The New York State of Mind- Milk Bar

sign

image mercilessly stolen from the Instagram of jonboybarton. It’s ok for me to steal from him he has terrorised me for 35 years. 

What? Cake, ice-cream, cookies, pie, milkshakes.
Where? 251 East 13th St for review purposes, others across NYC and nationally
How much? Cookies starting at $2
Overall: 11/10

Let me just get this out of the way. OH MY GOOD HEAVENS THE ICE CREAM!!!!!!

Ok here we go- I saw a restaurant listed close to our NYC holiday digs with great reviews called Momofuku. I sniggered at the name because I’m childish, then I looked them up to see if they would be worth a visit. They went onto the definitely maybe list. Then google showed me a ‘related’ link depicting a cartoonishly bright birthday cake associated with an also closeby eatery. The Milk Bar- sister restaurant to the Momofuku dynasty serving kookily titled cakes, bakes, truffles, you know, all the good stuff. Intrigue as to the contents of a Compost Cookie drove me to more research, more sprinkles, and the life changing introduction of Cereal Milk as an ingredient.

Cereal Milk, I hear you cry, WTF do you mean?  Remember when you were nine and you ate all your cereal then you took a cheeky look around to see where the Mothership was before picking up your bowl and downing the sweet milk dregs that had been transformed whilst hosting your cornflakes?* That my friends is cereal milk and the evil genius house of Milk Bar take that unique flavour of childhood and turn it into soft serve icecream. That’s a Mr Whippy to those on this side of the Atlantic. I was enthralled, nigh on obsessed with this concept in the months rolling down to the trip and no matter how many painful rewrites of our scheduled time I went through there was always a clear spot left free to visit Milk Bar.
We almost made it on arrival night, skimming past on our way to a speakeasy themed bar in the East Village after first night dinner at the mightily Mighty Quinn’s BBQ. We were full of meat and beer and saw a queue of sorts outside the cutely understated neon Milk sign, so we thought a return at a less busy time may be in order. Ha. Flash forward to our last night, legs sore from a day speedwalking around many sights on the back of a Smith & Wollensky hangover. We went for pizza (another NYC box to tick) and the way home lead past 13th St so yeah, we’ll fit that Milk Bar visit in.
I say we didn’t really want to queue some nights before, despite this being the national sport of our Motherland. There has got to be something going on for a small, hole in the wall sized food outlet that has a 25 minute queue forming past 9 on a drizzly Sunday night in October. That many university students can’t be wrong when it comes to ice cream. We got in line.

Milk Bar, East Village, is a tucked away and unassuming premises that put me in mind of the cramped newsagents you find squeezed into unlikely sized slots in tube stations across London- a door, a few feet to the counter then the awkward shuffle out again apologising to all the waiting customers you have to bump past. Only much cleaner and more lighthearted because you get cake from it instead of a copy of the daily fail and an overpriced bottle of Evian. The chalkboard menu is mildly too trendy but balanced with blaring colours and wiggly writing leaving it just on the charming side of fun. Despite the many items on offer I had one thing in mind, as did most people there. One of the two-human team at the counter sat poised next to the soft serve machine with a fresh tub in hand at all times, ready for action. During our wait I would say maybe 2 people left infront of us without an icecream. Yes plenty of them also bought the technicolour cookies and truffles and crack pie but at the core it’s all about the soft serve.

milked

The Milk, The Myth, The Soft Serve Sensation.

So sixish bucks you get a little paper tub with a glorious fat wiggle of soft serve, expertly encrusted with your topping of choice- in our case the Cornflake Crunch (cereal bits pimped up with extra addictive sweet crunchiness). This is where my sophistication fails me because all I can say is that it is absolutely ****king awesome. Because it tastes exactly like your cheekily slurped cereal milk dregs, dressed up in a seaside style icecream with sticky crunchy bits. You have to grin.  You have to suck the top off immediately before realising your foodlust has just killed the photo you needed for this blogging. You have to lick the little melty bits off your fingers as you stumble homewards under the weight of your expanding belly with no need to apologise to your cold achey feet because if anything was ever worth the unnecesarry indulgence push- this was.

