Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Ivy - London

It's cold and wintry outside, and darkness falls like an old man's sleeping mask by 4pm. It's time to get warm and comfy. You could pop your woolly socks on and tuck into a bowl of soup on the couch. Or, if your mind is straying further afield, kick off the furry slippers and wrap yourself up in the comforting glow of The Ivy.

Helen is cruelly abandoning her London besties to head back to the sunny shores of Australia. So The Ivy was one London institution that needed to be ticked off before she is to be allowed on the plane. A girls' day lunch was promptly instituted and Amanda, Suzi, Lisa and I were the happy co-conspirators.

Despite its notoriety as a hang out for celebs (we didn't see any, despite my head swivelling attempts), The Ivy serves up comfort food for those after a Shepherd's pie with a sense of occassion on the side. Suzi later described it as "a big, warm, comfy blanket of a place", but perhaps a blanket you have booked so far in advance that you feel the need to glam up in your Sunday best before snuggling in. You certainly feel closeted away in its cosy coves behind the secretive and beautiful stained glass windows, as The Ivy wraps you in its arms and waltzes you away....

Much to my delight, there was a distinct smell of "Four n Twenty" in the air which had me frothing at the mouth as we took our seats. (For non Aussie bogans, a "Four 'n Twenty" is a distinct brand of meat pie sold in Australia - largely at football matches - which must be eaten with loads of Heinz tomato sauced mushed into the meat along with the roof of the pie - although others may disagree as to how to eat one, they would most definitely be wrong.)

After some warm up peach bellinis, we ordered our starters. The crab bisque with Armagnac (for me) was rich and warming, with lovely, chunky shreds of crab throughout.

Helen's grilled squid, chorizo and parsley salad with preserved lemon looked terrific and Amanda and Lisa both started with the chicory, pear and beetroot salad with pumpkin crisps which was fresh and colourful. All were happy with their selections.

Squid & chorizo salad

Chicory, pear & beetroot salad

The only mild disappointment was Suzi's gem heart salad with blue cheese and toasted walnuts. I frequent a beloved cafe in Melbourne (France-Soir) which serves up the most perfect version of this salad: a whole, full lettuce in a bowl, scattered with hearty chunks of delectable blue cheese (and the French chardy on the menu is an amazing match). Unless Suzi comments otherwise, I believe her Ivy version tasted fine (not marvellous), however it was presented like something I might come up with from the left overs in my fridge - a slightly boring scattering of lettuce leaves with the odd bit of shredded cheese. Lift, Ivy, lift.

Gem heart salad

Oh hoh, lift it did.

For my main course, I opted for The Ivy's signature dish - Shepherd's pie. Oh yeahh. Gorgeously presented, rich minced lamb topped with billowing clouds of mash, just perfectly crisp around the edges. (No, I did not ask for tomato sauce. Yes, the thought did cross my mind.) A hugely satisfying dish - Loved it!

Another classic stalwart of the Ivy is the salmon fishcake with sauteed spinach and sorrel sauce - Suzi lovingly devoured it with glee.

The fish of the day was a chargrilled plaice with mushrooms and artichoke puree. A lovely wintery, "meaty" fish dish. Helen and Amanda seemed delighted to scoff it (daintily of course) and almost lick their plates clean. Amanda thought it was only missing a bit of greenery. Fair call.

Our resident vegetarian, Lisa, opted for the exotic bang bang vegetables with peanut butter sauce, which she also liked - and the bang bang chicken is also a popular dish here.

Of course, it wouldn't be a fine ladies' lunch without a selection of seductive desserts swilled down with some super sweet black muscat. We shared two puds. First, the Scandinavian iced berries with hot white chocolate sauce (delicious, especially the sauce, but the larger berries tasted like they were straight from a pack in the freezer which had not been properly defrosted - a bit off-putting).

We also shared a pineapple meringue number in a martini glass - ok, but a little less cream and a lot more meringue would have gone a long way to winning me over.

