Posts Tagged ‘New York’

No restaurant food is worth waiting hours for, in my opinion. Especially hours  spent outdoors, in line, without a cocktail in hand!  But  to experience what Zagat’s calls the “best pizza in New York City,” I had to make a special exception to my rule and travel to Brooklyn, just beneath the Bridge, to the no-frills pizza joint called Grimaldi’s.

The nearly two hour wait for a table  — at 2:30 in the afternoon! — pumped up my expectations and fueled my appetite, and in the end the pizza did not disappoint.

The coal-fired brick oven produces a crisp, New York-style crust and smokey flavor. The crushed tomatoes are fresh and bright, dotted with slices of white mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves. Italian sausage and roasted red peppers the perfect toppings.

No fancy toppings or elaborate menu here.  Just the basic pizza pie done exceptionally well. And all for cash only.  Worth a trip back?  Probably not for me, given the lengthy wait; but I highly recommend it for the overall experience.


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And the winner is….. Billy’s Bakery !   Of all the cupcakes I tried during my year in New York City, Billy’s (184 Ninth Ave) are my favorite — particularly their fluffy coconut variety seen here. Their cake has the perfect balance of moisture and crumbliness. The inventive frostings and flavor combinations are rich and creamy but not cloyingly sweet.


As great as Billy’s cupcakes are, I always have to pick up a slice of the famous banana cake — two layers of moist, vanilla-banana cake separated by a layer of whipped cream cheese frosting, which also blankets the entire masterpiece.  It’s so tender and delicious!  My one criticism is that it could probably use some walnuts tossed in for good measure.



I’ve found that Billy’s is a great place to take a date for an after-dinner treat. (Hint, hint).  It’s just a downright warm, friendly place to hang out — and soak up the bakery smells! I also love the 1940s-style ambiance, which co-owners Marc & Wayne say is meant to evoke the “warm feeling of Grandma’s kitchen.”



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I’d always walked past it — in the bowels of New York’s Grand Central Terminal — but until recently, I never actually sat down to dine at Oyster Bar, one of the city’s landmark restaurants. Beneath vintage tile vaulted-arch ceilings, you can devour an impressive selection of regional oysters, Long Island clams, fresh Atlantic fish fillets, Maine lobsters or Maryland crab. The menu is updated daily.

The fried, whole-body Ipswich clams were incredible. Lightly dusted and crispy, with homemade tartar sauce on the side. The King Salmon fillet (below) was simply prepared, pan-seared to medium rare, and served with a side of fresh veggies and potatoes. I also enjoyed the fresh, flown-in Mahi Mahi with a soy ginger glaze. No frills here and no “saucy” concoctions to mask the freshness. Just downright delicious seafood.


If you can’t make it for dinner (and for the record, entrees here aren’t cheap), stop by for lunch on your way through Grand Central. The fried shrimp, clam and/or cod baskets with fries look like they’d be perfect for a midday seafood fix. Plus, you’ll get a taste of the city’s history when you’re at the table: the restaurant opened in 1913 with the station itself and has been serving ever since.


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Looking out on the Hudson River as the sun sets over New Jersey, it’s easy to forget the chaos of Manhattan and the stresses of a busy work week . Which is precisely why the 79th Street Boat Basin is one of my favorite places in NYC now that the weather is warmer.  Grab a table by the water or underneath the vaulted stone arches of the cafe and enjoy a cold pint of beer or a strawberry margarita. The food is decent — nothing to rave about — but it’s the ambiance that makes this place a gem.


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If America is a melting pot, Momofuku is its kitchen.  This hot spot in New York’s Lower East Side (East 13th Street and 2nd Avenue) serves fusion cuisine with an Asian flair.  The menu, which features seasonal regional ingredients,  has categories like “raw bar” and “country hams” — stuff you’d never find at your average Chinese, Japanese or Korean restaurant.

Momofuku has an interesting assortment of dishes, representing the ethnic crossovers that characterize New York City; definitely no pure, “authentic” Asian cuisine here. The pickles plate, above, for example is a play on Japanese oshinko, using local vegetables like baby bok choy, tomatillos, potatoe slices, cucumber, and turnips. Korean kimchee is also on the side.