Sugar high childhood flashback aside, Milk Bar is also ‘king awesome as it felt to embody the summary of my experience of the East Village as a whole. It wasn’t too big, because rents around here are massive. It wasn’t too flashy, because flashy isn’t cool. When you have friendly staff serving a serious quality product you don’t need to shout about that because people will hear about it and come to you. I was naively amazed to later discover how many people knew about Milk Bar, how many said oh yeah you need to check them out. I’ve found their cookbook in high street shops in Colchester for the sake of all that is sacred how the hell did I go so long not knowing about this?!?!?!?! BTW friends and fam I’m currently barred from buying myself anymore cookbooks so if anyone comes across a copy around July……
So this post may not be news to you, but if it is and you are going to be near one of their multiple outlets, just go there. Line up and get an ice cream it is absolutely epic. Maybe also try some birthday cake truffles and tell me about them because they look like the sweet sprinkly work of the heavens too.

That’s almost enough from me on the subject, I’m off now to resume my letter writing campaign to convince them to open a Milk Bar a little closer to home. Like, my home, right outside on a street corner in Brightlingsea. I will keep them in business, diet or not.

Check out all the Milk Bar sights, sounds, locations and wares on their jolly website here.

 

*I should note here that I tended to throw most of my cereal milk over my front via a good dribble off my chin attempting this method as a child but the older male sibling was expert level at leftover milk chugging. It seems apt now looking back that we went here together, it was maybe more his homecoming than mine!

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The New York State Of Mind- Smith & Wollensky

 

bag

What: Steak and seafood
Where: Midtown Manhattan, 49th St & 3rd Ave
How much: All in with wine $150+ pp without tip
Overall: 9.9/10

There are many places my father has told me about many times with many details, which have been useful in creating mental pictures of places I am sure I will never go to. In a surprise turn, the previously mentioned 2015 NYC trip removed Smith & Wollensky from the Probably Never list. Now for a public record massive Thanks Pops for this experience, which we really wouldn’t have done without his provision of both air miles and a dinner kitty.

S&W NYC is the original Steak & Chophouse that has lead to many namesakes worldwide but should be noted as the only one still owned by creator Alan Stillman who sold the rest of the group some years ago. Before you ask, there is no Smith or Wollensky, unless you count the lines where a pin (allegedly) fell in the local phonebook when Stillman was naming the venture. S&W has stood in this midtown spot since 1977, a pleasingly short walk from Sir Harry’s Bar at the Waldorf where you might like to kick off your All American dining night with a Manhattan or 4. For the sake of posterity, I had a couple of gins but the point is we arrived well lubricated for a 9 o clock table on a Saturday night in the Big Apple, and I think it outdid our expectations on many fronts.

I, and I think many other non natives, consider two things when I think of American food and those are oversized portions of fried stuff and offensively large lumps of cooked animal. Smith & Wollenksy certainly caters to the latter point and expands upon it, in a marvelously shameless way.
Decor on entry is classic- wood and cream and metallic mounted award plaques about wine and meat and the like. You pass the lively, less ‘formal’, Wollensky’s Grill sprawling through a large bar room downstairs- on the list for a drop in should I find myself in town again. One is guided past this, upstairs to the main dining room- a pleasingly open space crammed with heavy linen and over shined cutlery. Your menu is presented in a dark wood, fully glazed picture frame and your service staff all wear spotless butcher’s aprons. You could be in any high end European restaurant of choice but for two things: The noise and the portions. If I hadn’t had a couple of drinks beforehand I might have found S&W a tad intimidating but in the mood, as it were, it was something of a revelation and a highly appropriate setting for our blow out meal of the trip- for it just felt all so perfectly New Yorky. Noisy, bright, a little tight on space but just that little bit bigger and better than you’ve had it anywhere else.

I should now issue you with Daddy Boomboom’s recommended menu at S&W which is:

Tomato Salad
New York Cut Steak with a side of fries and/or onion rings,
A ‘slice’ of apple pie if you are still able to breathe unaided at this point.

crab

Colossal Lump Crabmeat salad. Drooool.

If you had been able to see him at the point we were ordering some handful of thousands of miles away you may have noticed a dark shadow pass over his face at the disturbance in the force caused by his children going against his will. We started out going straight to the protein- possibly a mistake with hindsite but a learning experience worth the taking. The older male sibling went for the calamari, I took a Colossal Lump Crabmeat Salad. How do you turn down Colossal and Crab in the same menu description?  Flawlessly executed calamari and for my part a wonderfully fresh (big) dish of white crabmeat served simply with a lemon wedge and two pots of optional sauce, a garlicy one and a spicy one. Both would have easily made a dinner in themselves and were wonderfully complimented by a glass of American white as expertly selected by the OMS. Perfect. I hardly ever drink US wine, it might be time to revises this practice.

