NYC for BBB

I finally had some time to sit down and tell you all about the awesome time Dave and I had in NYC a few weeks ago with some of our “Taglit Family”.  These are some of the amazing people we became friends with on our trip toIsrael.  We got to spend the entire weekend together, eating, drinking, laughing, and of course (the reason for our get together) dancing to the Israeli band Balkan Beat Box. 

Okay, I think I’m not really painting a clear picture of our weekend by pairing “eating” with lots of other things.  We ate EVERYTHING!  I think we actually ate something like seven meals on Saturday alone… ew?  MMM!  NYC is the best place to do it.  The eating extravaganza started once Dave and I arrived off of the bus around 3:30… starving.

We found the hotel we were staying at and soon after, pizza place nearby.  Waldy’s Wood Fired Pizza is a small but interesting pizza place, serving thin crust artisan pizzas with “Free Anchovies” and even a DIY fresh herb garden.  I loved that!  We split a small pizza with Pepperoni, Broccoli Rabe & Tomatoes.  The crust was cracker-thin and the pizza really hit the spot!

The menu at Waldy's

Loved the herb garden! Such a nice touch

Dave waiting patiently for me to stop taking pictures!

Our outstanding pizza... yum!

Next on the agenda was to meet up at our hotel for a bit, then head out to dinner nearby the concert venue.  There were seven of us total (Dave, another Dave, Eli, Donny, Nicole, Lauren, and myself) and Stand 4 Burgers was kind enough to accommodate us with one big table so we could sit together.  We didn’t even have to wait!  After noshing on some hand-cut fries, sweet potato fries, and mac and cheese, most of us ordered the “Hell Burger”, complete with wasabi, caramelized onions, Thai chilies & sweet chili sauce.  The burger itself was much better than your average burger but I was left wishing mine was hotter!

Fun to order mac and cheese 🙂

Sweet Po Fries were the best. So was the dipping sauce.

Hell Burger... doesn't look very hell-like on the outside, but wait until you see the middle!

Hell Burger!!!!! And Oh yes... they're all served with fried pickles

A single-patty "Bold Burger"... brioche, applewood smoked bacon, sautéed onions, american & cheddar cheese, pickle, tomato, chipotle sauce, fried egg

Donny's Mushroom Burger... Beef, sliced portobello, caramelized onions, lettuce, porcini sauce. The Porcini sauce was the best part of the entire meal. Heavenly.

After Stand 4, we headed on to our next destination, Eli’s parents house.  We had a few cocktails and chatted with his parents who I LOVED!  They are intelligent, funny, and so easy to talk to.  Now I see where Eli gets it from.  We had a toast on the roof of their place, overlooking the New York skyline.  Gorgeous.

AMAZING view!

Dave, Donny, Eli, and my Dave (Dahv)

Lauren and I enjoying the view

This happens to be the first time we're in NYC together and it didn't rain!

The apex of the night, our Balkan Beat Box concert was soon after, and it rocked.  They are pretty awesome.

Following the show, we hung out for a bit at a Hookah Bar & Lounge where we had some appetizers to munch on.  We also split a Mint-Choco Hookah… a flavor I’ve never had before… it was so good!  Very refreshing.  (the other) Dave and I had humongous cappuccinos, and if you’re interested, this is overpriced coffee drink #2 for me in NYC so far.

Hookah Bar

MMM giant caps

We split up, Donny, Dave and I headed back with a slice of pizza, and retired for the night.  Both boys were sleeping by the time I came out of the bathroom from brushing my teeth.  LOL.

Saturday couldn’t have been a more beautiful day.  Blue skies, warm temp, no wind… it was perfect for us to wonder the city.  Dave, Donny, and I spent the morning together.

perfect weather for a nice walk in the city

Our first stop… I felt like I died and went to heaven.  Have you ever heard of Mario Batali’s Eataly?  It is a HUGE Italian grocery store located at 200 5th Ave.

I. Love. This. Picture.

There are places to shop, drink wine, take cooking lessons, and of course eat.  They sell everything from fresh baked bread, meats, cheeses, pastries, pastas, and even homemade mozzarella… wow!  We spent about a half hour or so browsing before we decided on getting a sandwich for breakfast.  I felt like we were in Italy!  It was to die for.  MMM!

Eataly, the cheese section

homemade mozzarella

fresh meat!

Prosciutto, Sharp Prov., and the crustiest bread ever

We had a gorgeous walk through a park (during a playground naming ceremony… very exciting), and through the city which on accident brought us to a delicious Macaron and Coffee shop.  If you missed out on my first Macaron in NYC experience, you should now know how much I LOVE them!

Walking right to it by accident, we tried Maison du Macaron on West 23rd St.  I bought a box to go and the three of us had (#4) a coffee and a few Macarons to go along with it.  The Vanilla and the Caramel are two of my favorite flavors.  I also purchased Passion Fruit, Pistachio, Chocolate, Chocolate-Mango, Raspberry, Apricot-Champagne, and a few other interesting flavors.  MMM!  These Macarons (compared to those from Laduree) had a little more filling, making them my favorite so far.

