A Stroll Down Bagel Row: First Avenue between 15th to 20th Street

There’s nothing like a good New York bagel. It’s so fresh that it doesn’t need to be toasted. Fun fact: It was commonly believed that the area’s water made the perfect bagel, but that’s a myth. It’s the technique that involves fermenting and flash boiling before baking the dough. I recently spent a few fulfilling, filling mornings comparing and contrasting the top bagel spots on First Avenue between 15th to 20th Streets. Read on at your own risk of carb-loading:
  • Tal Bagels: The most efficient. Self-service coffee. Quick bagel preparation. Not too fluffy, not too flat. Recommended – decadent lox spread with huge chunks of lox.
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  • Ess-a-Bagel: The 90-inch TV of bagels. Great for sharing or pigging out. Recommended – smoked whitefish salad.
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  • David’s Bagels: Fantastically fluffy. Recommended – egg and cheese.
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Gramercy Guide 2017

I recently moved to an apartment in Gramercy, a part of New York City known for its iconic park and residential buildings. The word Gramercy is derived from the French term “grand merci” or “big thanks.” Today, I give many thanks to those who run the impressive restaurants in the area.

When I joined the neighborhood, I knew that I would savor many meals, drinks and live music sets at Maialino and Rose Bar. Aside from my favorites at the Gramercy Park Hotel, I had much to explore.

This guide includes the places that I have enjoyed so far. If you find yourself hungry while east of Madison Avenue, between 14th to 23rd Streets, try one of these spots that made my list:

  • Cosme: Get their unique dishes, the uni tostada and corn husk meringue dessert. The duck carnitas – a signature course - cocktails, raw fish and lobster are also delightful. Ordering guacamole is frowned upon.

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  • TsuruTonTan: Why have just caviar or just uni on your fresh noodles, when you can have both? The epitome of too much goodness. Spicy tuna cones are tasty and also adorable. The Dassai 50 sake is sweet and balanced.

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  • Casa Mono: Michelin-star-awarded tapas served in a cozy joint. I recommend the razor clams and foie gras. Grab an after-dinner cocktail at the cozy, upscale Dear Irving across the street.

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  • Javelina: You won’t need to eat for a week after a meal at this Tex-Mex standout. Get the spicier queso, steak fajitas and puffy tacos. All pair well with a fresh margarita!

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  • Lantern: Tasty Thai food. The udon basil noodles are spectacularly spicy.

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Stay tuned for another post dedicated to bagels and coffee in the area. Au revoir for now.

Where to Take Your Mom on a Summer Friday

It was a sunny summer Friday, and my mom and I decided to take a trip to the Union Square Greenmarket. Beloved by foodies searching for the freshest ingredients for their next meal, the vendors offer produce and other items straight from local farms.

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The market has something for everyone. The stores sell, among many other products, organic fruits and vegetables, bread straight from the oven and homemade spirits.

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Hot Bread Kitchen has one of the most intriguing booths. This bakery, which has a storefront in Harlem, has a mission beyond baking delicious bread. It is known for creating breads representing various ethnicities. You can purchase challah, tortillas and Moroccan bread at the same location.

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Hot Bread Kitchen also works with low-income, immigrants and minority individuals with an interest in the food industry. The business teaches them about the culinary business and helps them further their careers.

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The market offers everything from different varieties of honey that were produced in a small apiary in the Finger Lakes region to small-batch spirits that were developed in an Orange County distillery.

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The Union Square Greenmarket is open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Stop by when you’re preparing your next meal or snack, or are planning for a night of “Netflix and cheese.”

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Navigating New Haven: What to Do Around Yale

The home of Yale University, the suburb/city of New Haven, Connecticut, is located only two hours outside Manhattan, which I didn’t realize before my boyfriend worked at the hospital. It may be the final stop on its line on the Metro North train, but it’s not too far for a weekend trip.

When visiting my boyfriend, I was surprised to find that there are enough places to keep yourself occupied – primarily involving eating – if you find yourself in town. All are within walking-distance from the central “quad,” so you can wheel yourself home after indulging in noteworthy waffles, pasta, pizza, ice cream and burgers. If you end up in New Haven, this is your guide:

Tarry Lodge: Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich are behind this delicious Italian eatery. It’s cozy and romantic. The pizza and pastas are top-notch. Finish your meal with olive oil ice cream with biscotti crumbs. Moreover, this resto offers Batali and Bastianich quality without the price tag. My boyfriend and I ordered all of the above and wine for under $100.