How do you follow that up? Obviously with a massive steak and some mac n cheese. Hindsite observation no 2- fries do a lot less damage to your stretched, soused stomach than a tub of cheese sauce smothered pasta will. A 24oz NY cut for the OMS and a slightly more modest 18oz sirloin for me. Medium rare, thank you very much with a bottle of Turley– approved by our waiter with a scrunchy faced nod and the simple confirmation of ‘Nice’.

steak

Your sirloin, sir. That’s a pretty big plate too.

I will take a moment to mention the service- I’m not sure our sommelier actually had the powers of conventional speech  however our main waiter was a bloody gem. Friendly and smiley with a booming, textbook rough New Yoik accent, forthcoming with the recommendations. He also didn’t make me feel like a total pratt when I asked what a Littleneck Clam was vs a normal clam. It’s a place if you’re interested. Littleneck is a place. Anyhoo, he was lovely and maybe yes something of a stereotype playing it up for the tourists but if he did, even better. He made his money that night. He also offered us the well needed hand of restraint when I opened my mouth to ask for a second side after the mac n cheese order. Never before has a waiter told me ‘Nah, that’ll be enough’. Sadly he seemed to lose this power when it came to a seriously ill advised dessert request. But before that, there was the steak. There was a plate, with a big old steak on it and that was all.

And what a steak.

I think I’ve said before that I don’t do well at the proper flowery foodie terms. I can tell you, as a confessed happy carnivore, that this was an amazing steak. I will admit to suspecting from the blackening outside that it was going to be overdone but after a breath holding second all fears laid aside as my knife pretty much fell through it to reveal a perfectly pink, butter-soft piece of beef. It didn’t need anything else on the plate, it was perfect. Perfect and oh so very terrible because with an 18oz bit of meat like that, you have to eat the whole bloody thing even though you know you’re full and you can’t stop until that plate is empty but for an artistically pink grease smear and you are soaking your new frock in Tribiani meat sweats. Oof.

Ah but what a steak! The (also dinner sized) mac n cheese was pretty awesome also, though I didn’t partake in too much of that. On to dessert, that I knew I didn’t want and wasn’t going to eat. Unfortunately one minor sentiment of encouragement from our waiter resulted in ‘not for me thanks’ turning into ‘I’ll try the carrot cake’. OMS had pecan pie, or something similarly suicidal. The dessert was, unfortunately, the defining moment in which this meal tipped the balance of ‘amusingly huge’ over to ‘downright intimidating’.

cake

Carrot Cake, with hand of six foot man for size reference.

For the first time in my life, the presentation of a slice of cake was a thing of depression. It was enormous and there was no way I could eat it and I think my face told this story as I was quickly informed that I could take it to go if I preferred. I managed perhaps two bites and yes, it was fantastic spicy soft carrot cake with wonderfully sharp creamy frosting. I did indeed break my doggy bag virginity and continue to enjoy a few bites of it for a sneak breakfast the next morning and as a comfort food to aid packing on Sunday night. And after that I still left about a third of it in the fridge for the cleaners. Herein lies the great culture shock between the Euros and our trans-atlantic cousins: The Doggy Bag. We don’t take our restaurants home with us here, and to be honest I prefer that. I would have rather a smaller dessert I could have a decent bash at than to take home my Godzilla Cake and carry on considering my defeat/gluttony for the next three days. It was an amazing meal and I can’t fault any of the food but for me part of a posh Saturday dinner is having space for a cheeky martini afterwards. This was certainly not the case after S&W. Taxi!!!!

sandwI should quickly add that S&W certainly isn’t ‘posh’ in the traditional sense, it is gloriously laid back and comfortable without any of the snoots and graces you are likely to come across in many restaurants where £100 a person is considered a cheap table. No snoots, no posh, no sneers at Smith and Wollensky it was just fun, welcoming and familial. If you have the kind of family who like to eat themselves to the edge of consciousness and wash it down with a heavy red, which I obviously do.

So why not 10/10? The food was brilliant, the steak was expert, the wine was great and the service was exceptional. Quite simply they lost 0.1 points for the portions, the belly slaying gargantuan portions. So if you find yourself in Midtown* and you enjoy seafood and steak then treat yourself and let yourself go at the same time at Smith & Wollenskys. But maybe consider starting with a salad. Maybe.

