New York City. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. Standing up on top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, looking out over the Empire State Building at 8am on a clear Friday morning felt surreal. Alicia Key’s lyrics looped through my head. ‘Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do… big lights will inspire you, now you’re in New York..’ . A song I’d listened to a thousand times but now realised I never fully understood.
I spent last week in NYC for Saveur Magazine’s 2016 Blog Awards – I was a finalist for the Best New Voice category. Editor’s choice (and blog of the year!) went to Nevada Berg of North Wild Kitchen, while Reader’s Choice went to Soe of Lime & Cilantro – both hugely well deserved. Coming all 21 hours of cramped economy travel from Melbourne, I took a few extra days to explore and eat my way through the city. A few days later, it already feels like a blur – of achy legs and blistered feet from walking the streets of Manhattan, of smiling way too often meeting other food bloggers that I’ve admired from afar, of emerging from sweaty subway travel to feel dwarfed by concrete giants shadowing the streets below.
No recipe this week – I’m still experiencing the sleepy mornings and wide awake evenings of almost complete reversal of time zones, but did make Thalia’s dense, fudgy zucchini chocolate loaf and Smitten Kitchen’s glossy, caramel-dripping pecan sticky buns. Both disappeared in a matter of hours – would highly recommend. Instead, here are a few photos and a little recap of everything I managed to squeeze in.
A cocktail night kicked off the two days of the Saveur Blog Awards, held in the penthouse of the new William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg – complete with 360° views of the city lights. After eating way too many lobster brioche rolls and mini-meatballs, Thalia (Butter & Brioche), Ali (Alexandra Cooks), Holly & Natalie (The Modern Proper) and I headed to Roberta’s for one of the most famous pizzas in NY. 100% would recommend, is all I can say. And ask for the spicy honey.
Tuesday was a full day of activities organised by Saveur, finishing up with the celebratory event back at the WIlliam Vale. I spent the morning at a pasta-making workshop hosted by Covina, where we hand-made farro-ricotta cavatelli and rich, egg yolk heavy sheets of mandilli. Standing around the table devouring bowls of the finished dishes by the Covina chefs was something I’ll remember – basil pesto tossed pasta-sheets with housemade ricotta and tomato sugo, cavatelli with white wine, summer squash and wild mushrooms. More food ensued when we headed to the Saveur loft headquarters in Manhattan for lunch, followed by a Test Kitchen workshop. The miso-caramel recipe from this apple walnut tart was chosen to test (cue me internally freaking out) and paired with scoops of creamy vanilla bean ice cream and chunks of tender cinnamon apples. Thalia, Soe and I styled and shot the bowl in Saveur’s gorgeous, light-filled loft space, adorned with a few flowers picked from the lunch tables and a carefully executed pour shot of glossy miso caramel sauce. A quick trip to Kalustyan’s with local Williamsburg dweller Marie (My Life in Sourdough) and Caitlin (You’re Still Fat) produced a bag of ground hibiscus (NEVER seen it in Australia) and awe at the endless spice racks.. I could have spent hours there.
The awards night itself was a blur of canapes, laughter, and celebration for all the award winners. I remember Betty (Betty Liu) & I making Jenny (Hello My Dumpling) go get us our second cone of coffee & donut ice cream from the dessert table, and leaning out over the balcony to gaze out at the blaze of glittering Manhattan lights. Yet more photos and sore cheeks from smiling too hard.
If you’ve managed to read down this far – I also wanted to say a huge thank you to all of you who read and support this little patch of internet. You are the reason this all happened and I can’t express just how grateful I am.
Other highlights of the week + lots and lots of photos:
- Exploring: NY public library, Grand Central and Times Square while dodging double decker tour bus ticket-sellers and forgetting to stay right on the footpath (left makes so much more sense, guys!); The Chelsea high line and market; MoMA; running around central park pretending to be local; Brooklyn Bridge; Union Square Greenmarket; walking, gawking and eating my way through as much of the city as possible.
- $27 standing tickets to The Book of Mormon – best view in the house and only a 1 hour queue. So worth it.
- The smoothest hummus I’ve ever tried at Dizengoff with Thalia. Thalia’s blog, Butter & Brioche, was nominated for Best Baking & Sweets and swept both the readers choice and editors choice categories (!!!) so true to her blog niche, we ventured on a little bakery tour of NYC.
- A fresh-from-the-oven Levain Bakery chocolate chunk-walnut cookie, with its scone-like size, crunchy exterior and ooey-gooey centre.
- Smorgasburg – views of Manhattan. food. sun. caramel-espresso-brown-butter ice cream sandwiches.
- Cronuts at Dominque Ansel Bakery, with the gooey pear-honey filling oozing from within flaky croissant layers. A return visit for frozen s’mores (I couldn’t resist!) – vanilla ice cream coated with chocolate brownie and encircled with freshly torched meringue, crackly like creme-brulee.
- The best coffee: Soho’s Two Hands NYC, followed by Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn. Does it say something that the best coffee is still done by Australians?!
- Cosme – best. dinner. Contemporary mexican (+ I NY celeb spotted Daniel Radcliffe). Book in advance or go early for a seat at the bar, and make sure to order the corn husk meringue dessert, filled with sweet corn mascarpone and creme patisserie with charred vanilla beans.
- Hitting up Brooklyn pizza joint Emily’s with Thalia and Michelle (Hummingbird High), followed by Dough Doughnuts and an episode of a mistakenly stolen doughnut hole (apparently they weren’t freebies, Thalia..). Try the hibiscus doughnut (tangy like pomegranate combined with berries and lemon).
- A trip to Four & Twenty Blackbirds (SALTY HONEY PIE guys) with Betty, Jenny and Thalia.
- Brunch at Marlow & Sons in Williamsburg with Holly, Natalie and Christine (Vermillion Roots) followed by a morning tea dessert at Momofuku: actually not quite what I’d expected (what’s with the cookie packaging?!), but the cereal milk soft serve and crack pie were would-have-agains.
- Bagels: Russ & Daughters + their house-made cold brew coffee seltzer (recipe please?!?). Black Seed Bagels were a close second.
- Meeting Erin, a fellow New Zealander living in Brooklyn (check her out at Cloudy Kitchen) for honeycomb ricotta hotcakes at Five Leaves + a failed attempt at buying doughnuts – we were, for once, way too full.