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

My Favorite Toy Shop in Manhattan

I have been shopping for baby and toddler gifts at Dinosaur Hill, a magical toy shop, ever since we moved to NYC and I stumbled upon it in the East Village. I am not a parent yet and they make it so easy to find the best, age-appropriate gifts!

I love the range of classic gifts that I know from when I was little to newer items that any kid would love. It is a really special place and has been open since 1983, an eternity in this increasingly homogenous city.

Dinosaur Hill: 306 E. 9th Street between 2nd and 1st Avenue

 

The Little Owl is Still Perfect

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The Little Owl is still perfect! I've gone for brunch, lunch, and dinner (including my birthday dinner last year) over and over again - and it remains one of my top five favorites in all of New York. One of my brothers is here for six weeks from L.A. for work, and we met there today.

It. Is. Perfect. Tiny, cozy, homey, delicious, friendly, and one of the best corners in the city. Share the signature dish - meatball sliders on garlic buns - three to an order. It's one of the greatest bites you can have in the city. You can only get the whole wheat pancakes at brunch and they melt in your mouth as opposed to your normal doughy, heavy pancake.

Then wander the West Village - over to the Hudson River, on Bleecker, Hudson, and Christopher Streets - a Sunday that's hard to beat!

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Merry Christmas! Get Yourself This Burger

Minetta TavernMerry Christmas everyone! Are you snuggled up in pajamas on your couch? I hope so! I just got back from an incredible trip to Laos & Cambodia but I got sick at the very end of the trip. Picture massive Exorcist-style sickness (or actually, don't picture it) at a beautiful restaurant in Siem Riep in front of multiple diners and friends. Then I got awful chills and a 103 degree fever on my flight from Hong Kong to JFK and the worst jet lag to ever hit a human being when I got back. Basically, it was a terrible ending to a wonderful, adventurous, life-altering trip. It took me days to come out of that fog and I've been a giant sloth since I returned.

Which brings us to Christmas day - can we talk about how awesomely terrible Hallmark Christmas movies are? I've basically had them on rotation. Candace Cameron Bure (Full House!) plays the same character who hates Christmas as an uptight career woman but then is shown the magic of the holiday through a handsome man and a failing business, usually a resort. Neil Patrick Harris played an especially terrible role as a dejected doctor in "The Christmas Blessing."

Our roast turkey, two kinds of stuffing, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts & pancetta, homemade gravy & cranberry sauce are filling our place with the most mouthwatering smells. But there is other food on my brain. You have to go to Minetta Tavern. I had been to this still super hot spot in Greenwich Village before, but for some reason I didn't order the Black Label Burger. I was an idiot. You have to get this burger. It's been written about thousands of times and for good reason. It's $29 but when a burger is this good, you'd gladly pay triple that. Plus, perfect French fries on the side. If you can't get a dinner reservation, try brunch, which is what I do.

Black Label BurgerAfter I was so sick, I ate the entire plate of food and didn't care because I was so happy I was hungry again. And the inside is just so super cozy and perfect for New York City's wintry mix days.

Merry Christmas everyone!