 

 

*when I say ‘find yourself’ I actually mean book well in advance to avoid disappointment, especially at the weekend

 

The New York State of Mind- Balade

Photo from baladerestaurants.com

Photo from baladerestaurants.com

What- Traditional and modern Lebanese/Eastern Mediterranean/Mezze

Where- 208 1st Ave, between 12th & 13th Street

How much- Mezze & wine for two $100 incl service

Overall- 9/10

Once upon a time a girl from Essex became mildly obsessed with fattoush- a simple zingy middle eastern salad she learned from a Gizzie Erskine book. This same girl got to thinking that it might be worth a bash at finding some good mezze on her upcoming trip to New York, though with some anxiety at how the Older Male Sibling would be coerced into this. He was fine with it, which ends any further great dramatic developments in the tale of how we came to have a Friday night dinner at Balade. As with many stops on our whistlestop NYC tour, Balade came up from a quick google of ‘best lebanese in NYC’, a further review in Time Out added foodie promise to the handy location close to the Grammercy Theater where we were spending the early half of the evening.

I’m going to take a moment here to confirm the rumours that yes, we queued up in the rain with a million teenage girls with long bangs to attend a snippet of The New Yorker Festival that involved an incredibly entertaining interview with Lady band Haim. They sang some songs too. It was really good. Yes, Haim. They are an actual band, being young and trendy doesn’t make them shit and I shall stand no more of your mockery about this!

So we booked a table online and turned up around 9- my first tip is to book directly with the restaurant, don’t rely on open table or similar third parties as they had absolutely no idea we were coming. Before you get to the food you see how Balade has won a couple of Diner’s choice and similar city based awards recently. On a Friday night it was standing room only (not even standing room for the four lads who arrived shortly after us and happily hung out in the hall to wait for a table). One thing that always bodes well for any restaurant is when it is jammed to the rafters with happy and diverse punters. You can take your kids, your wife or your work buddies to Balade, the menu will work for them.

It is a comfy but certainly not casual setting, with regional artworks and wooden pieces on the walls which gave half the impression of being in an ancient history temple set up in a log cabin. In a good way. I wont pretend to be thrilled about waiting around half an hour for a pre-booked table in an awkward space by the door but the general buzz, eye catching decor and complimentary glass of red for our troubles made it ok. I would no doubt tell a different story about the wait if the memory wasn’t now deeply ensconced with some exceptionally good food. I must apologise for lack of photographics due to some unknown damage to my SD card which left me with one fattoush shot and a load of corrupt files. We went for a mezze set up in the end, though nosing at the activity on other tables showed that the large plate options looked pretty special too.

Fattoush- a simple salad perfectly executed- lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, sumac, fried pitta. Superb. Regionally correct wine in the background.

Fattoush- a simple salad perfectly executed- lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, sumac, fried pitta. Superb. Regionally correct wine and labne in the background.

So the fattoush, well, I wont go on. I love fattoush, and this was done exactly as it should be. Hooray for fattoush. The baba ghanouj was also excellent- incredibly smoky. The last of the pitta servings went on scooping up big dollops of Labne. Labne was a new one on me, with my initial vote for halloumi over ruled by the older male sibling. It is somewhere between a Greek yoghurt and a cream cheese in consistency, tart but creamy and in this case covered in minced garlic and black pepper with a swish of olive oil. Fabulously satisfying with that not quite sour tang that lets you kid yourself this is healthy dairy, rather than cheese that you are filling your face with. Top notch, you can frame this one Jon: You Were Right.
I will mention now an alarmingly drinkable bottle of Chateau Ksara- Lebanese red being another first for me. Also selected by him. Ye gods he was right again! Reds fall into three categories for me: Fruity smooth ones that go down like Ribena; hefty old french ones that my Dad buys; and ones I don’t like. The Ksara was of the first kind, the dangerous kind, and it goes really nicely with a tub of Labne. Kebbe Kras (buckwheat and beef fritters) got points also and the opportunity to have chicken wings two nights in a row had to be seized. It broke my heart slightly that the waiter did a double take on the chicken wings to explain that they might not be what we expected. They were fantastic: marinated and char grilled, served slightly blackened with a hot sauce and pant-kickingly pungent garlic dipping sauce- beautiful. I thoroughly chastise anyone who has gone there in the past and moaned about them enough to prompt our order warning. There is life beyond Southern Fried, people!
So yes, the food is very good and yes, we ordered far too much of it. Although somewhat harassed, the service was good also, mind blowingly so in the case of a fantastically rude young female at the table next to us who set new levels in Talking To Staff Like They Are Mildly Retard Criminals Who Owe You A Living. My second tip for eating at Balade- take claustrophobics elsewhere this is a very ‘social’ restaurant without much space between tables and if someone is being a snotty princess nearby you’re going to hear it.

