It all started with a pretzel

This December I was lucky enough to visit the Big Apple for the first time ever. As well as watching Elf and Home Alone 2 in preparation for seeing the main tourist sights, I was also hugely excited to try the renowned gastronomical delights that everyone had recommended to me, and believe me, I had loads of recommendations!

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It all started with a post-Met, pre-Guggenheim pretzel. Recommended by TikiChris as a good on-the-go snack, I had my first run-in with a lary New Yorker. Maybe it was because I forgot to tip them for my $2 pretzel, what’s with that?! Ok, so a pretzel will hardly change someone’s life, but it’s quite a novel experience to sit outside the Gugg, overlooking Central Park, watching yellow cab after yellow cab whizz past.

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Next, having exhausted myself admiring a Balthus exhibition I received a recommendation from Rocky Casale to head down to Sezchuan Gourmet on 21W and 39th St. Despite the garish red paper lanterns their menu was really interesting and adventurous, with frog, jelly fish and thousand year old egg featuring in various forms. I opted for something a little safer – Sezchuan Pork Dumplings – which were absolutely gorgeous. The large dumplings were filled with garlic and ginger seasoned pork, and accompanied by a sweet, spicy, almost BBQ sauce. A really unexpected treat.

One of the things I had been most excited about trying was a ‘slice‘. As a pizza fiend, the prospect of grabbing a slice of melty pizza for a dollar is perfect, and something that London needs to introduce (maybe I should copywriter that idea right there!©). Although I have to admit that I wasn’t in my most coherent stage when we finally got a slice – and therefore have no pics – however I am fully converted to New York pizza. I’m not sure if it was a mixture of being on holiday and a little drunk, but it tasted better than any Dominoes I’ve ever had!

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I also had to check out Shake Shack in Grand Central whilst there. Having been one of the first to join the dreaded queue in London over the summer to try it out, I was surprised to see that in New York, despite having been open for years, the queues are just as big. I chose the Stack Shack – for comparison purposes of course – which consists of a cheese-filled battered mushroom and juicy steak burger, with all the trimmings! Burgers also taste extra-good in America. Fact.

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An established tradition in New York is ‘Brunch’. Anyone who’s been to or lived in new York will surely know about this, and it was one activity I was dying to experience. Brunch, you may say, is the same everywhere, but I assure you that it is taken to a whole new level in NYC. Basically you just drink…and drink. Who knew happy hour could be so good, or so early! I obviously opted for pancakes, bacon and maple syrup at some great diner in the Lower East. On my return home my friend Sophie alerted me to the fact that London is getting  first New York brunch destination, Jackson and Rye, where you’ll find me in the new year.

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Having spent four full-on days wondering round the city and visiting everywhere from Grand Central to The Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Centre Memorial, Lindsay (my host) and I wanted to end the trip in style. Having treated our poor, tired feet to a pedi we headed to China Town in search of a highly rated speakeasy – Attaboy, a Milk and Honey spin-off. Despite thinking we were definitely on the wrong street and nervously tapping on a very inconspicuous door (which I guess is the point…) we ended up in a fabulous, trendy bar. With no menu, the bartender quizzed us on our favourite flavours, then went away to create our perfect drinks and *wow* they were good. I had a lovely bourbon sour, served in beautiful vintage glassware. The crowd was young and obviously well-versed in the speakeasy scene, but we couldn’t help wondering how people heard about the place, after-all the crowd we’d seen moments before on the China Town streets didn’t really seem the type to track down a sour on a cold winter night.  Following our drinks we had every intention to visit Grand Harmony– a dim sum restaurant recommended by FrankJenk as somewhere to eat “every day”. What we didn’t take into account was that dim sum is mainly a morning food, so turning up there at 9pm didn’t quite work out for us. However – silver lining – on our way back to the subway we found an excellent ramen restaurant called Bassanova Ramen on Mott Street. There we ate steamed buns, dumplings and pork ramen. It was a brilliant find and one I’d definitely recommend to anyone in the area.

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New York is an exciting gastronomical hub, with such a huge variety of excellent, diverse cuisines. I feel like I only just scratched the surface, but with only five days, I definitely ate my fair share!

Now let the Christmas feasting begin!

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