Louis’ Lunch: The menu is simple and includes burgers, potato salad, potato chips and pie. This is where the hamburger sandwich was invented at the turn of the 20th Century, and it’s prepared the same way in the same spot, which resembles a British pub. Don’t ask for ketchup. The Louis’ Lunch “experience is about the taste and simplicity of a fresh burger grilled to perfection.”

Prime16: For a robust menu of aptly-named burgers, fried pickles and salted caramel bacon popcorn, look no further than Prime 16. The portions are huge and easily shareable. My boyfriend ordered the “Cowboy” and I had the “Honey Truffle.” Cowboy: Ground beef patty topped with Wisconsin cheddar cheese, smoked Canadian bacon, fried egg and romaine lettuce, with a side of pico de gallo. Honey Truffle: Ground beef patty topped with Swiss cheese, smoked Applewood bacon, julienned honey truffle potato chips, romaine lettuce and oven roasted plum tomatoes. 

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Yale University Art Gallery: This was by far the most impressive small art gallery I’ve ever been to, and my mom who says that I (sometimes) wear too much makeup has taken me to countless small and large museums. It contains national and international paintings, drawings and sculptures ranging from ones that were created during B.C. times to modern works of art. The gallery houses paintings from famous artists, such as Roy Lichtenstein’s “Blam,” Andy Warhol’s “Eggs” and Van Gogh’s “Billard.” I was also excited to see art from Edouard Monet, Edgar Degas and Jackson Pollock.

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Bar: Amazing pizza and house beers on tap. They serve traditional pies, and some for the more adventurous, like mashed potato or clam. The space is sleek, modern and turns into a club after hours.

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Maison Mathis: Good for brunch. Whether you’re ordering eggs or waffles, you can’t go wrong. They serve Counter Culture coffee, high-quality beans you’ll see in select stores around the city.

Geronimo: Yummy quesadillas and guacamole. They have the largest selection of tequila on the east coast. There may be lines to get in on the weekends, so make a reservation in advance.

Ashley’s: Homemade ice cream. Unique flavors include Coffee with Oreo; Red, White and Blueberry (cherries, blueberries, and white chocolate chips mixed in sweet cream); Lemon Pie; Bourbon Brown Sugar.

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Yale University Campus: Don’t miss a stroll through the beautiful Hogwarts-esque campus. The last time my boyfriend and I were walking around, alumni were attending their 15th – 30th reunions. There were quite a few 30-, 40- and 50-somethings sporting the unofficial Yale uniform of blazers and pocket squares.

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Yale University Hospital: It has been named a top hospital by U.S. News & World Report and is the teaching hospital of the Yale School of Medicine. The children’s hospital has also been ranked among the best in the nation for five of its pediatric subspecialties. My boyfriend is finishing up his fellowship in the neurology department and, when he’s not seeing patients, works in a room with other neurologists called the “CAVE” (continuous audio-visual electroencephalography). In laymen terms, this is where they diagnose seizure disorders.

Tandoor: If you enjoy Indian food, swing by this diner for the all-you-can-eat buffet lunch, which is under $20. Try the rice ball dessert with pudding.

Zinc: This modern American restaurant uses ingredients from local farms. Highly recommend the duck nachos and scallops with red miso butter.

If, at the end of the day, you find yourself craving what you know, there’s always the option of dining at New Haven’s Shake Shack or Chipotle.

Park Avenue Restaurant Gets a Makeover

Restaurateur Michael Stillman recently re-opened his Park Avenue restaurant in Flatiron, on 26th and Park. The fine dining establishment is well known for its changing décor, menu and name each season. Right now, it’s Park Avenue Autumn.

The dining room is less formal than its previous incarnation on the Upper East Side. The expansive location boasts soaring ceilings and is currently decorated with fall foliage.

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The cuisine by chefs Zene Finn and Benkel O’Sullivan is contemporary American and incorporates popular fall ingredients. Cocktails feature spiced pear, pumpkin butter and nutmeg.

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I started off the meal with the toasted almond gnudi with spiced apricots and cauliflower. Gnudi is made from ricotta cheese and flour, rather than potatoes and flour – the main ingredients in gnocchi. Gnudi is “nude” – it’s what’s inside the ravioli without pasta on the outside.

The apricots and cheese made the dish sweet, the toasted almonds added crunch and the light orange apricots provided an autumnal burst of color against the white canvas of ricotta cheese and cauliflower on the plate.

I ordered the halibut with black truffles and brioche poached egg for my main course. Halibut is one of the most basic of the white fish, but this version is far from basic. When truffled and mixed with an egg, it’s gooey and flavorful.