But the grand temptress of them all would have to be the Baked Alaska (for 2). We watched rapturously as other tables treated themselves to a beautiful bomb of meringue and ice-cream, served with grillote cherries, and flambed in rum as a visual spectacular before our eyes. It was hard to stay focussed on our pineapple.

So, I'm not the lone ranger in adoring The Ivy. Not everything we ordered was spot on - however, it doesn't go too far wrong and most dishes were delectably good. My advice is to order the homely classics.

Service is impeccable - friendly rather than fussy. Prices are reasonable for the quality and ambience (about £55 per head for us, including 3 courses, a bottle of wine, bottle of sticky and bellinis). And after a long leisurely lunch with fabulous company, it's nice to leave in the darkness of the late afternoon, feeling pampered, cosy and thoroughly satisfied by a day well spent.

1-5 West Street, London WC2H 9NQ
The Ivy on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Byron, Soho - London's best burger?

It's been over a week since my last New York burger. I've sailed through the denial phase and now I'm starting to get the shakes and eye off McDonald's. It's a crisp Friday night. I'm tempted to start checking BA fares. My wallet groans.

But fate is shining fortuitously upon me. Byron softly opened the doors of its Soho store on Thursday and it's calling me (not literally, but I can sense it like a soft, persistent breeze in my ear).

Byron has 6 other outlets around town, and there is much hotly contested debate about whether Byron or Hache offers the best burger in London within the average Jo's price range. I've sampled Hache (it's good, but not New York good), and have been holding off on Byron in anticipation of its West End opening which is dangerously convenient. Byron is blatantly keen to be known as London's best burger.

And I think they might have something there - at least in the average burger joint price bracket.

The first thing you notice about Byron is that there's cutlery on the tables. Surely not? Like Marco Pierre White, I like to get into a burger with both hands. I'm happy to cut it in half before I launch in, but that's as far as I'll go. Fortunately, Byron seems to leave way for the happy co-existence of both the civilised and the Neanderthal like approaches to burger eating. I went Neanderthal, as did many like minded patrons with a bit of grunt around me.

Byron's slogan is "Proper Burgers". The Scottish highlands beef sourced from small farms is freshly ground every morning. The burgers are cooked medium (unless you request otherwise, but why would you?) and are served with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayo - add your own tomato sauce. The buns are plain and soft, toasted on the inside, and are apparently baked each day by a local artisan baker. Prices start at £6.25 (for the classic burger) but who has a burger without cheese - so, really, prices start at £7.25.

First impressions were that it had a bit of the New York look about it: thin, no frills, and even a chunky pickle giving a wave from the side. The Peanut Gallery and I both went for the yellow Monterey Jack cheese, but it's as yet undetermined whether the mature cheddar would have been orange in American burger style. Other cheese options were blue cheese and Gruyere.

"But how did it taste??", I hear you ask. Let me answer that question with a question. How good is that first hit of chocolate at 3pm on a Friday afternoon? That first sip of coffee in the morning (alright, tea if you must) after a late night out?

This burger was good. Very good. It's perfectly juicy, pink in the middle, and the flavours are full and earthy. Personally, I prefer a slightly thicker burger, but this was on the right side of the line and, despite the cutlery setting, its size means its made to grab by the throat and hold on to. The bun was almost too plain, but TPG liked it this way and at least its not sugary and doesn't detract from the burger meat.

All the usual condiments, like Heinz ketchup and Frenchie's mustard are on the table. My only quibble would be that it's steep to ask patrons to pay extra (and £1.25 at that) for BBQ sauce.

The home made, skin on, chips were excellent, and TPG's accompanying chocolate malted milk shake was thick and delicious, without being so thick that it might induce a headache just to draw it up the straw. There's also an Oreo flavoured shake which grabbed my attention.

Service was uber friendly, enthusiastic and prompt, and because it was so close to opening night, I'll forgive them that they asked us how we were liking it after every second bite.

