Best in the Big Apple

New York is a very special city for Zeke and I.

It’s where he took me to pick out the diamond for my engagement ring on the anniversary of our first date, February 7th, the year we got married. Ever the romantic, Zeke insisted on continuing to visit New York on that date. I have to admit, watching snowflakes fall amid the twinkling lights while we ate dinner at Tavern on the the Green was very romantic, as was walking in Central Park when flurries fluttered down.

But, after a couple times of freezing our tushies off, clomping around in the snow to get breakfast and once, being unable to fly home due to a blizzard, I told him that while I thought it was extremely romantic, it really wasn’t necessary. I’m a romantic too, but cold is cold and I’m a Miami girl at heart.

So, this year, after a two year break (thanks Covid!), we returned to The Big Apple, but this time in (slightly warmer) April. This was my Christmas gift from Zeke and when I saw that Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick were performing in Plaza Suite together for a limited time, I knew we had to go and see the play! We bought tickets, A.J helped me pick an outfit that channeled my inner Carrie Bradshaw and off we flew on Thursday, with the play that night.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

Even before we left for New York, we got news that Matthew Broderick tested positive for Covid, so wouldn’t be in the play, which was half of the reason we wanted to go, to see the actual married couple play a married couple onstage. Then, hours before the play (as I was getting dressed for our pre-play dinner) we got a text that Plaza Suite was cancelled for that night. Sarah Jessica Parker had tested positive as well. Apparently, New York City is a hotbed of Covid, the new, more contagious, subvariant version.

I took off my little black dress, sat on the couch and let myself be sad for a bit. Then I called to make sure I could get a refund (I did) and we went to dinner at the same Italian restaurant in Times Square where we had reservations, pre-play cancellation. It was ok, no place I would run back to, but white tablecloths, excellent service. But there were some places I would definitely return to when I go back to New York, so if you’re going any time in the near future, you might want to as well.

Best Drink- The Rum House 228 W. 74th Street

So, we got tickets to Six– a musical about Henry VIII six wives. We decided to check in early and get stamped before we got a drink but unfortunately, Zeke’s Covid card only showed the booster, not the shots before, so we were removed from the line to go talk to a manager. Stressful! Luckily, he was able to show the manager an email confirming his vaccination status, so we were fine. I told her we were going to go get a drink and she recommended The Rum House, for a an “Old School” place to get a drink.

It was cozy, not noisy inside and obviously, they specialize in rum drinks so I got an Old Havana.

Is it like a Mojito?

I asked the bartender.

He said it was, but better than a mojito, and he was right. It has light rum, champagne, lime juice, floral bitters and mint leaves, so like a Mojito but without simple syrup and with champagne instead of club soda. It was refreshing and delicious. I could have totally had another one, but we needed to go see Six, which by the way, was great!

Best Breakfast- French Roast 2340 Broadway

We went to go get bagels at a place Zeke found on Yelp, but it was packed and there was no place to sit down, so we ducked into a restaurant called French Roast, to sit down and have a proper breakfast. It was fortuitous, because shortly afterwards, it started pouring. I got the Quiche of the day- cheddar and bacon and Zeke got the French Toast. The coffee was good (one would hope so at a place called French Roast) and my quiche was creamy and flavorful, with a delicate crust and a little salad on the side, to make me feel healthy. Zeke’s French Toast was coated in cinnamon and came with a berry compote and maple syrup- delicious! After that, we were ready to face the rest of our day, rain or shine!

Best Lunch- Russian Tea Room 150 W. 57 Street

We were split on our best lunch, but I thought our lunch at the iconic The Russian Tea Room, was the best. First of all, it’s right down the street from Carnegie Hall and it looks exactly the same as it always has, at least from the scene in Tootsie from the ’80’s. Hunter green walls, red tufted booths, white tables that slide out for diners, gold-encrusted decor, bedazzled chandeliers and brass coffee urns all over. There were so many vodkas to choose from, I didn’t know where to start. Our server recommended a horseradish vodka, made in-house. It was served ice cold, tasted like horseradish and was quite smooth. It went well with our appetizer caviar. The Caviar Tasting came with three kinds of caviar- Salmon, Trout and Whitefish, served on large blinis with creme fraiche and chopped red onion. They were all delicious, but the trout was my favorite. We then ordered their two signature dishes- Chicken Kiev and Beef Stroganoff– for our entrees. My Chicken Kiev was a large piece of crusted chicken that burst with butter and herbs when I cut into it, served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Super juicy and delicious. The Beef Stroganoff was a deconstructed version, with fresh egg noodles, twirled around, with tasty mushrooms, a hint of truffle and a tender short rib accompanying it, on the side. By the way, The Russian Tea Room states on its website, it stands in allegiance with Ukraine and against the invasion by Russia.

Best Ethnic Lunch- Sala Thai 307 Amsterdam Avenue

This restaurant just happened to be by our hotel and I’m so glad we tried it as, it’s honestly, the best Thai food I’ve ever had. It’s a quiet and beautiful restaurant, with plastic sheets separating tables, leftover from the Pandemic, I guess. I got the Crispy Duck in Curry sauce with lychees, pineapple and coconut from the Winter Menu. The duck had a crispy skin, the curry a kick and the lychees and pineapple added a bit of sweetness to the dish. The coconut- thick slices of white meat, was a revelation. Not sweet, but with a meaty texture that was infused by the spicy curry. Zeke got the not-too-spicy Massaman Curry with Chicken and white rice. He ordered a German pilsner that went perfectly with the complex flavors of the dish. Other popular items here are the Crispy Spring Rolls, Pad Thai and Pad Se-Ew. Service was efficient and they bring the credit card thing to your table for easy payment. I will definitely note this in my New York Journal as a place to come back to on future visits.

Best Bagel- Bagel Talk 368 Amsterdam Avenue

I was starving after our flight to Newark, train ride to Penn Station and Uber ride to our hotel, so we asked the front desk person for a bagel recommendation. She recommended this place as a place to get homemade bagels with homemade spreads. I got a toasted Sesame Bagel with cream cheese; it was huge, with a ton of cream cheese and hit the spot. Zeke got the Nova Bagel with lox, cream cheese, tomato and onion and it was heaped full of nova and delicious. This unassuming neighborhood joint on the Upper West Side was filled with locals and they bake their bagels every hour to ensure freshness. A great first bite in New York City. I was so hungry, I forgot to take a photo!

Best Dessert- Babka from Zabar’s 2245 Broadway

I’d definitely heard of Zabar’s as a good place to get bagels, so we had to visit their store on Broadway. It’s a huge store that’s been around since 1934 and was founded by Louis Zabar, a Ukrainian immigrant. It’s a gourmet specialty store known for its smoked fish, cheeses, olives, caviar, coffee and kitchen goods (second floor). On the Saturday we visited it was packed, which kind of gave me the heebee geebees after avoiding crowds for two years. While watching Something’s Got to Give recently, Diane Keaton’s daughter walks in with a Zabar’s bag to bring a treat to Harry (Jack Nicholson). As they say on their website “New York is Zabars…. Zabars is New York.” There is a little food service pick-up spot next to the main store where you can get bagels, coffee, knishes, rugelach and other items. I decided to get two slices of Babka– one chocolate and one cinnamon. My plan was to save it for dessert after our play, but when I picked it up and it was warm, I had to try a bite, and then another and another. Let’s just say it was moist, sweet & delicious and there was nothing left for the after-the-play dessert. You can also get it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which would be heavenly! As Babs would say, it melts like buttah in the mouth!

It’s up to you New York, New York!

Frank Sinatra

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Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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