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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Fashion, Gardens, Tea! At Kensington Palace

I can't imagine a trip to London without a visit to Kensington Palace. Sure, I harbor a small fantasy of running into KP resident Kate Middleton and Lupo on one of their walks, hitting if off, and deciding to grab a cup of tea together. Nevertheless, there are some fabulous exhibitions, like Victoria Revealed, all about Queen Victoria's life and how she lived it after losing her beloved Albert, laying out his clothes every day until the day she died (I just realized they were first cousins. Ew. But perfectly acceptable in their day).

Dress of Queen Elizabeth IIThis summer, a new exhibit opened called Fashion Rules, showing off dresses from the collections of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret (her hard-partying, gal-about-town sister), and Princess Diana. While the exhibit is small, I always enjoy seeing dresses in person and marveling at the tiny waists and fashion evolutions. Really, Diana's red dress on display can only be described as in the style of a Christmas ornament.

Dresses of Princess DianaIf you have time before or after your visit to the palace, The Orangery at Kensington Palace is one of the best places for afternoon tea in London. Built by Queen Anne, the 18th-century Orangery was the setting for royal parties and today still has a beautiful white interior and bright light.

Path to the OrangeryOrangery

Dress from the collections of HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales
- See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/WhatsOn/FashionRules#sthash.gWB6HGcY.dpuf
Dress from the collections of HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales
- See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/WhatsOn/FashionRules#sthash.gWB6HGcY.dpuf

I also love Kensington Gardens, which is adjacent to Hyde Park. I stayed at the lovely Royal Garden Hotel, which allowed me to wake up early and stroll the gardens, pretending like I lived in London. Save time to sit in the Italian Gardens, with gorgeous fountains and sculptures.

Italian GardensSerpentine River, Kensington Gardens

Afternoon Tea: Bergdorf Goodman

I had a weekend of classic NYC moments: celebrity sightings (Mario Batali eating next to us at Rosemary's  in our neighborhood), a couple hours at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a visit to The Plaza Food Hall, a Broadway show (Nice Work If You Can Get It with Matthew Broderick & Kelli O'Hara - fun and frothy), and...afternoon tea at the 7th floor restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman, BG. It is divine in so many ways, starting with the Kelly Wearstler-designed space, followed by the tea sandwiches, scones, and mini treats.

Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula, Beverly Hills

I don't think anything can go wrong at afternoon tea. I'm not nearly as chic and civilized as the tradition is - but I definitely feel like I am when I partake. Last year, I traveled to India with a fabulous writer and we hadn't seen each other since saying good-bye at the airport. She lives in L.A. so we decided to meet at The Peninsula in Beverly Hills for tea. There was champagne, scones, tea sandwiches, a monogrammed napkin with my initial, and hours of catching up about new business projects and juicy gossip with a wonderful friend. The Peninsula is one of my favorite hotels in L.A. - one of the city's top suites is the Garden Suite with a newly redone 1,000 square foot outdoor area with comfy seating and a fire pit. I just hate leaving.

The outdoor area of the Garden Suite

 

Tea Time

I've been having a lot of afternoon tea here in England, one of my most favorite things to do.  And not a lot of sleep, no more than 5 hours a night since I got here.  I am convinced that if everyone took tea during the Valley of Fatigue, as my doctor called it, (3:30-5 p.m.), the world would be a happier place. The tea has helped me power through the days and take time to enjoy everything that I'm doing.  Often times, it's just one big giant whirlwind.  I rented a car on Saturday at Heathrow and have it till I leave. It's getting better but I'm taking it minute-by-minute on the roads. I miss London!

Afternoon Tea at Browns Hotel, London