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

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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