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I also enjoyed the most surprising dish of the night, which was a broccoli and Cheetos side. Drenched in a velvety cheese sauce and unapologetically topped with whole Cheetos, this could be the best-tasting way to enjoy broccoli.

If we’re lucky, Doritos over Brussels sprouts will make its way into the winter menu.

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Murray Hill Gets A Michelin-Starred Restaurant

The Michelin Guide has just updated its rankings, and it created a bit of an uproar. Daniel, the eponymous restaurant from world-renowned chef Daniel Boulud, lost a star. While everyone’s talking about this controversy and what it means for the future of Mr. Boulud, I noticed something equally surprising about this year’s rankings.

There is a restaurant in Murray Hill that was awarded a Michelin star! When the restaurant business is arguably more competitive than ever, an area in Manhattan that is not remotely known for its cuisine has a critically acclaimed restaurant.

That being said, I certainly have my favorite eating destinations in the area. I would go to Cask Bar and Kitchen on any day for any meal. I have fallen in love with Chote Nawab for Indian food in Curry Hill. But, generally speaking, people don’t go to “fratty” Murray Hill for fine dining. They go for skee-ball at Brother Jimmy’s.

I was excited to try Juni, Shaun Hergatt’s upscale, Contemporary American restaurant that I had not previously heard of in Hotel Chandler, a hotel I had not previously heard of, on 31st and Madison. I ordered the four-course tasting menu, which was more than enough food to satisfy.

The four courses is more like ten courses, if you count the bite-sized tastes beautifully displayed, as though they belong in a museum, that they offer at the start of the meal. I particularly enjoyed the truffle squid ink ball. It’s crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.

I had olive bread, which was amazing. You are given a few choices of sauce with your bread. The saffron sauce is particularly noteworthy. It tastes like a complex aioli.

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The rabbit, halibut and chocolate sorbet were as beautifully presented as they were delicious. The meat was cooked perfectly – pink on the inside and brown on the outside. The vegetables came straight from the garden.

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The halibut was decorated with beautiful, purple flowers that popped on the plate and against the light fish and shrimp, and the sauce completed the dish.

For me, the star of the meal was the foie gras presented as a cherry comprised of cherry glaze and jelly, hazelnuts and coconut foam. All three ingredients made a sweet and savory spread for the brioche.

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The taste of the contrasting soft sorbet and crunchy oats made a memorable finale to a great meal.

As the name “Juni” or June implies, the food is served at the peak of its seasonality and freshness. The ingredients are provided by local farmers. The setting is very intimate, with only 12 tables. Hergatt creates the feel of an open kitchen by livestreaming the kitchen on flat screen TVs.

Juni may be located in Murray Hill, but it doesn’t have a Murray Hill dress code. You can come from your skee-ball, but you may have to change your clothes first.

Where To Get Challah for the Jewish New Year Based on Your Personality

Jews and even many non-Jews know one of the highlights of being a member of the “tribe” is the food. One of the staples at the dinner table on the Jewish Holidays is the bread, or challah. If you’re in New York and need to pick up a challah for your gathering, here are my picks for where to go depending on your personality. No matter which you choose, your host will think you’re a mensch (translation: person with admirable qualities)!

The Showstopper. You’re looking to bring an item that is unique and will be remembered for years to come. Head over to Bread’s Bakery (18 East 16th St.) for their festive challah which has seven different kinds of seeds and is sure to be the highlight of your dinner table. They also offer a marzipan challah.

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The Indecisive. If you can’t make up your mind, Moishe’s Bake Shop (115 2nd Ave.) is your next stop. This bakery offers seven different options from square to whole wheat to extra-large.

The Dependable. If you’re the person who likes to play it safe, you have a few different options for a delicious round challah. Check out Silver Moon Bakery (2740 Broadway), William Greenberg Desserts (1100Madison Ave.) or Amy’s Bread (multiple locations).

Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

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MTV Video Music Awards Inspired Cocktails

I’m not sure what could top last year’s rowdy performance from Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards – but I’m excited to find out.

Next Sunday, I’ll be watching while sipping specialty drinks for each song that’s nominated for Video of the Year, thanks to the models-turned-mixologists who helped me create the perfect do-it-yourself recipe for each themed cocktail.

Gregory Lucas, 30, and Parker Boase, 26, are the co-founders of a deliciously decadent company called Liquid Lab. This dynamic duo specializes in cocktail catering, classes and menu consulting.