Balade was a good call. Eating Labne was a good call. Lebanese wine was a really good call and I’m not sad for listening to Haim.

click here for website, full menu, delivery etc.

The New York State of Mind- Mighty Quinn’s BBQ

mqs outside

image from everplaces

What: Modern BBQ- ribs, brisket, wings, burnt ends.
Where: Many locations across Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jersey. We went East Village, 2nd Ave and East 6th St
How Much: $20ish pp for meat, side and drink
Overall: 10/10 for a quick, tasty dinner

Oh. My. Goodness.
Mighty Quinn’s was an early hit on my search list for where to eat in the East Village, convenient to our digs but I have to say it still would have been well worth the trip from further across town.
I’ve gone on previously about the BBQ trend in the UK at the moment and how easily and frequently wrong it goes. People trying to run a city based BBQ trend eatery need to go to Mighty Quinn’s, because this is how you do it.
The typical traits of such places are all there- no reservations, no table service, clunky furniture designed to look like there has been little care it its design, you know the type. But in a new twist you can’t even take a seat in MQ’s until you’ve got your dinner, as we were told in slightly tired terms by a nice chap who was cleaning but certainly not serving the tables. We later exchanged brief words about the upcoming Justice League movie and possibilities of Ben Affleck totally cocking up Batman. Extra points for friendly (if Affleck deluded) staff too.
So you don’t sit down, which is potentially irritating but not the end of the world. Instead you join the queue at one end of the wooden floorboarded space and shuffle expectantly up to the grills to see the staff at their craft up close and personal, all the while drowning in a meaty dream haze of sizzling smells that suddenly render it impossible to select your choice of dinner from a relatively short menu. You get a few meat choices (which you can buy per person or just by the pound), naked or in bread, then a few more sides and sort of salads. I had thankfully already decided before going that I wanted burnt ends. Which they had sold out of by 9 on a Thursday. Boo.

Wings n brisket with pickles. Try the broccoli salad too.

Wings n brisket with pickles. Try the broccoli salad too.

Once you can force yourself to choose they take your meat off the heat and chuck it into a little polystyrene tray with your choice of salad and pickles and usher you on past the sides bar, by which time you are allowed to pay and finally sit down.
The older male sibling couldn’t look past the lump of brisket on the grill infront of his eyes. I made a swift re-allocation of choice to chicken wings and a sharing negotiations commenced. Slaw, burnt end beans, pickled red onions and cucumber, broccoli salad. A dark beer for him and a ‘hard’ cider for me. Please note if you are not American, there is nothing noticeably ‘hard’ about this cider but it is a refreshing brew nonetheless.
I’m not going to break out my flowery adjective reserve here. It was bloody excellent and that is all. Brisket was tender and succulent in big beefy slices,exactly as brisket should be: bloody excellent. The chicken wings were crisp and both types of hot and (I think) Asian in style served with spring onion trimmings and the kind of mega-spice-mouth-freeze that I’ve only ever experienced with szechuan pepper previously: bloody excellent. Proper coleslaw, beany beans, lovely crunchy broccoli in a salad arrangement with bacon, almonds and some buttermilky dressing goodness now on my list to try and recreate at home.

The food at Mighty Quinns is Bloody Excellent.

So it isn’t a romantic, sensual experience in luxury dining (though you would get this girl there on any date night). There are no poetic menu descriptions, no raw vegan clean eater options, no artistic smears of reduced puree jus on your plate. Hell there aren’t even plates, but there is good, honest and incredibly tasty food and big bottles of house sauce on your clunky wooden table. The toilets are ridiculously huge with nice green tiles. It’s pretty good value, has a bustling, social atmosphere and serves better pickled cucumber than I do. You have no idea of the physical pain I feel admitting that, and if anyone else said first it they would have got a fork in the eye.

