New York, New York, where to start… Well firstly, a massive shootout to my sneaky mum, who surprised me with an impromptu trip to the Big Apple for my 21st birthday (follow me on instagram to see my reaction, there may have been some light weeping… @amygashman). Both my sister and I had been desperate to return purely to live out our foodie dreams, hunting down all the amazing restaurants we see circulating instagram. Previous trips revolved around sightseeing and shopping – but this time was going to be very different!
I had a week between finding out and actually going, so that meant a week of hardcore planning with Sophie – organising every meal for everyday so to make the most of our time in the Land of the Free. Although we were staying in Manhattan we didn’t want to restrict ourselves to just this area, so we planned days for Brooklyn and Chelsea as well.
Our hotel was right next door Grand Central Station and pretty much opposite an old favourite of ours, Pershing Square. On our first proper trip to NY, my mum took us there every morning for a good old fashioned American-style breakfast – pancakes bigger than my head, stacks of waffles, jumbo bagels, the works (!) – all before it became the trend it is now in the UK. Although we were keen to try as many new places as possible this time round, we felt more than obliged to return to Pershing at least once.
We ended up having breakfast there on the first day – queueing out the door for a table, that’s how you know it’s worth it; and another visit for an early dinner on our last day. What’s great about the menu here is that it truly does cater to everyone. Even though the trip was based entirely around our foodie needs, I went with the intention of not overdoing it (nobody wants to feel uncomfortable on holiday). So whilst my sister opted for blueberry pancakes drowned in maple syrup with a side of bacon, I went with the poached eggs on a bed of spinach, quinoa, and lentils – I thought I’d save my sweet tooth for some place new. It’s safe to say no one left disappointed! And there wasn’t even a huge amount of food envy because I enjoyed my eggs so much!
On top of the good food, the staff are always super cheerful and accommodating, making for a truly comfortable visit. This is definitely a pit stop worth making if you ever find yourself wondering down 42nd street. I’d also just like to add: on our previous visit, they had to shut the restaurant because they were filming the closing scene of Friends with Benefits in there – if it’s good enough for Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, it’s good enough for me!
Root & Bone
Having spent the first day shopping Manhattan dry, we planned to go for dinner downtown in a quaint little restaurant called Root & Bone. This was the pretty kooky kind: only a few tables, homely decor, and a real down south menu. We were lucky enough to steal someone’s reservation who hadn’t turned up (more fool you, this place is great), which saved us waiting a long while due to their popularity and intimate setting – so if you plan on visiting definitely try and book to avoid disappointment.
Now I shan’t lie and try and pass off their food as healthy in some distorted roundabout way. This place serves real comfort food, and in this instance, I mean deep fried, cheesy, gooey comfortness – not a superfood in sight. But boy was it more than worth it!!
We were guided by our lovely waiter as to how to approach the menu, he thoroughly recommended the fried chicken with a range of small plates. So we ordered half a fried chicken, cornbread, mac and cheese, and their “little local potato roots” all to put in the middle and share. If there’s one vibe I got from this place it was all about home comfort, sharing good food with good people – so I would definitely suggest the sharing approach to make the most of your eating experience. The food came and good lord I cannot explain to you the foodgasm!! Ooey-gooey melt in your mouth cornbread topped with a buttermilk whip, which until this day haunts me with its amazingness (been trying to find a copycat recipe everywhere but with no prevail); mac and cheese, a timely classic done expertly with a crunchy top to crack through; their “potato roots”, which turned out to be a variety of deep fried vegetables as an interesting twist on the French fry (equally as yummy, if not more so with the added bonus of a blue cheese dip); and finally the main attraction, the deep fried chicken with a crispy shell to encase its succulent insides cooked to perfection – really, what more could you want from a meal?
Southern comforts to match the southern hospitality of the staff, found right in the heart of the city.
On our second full day we trundled over to Brooklyn on the subway, where are brunch spot awaited us. We had pre-decided on Sweet Chick, who specialise in fried chicken and waffles……… I’ll let than sink in. Foolishly, in an effort to not over dose on fried chicken, I opted for their stack of pancakes served with a blueberry compote and maple pecans, and a side of bacon (obviously all drowned in maple syrup). I had completely forgotten the beauty of pancakes made from regular gluten-containing ingredients, and I shan’t lie the guilt was totally worth it, they were almost as good as my healthy version… The only complaint for my meal was the $5 side of bacon, which only consisted of about 3 rashers – but no big deal, I think my arteries were grateful. I did, however, suffer from the cursed food envy. My mother and sister somewhat more wise brunching decisions did leave me a little jealous. Mum ordered the fried chicken and waffle sandwich with a side of shoestring fries, and Sophie, the classic chicken and waffles. Now, I wouldn’t have
my mum down for a lover of waffles per say, but she wolfed down her meal like there was no tomorrow. Not a complaint in sight, or even an offer of a bite… Must have been good! Sophie, too, enjoyed a crispy waffle exterior and a moist centre, with fried chicken that apparently even rivalled that of the night before! Overall consensus: great waffles, great chicken, great brunch.