Byron is strangely positioned in the burger market, being just a classic burger joint really, but the decor is contriving to be a bit more upmarket and it's odd to see patrons quaffing wine with their burgers - it's more your shake or beer type fare. But in the end, the food will certainly draw me back.

All up, Byron is dangerously convenient and delicious. TPG is already talking about how healthy burgers are on a once a week basis provided we forgo the chips... the man can convince himself of anything.

97 Wardour Street, Soho, London W1F OUF

Byron on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Standard Grill - New York

Washed up from the sandy beaches of Miami, salt in the hair, a smudge of po' boy on the sleeve, what better state to rock up to New York for some late night hob nobbing among the Big Apple's swanky set.

By the time we made our 10pm booking at The Standard Grill, the place was heaving. Flagship restaurant to the funky new Standard Hotel, owned by Andre Balazs, Chef Dan Silverman supervises this busy kitchen and a menu which is both trendy and homely at once.

The front bar is packed with hip New Yorkers there to see and be seen - a little too scene-ish for my travel weary bones. However, a quick pre-dinner cocktail helped ease the pain. By day, this room doubles as a more laid back cafe for breakfast and lunch, with big windows, outdoor tables (although, crucially, I noted shorter hours in direct sunlight than Pastis on the next street) and a bright and breezy interior. Worth a try for brunch.

The main dining room is a beautiful, American bistro oozing old school glamour. Dirty martini, anyone? The charisma is enhanced by the vaulted ceilings, checkered tablecloths and plush maroon booths. 480,000 copper pennies tile the floors (apparently - we didn't count). But it's not all "Sex and the City" - The Standard Grill serves up decent quality, hearty bistro fare.

We started with a selection of 1/2 dozen oysters which were lovely, although some better than others (and not a patch on Bentley's in London), washed down with a cheeky prosecco.

Then the room stood still as our show stopping Million Dollar Chicken sauntered our way, gleaming and glistening, in a caste iron pot. Crispy skin encased juicy flesh - tasty and moreish, although it was probably more impressive on the eye than in the mouth. We still managed to gnaw it down to the bare bones. About $30 between 2 people.

We saddled up the chicken with delicious sides - buttery brussel sprouts with bacon (my new addiction), crispy potatoes with smoked paprika aioli (delicious, and all the better because they were free), and corn pancakes (disappointing - hopes were high given the promising combination of 2 of my favourite words, "corn" and "pankcakes"; but these were almost flavourless).

For dessert, we shared a bread and butter pudding - not normally my thing, but so luscious that I happily fought for my fair share in a tense spoon duel with TPG. The pastry chef is Frederick Aquino, formerly of the well known Spice Market so more of the desserts would be worth a shot.

The skinny blondes next to us picked at their salads and pushed a virtually untouched burger around a plate (the burger looked fantastic, by the way, and was almost worth a bony shoulder tap to distract Blonde 2's attention). Worst of all was their accompanying Mimbo who declared he had already eaten, so stuck to his red wine (low cal, presumably) and the odd nibble of lettuce. Most odd (but probably not here).

However, for those of us with appetites, this is a great place to eat, with that unmistakable New York buzz. Decent food, great atmosphere.

Cnr Washington and West 13th Streets, Meatpacking District (under the High Line)

The Standard Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, 23 November 2009

Gluttonous Travels: Greedy Diva Bites the Big Apple - New York, USA (Part 2: Lunch, Dinner and everything in between...)

If you've digested the New York breakfast, brunch and coffee options in Part 1, napkin on up for Lunch, Dinner and Everything in Between at some of my favourite New York haunts.

Lunch - or the first point at which burgers become socially acceptable

Little Owl:

This is probably my favourite lunch spot in New York - I could happily eat here every day in my own little La La Land. In an understated and intimate setting, owner and chef Joey Campanaro, serves up fresh, seasonal American food with a strong Mediterranean influence.

