Chelsea Market one for breakfast. I had buttermilk chicken served on a potato and scallion waffle with habanero honey. It was so delicious, and I liked that it was a little bit different from regular chicken and waffles. Chris had brioche french toast with berry compote and fresh berries. It was huge, delicious and he couldn't finish it (so I helped him).
With two stores on West 74th street (not far from the natural history museum), we went to Levain on a rainy Sunday morning to see if their chocolate chip walnut cookies lived up to the Instagram hype. And you know what? They were nice.
They weren't epic, but they were nice.
We got the obligatory melty choc chip pic:
A long, narrow restaurant on W 50th street, Don Antonio is run by two World-renowned Neapolitan pizza chefs, and sells over 60 pizza varieties. It's hugely popular, with glowing reviews from Lonely planet, Food Network, Michelin and New York magazine to name a few.
We couldn't agree on two pizza varieties, so we ordered 3!
- The SALSICCIA & FRIARIELLI (smoked buffalo mozzarella, tenderstem broccoli and sausage)
- The MONTANARA GENOVESE (a lightly fried pizza dough topped with cream of pork onions and parmigiano reggiano)
- and the KESTÉ (buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, arugula (rocket), gran cru pecorino and basil)
Even though I'm not a big pizza lover, I really enjoyed all of them. The smoked mozzarella and sausage was divine. The fried pizza tasted strangely like savoury donuts (but I liked it!) and the Keste pizza was delicious and fresh-tasting with the addition of the arugula (rocket).
There are two Laduree bakeries in New York - we went to the one on Madison avenue for my birthday breakfast. It's a pretty small but chic cafe with row upon row of beautiful Parisian pastries and macarons. Chris ordered us a table full of treats (vanilla millefeuille, macarons, canele, rose and rasperry saint-honore, and some kind of hazelnut creme-filled pastry) and we polished off the lot.
I tried to be posh, but basically ended up covered in crumbs and custard.
It was expensive but delightful. I've heard there's a Laduree in London, so I'll be testing out some more treats next time we're down there.
We also ate:
- Cheesecake from Juniors - very creamy, indulgent and delicious (see the video for this one).
- Snacks (shortrib sliders and pigs in blankets) from Bar 65 - Top of The Rock - we didn't get photos or video as it was very dark, but to be honest, this was my least favourite meal of the trip. Not amazing tasting, very overpriced and had to wait (standing at the bar) for ages for our table.
- Bacon cheeseburgers with duck fat caramelised onions from Trademark (restaurant attached to our hotel) - This was a last minute decision as we were tired and had had a long day, but the burgers blew us away! So juicy and tasty (see the video for this one).
- Cookies from Taste and Grind (attached to Trademark restaurant) at our hotel - SOOO delicious - served warm with white and dark chocolate chunks and a sprinkling of salt flakes (see the video for this one).
- We also did a food tour with Nice Guys tours where we visited 9 foodie hotspots on the lower east side (see the video). If you go to New York, we totally recommend doing this. Our tour guide - Dante - was brilliant! Funny, informative and a real food lover. We tried places and foods we wouldn't normally come across, and it was an afternoon well spent (my favourites were the knishes, pastrami and the dumplings). We visited:
- Yonah Schimmel (knishes)
- Russ & Daughters (rugelach)
- Katz’s Deli (pastrami)
- Economy Candy (lots of sweets - we bought pressies for the kids from here)
- Essex Street Market (oils and vinegars)
- Vanessa’s Dumplings (dumplings)
- The Pickle Guys (regular, strong and extra strong pickles)
- Kossar’s Bagel & Bialys (sweet and savoury bagels)
- Doughnut Plant (3 different doughnuts - the tres leches doughnut was to die for)
A few places we didn't manage to visit, but hope to try next time include:
- Spaghetti Incident - takeaway spaghetti served in cones!
- Chick'nCone - possibly a theme going with the cone thing here. The cone is an edible waffle and it's filled with crispy chicken. That's a big fat yes from me.
- Cote - Korean BBQ - you basically cook your own dinner at the grill on your table. Perhaps a little counter-intuitive to go to a restaurant where you have to do the cooking, but I really want to try it!
- Merchant House - outdoor eating, overlooking the Hudson river. It looks so pretty. Oh, and they also do mac'n cheese in cones.....
- Shalom Japan - a Jewish-Japanese fusion restuarant with some really interesting looking food. The matzoh ball ramen sounds awesome.