Roaming the bitterly cold streets of Brooklyn left us hungry for pizza, so come six o’clock, Sophie headed us in the direction of Motorino. Here they serve Neapolitan pizza fresh out of a huge wood fire oven. I have to admit not my favourite style of pizza, but they won me over with their innovative toppings and flavours. We ordered the Cremini Mushroom, Stracciatella, and Soppressata Piccante. Having not read the menu properly, we didn’t realise the first two would be tomato sauce-less but when they arrived I totally enjoyed all three – pizza is pizza at the end of the day!
On our final full day we headed down to Chelsea Market, which wasbrimming with cute bakeries, quaint restaurants and cafes, as well as amazing food stalls. I was in heaven! We brought back some goodies you can’t find here in the UK,including pumpkin spice cashew butter!! But before all this, we of course needed breakfast! So Sophie and I had decided on Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe, an Australian influenced coffee hub serving up some delicious healthy breakfasts.
After the previous two days of pigging out, we welcomed a yummy lighter menu that steered away from the American stodginess we had been indulging in – no pancakes in sight here! A couple of the items we would have loved to have tried included the buckwheat banana bread topped with ricotta, honey and walnuts and their morning bowl of brown rice, kale and other wholesome goodness. If only I could eat breakfast all day… What we did decide on was the hot coconut quinoa porridge for me, the brekkie board for Sophie, and baked bean eggs for mum. I’ll start with the negative, the option my mum chose was new on the menu and the chefs hadn’t been briefed on how to make it properly, so unfortunately what came was nothing short of awful. Dried up eggs with dried beans and a rock hard piece of toast, everything had just been baked to inedibility. Mum obviously told the staff and they were apologetic and explained the issue. They took that off the bill and Mum had a plain croissant instead, which she was more than happy with. However, mine and Sophie’s was absolutely delicious! Somebody needs to tell me how to make quinoa porridge correctly because last time I tried it tasted nothing like the warming bowl of yummy I had at this place! It had just enough of the coconut flavour, which was complimented by a dollop of almond butter and blueberry compote. A lovely home comfort away from home – and I have to say not many people can exceed my breakfasts (bar maybe my sister). Sophie’s combo of smashed avocado on toast, homemade granola with yoghurt and fruit, and a pumpkin fritter for side (which I ate…) also hit the spot, and meant that she didn’t have to commit to just one of the tempting options the menu offered. Overall, if we ignore the baked bean egg mishap, I would definitely recommend this quaint cafe: a refreshing change to the typical American breakfast.
After much wondering and a quick trip to Trader Joe’s (eep!), we hopped in a cab to The Little Owl for dinner. Tucked away discreetly on a residential road, The Little Owl is so much more that just good food. The atmosphere, the service and not forgetting its pretty exterior all contribute to a really lovely eating experience. The outside might look a little familiar… For avid Friends watchers this really is a gem of a restaurant!! I couldn’t contain myself when I found out this was the outside of Monica’s “apartment block”. Now whenever I watch an episode I’m on high alert for any quick passing shots of 90 Bedford Street, “I’ve been there!!! I’ve been there!!”
Anyway, this restaurant is tiny, seating roughly only about 10 tables, which means the staff are all extremely accommodating and helpful – making for the ideal intimate dining experience. We booked about a week before we planned to go, and the only reservation they had available was 5pm – they are super popular, so planning in advance is key here! For starter Sophie and I shared their infamous meatball sliders. OMG. The most succulent, moist meat doused in a delightful gravy served on mini brioche buns. Just literally divine. I had to ask the waiter what meat it was because I’d never tasted meat so soft and melt in the mouth – FYI it was a veal, pork, beef combo. We all ordered fish for our mains, which again did not disappoint, but for me the sliders really stole the show – so much so to the point that I can’t even exactly remember what my roasted cod came with (other than the brussel sprouts, my favourite). Coming in a close second to the yumminess of the starter was my chocolate fondant dessert with coffee ice cream, and I’m sure Sophie would agree that her cinnamon beignets served on a dollop of nutella with a raspberry coulis perfectly ended a scrumptious meal!