Ordinary, Extraordinary New York City

Our apartment is slowly starting to fill with more STUFF than ever. Two cribs (regular and travel), a co-sleeper, a stroller that I wish I could just push around without a baby because I love it so much, clothes, baby books, accessories…and there is still so much more to come. But I’m also more allergic to stuff than ever, especially given that we live in a lovely but small Brooklyn apartment. (I still order way too many shoes.) It somehow still doesn’t even seem real that we’re having a baby. I feel her kick all the time, and hear her heartbeat, and we have one final scan next week, but…still doesn’t feel real. I am told this is normal.

I feel like I need to take advantage of every New York City moment before she gets here (and then I get to show her around!). We had this sort of ordinary weekend in NYC, a moment of calm before the chaos of the wedding next week and the baby. But, like most days in NYC, they still somehow feel really special.

I started out the weekend wedding dress shopping on the Upper East Side, and walking all the way down to the East Village to meet Alex. Because I will not be my skinniest ever on my wedding day, we went to Danny Meyer’s fast-casual pizza place, Martina, and then went to ChikaLicious Dessert Bar a couple blocks away. I have literally wanted to come here for ten years and it’s so worth it. The owner, Chika, is a former Wall Street banker, and she works with such grace and precision on these insanely delicious but light and airy desserts. There’s champagne with raspberry ice cubes, wine, coffee, and a general jazzy, fresh vibe. It’s been open since 2003, and now they have outposts all over Asia. But it still feels so perfectly New York. And get the “cheese cake” - it’s always on the menu, and it’s the perfect creamy, sweet, and tart balance.

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On Sunday, we met friends on the Upper West Side for a very early breakfast (their tradition that we crash every few months, at Cafe 82 on Broadway), and walked down to Meatpacking to check out the massive new Restoration Hardware complex in the old Pastis space. (I miss Pastis, the French fries, and the French-y vibe.) It’s impressive, with a ladies-who-lunch-feeling fifth-floor restaurant, a little coffee shop on the third floor, and huge pieces of furniture, all in shades of “fog” or “sand.” This isn’t where you come for bursts of color.

On the way down, we walked the entire High Line, from 34th and 12th Ave. Trudging through the rain, it was like watching an entire city transform, as Hudson Yards becomes built up with gleaming apartment buildings and offices above the train tracks, and installations like “The Vessel” come to life. Of course, there will also be a massive shopping complex, including NYC’s first Neiman Marcus. Where so much of New York feels crumbling and in need of repair, this part feels alive and new. And soon we were in Chelsea and Meatpacking, familiar old neighborhoods.

I hope for a few more weekends like this before baby girl arrives. (We can’t wait.)







A Magical East River Ferry

The Brooklyn waterfront looks worlds apart from when I first saw it many years ago.

The expansion of the East River Ferry this year is changing the area even more. We hopped on a few weeks ago, and absolutely loved it, quickly adding to the "must take all visitors" list. It's breathtaking and beats any Circle Line tour - and it's only a few bucks.

 The River Cafe under the Brooklyn Bridge.

The River Cafe under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Hop on at the DUMBO stop (after getting an almond croissant at Almondine, pizza at Juliana's, or fancy brunch at The River Cafe) and take it to 34th Street. You'll see a rapidly changing Brooklyn and Queens landscape. It's also quite fast, unlike the turtle-ing city tour boats.

Here's the East River ferry schedule and a great article from the New York Times on how the ferry is changing the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. 

 Long Island City, Queens.

Long Island City, Queens.

Once we got off at 34th Street, we wandered our way up to Central Park, which made for a pretty great cross-borough walking in NYC kind of day. Anyone else obsessed with their step count on the iPhone? I live for the 20,000+ steps kind of days. 

 The 34th Street stop.

The 34th Street stop.

 Central Park.

Central Park.

The first days of (city) summer

New York City in the summer can be challenging. The subways become sweltering saunas, the streets waft up a trashy stench. I got heat stroke a couple of weeks ago for the first time after hanging out in a Brooklyn beer garden for a few hours (I had one beer, more than my usual of zero, and tons of water). 

But I've been on some great NYC summer dates this year. The air has been breezy at night. I've spent time with people I love, really good friends. I saw a movie with my friend Dayna and then we decided to hit up Red Farm on the Upper West Side and walk the Brooklyn Bridge home. I walked up to William Greenberg on Madison for the best black and white cookies ever (it's something you have to eat in your life), then renewed my lapsed Met membership. I had dinner with my siblings at Beyoglu on the Upper East Side, with great outdoor seating, falafel, and hummus.  I went to a baby shower at Akwaaba B&B in historic Bed-Stuy and was blown away at how gorgeous the neighborhood was, an area I had never explored. 

Summer in the city will never be my favorite season (now, the Hudson Valley, Hamptons, Newport - that's a different story) - the buzzing air conditioner that makes my throat dry, the need to shower three times a day...

But somehow life feels all fleeting and short lately. And I love this city.

Best Bites: Chocolate Babka from Breads

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I had no idea what babka was before I wandered over to Breads Bakery on 16th Street to try one of the lastest must-try bites in NYC to be sweeping the food blogs. Babka is a traditional Israeli dessert, breakfast or coffee cake that is spectacularly loaded with butter and chunks of chocolate. It pulls apart like a croissant and you can't eat it without your hands becoming covered with chocolatey babka flakes (helped by licking your fingers of course).

Breads is owned by an Israeli who owns one of Tel Aviv's most popular bakeries, Lehamim, so I knew there was a good chance I'd like it. I loved eating our way through Israel last year and I LOVE the falafel at Taim, also Israeli-owned.

It's right off Union Square and it has actual seats you can sit down in (very unlike Union Square). Of course, they are usually all full.

But that's not why you come.

You come for the chocolate babka.

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And oh man. You'll return for the chocolate babka.

They don't sell it by the slice so you'll have to get a loaf. They pour a syrup over the bread when it comes out of the oven so there's a beautiful, caramelized crust on top. 

It freezes REALLY well so slice yourself a s̶m̶a̶l̶l̶ piggish portion and freeze the rest. Or bring it over for a dinner party and you'll be the most popular person there.

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The babka line-upP.S. - There's also GREAT serve yourself iced tea!

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A West Side Trek to Gotham West Market

When Gotham West Market opened a few months ago, I knew I had to get there soon. It has a lot of what I love about New York: great food and chefs, cool but under the radar location.

It's been referred to as a "food court" and with that, I picture Auntie Anne's soft pretzels, Chick-Fil-A, and the general scent of fried food in the air. This is no food court - it's a smorgasbord of incredible, many New York-centric, vendors, eight to be exact.

The Brooklyn KitchenYou'll want to browse at The Brooklyn Kitchen, an offshoot of their original store in Williamsburg. There are tons of made-in-Brooklyn items from pickles and peanut butter to salmon and cheese, but just tons of great products and a fun slate of cooking classes. 

Inside Brooklyn KitchenCourt Street Grocers, another Brooklyn implant, serves sandwiches. El Comado is fabulous for tapas from Chef Seamus Mullen, who does incredible tapas at one of my favorites, Tertulia in the West Village. And foodies are trekking here specifically for ramen from Ivan Ramen, his first opening in the U.S. (there are two in Japan).

It's an easy walk from Times Square on the far west side of Manhattan, technically in Hell's Kitchen. If you only have a limited time in New York, I'd skip it. But if you're on a return trip or interested in seeing what's new in NYC, it's definitely worth it!

Gotham West Market: 600 11th Avenue between 44th & 45th St