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Photos throughout are courtesy of Liquid Lab

Lucas and Boase can also help you cut the calories in your cocktails, a bonus for anyone who’s planning to dress up as one of the artists this Halloween.

Which beverage will take home the Moonman? You decide.

The “Drunk In Love” – Intoxicating and sweet – like being in love. You won’t be able to keep your fingers off it!

3 strawberry slices

4 watermelon chunks

3 mint sprigs

2.0 oz. vodka

0.75 oz. fresh lime

0.75 simple syrup

Muddle the solid ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients including squeezed lime and shake. Pour. Garnish accordingly.

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The “Fancy” – Nothing screams “fancy” like champagne. Insert some gin for street cred.

3 slices of fresh cucumber

1.5 oz. gin

0.5 oz. fresh lemon

1.0 oz. elderflower liqueur

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Muddle the solid ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients including squeezed lemon and shake. Strain into a champagne flute and top with champagne. Garnish accordingly.

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The “Wrecking Ball” – This cocktail comes with no apologies. Strong, intrusive and somehow addictive. Maybe like your ex?

3 fresh cherries

1 egg white

2.0 oz. cognac

1.0 oz. fresh lemon

0.5 oz. simple syrup

Muddle the solid ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients including squeezed lemon and shake. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish accordingly.

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The “Happy” – Tequila, a key ingredient in this drink, is thought to be one of the only spirits that is not a depressant.

4 blackberries

2.0 oz. reposado tequila

1.0 oz fresh lime

1.0 oz. Contreau

Muddle the solid ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients including squeezed lime and shake. Strain over fresh ice. Garnish accordingly.

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The “Chandelier” – This cocktail embodies the juxtaposition of the elegant, yet tortured girl in this music video.

1.0 oz. vodka

1.0 oz. gin

1.0 oz. Lillet Blanc

2 drops of rosewater

Add the liquid ingredients. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a white flower and lemon twist.

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What’s Going Down: Where to Go After Work Below 19th Street

You just sent your last work email of the day.

Per this afternoon’s GMail chain with your friends, you have been tasked with choosing an after-work destination in Manhattan that fits the following criteria:

Ugh. I can’t be in Midtown for one minute longer. 

I had a late lunch. I’m not THAT hungry.

Let’s go somewhere fun with a good scene, that’s not difficult to get into. 

Time to head to one of these bars below 19th Street:

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Kingston Hall (149 Second Ave, East Village) – This place is about the details. As the name implies, it’s Jamaican-style, a breezy Caribbean-themed escape on a suitably humid summer’s evening or a welcome respite when the mercury in the thermometer dips. There’s an elevated section that’s lovely in good weather when the windows stay open. There’s also a pool table, if you’re feeling competitive. Decorative objects that contribute to the fun island ambiance include naughty monkeys, mermaids and a picture of a topless woman.

There are no TV screens here, so if you’re with a guy, his attention will be focused on you instead of “the game,” unless he’s understandably distracted by that picture.

Order the Drunken Coconut or Crabbie’s Ginger Beer. Be sure to ask April to spike that ginger beer with some rum. If you get hungry, have the jerk chicken wings. If you’re lucky, you’ll leave with a token that you can redeem for a complimentary drink.

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Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar (102 North End Ave, Battery Park) – Where else can you go for refreshments that include prosecco on tap plus popsicles in six different inspired flavor combinations? The frozen alcoholic treats are all equally delicious and perfect for Instagramming, when you want everyone to see how (literally) cool you are!

The bar is located atop the trendy Conrad Hotel in Battery Park and boasts correspondingly stunning views. Predictably, there’s a wave of people coming in between 5 and 7 p.m.  By 8, you can generally grab a seat. Whether you are strolling through the expansive hotel lobby or enjoying one of the tropical mixed drinks, you will feel as though you are already on vacation.

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Ulysses (95 Pearl St, Financial District) – Pop in for Irish-meets-All-American deliciousness. The bar food is fantastic and the beer selection epic. If you’re not that hungry (I’m looking at you, Ms. Late Lunch), try a Bronx Summer Pale Ale and some pretzel bites with a side of ranch.

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Ainsworth Park (111 East 18th St, Gramercy) – The after-work scene here is great, attracting a really fun crowd, especially during a game. If you’re in the mood to throw back beers and scream at a TV screen, you might as well do it in style. In between power flirting with some of the many awesome men who flock to this place, you can nibble truffle fries or chat with the bathroom attendant while re-applying your lip gloss. Classy.