I want them all!!!

So... so... yummy.

As if we didn’t shove our faces with enough food before lunch… AGAIN, we happened to stumble upon another NYC foodie staple:  Doughnut Plant.  OMG!  I was torn… I really shouldn’t eat a doughnut… but there was no line… and it’s just so famous!  Of course my foodie side won out and the three of us split a doughnut.  We went with the Pineapple flavor of the yeast variety (vs. getting a Cake or filled doughnut).  The cake was soft and spongy, and the glaze so sweet and packed with pineapple flavor.  YUM.

I loved the stuffed doughnut decor at The Doughnut Plant

Pineapple Doughnut mmm

Our next stop was to meet up with everyone else at the Museum of Natural History.  I had never been there, and we had so much fun!  You’re never too old to learn!

A few hours later, it was time for lunch.  ALL of us got gyros from the food cart outside of the museum.  We watched the guy make it fresh… mmm… it was so good!  Gotta love street meat.

extra hot sauce, please!

love

We had a few hours off, so we walked around, and checked into our new hotel (coffee #6).  The hotel had a beautiful view of the city.  After some much needed relaxation, the rest of the group met Dave, Lauren, and I at the hotel to listen to music and have a few drinks.

Donny’s brother had an in at Kibo, a modern Japanese and Sushi restaurant in the Village where Lindsey Lohan recently partied at making it impossible to get in.  Kibo was a pretty big restaurant, especially forNew York, but they were able to accommodate our party of 8 on time, which is a plus.

We ordered a punch bowl and some sake along with Edamame and Shishito Peppers for starters.  I had to try the Hamachi (Yellowtail) w/ Green Chile.  This is my favorite type of sashimi!  Kibo serves Robata, like what Dave and I had for V-Day at Pod… it is skewered meat or veggies over a 1000 degree open flame, cooked to perfection.  The table ordered the Branzino, Chicken Breast, Asparagus, and Eggplant Robata.  The chicken was to die for.  It was so juicy and the sauce was sweet and savory, my favorite combination.

These were sweet and crunchy!

The Daves and Lauren at dinner

Robby and Donny

Blue Steel! Eli and Nicole

huge punch bowl

delish hamachi

Chicken Robata w/ Honey Soy

eggplant robata w/ panko, miso mustard, togarashi

Branzino Robata w/ Ginger & Japanese Tartar

Lauren and I split the Spicy Pork Ramen w/ handmade noodles.  It was a little salty (but I love salty!!) but the broth was packed with flavor and the noodles were very fresh.  Another dish to mention was Dave’s Wok Seared Spicy Beef Udon.

Soupy ramen... mmmmmmmmm!

Spicy Beef Udon

After filling our bellies (again), we headed over to another Hookah Bar.  It was a very… interesting crowd and after being relocated a few times, we set up shop with our Coconut Hookah right next to the DJ!  The bar was pretty cool, the DJ played great dance music and they even had a bongo player.  I never thought I’d hear Deadmau5 music with a live bongo before!  Love it!

We were out until it was time to turn the clocks forward an hour, which it was then time for some drunk food (another gyro) and crashing back at the hotel.

Breakfast was good  but not memorable (coffee #7), then we spent the last couple hours together walking towards Times Square… getting more coffee (#8) … then finally our friends dropped us off at the bus (where I got to spend 3 hours finishing Book 2 of Hunger Games!!!!!!!!!!).

What a great weekend with some amazing food and even more amazing people!

NYC for Christmas

For a few years in a row when we were younger, my family (minus my Dad) and our best family friends (Laurie from LA’s family) would make a trip out to NYC.  We would eat at Carnegie Deli, shop in Times Square, play in FAO Schwartz, and see a Broadway show that we were given tickets to for Chanukah.  Since the tickets were our “big” Chanukah present, we would always end up going a few months after the holidays.  Knowing how many times I’ve been to New York, it is crazy to think that I’ve NEVER seen “the tree”, ice skating, or the Macy’s window displays.

In August, I saw a great deal on Travelzoo (the best website ever, join their Top 20 weekly mailing list… do it) for a funky hotel in Midtown for only $99.  I didn’t even research the hotel past checking the location and booked it, thinking that this could be my first time going to the city for Christmas!!

I took a half-day at work and Dave and I headed up via NJ Transit shortly after 1pm.  We arrived to the Ace Hotel on West 29th around 3pm and were shocked when we opened the lobby doors.  The place was packed.  It was dimly lit with large sofas all around.  People sat drinking coffee, chatting, or on their laptops.  WHOA.  This is not the type of place I was expecting when I booked a $99 room called the “cheap” room.  Dave explained to me that this is exactly what it’s like in a hostel… but much nicer.  It was like the Mecca to hipsters, almost everyone was in skinny jeans and a fedora hat.  Cool.  We were only more impressed with the place when we checked into our room.  The desk was covered in snacks and the minibar was full, in a locked door labeled “rations”.  Very clever.  We had sweatshirt material bathrobes, and a free standing bathtub equipped with a rain showerhead.  The bathroom mirror was even adorable.

