Eating Our Way Through Manhattan

As promised earlier in the week, here is my post on all of the INCREDIBLE food we ate at some of the best restaurants all around Manhattan. We decided this trip that we would pick the best restaurants there were in NYC (based on stars, ratings and word of mouth) that we’ve always wanted to go to and just do it! We were so glad that we did… even though some of the places were really expensive it was beyond worth it because the food was out of this world!! We were in town for a few days and I thought I had spaced out reservations pretty well but we had to end up canceling some reservations (brunch at Balthazar) because we quite literally didn’t have the time! The food is so inspired in the city, every bite so carefully planned that you really couldn’t believe anything that delicious really existed. This post will recap our favorites (and don’t forget to check out the post from our day of delicious eats at Geoffrey Zakarian’s The National) and I apologize ahead of time for the picture overload but this food was too good not to share!

The first night we were in Manhattan I wanted to take my husband to a place I knew he would absolutely love. I didn’t tell him where we were going (I didn’t want to ruin the surprise factor) so we hopped on the subway and headed towards 1st Avenue. We arrived upon Crif Hot Dogs and I descended the stairs inside all the while giggling at the confusion on my husbands face. I entered an old school phone booth to the left, dialed one on the pay phone and suddenly the wall to my left opened up into a legit speakeasy aptly called “Please Don’t Tell” . I had read all about it online and here’s all you need to know, call the day of (that’s the only time they’ll accept reservations) at 3pm on the dot and schedule yourself a reservation. They are usually done accepting them by 3:30 and if you come as a walk-in you’ll have to wait which ruins the surprise for any guests that don’t know what it is. We enjoyed they’re very intricate cocktails… I had the Paddington (Banks 5 island rum, Lillet Blanc, lemon and grapefruit juice, Bonne Maman orange marmalade and St. George absinthe) and my husband had Benton’s Old Fashioned (bacon infused Four Roses bourbon, grade B maple syrup and angostura bitters) and ate off their menu which came through the wall from Crif’s! We had the Torres Tots, the Wylie Dog and the Italian Dog.

I have been dying to eat at Jean-Georges forever. Aside from the fact that I love French cuisine, Jean-George Vongerichten’s recipes are perfection (remember my post on his Chocolate Cake?!) and I knew this would be an incredible meal. We decided to go there for lunch, as I had never been to Central Park and I wanted to be able to walk around there afterwards. Jean-Georges is located inside the Trump Towers right across from the opening of the park and it’s floor to ceiling windows give you the perfect back drop while enjoying your meal. We were escorted to a table situated inside a small nook to one side of the dining room. I loved that we were seated next to each other, tucked privately enough to make it romantic but facing the dining room so we had an amazing view of the restaurant. My favorite thing here? The custom chandelier by L’Observatoire International that spans almost the whole room!

The menu was set up for an Autumn tasting which included two plates each and then a choice of dessert plates. We were given a complimentary plate of amuse bouche which included diced fuji apples on a tapioca wafer, a shot of cherry- yuzu and salmon sashimi wrapped in paper-thin radish. For the first course I chose parsnip soup with a coconut cream, lime juice foam and a sprinkling of lime zest and fresh mint. The soup was velvety smooth and paired perfectly with the heavy coconut cream which was cut with the tartness from the lime juice. My husband ordered sesame crab toast with miso mustard, asian pear and shiso. A buttery and crisp piece of brioche was topped with the crab and a crackling layer of sesame seeds. The miso mustard was tangy and went really well with the heaviness of the dish. The asian pears were crisp, delicious and made even more fresh with the addition of the shiso (asian mint).

