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.)







My Dublin: Queen of Tarts

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I had one free day in Dublin before I met up with National Geographic photographer Catherine Karnow. And it was a doozy - pouring rain. I did the Hop On-Hop Off bus tour on the green bus, and on my 8th visit to the city, I was glad to  finally do it. It is the best overview of the city and if you get the right charming Irish guide, truly funny.

Afterwards, I had a few hours to kill. Sometimes the rain can be quite atmospheric and I wander around with a book in my bag that I want to read (and....sometimes spend more time on Instagram). I always dream of finding the perfect coffee and cake shop to crack open the book. Like a British chick lit book come alive.

You guys.

Queen of Tarts is that shop! There are two locations, a five-minute walk from one another. I love the newer one on Cows Lane. Everything is made fresh each morning and the vibe is just so relaxed and lovely. If you see the Queen of Tarts herself, Regina, say hi. She went to culinary school in New York and returned home to open her dream shop. After my first visit, I knew we had to shoot it and write about it for our National Geographic project.

Here is the final report - 10 great foodie spots - check it out if you're headed to Dublin. We worked so hard to come up with this list, visiting so many places and talking to a ton of locals. I am in love with every place on that list. And it's a mix of fancy and casual - includes an ice cream shop, a coffee shop and a wine bar.

Just order the carrot cake at Queen of Tarts. Trust me.

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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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Beverly Hills Juice Club

Mixed Green with Banana-MannaI've returned to Beverly Hills Juice Club three times on this trip alone. The juice trend is crazy and I jumped on board a long time ago. But this version is my favorite in all the world - because they turn it into something that tastes like dessert.

You can make any of their juices a BANANA-MANNA version. They will blend the juice with a frozen banana/almond concoction (you can also get frozen banana with sunflowers or cacao) to make it sweet, frothy, and icy. I love the Mixed Green or Big Ten juice for a great breakfast or the Apple Cinnamon or Apple Strawberry for an even sweeter treat.

I KNOW you will become addicted too! Everything's organic so you can feel especially great about your drink. Also, they've been around since 1975 so stepping in is a bit like stepping into 70's L.A. with the white tiles. I guess it's technically Beverly Hills but it feels more like Mid-Cities/West Hollywood - it's all super close.

Beverly Hills Juice Club: 8382 Beverly Blvd (cash only)

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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