Bibb and Beets

Aragula salad

This trip, we feasted on the delicious aragula salad with grilled pears, gorgonzola, pecan and balsamic, the fine bibb and beets salad (squash, seeds, parmesan, cranberry vinaigrette) for The Peanut Gallery and, for me, the amazing bacon cheese burger made from Pat LaFrieda's signature burger meat blend - juicy, lusty, fabulous. In "The 50 best things in the world, and where to eat them", Killian Fox of The Observer (UK) rates Little Owl as the best place in the world to eat a burger. Here, here!

The menu is varied and everything sounds tempting. All is reasonably priced. Toss a coin to make a choice, order a vino, and gaze through the windows at the Sesame Street scenes of Greenwich Village, pondering just how good life can get. Is that a bird chirruping on my shoulder? 90 Bedford Street, Greenwich Village  Little Owl on Urbanspoon

Fatty Crab: Fabulous Malaysian/South East Asian joint serving up home cooked style spicy fare. Our dishes were sensational and left us hankering to return for more. The Lo Si Fun was a soul nourishing noodle dish which arrived in a clay pot with a poached egg on top of a mountain of weird and wonderful ingredients, ready to be broken up and mixed in. Hearty and a taste sensation - every spoonful revealed something more. 

The green mango salad was zesty, refreshing and packed with flavour. 

Even the coconut rice had an edge, topped with roasted shredded coconut for an extra sweet touch. 

Cheap on price, without skimping on size or quality. Also try it for a casual but great quality dinner option. 643 Hudson Street  Fatty Crab on Urbanspoon

Pastis (also a fun breakfast and dinner option): 

Even without the Manolo's, you can live the Sex and The City vibe at Pastis. We sat outside and basked in the sunshine this week, but inside is crackling, and cranks up even more at night. And, for those who love a good celebrity sighting, this is the place for it - The Peanut Gallery almost bowled over Jon Bon Jovi (yes, JON BON JOVI) on his way out the door this week.

Most importantly, the food is great - think French bistro with the occassional Provencal number. While it's hard to go past the fabulous burger and fries which we've sampled before, this time we opted for the Coq au Vin served on egg noodles (hearty, sweet, TPG couldn't finish it - I stepped up to the plate) and a decent Nicoise salad (new Yorkers know how to do a salad).

Having since thought through this in detail of course (and having recounted the Jon Bon Jovi aspect numerous times to strangers on the tube), I wouldn't order a salad here again - a salad is really a crime when the other more interesting stuff on the menu is just so good. But I was in need of a detox (see Momofuku below). 9 9th Avenue, Meatpacking District.    Pastis on Urbanspoon

Cafe Habana: This popular Cuban cafe, in the middle of shopping nirvana, never fails to disappoint. The only draw back can be the lunch time wait. Arrive early to nab a seat, and chow down on the amazing grilled corn smothered in chilli powder and butter with lime on the side (their signature dish), or throw yourself into a delicious shake and burger. Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I love it best on a sunny summer's day - an instant Cuban holiday. 17 Prince Street, Nolita    Cafe Habana on Urbanspoon

Shake Shack: From Pat LaFrieda (legendary meat purveyor) to Frank Bruni (former NY Times critic), the experts are united that Shake Shack serves up an amazing burger. At cheap eat prices, Frank Bruni heralds it "the people's burger" compared with some other burger greats, such as the Black Label burger at Minetta Tavern which is apparently outstanding, but less accessible at $26 a hit.

The Peanut Gallery and I have almost missed our flight home while refusing to give up on the queue, but the juicy, no frills deliciousness of it makes it well worth the wait for any burger fetishist.