Things to do in New York:
We spent most of our time in search of food, but we also visited a few of the must-see tourist spots too.
Our hotel was literally a block away from the Empire State Building (the night time image below was taken from our hotel room), so it would have been wrong not to visit.
The views from the top were spectacular. Definitely worth a visit.
We made the mistake of booking online and paying for fast-track passes. We'd read on numerous forums that the lines can be 2 or 3 hours long. When we got there, there was barely any queue. So we felt a little stupid walking down the fast path walkways at the same pace as everyone else who had had the good sense to buy the cheaper, regular tickets. I think the fast-track would be worth it during high season, but it's a good idea to check first so you don't waste your money (at $69 each, they were almost double the price of regular tickets).
One of the busiest train stations in the world. With the beautiful architecture, lots of food kiosks and restaurants, and the never ending hustle and bustle, Grand Central station is a great place to just stop and watch the world go by.
You wouldn't believe how long it took me to get this shot of one of the doorways leading out of the station. I was trying to get a shot with the lights outside, but with no-one walking in and out of the doors. I was there a while!
Chris got this cool shot outside of the doors, under one of the bridges right outside Grand Central Station.
Ha ha I love this pic. We were waiting for the Natural History Museum to open, stood in a line, when it started to rain. No shelter, no umbrellas, and there was no way we were losing our place in the queue. So we just stood there and got very soggy.
The natural history museum was brilliant! We didn't really get any pics, as we were concentrating on drying off and taking everything in. I'd recommend it though. We'll be taking the kids there next time we go.
Central park was gorgeous! A lovely, huge park with a peaceful, happy vibe. You can get horse drawn carriage rides around the park, go ice skating, visit the Strawberry fields memorial, visit the zoo, or just wander around like we did. It's walking distance to the Natural History Museum (and also Levain bakery and Laduree bakery).
There was a busker playing inside Bethesda terrace (near the infamous 'Friends fountain - which is pictured above) who was just amazing! You can hear a little of his music in the video.
Awww aren't we cute.
Built on a historic freight train rail, the high line is a one-and-a-half mile long public park. It's basically a walkway with sun terraces, viewing decks, trees and fantastic views over NYC streets. One of the entrance points is near the entrance to Chelsea market (which is a lovely place to have a wander and a bite to eat).
Chris snowbathing on one of the high line sun terraces:
It was cold in March!
Chris couldn't wait to go to B&H - a world famous store for EVERYTHING photo and video. We're talking 70,000 square feet packed with over 10,000 pieces of equipment and accessories. The staff are super-helpful and you can try out anything you like (so if you're thinking of a new camera/lens combo, this is the place to get a feel for what you might want). This Canon lens was $13,000.
So no. We didn't buy it.
We did buy a new travel tripod and the new Canon EOS R camera though (we'll review it on Living the Blog at some point).
No words for this one. I might frame it though.
We couldn't go to New York without visiting the 9/11 memorial. An emotional, peaceful memorial that is a powerful tribute to that tragic day. I'm glad we visited and had time to take it in (we walked around the site, but didn't do the tour or museum this time).
Chris wanted to recreate those iconic pictures of the Empire State building through the arches of Manhatten bridge. This was taken on Washington Street (Dumbo, Brooklyn) at about 7am, before it got busy.
I was on duty looking out for cars, whilst Chris stood in the middle of the road to take pictures.....
We walked back from Dumbo over Brooklyn bridge, which had amazing views over Manhatten, as well as a far-away peak at the Statue of Liberty.
Flat Iron Building:
Yes, that is a fake sky. It was a cloudy day! One of NYC's most famous landmarks, this is one of those buildings that makes you do a double take.
We didn't go in it or anything, just took a few pics before going into Eataly for lots of lovely pasta.
Last pic! I can hear your sigh of relief. This was walking towards Time Square - the glow of the lights was pretty mesmerizing (and by the time you're in Times Square, it feels like midday - no matter what time of the night it is).
That's about it. We covered a lot of ground in 5 days, and it was one of the most memorable trips I've ever had.
I can't wait to go back!
Where we stayed:
We stayed at Hotel Le Soliel on 38W 36th street. It was a great location - close to everything, comfy, clean rooms, not too expensive. The restaurant and coffee bar attached to the hotel were also fantastic. I'll definitely be looking to book there again nest time we go to New York.
New York Food and Travel Video:
Have you been to New York?
What were your favourite places?
Any recommendations for next time we go?