28 April 2016

New York: Sweet Treats

It's unlikely that you'll ever go hungry in New York, but when you're in a city you might only get to visit once, you've just gotta keep eating – that's my motto, anyway. I'm a snacker, there's no denying it, and when I'm traveling I go all out and indulge like there's no tomorrow. If, like me, you like a sweet treat in between your three square meals, take note of the following and get yourself on a plane to NYC pronto. You can thank me later.

Levain Bakery - 167 West 74th Street 

If you're looking for the best cookies in the world, you can stop searching and head straight to Levain Bakery. You'll queue (but not for long) and besides, it's worth the wait. Another recommendation of Miho's, Levain Bakery was my favourite find in New York. 

For just $4 you get a big, fat, cakey cookie that'll make you wonder why you ever bothered with anything else. Mine was so big it lasted me three days, so go on an empty(ish) stomach. There are a few flavours to choose from, but I'd recommend the walnut & chocolate chip. Crisp on the outside, deliciously doughy on the inside, Levain Bakery know how to make a cookie (the best cookie).

Dough in City Kitchen, 700 8th Ave

Having read rave reviews about Dough, I had high hopes for their doughnuts, but I have to say, I've had better (The Big O Donut Co, for example). Having said that, I'd still happily chow down on one of these ginormous doughnuts because, well, doughnuts. 

Huge (like everything in America), Dough's offering is 'artisan' and very pleasing to the eye. They had an interesting array of flavours. like hibiscus and passionfruit, which was what I loved most. I went for the 'cafe au lait' thinking I'd be biting into a coffee flavoured doughnut. Wrong. I'd been tricked into eating America's version of coffee cake – something you eat with coffee. I learnt my lesson when I tried a bite of Jess' passionfruit doughnut. It was sharp and sweet with a sprinkling of chocolate nibs on the glaze – this was the good stuff. We had coffee hot and milky for Jess and black iced for me – the perfect pick-me-up to see us through an evening soaking up Times Square.

Milk Bar 251 East 13th Street

Milk is where I imagine all the cool kids in New York go. With their quirky flavours (cereal soft whip!), photo montages of dogs and down to earth staff, even the name of the place, Milk oozes creativity and love. I had a coffee milkshake and it was the most deliciously malty, buttery, beautiful drink I have ever had. 

Magnolia Bakery – multiple locations

I couldn't write this post – or visit New York – without a visit to the Magnolia Bakery. Made famous by Sex and the City, the Magnolia Bakery never fails to please. So good are their cupcakes that I had to go back and buy another.

Since my last visit in 2009 The Magnolia Bakery has whittled down the flavour options to just vanilla and chocolate, which is fine by me. I can say that these are, without a doubt, the best cupcakes in the world. From the springy flavour-filled sponge to the rich yet light and creamy, moreish frosting, it's like a dream you never want to end (so kill me for using the oldest cliche in the book, but honestly, it's true).

I'm trying to figure out what the secret is to these cupcakes, and all of the above, actually. Anyone know? 


19 April 2016

Best Brunch Spots in New York City

Everyone knows New York is famous for its breakfast. With pancakes, bagels and waffles on every street corner, it's the city for brunch. I visited this fantastic place in February for the second time and had the joy of sampling some of the best food of my life. Here are my favourite spots for breakfast and brunch in the city that never sleeps.

We were staying in the financial district – quieter than the more touristy areas but a really interesting part of the city, architecturally. On our first morning we headed down the road to Pearl's Diner – a classic New York diner. It was the kind you see in all the films and we ticked off every single cliche. We were greeted by the sweetest New York waitress – who had worked there her whole life, we decided – and she seated us in a booth at the back of the diner.

Maple syrup is a condiment as common as ketchup in America. The status quo is to pour it on everything, so, that's what we did. Jess had the lumberjack pancakes - strawberry pancakes, bacon and eggs, and I had blueberry pancakes with bacon. Both came with orange juice. Our waitress checked on us every so often and filled our coffee cups accordingly, and when we were stuffed full we got the check, which came to about $12 each. We were really pleased with Pearl Diner and despite it being a bit off the beaten track, would recommend it for an authentic, affordable New York breakfast.