The burgers are ground fresh and hand made daily by LaFrieda, and team up nicely with the sensational crispy fries. TPG also loves the hot dogs (he likes to get an extra one for the flight home, much to the delight of his nearest neighbours) and the shakes are formidable - try one of the "Concrete" shakes combining frozen custard with the likes of caramel sauce, toffee and chocolate chunks, or the hand spun frozen custard shakes with all the standard flavours, or even salted caramel (uh huh) or peanut butter flavour (for the truly gross among us). A glutton's oasis in the park. Madison Square Park (not to be confused with Madison Square Gardens, like we did first time around - long story).    Shake Shack (Madison Square Park) on Urbanspoon

Blue Ribbon Bakery: The bread oven is at the heart of this operation, and the food is fresh and homely. We've sampled the big sandwiches crammed with delicious fillings like chorizo, coleslaw and cheddar, and market salad (romaine, asparagus, carrots, cucumber, artichoke, tomatoes, olives, beets, chick peas, egg and grilled onion). Lovely on a sunny day for lunch, but also would be a great dinner option - it's known for the fried chicken. 35 Downing Street, West Village (I'm also planning to try the Blue Ribbon Brasserie, at 97 Sullivan Street, Soho)    Blue Ribbon Bakery on Urbanspoon

Jean Georges: This elegant French restaurant opposite the south western most corner of Central Park is a showcase of masterful, fine cooking. Sample the 3 Michelin star cuisine (given 4 stars by Frank Bruni at the New York Times in 2006) while its Autumn special is on for only $26 for lunch or $38 for dinner - absolute bargain. We took a decadent $26 prix fixe lunch here in May, and adored it. The food is creative, thrilling, rich and distinctive. For $8, there is a choice of 4 dessert plates: Caramel (chocolate pop, coffee & cardamom ice cream, caramel curd sponge, roasted pineapple sorbet), Chocolate (chocolate cake, vanilla bean ice cream, warm chocolate gnocchi, grapefruit, gianduja, basil) and the equally tempting sounding Rhurbarb or Apple options. Although the decor is formal, with its big windows and high ceilings it's more airy and elegant than stiflingly posh (something I always find a turn off - see my upcoming review of Marea for the latter). Worth a splurge. 1 Central Park West, on Colombus Circle.    Jean-Georges on Urbanspoon

Nobu: Chef Nobu Matsukisa's flagship restaurant in Tribeca need not be as extravagant a splurge as you might think. Although the skies the limit on the amount you could spend, for around $20 each (plus drinks and service), we shared lunch of broiled black cod with miso (Nobu's melt in the mouth signature dish) and Tempura Donburi which was light, crispy and flavoursome. All came with with rice, miso soup and green tea. It's not 100% traditional Japanese cuisine - at least until everyone else starting drawing inspiration from the menu, Nobu's cuisine was considered innovative and many of the dishes are inspired by the chef's experience in South America. It still has a bit of the celebrity hangout feel to it (Robert De Niro is one of the partners in the business, along with restauranteur Drew Nieporent, and Harvey Weinsten was eating there at the same time as us) but the food is genuinely good. Nobu has 1 Michelin star, and was given 3 stars by the New York Times in 2001. 105 Hudson Street, Tribeca     Nobu on Urbanspoon

Katz's Deli: A New York institution, and home of the famous Meg Ryan "faking it" scene in "When Harry Met Sally", Katz's Delicatessan was opened by Russian immigrants in 1888. Since then, it has been serving up delicious, jaw breaking sandwiches to its customers in droves. Don't leave without trying the legendary pastrami on rye. Other eye popping options include the dry cured corned beef sandwich, brisket and matzo ball soup. Expect George Costanza's parents to walk in any minute. Busy, bustling and you'll definitely wonder where you're going to put it all. 205 East Houston Street, Lower East Side     Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

Balthazar: Noted in my brunch section (Part 1), good ol' Balty is also great for lunch and dinner, as would be Public (I suspect).

Dinner - because a good lunch deserves reflection over a lengthy feast:

Babbo: We have a hot new contender for my favourite New York restaurant. Babbo.

Mario Batali's amazing Greenwich Village enoteca serves up traditional Italian cuisine with sufficient flair to be granted an easily deserved 3 stars by the New York Times' Ruth Reichl. Now, I love a bowl of pasta. So you can only imagine my joy at the carb loading feeding frenzy posed by Mario's 8 course pasta tasting menu. Heavenly.