Thank you Mighty Quinns, for you are mighty indeed and I hope to one day find your equal on these shores. Or just come back to see you again. Bloody excellent.

click here for website

The New York State of Mind- Cooper’s Craft & Kitchen

beers

What: Craft beers and higher end pub grub, big TV
Where: 2nd Ave on the corner of 5th St, East Village
How much: Mid range, roughly $8 a pint, relatively a lot more for bottled brews. Food menu $10-$20 a plate
Overall: 10/10 for beer drinking,

We came across Cooper’s (named for the local college, not the barrel makers) on our first night in New York- not quite the first bar we walked past having left our Air BnB digs but the first one boasting a $1 oyster happy hour and a long list of craft beers on tap. Sold.

coopers outSo it was Thursday night, some time after 8, Cooper’s is underlit to fully endorse its bare brick and high wooden stool trendiness. It’s busy and a little noisy, there are lots of suits in the back and an iconic line of solo drinkers at the bar keeping an eye on the not proper football. The bar man has a partially shaved head and very tight trousers. You know the kind of place. Ok so it wasn’t a massive gamble- the older male sibling commented that the bar, as well as much of the local area, reminded him a lot of what many establishments are trying to achieve in Shoreditch. I might suggest it was the older, slightly smoother American cousin that nicks your girlfriends to Three Wise Monkeys back in sunny Essex. So yes, we were guilty of being Brits abroad and going for something that was a lot like the places we choose to go at home only it all seems better because you’re on holiday. Not a novel venue,  but certainly an exotic drinking list with next to nothing on the chalk board that I recognised. A half memory of trying and liking a sour ale at the Victoria Inn once upon a time lead me to take a gamble and discover Southern Tier and their deliciously winky Local Sour beer- local in name and nature as the brewery is based in West New York. I’m going to take a moment to sell you this beer if you ever see it- looks like a dark blonde, drinks like a hoppy, sharp scrumpy, if there were such a thing. Different, yes, but in a really good way. Absolutely beautiful and I am a one woman Twitter campaign to get them to ship across the pond. My second pint choice of Funky Pumpkin from the Boulevard brewery was marginally less successful. Drinkable? Just, but distinctly odd with a medicinal aftertaste of cough candy. A distince Hmm on untapped for that one, but I’m inspired to try more pumpkin brews as it is the season. The OMS found two pints that appealed well to his old-man-ale preferences too and an all day session could no doubt have opened up a couple of tempting espresso brews, stouts and ciders also available.
We didn’t eat, having already committed ourselves for some time to eat at a BBQ joint a few doors away. I would certainly give them a go for a dinner based on the plates we saw being served during our drinking- think high piled burgers with innovative fillings and shiny buns, stacks of fries, huge green salads and unctuous steaming dishes of mac n cheese. Mmm. We did however skip back there for dessert in the form of two wonderfully formed nightcaps, over ice, which some of us regretted the next morning.

If there was any downpoint to our visit, it was that time and circumstance had us there for  pre and post dinner drinks, rather than a long day of ale sampling punctuated by plates of whatever and chips and lazy conversation. It’s a good place to go.

check out Coopers here: http://coopersnyc.com/

check out Southern Tier here: http://www.stbcbeer.com/

The New York State of Mind- Bluebird Coffee Shop

image

What: Coffee, pastries, cakes, limited kitchen menu.
Where: 72 East 1st St, between 1st & 2nd Ave, downtown Manhattan.
How Much? Coffee and breakfast $12ish
Overall: 9 out of 10

Bluebird was an early addition to my NYC holiday hit list after a quick search for the best coffee local to our mission base in the East Village. It ranked high, and deservedly so. The coffee was perfect, the staff jovial and on my visit impeccably turned out. Looking good, ladies.
It’s a cute setting, with wooden floors, artsy lighting and stool & bench seating. By cute, I do actually mean small. Like, eight seats or you’re outside small. And if you aren’t friendly with those other seven people when you sit down you will be by the time you leave.
So it is close quarters, but you can get everything to go and thus relocate to pastures with more elbow room like a small porch area at the front or the park on the other side of the road. Maybe not the park unless you have kids with you or that’s just weird.
But cosy as we were, we still ordered breakfast and if the coffee was good then the food was a revelation.

image

Breaking the fast Bluebird style. Pic courtesy of @jonboybarton, instagram hero and biological relation