Rations! The desk, TV, and Mini Fridge

"Love is meant to make us glad"

If I haven’t sold you yet, you have to check out our view of THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING.  I couldn’t believe this place was only $99.  What a steal.

Our view of the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING!!

After checking into hipster paradise, we took a nice walk down to Bareburger which was recommended to us by a few friends.  Bareburger is exactly what it sounds like… organic, grass-fed, free range, all-natural, yadda, yadda, yadda.  The service was fantastic, she was very knowledgeable and was able to give suggestions when I asked her.  We were starving so we decided to order the Assorted Pickles, French Fries, and our own burgers.

Bareburger

The Assorted Pickles came in four mason jars.  My favorite was the Spicy Sriracha-Habanero Crinkle Cut Pickle Chips.  It also came with Garlic Dill Pickle Chips, House-made Coleslaw, and Bubbie’s Bread and Butter Pickle Chips.  The Fresh Cut French Fries were to die for.  They were perfectly crispy on the outside but soft inside.  The fries were also served with THREE delicious dipping sauces:  Spicy Chipotle Mayo, Bareburger Special Sauce, and Curry Ketchup.  MMM!

Assorted Pickles

Not one, Not two, but THREE dipping sauces

The menu allowed you to pick your own meat and roll for the burger, choosing between beef, turkey, veggie, chicken, lamb, boar, elk, bison, and ostrich- all organic.  As tempted as I was to try one of the more interesting meats, I had to order a Bison Burger… I really like them and I never get to eat them!  I chose the Bison Big Blue Bacon Burger.  That’s a lot of B’s!  Everything was really tasty but the star of the meal for me was the fries, for sure.

My Bison Burger

After our late lunch, it was time to finally see the Christmas sights of NYC!  We walked through the city and arrived at The Tree just after the sun set.  It was a mob scene, but we made our way to take some pictures of it.  The size of the tree isn’t what was so impressive to me, but the fact that there were SO MANY lights was just unbelievable!  You could hardly see any part of the tree that wasn’t covered in the tiny rainbow bulbs.  After snapping a few photos, we left to walk past Macy’s and head back to the hotel.

Although I really hate things that are big when they should be small (and vice versa) .. I thought this was really pretty!

Lauren, our friend from our trip to Israel, took a train in and met us at the hotel just in time to share a bottle of Strawberry Champagne.  Our next stop was Whiskey Rebel for a drink before dinner.  Lauren and I ordered Margaritas, and Dave ordered well… Whiskey!!  Not too long after, it was time to head over to Blue Smoke for some BBQ!  I discovered this place after seeing their Homemade BBQ Potato Chips (video of the chips… mmm!) featured in an episode of “Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network.

Blue Smoke

Lauren and I waiting to eat at Blue Smoke

There was one item on the menu that all three of us wanted to get first:  Brisket Burnt Ends.  The Burnt Ends appetizer is what swayed us to order a few appetizers and split them, rather than getting a whole BBQ platter.  We just had to try those Burnt Ends!  Ceasar Salad, Hush Puppies w/ Jalepeno Marmalade, the Homemade BBQ Chips w/ Blue Cheese & Bacon Dip, and the Steamed Green Beans (we had to have something green on the table) were all on the list too.  We sipped on our drinks and the food came out really fast.  The burnt ends were to DIE FOR!  Once we each tried a piece, we realized that we had to order a second before it was too late.  The BBQ chips were really good but I thought the flavor was a little predictable.  It was very cool though, since they were fresh and still warm.  I thought the winner of this meal was a tie between the Brisket Burnt Ends & the Jalepeno Marmalade that came alongside the Hush Puppies.  I even dipped the Brisket in there!  The meal was awesome, and I really liked the atmosphere of this place.  I would definitely recommend it!

Here they are! The famous BBQ Chips

Blue Cheese & Bacon Dip for the Chips (and everything else!)

Hush Pups & Jalapeno Marmalade

Creamy Ceasar

Fresh & Crunchy String Beans

... last but not least ... BRISKET BURNT ENDS!

We spent the rest of the night out for Dave’s friend Adam’s birthday.  They wanted to go to a bar that looked like the inside of a cave or something you’d find on the Star Wars planet Tatooine.  It was fun but pretty mellow.  I always find it hard to go out on Fridays when I have work in the morning.

Tatooine, right?

Before we left on Saturday (Christmas Eve) we were able to make it out to Katz Deli for brunch.  I was totally craving Bagel & Lox which was a bad decision at Katz… but lucky for me Dave was smart and ordered a Pastrami on Rye which he couldn’t finish alone 🙂

Best Pastrami EVER

The Lox was just fair, I would never get it again at Katz! Stick with the Pastrami for sure.

There is never enough time in NYC to see and do everything!  I still have never been to the Empire State Building, but I am satisfied for now with that gorgeous view we had from our hotel room…  Until next trip!  Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!