It also radiates a fabulous atmosphere which was the perfect antidote to our night at the more staid Marea the night before. An extravaganza worthy of its own separate Greedy Diva head - and stomach - in the clouds rant, to follow shortly. I noticed on return from NY that in "The 50 best things in the world, and where to eat them", (also quoted above) Killian Fox of The Observer (UK) lists Babbo as the best place in the world to eat ravioli, and specifically the oxtail ravioli with black truffles and pidgeon liver sauce. Mama mia. 110 Waverly Place, Greenwich Village

Marea: The chemisty just wasn't there. Perhaps it was one of those "it's not you, it's me" scenarios. But with all the atmosphere of a dental clinic, our evening at Marea was in stark contrast to the fabulousness of Babbo the following night. Marea, New York's new(ish) Italian seafood restaurant, has been much overhyped in my view, receiving plaudits from critics everywhere, and even a Michelin star. And the food was fine.

Our oysters were just so-so, and arrived before our amuse bouche. However, our starters of crab and scallops were nice but not mind blowing, as was my spaghetti with crab, Santa Barbera sea urchin and basil.

Some things were even delicious, like The Peanut Gallery's rigatoni with seppia and shrimp ragu and fresh chickpeas.

However, mostly the food was just fancy and nice, which in my book is not enough at such lofty prices. I want more ooh and ahh for my buck. It was certainly not sufficient to make up for the stiff, arthritic ambience. Service was stilted and odd, the suggested wine pairings were questionable and a heavy whiff of self importance pervaded the air. A place to go with some grey suits and grey hairs on a corporate expense account, but not for a fun or romantic night out. We left without ordering dessert (normally unheard of with TPG present), before the rigor mortis set in. 240 Central Park South    Marea on Urbanspoon

The Standard Grill:

Fun American bistro in the heart of the hip Meatpacking District, which oozes old school glamour. However, its excellent brasserie style food is not all about appearances (despite its flashy clientele). Think Sex and The City with meat. See the full Greedy Diva review to follow shortly (here). Cnr Washington and West 13th Streets, Meatpacking District (under the High Line)

Dell'Anima: Excellent Italian wine bar/restaurant with simple, seasonal food. Delicious house made pasta dishes (the carbonara with speck, egg and pecorino is a thriller) as well as a great selection of traditional secondi. There's also a fantastic wine selection, and it's a lovely place to eat at the bar, in front of the kitchen or tete a tete at the tables. A regular feature on our New York dining list - it's always good. Small, intimate and friendly. 38 8th Avenue, West Village.  Dell'Anima on Urbanspoon

Bond Street: Recommended by Vaughan and Dima, our finger-on-the-pulse Melbourne friends living the good life in New York, we enjoyed a great meal at Bond Street last year. Kick off the night with a lychee cocktail, and move on to fresh sushi, vibrant salads and dish after dish of luxurious Japanese food with flare. Fun and delicious. 6 Bond Street, NoHo

Matsuri: It's been a couple of years since we dined at Matsuri, but I still vividly remember the succulent and delicious grilled steak with garlic soy sauce (one of the best steaks we've ever eaten) and the delectably lush sake black cod. Huge, vaulted ceilings set off the splendorous and fun setting. A great recommendation from my favourite one time New Yorker, Amanda. 369 West 16th Street, under the Maritime Hotel Matsuri on Urbanspoon

Craft: Share on your table an array of quite large dishes at Tom Colicchio's stylish restaurant which describes itself as "haute cuisine" uniquely married with "family-style service". Lovely dishes like roasted duck, diver scallops, rack of pork, 6 types of roasted mushrooms and warm chocolate tart, buttermilk ice cream, cinnamon custard and cashews make this a varied menu of excellent quality. Expect big flavours rather than fanciful twists, and the ambience is swish, but not stiff. Expensive, but a night you'll remember - for all the right reasons. 43 East 19th Street   Craft on Urbanspoon

