I ate the Big Apple.
No seriously. I ate New York.
On a little bit of a whim, I booked a work trip to NYC for five days in late-February, which I kept wanting to put in quotations. Because who goes on a real work trip to eat pastries, drink cocktails and people watch? It had me confused with a "work trip," which is when you bring your laptop and try to expense your baggage fees. But I really did go to work; to immerse myself in a world where there's a bakery, a bar and a coffee shop on every corner. How do these businesses stand out? How do they stay relevant?
Full disclosure: I didn't even bring my laptop.
Armed with my camera, a list of must-eats from trusted sources, and a vow to eat at least one leafy, green thing to balance the excessive butter-intake, I set out to eat my way through New York City. To keep this from being a 10-page book report, I've documented this trip by day, bakery/bar, what I ate, and what I learned. I've chosen to share it with y'all because accountability like this means I really did do work. And who doesn't want to look at food pictures and read a sexy one-liner about a lemon bar?
DAY 1: DUMBO + Cobble Hill
- Almondine Bakery: Easily one of the most impressive and unassuming places I went. The pastry was simple and elegant (and mouthwatering), and the decor was basic and unpretentious. I sampled an epic almond croissant, a gooey, buttery chocolate chip cookie, and a turkey sandwich on a crusty, chewy baguette with lettuce, tomato and cocktail sauce. I knew I was off to a good start here.
- Bien Cuit: My favorite cortado in all of NYC. I skipped pastry here, but stared at their bread selection, wishing I hadn't promised myself I'd eat a salad for dinner.
- Four & Twenty Blackbirds: If you are lucky enough to eat their pie, then you're lucky enough. I fumbled and only tasted two slices of pie: the salty honey and the apple & sweet potato. If I had enough sense, I would've gotten the matcha custard to boot, but I was at the end of a long, rainy day of sugar-induced madness.
What I learned: Salt & honey are an incredibly delicious combination. New York has more to-go windows than any place I've visited or lived. And in NYC, ambiance doesn't seem to matter as long as the quality of the product is on point. Almond croissants are my favorite food group.
DAY 2: Flat Iron + SOHO + West Village
- Breads Bakery: I sampled the almond croissant. This wasn't my first visit here, but their products are second to none, and their chocolate babka should have a little crown and throne, because it's KING.
- Dominique Ansel Bakery: Easily the best thing I've ever tasted is the DKA. Seriously, EVER. It's like a mix between a muffin and a croissant. Except if you tried to picture that, it's still a disservice to the DKA. I also got a lemon macaron that was tasty, but the DKA stole the show. Total diva.
- Bird Bath Bakery: This spot, by far, had the best store front. While it was a to-go bakery, the front of it is actually the old Vesuvio Bakery. It's bright green and just the most adorable little store front you ever did see. And, holy moly those cookies were on point!
- Bar Sardine & Fedora: These two bars are owned by the same guy, Gabriel Stuhlman, and sit cozily around the corner from each other in the West Village. I ventured into both to appreciate the great service. Stuhlman is known for his employee culture and he did not disappoint. Easily the friendliest staff in all of NYC. I imagined Sinatra sat in my seat, drinking a scotch, a lifetime before me.
What I learned: Nothing's changed as far as my favorite food group. Ambiance might not be a requirement, but it sure does help elevate the experience. Fedora wins for best ambiance and vibe, but that DKA...
DAY 3: Upper East Side
- Two Little Red Hens: I was told to get the scones, but I went rogue. A friend joined me for this venture, and we bought a 4" birthday cake, two cups of coffee and grabbed a couple forks. Nothing says "I mean business" like two girls eating a whole cake at noon on a Friday. Just kidding, we didn't eat it all. I regret nothing.
- Featherweight: A super cool, speakeasy vibe. I got a tequila cocktail that blew any other tequila cocktail I've ever had out of the water. Vibe was stellar, but so dark it was hard to catch the full ambiance.
What I learned: Too much sugar makes you tired. And nauseated.
Day 4: Williamsburg, Red Hook & Prospect Heights
- Juliette's: Cooler than cool. The vibe was so classically French and the natural light left me feeling natural and light. Great brunch cocktails and plates offered were the perfect mix of healthy and indulgent. It made me realize Nashville is missing healthier, more unique brunch options.
- Blue Stove Coffee: Delicious cappuccinos! (I utilized the to-go option for this one, needing to enjoy the sunshine and warmth that NYC finally got!)
- Baked: This place was adorable. It had vibe and creativity. And their lemon-lime bar made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Just kidding, it made me feel stabby, because I didn't want to share it.
- Butter & Scotch: Coming here was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing to meet one of the two fabulous owners, to taste that s'mores pie, and to appreciate the funky, diner-meets-punk-rock vibe. A curse because WHY don't they have this in Nashville?
What I learned: I love natural light, greenery and lemon everything. And after Day 4, I felt like I hit the nail on the head with the ambiance I want for Littlest Love. Meeting the folks at Butter & Scotch gave me a new energy that I've been putting into my work here in Nashville. Also, shame on all of my friends for never taking me to Red Hook before this weekend. So charming!
Seriously, Red Hook is a total hidden gem. Loved it here!
Day 5: Greenpoint
- Peter Pan Donuts: Easily the best deal in town. I spent less than $9 and got a bagel with cream cheese, a coffee and 4 donuts. Best way to carb up before a long plane ride home AND bring home gifts (donuts) to your loved ones. If they make it home...
What I learned: Bagels & cream cheese are my love language. And that Peter Pan's blueberry sour cream donuts are not meant to be shared.
That's all. I feel like I can mic-drop now.