Black Seed Bagel was a recommendation of Miho's – check out her review (and fantastic blog all round) here. Situated in the East Village, this place gave us some much needed fuel having risen extra early that morning to watch the sun rise on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Jess and I ate these in total silence; a sure sign that these were the best bagels we had ever eaten. The reason being – according to a guy we met in a bar on our first night – was that the quality of the water in New York is (arguably) better than anywhere else in the world. It's hard to believe until you're there, eating the best bagel of your life.

Black Seed had so many fillings to choose from, it could have been overwhelming had I not already decided on smoked salmon and cream cheese (Black Seed's variety included tomato, red onion and capers, too). There was also the question of choosing the bagel – there are eight types: plain, poppy, sesame, salt, rye, everythig, multigrain and multieverything. I chose everything and Jess had sesame. I could eat my way through Black Seed's menu and live happily ever after, if it weren't three and a half thousand miles away.

H&H bagels – available all over the city

On Monday morning we took a trip to Chelsea – a gorgeous part of the city I'd love to have spent more time exploring. Wandering around this leafy area got us very hungry, so we stopped at the nearest cafe we could find. I wish I'd made a note of the name of this place. It was teeny tiny and run by two Spanish men, but anyway, they served H&H bagels which we'd heard great things about.

Basking in the window-seat sun, we ate our bagels and drank our coffee. I had cream cheese and nutella in mine. I got some funny looks but it.was.delicious. Like a cheesecake for breakfast.

My next trip to New York will involve a lot more time spent in Brooklyn. One morning just wasn't enough. It was raining, cold and quiet on our last day, so we cosied up at The Park Bench Cafe & Creperie and admired the borough we knew from Gossip Girl.

I had the Challah French toast with banana, granola, almonds, maple syrup and whipped cream. Served with a good cup of black coffee, it was soft, fluffy and undoubtedly the best French toast I've ever had. What's the secret, NY? Why can't I have your delicious breakfast here in the UK?

What are your favourite spots for brunch in NYC? I'm already planning my next trip so let me know your recommendations - there's always room for more breakfast :)


8 April 2016

Easter Sunday Lunch at The Tavern - Cheltenham

I first reviewed The Tavern back in 2013 when What Naomi Wrote was just a few months old. What a treat it was to go back to this old favourite of mine, and why not write about a restaurant twice? We were in Cheltenham for my best friend's wedding(!) and the next day was Easter Sunday, so I booked us a table at The Tavern to help set us right after what was a very emotional day.

This restaurant is steeped in nostalgia for me, with memories of meals out in my final year of university and celebratory end-of-assignment breakfasts. There isn't much that tastes better than comforting, familiar food.

From the top: Three sliders - mackerel & cucumber, beef & red onion and ham hock and pea puree. Burnt end mash, shoe string fries, mac n cheese. I didn't try the sliders but everything else was comforting and delicious. The burnt end mash is essentially ridiculously creamy mash with herbs and little chunks of 'burnt' ends of beef - just total melt-in-the-melt indulgence. I love mac n cheese that resembles that American stuff you get in a packet - but of course tastes a million times better. Just out of shot was the fried chicken with tuscan salt and herb mayonnaise:

This was juicy, crispy fried chicken with a fantastic, vibrant green mayo for dipping. It reminded me of Bone Daddies' fried chicken - pretty good with ramen, pretty good on its own.

For puddly-wud I was so involved in what I ordered that I forgot to take a photo of my mum's and dad's, but they were all very good indeed. I went for the lemon meringue pie, expecting something like what I had in Bar Lobo, but what came was this: a lemon meringue pie made just for me - and still warm! The meringue was like nothing I'd ever tried before - soft and silky and slightly crisp on the top. The lemon filling could have been stronger but that's just my personal taste. Paired with a black coffee (in the prettiest cup and saucer) this was a fine dish to end a truly satisfying meal. 

The Tavern exceeded my existing expectations with even slicker service, some of the friendliest staff I've met in a long time and a chilled atmosphere. I caught the train back to Bristol with my tummy full and heart happy.

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