For the main course, I did something I have NEVER done at a restaurant… I ordered fish! I know this sounds ridiculous but I only recently started eating seafood and I only eat it at home when I’ve made it but this dish looked way to good not to try it. Steamed flounder with roasted pumpkin seeds, spaghetti squash and a soy-yuzu broth. This dish was all about aromatics… the smell of the yuzu broth mixing with the nuttiness of the pumpkin and sesame seeds just smelled like an autumn day. The ribbons of spaghetti squash soaked up the broth and the delicateness of the fish paired perfectly with the crunchy topping. My husband got a crispy confit of suckling pig with a rutabaga “pudding” and smoked bacon marmalade. The crispy pig skin that sat atop the buttery, fatty confit was my favorite part of his dish. The marmalade had a very bold, smoky flavor that balanced well with the rutabaga.

For dessert I chose the late harvest plate with was a green apple gelee, tatin compote, creme fraiche, compressed figs, fall spice, red wine reduction and cocoa pudding. The first part of this plate was my favorite thing we had the whole meal… a green apple gelee that was tart and smooth over a tatin compote and topped with creme fraiche. The sorbet was sweet and sour and the cocoa pudding with the compressed figs was so decadent I hardly let my husband taste it! He picked the caramel plate which was a salted caramel ice cream, a chocolate caramel tart, bananas foster and a black pepper creme caramel. They also served us a plate of petite fors, an assortment of truffles and hand cut marshmallows.

I was so thankful we had planned a stroll through Central Park after this meal because we sure needed it!

If you’re looking for another great place to have lunch head over to David Burke’s at Bloomingdales. I didn’t take pictures of this meal so I won’t go into too much detail but I will tell you what we ordered and that all of it was great. We both had the caesar salads for our first course, served with their famous popovers which were to-die-for. I got the penne with asparagus, ricotta and tomato sauce for the main course and my husband ordered the osso bucco. For dessert I got a cappuccino with their chocolate biscotti and my husband got the bread pudding. We came here as a quick stop after shopping before heading to the garment district and it was a perfect little spot to grab lunch!

One of the nights we were there we met up with one of my husband’s longtime friends and got a few beers at an Irish Pub while catching up before dinner. We let him choose our destination and he took us to the Neely’s BBQ Parlor. I took pictures at the meal but it was so dark that it’s not worth sharing pictures of the actual food, but I’ll post a picture of the inside which was beautiful. Our waitress was a blast, she chose most of the meal for us and everything was not only good but super big portions. We all shared the chicken wings and fried pickles and then ordered separately but ended up all eating from each other’s plates. The special that night was chicken and waffles (which I can never say no to) so that’s what I ordered. It came with three HUGE pieces of chicken atop the most delicious waffle I have ever had. Usually the waffle part of chicken and waffles is an afterthought but this was just as good as the crisp fried chicken that was so moist on the inside I couldn’t get over it. My husband got the Blue Ribbon roasted chicken and our friend for the memphis BBQ ribs with macaroni and cheese on the side. The meal was so filling and satisfying and when I went to the restroom at the end I discovered a huge Cigar Bar in the downstairs that my husband enjoyed.

When I heard that Ladurée was opening up a shop in NYC I was so excited I could hardly contain myself… I thought the only way I’d ever get to taste one of their world famous macarons was to go to Paris! We stopped into their Madison Avenue location and I was literally squealing as I snapped shots of the towers of macarons and stacks of insanely gorgeous boxes in the window. We got two different boxes and loaded them up with every flavor they had and also grabbed some of their dark chocolate bars and their bags. We took our loot and walked over to the park where we found a perfect patch of sunlit grass and sampled them. I thought I’d had some great macarons before but these were like nothing I’ve ever had! Our favorite was a seasonal flavor, the green apple, and the one I’d suggest you steer clear of was the strawberry candy (lol it was gross). These definitely lived up to the hype and even though we bought extras to bring back home with us I wish we would have gotten more!