Simple, tasty and flawlessly executed. The older male sibling went for baked oatmeal- a solid construction of oats, nuts, dried fruit and spices packed into a tempting brick of hot slow-carby goodness. Served with freshly steamed milk (whole please, we’re English) and an elegantly sliced nana. Beautiful. Our R&D team are putting all their efforts into recreating this one at home.
I went for the avocado toast- a single slice of rye bread topped with a glorious dollop of avocado that I can most closely describe as heftily whipped- a deceptively substantial guacamole cloud if you will. Top that with feta crumbles, a few slithers of pickled red onion and a shake of chilli flakes. The edible equivalent of getting chatted up by a sexy Latino stranger who sidestepped your hotter frenemy to get to you. Most smugly satisfying indeed.
Their pastry cabinet also looked worth investigating, in particular the pound cake slices which I should have picked up to go. Sadly our planned return visit was vetoed by too much booze crab steak pie dinner on Saturday night.
My only complaint is the size, yeah it creates a buzz to always have a queue but eating at a shelf by the door doesn’t do much for the digestion.
A great stop, and a great start for us that day.

The New York State of Mind

street signI’ve been harping on about a trip to New York with the older male sibling for some time now and you may be relieved surprised to hear it is over already. We got home five days ago and all that is left of that little adventure is half a can of choc-full-o-nuts in the fridge and a malingering ghost of jet lag still prompting me wide awake and ready to go about two hours after I fall asleep each night.
Why New York? I could be boring and say why not? So much to see, to do, to eat, why would you not go?
In truth it is maybe a lazy destination. You can kid yourself that you are visiting a cultural melting pot of arts, commerce and a truly integrated international community with the comforting knowledge at all times that they speak English and you will get a lot more Well Known Coffee Chain for your buck than you would back in Blighty. Years of TV and Hollywood have ingrained the concept and components of NYC so deeply into your pop culture psyche that when you get there it is almost like you have been there before and just forgotten how much you liked it. You shouldn’t be scared of visiting New York- though I should clarify I didn’t make it out of Manhattan, which is big, bustling and (85% of the time) authentically friendly. The people are nice, even when you’re pulling a total dick maneuver like an unnamed Japanese tourist seen walking slow-mo, fingers out stretched to feel first hand the textures of Van Gough’s Cypress Trees at MoMA.
Ma’am, you can’t touch that please.
Ma’am? Seriously, as a puny civilian I was ready to drop my camera then drop that mentalist before she put her paws on the priceless artworks. But no, you get Ma’am.
I have to say I had hoped for a little of that famed NYC fiestiness, a few scowls and cusses and I’d have given my right arm to hear an authentic I’m walking heyah! Alas not, life is long and full of disappointments.
But what certainly didn’t disappoint, was the food. Yeah I know, culture, history, architecture, shopping, all great things but I was excited to eat in New York. Because you can eat anything, you can eat late, you can eat on the street or at a table. You can eat from most of the major and several minor cultures in the world without having to walk too far home to your classic brownstone or uniform hotel of choice. There’s going to be steaks, franks, pickles, beers, one dollar oysters, thai, sushi, juice blends, kebabs, weird flavoured pretzels, sandwiches with so many bread options it feels like too much of a headache to even order, protein shakes, muffins, funnel cakes, fruit baskets, it never ends. It was excruciating to prep my initial list of recommended and randomly researched eateries then whittle it down to just three days and four nights. Even then we had to miss a few through inclement weather and digestive fatigue. Yes, yes there were times when even we couldn’t have eaten another thing. Cue my introduction to the doggy bag and what I know will be a life long pining for the Lower East Side Pickle Day that we just couldn’t fit in around a red meat and wine hangover.

It’s not news to anyone that I love everything about dinners, from inception to Instagram. A lot of the time I am that idiot you see in the restaurant, snapping nine different angled shots of every plate of lettuce and onions that is set before me. I am also that irritating co-diner tapping away on my phone, tweeting the dessert before I let you eat it and making everyone else in the room roll their eyes and whisper about that bloody idiot over there taking all the photos. I don’t apologise for it, and this NYC trip has strengthened my resolve to document these things at all times, even if only for myself. A quick blast through my android swyped notes from last week has refreshed two things I had forgotten already. Awesome things that do not deserve to be forgotten, and in this chunk of bloggings I will spill back to you as much of it as I can fit in, mostly in micro review form. Look out for East Village BBQ, stupendous steaks, cereal milk ice cream and Lebanese red wine to name a few.

All I need now is a way to justify a twenty minute Tiffany’s inspired squueeeeee on a food blog……..