The restaurant itself is a sleek, hip hall of hardwood tables and communal seating that flow into an open kitchen in the rear. You can watch as the chefs meticulously prepare each dish. One I highly recommend: the steamed buns with pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers and scallion (below).  Unbelieveably good.


Other plates to try… believe it or not, the $8 “Bread & Butter” is worth it, featuring fresh, soft sea-salt butter from Vermont and whipped lardo (bacon fat) on the side for schmearing.  The plate of sliced Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Ham — from Madisonville, TN — is tasty and unique.  The Satur Farm’s Snap Peas with mint, egg and XO was a bit too salty, but a creative preparation with Korean inspiration. And, the Santa Barbara Uni are to die for!  Super fresh sea urchin topped with celery, nori and a lemon juice-based cool broth. Incredible.


By far my favorite dish was one of the specials: grilled yellowfin tuna collar. Moist, flavorful, tender with a soy-miso-scallion dipping sauce on the side.


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A sign outside Westville East (173 Avenue A at 11th Street) lists the daily specials — fresh vegetables.  But the sign doesn’t do justice to the unique and tasty preparations of vegetables that make this and its sister restaurant New York City hot spots. The menu features select cuts of grilled fish and meats over organic mixed greens as well as dressed-up burgers, sandwiches and hot dogs. The best part about Westville, however, is its list of “Market” sides (or choose four and make a full plate!):

Lemon Grilled Asparagus; Beets with Goat cheese or Walnuts; Sauteed Broccoli with Roasted Peppers; Cauliflower Dijonaisse; Brussel Sprouts with Honey Dijon; Soy Glazed Green Beans; Green Beans with Almonds; Asian Style Bok Choy; Green Peas with Shallots and Bacon; Sweet Potato Fries; Sauteed Tofu with Spinach and Roasted Peppers; Roasted Zucchini with Cherry Tomatoes and Mozzarella cheese; Broccoli Rabe with Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan; Hearts of Palm Salad; Classic Collard Greens; Sauteed Kale with Shallots and White Wine; Artichoke Hearts with Parmesan; Mushrooms with Leeks and Herbs; Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes; Garlic Or Pesto Mashed Potatoes; Snowpeas with Sesame and Ginger; Grilled Fennel with Parmesan; Fried Plantains with Cotija cheese; Cucumber Dill Salad!!


In the picture at top, our market plate boasts grilled fennel with parmesan, lemon grilled asparagus, broccoli with garlic and roasted red peppers, and fresh peas with shallots and bacon.  None of the veggies were overcooked and all were incredibly fresh — including the homemade roasted red peppers. Westville is very reasonably priced and with it’s open windows/doors which spill out onto the street, it offers great ambiance for a date.


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With the abundance of cupcake bakeries in New York City, popular debate continues over who bakes and frosts the “best.”  Butter Lane Bakery (123 East Seventh Street in the East Village) claims it makes “the better cupcake.”  And, frankly, this fan of Magnolia cupcakes could argue Butter Lane is actually best.


Owned and operated by Pam Nelson — a former Wall Street banker and cousin of a good friend of mine from Atlanta — Butter Lane prides itself in its raw materials: organic dairy and flavorings.  They also create some unique flavors that break the city’s cupcake mold (figuratively speaking).  Flavors like peanut butter banana, espresso, coconut, blueberry, and key lime.  Who doesn’t like choices other than vanilla and chocolate, right?!


What makes Butter Lane cupcakes most distinctive is the consistency of the frosting. They make two types: American butter cream (butter and confectioners sugar) and French butter cream (butter, egg yolks, granular sugar). Again, yay for choices!  The American version is slightly sweeter, but both are much less sugary than Magnolia’s cupcake toppings.  The light, fluffy, whipped texture of the Butter Lane frosts make that first bite moist, gooey and flavorful — much more enjoyable than the overpowering, thick, shortening-based frostings you find atop others.


My favorite is the cupcake on the far left (with marshmellows):  banana bread cake with a light peanutbutter frosting!  To die for. Yum.

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