I have saved the best for last in this post. I wanted to end our trip on the ultimate high note so I made a reservation at Daniel for the last night that we were in town. This is the kind of place that legends are made out of… no words I have to describe either the decor or the food would do it justice. The restaurant is named after French chef Daniel Boulud (who also happens to do a monthly recipe in Elle Decor magazine, remember the heirloom tomato and corn tart of his that I made?), has recieved three michelan stars (the highest rating) and known as one of the best restaurants in the world.  The outside of the restaurant is so unassuming that we barely noticed it a few nights before when we passed it while walking from the Neely’s to the Empire Hotel for a drink. Once you walk through the doors, however, there is nothing unassuming about the place. A long hallway lined with small cocktail tables leads the way to an absolutely breathtaking dining room. We were a bit early so we check our coats and got a cocktail in the bar that sits to the right of the entrance. As we sat had delicious, salty black olive grassini with a glass of Sancerre (me) and the New Yorker cocktail (my husband) we knew we were in for a treat.

When it was time for our reservation we were led into the main dining room and sat at a table smack dab in the center of the room. You know how I know this dining room is breathtakingly stunning? My husband couldn’t stop looking at it and the man who never takes pictures of anything was saying he wanted to take pictures of this! We started with the choice between five different breads… I chose the parmesan and my husband chose the black olive (although by the end of the night I think between the two of us we’d tried them all). We were served a complimentary amuse bouche that included salted cod with squash, a carrot and parsnip puree and snapper, then had a choice of two course and a dessert. For the first course I chose the off the autumn specials and got the Butternut Squash Velouté and my husband went for the bold choice of Fried Frog Legs with a Mushroom Fricassee. My velouté was insanely smooth (which is why the name translates to velvet)… creamy, rich, decadent and bursting with the nutty flavor from the squash. My husbands frog legs were so good I had to stop myself from asking him for more bites! Fried to crispy perfection and sandwiching a pile of greens and fricasseed mushrooms, we thought this was as good as it gets!

If it would even be humanly possible, our main course put our first courses to shame. I chose the Duo of Elysian Lamb and my husband couldn’t decide between the Duo of Beef and the Stuffed Grouse, our waiter told him he could have beef anywhere and to try the grouse if he liked gamier meats. My lamb was incredible… two perfectly cooked lamb chops nestling a roasted fennel and arugula salad, and confit ribs with a tarbais puree. The anise flavor of the fennel paired with the peppery taste of the arugula was a match-made-in-heaven for the chops and the ribs were glazed in a lusciously sweet fig balsamic glaze and the bean puree was brilliant. I love the tarbais bean in cassoulets and having pureed with the lamb was amazing. I didn’t care too much for my husbands meal, but he was swooning over it! The scottish grouse was stuffed with foie gras and served with black mission figs and spicy hazelnuts. He liked the contrast between the delicateness of the grouse and the heaviness of the foie gras and said it tasted a lot less gamey than he’d expected.

When the time came to order dessert I wasn’t sure if I could eat another bite, but I certainly did my best! I chose the fig plate and my husband chose the chocolate peanut butter plate. Mine came with a clafoutis, a lavender honey cream, roasted figs and a lemon sorbet. The clafoutis was incredible, the eggy flavor from the custard being cut with the deep flavor of black mission figs and a wafer of caramel on top. The cream was perfect on the pieces of roasted fig and don’t even get me started on the lemon sorbet!! It was the freshest, brightest, most boldly flavored thing I have ever tasted. My husbands plate came with a feuilletine (think fancy snickers bar), a carabe mousse, caramelized peanuts and a turron ice cream. The feuillentine was divine… the best peanut butter I have ever tasted sitting atop a cookie base coated in rich chocolate and chocolate curls it was the highlight of his plate. To the side was a nougat ice cream that had great floral notes from the honey followed by a nuttiness from the peanut and a sweetness from the sugar and chocolate. They also brought us complimentary petite fors and freshly baked madeleines which were insanely good.

We left after our nearly three hour dinner stuffed to the brim on our last night in town and said over and over, “you haven’t eaten until you’ve eaten in NYC”.