Telepan: Sometimes fortune smiles upon you, and she was grinning broadly the fine evening we stumbled by chance upon Bill Telepan's seasonal Upper West Side restaurant. It was a few years ago now, but we're eager for a follow up feed based on the terrific dinner and service we've sampled (having missed out on an evening booking this time around). Skilful dishes are based on seasonal, local ingredients, each showing the chef's flair. The decor is understated - the food is the main event. And it need not cost an arm and a leg, despite the fine dining ambience - there are dinner tasting menus ranging from $39 to $65 or, for a bargain, try out the 3 course lunch for $28 (Wednesday - Friday). A solid trooper which will outlast flashier rivals on the glitzy New York dining scene. 72 West 69 Street, between Central Park and Colombus Avenue
Telepan on Urbanspoon

Daniel: French cuisine in a grand, elegant setting and a rare 4 star rating by the New York times (3 stars in the 2010 Michelin Guide). We went for a special occassion last year, and were mildly underwhelmed. We were tucked up in a smaller room away from the grander, livelier main dining room (and we weren't even wearing our velour tracksuits). That definitely took away some of the sparkle and perhaps explains why we felt it lacked some of the razzle dazzle and luxurious taste sensations we were expecting. The food has plenty of flourish, and many would consider it New York's best of the fancy big league. For me it was good, and I could even see how it had the potential to be great on another night, but for us it was almost like someone had dimmed the lights and thrown a lampshade over the anticipated sparkle. 60 East 65th Street

Snacks (to get you through the long wait between meals):

Magnolia Bakery:

You know it, I know it. And I know that if you don't average a cupcake for every day of your New York break, if you don't find yourself floating gloriously along Bleecker Street with an empty box and icing on chin, you're just a cupcake pretender.

Forget the other charlatans out there with their phony fru fru icings - these are the best cupcakes in the world. And among their glorious selves, the classic vanilla cupcake remains the queen goddess victorious.

(Queen Goddess Victorious Vanilla is on the left; 
New fangdangle Snickadoodle cinnamon number is on the right). 

A picture tells 1,000 words, so you don't need any more from me...ohh yeahhh..... 401 Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village   Magnolia Bakery on Urbanspoon

(Not Magnolians)

Momofuku Milk Bar:

Crazy bakery among the successful Momufuku restaurant family, serving up a weird and wonderful selection of cakes, cookies, pies and soft serves. This is TPG's sugar rush nirvana.

Try the disgraceful sounding (but, off the record, completely delicious) cornflake, chocolate chip and marshmallow cookie (yes, those things are all within the same cookie). We have also tried and survived the compost cookie, comprised of pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch and chocolate chips (presumably low cal), and the selection of ginormous Gaudi-esque cakes look amazing (how does chocolate malt cake with malt fudge, malted milk crumbs and charred marshmallows sound?).

As for the shakes, "cereal milk" anyone? I quite like the pork and egg bun for breakfast (deep fried soft poached egg, cucumber, hoison, scallions).

207 2nd Avenue, East Village   Momofuku Bakery & Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

Murray's Cheese:

Excellent cheese shop owned by Rob Kaufelt, partner of food writer Tamasin Day-Lewis. Rob roams the globe finding the best local, regional cheeses around and brings them back to the big smoke. A cheese monger's paradise, and with lots of experts on hand to help and offer tastings.

A great place to stock up on a case full of fine cheeses and salamis, but hard to smuggle home without stinking out the plane (more than usual). 254 Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village

Faicco's Pork Store: Next door to Murray's Cheese, Faicco's Pork Store completes the lucky quinella.

Completely old school butcher/delicatessan (the Italian sausages look fab) making up big takeaway sandwiches brimming with ham, pork, salt beef, fresh mozzarella etc - sometimes all at the same time.

Nothing fancy - these guys are keepin' it real. It was TPG's one regret that we didn't try one of these gobstoppers, but as we were still digesting a hearty lunch followed up swiftly by our Magnolia cupcakes, it would have been obscene. Next time. 260 Bleecker Street.

Hot dogs: Any and all hot dog stands. Anywhere, anytime.

Until the next gluttonous adventure, long live the Big Apple!

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