It has been 7 months since I left New York permanently, and the longest time I had been away from MY city in 8 years. My new life in Austin seems like a big change with all the outdoorsy activities, driving, and sunshine, but I still am surrounded by tons of cousins, friends from all walks of life, restaurants, rosé, and ice cream, of course. New York is where my passion went from just liking food to becoming a successful career at work and at home through Chekmark Eats. This city is where I learned how to get things done, how to talk to anyone, what I wanted, how to get into any exclusive release party or restaurant that doesn’t take reservations. New York allowed me to get away with being “politely” sassy and allowed me to create a niche for myself. My eyes might have watered as soon as I landed at LaGuardia last week, but once I hit the streets and was on my way to see all my people, bakeries, old colleagues, and bodega pals, it was as if I never left. New York and I still have our relationship together that will always push and pull me. Below is a 4 day journal, if you will, about all the loved ones I saw and ate with.
DAY 1. Nomwah Tea Parlor*Greecologies*Momoya*City Cakes
I got to Chelsea at 4 p.m. where I stayed with my old roommate and best friend Tracy. We reminisced about our New York time together and laughed how her new apartment was so great. I loved how I felt like we were still in our apartment on Mulberry Street. We immediately power walked downtown to start the touring and walked into Clover Grocery, which was a new to-go artisanal food and apothecary store by the Café Clover guys that I was actually supposed to help open at my PR firm before I left. It’s curated beautifully, but I wondered how it was going to last in that hood with such expensive and particular items. Next, I almost get hit by a bus crossing the street. Nothing new. Then I make Tracy come see my favorite hidden Picasso sculpture in the middle of LaGuardia Place. I bump into an older sorority sister from UT. The best thing about New York is walking everywhere and seeing all of your friends and old acquaintances along the way. Impossible not to see someone everyday. Tracy and I end up playing outside 298 Mulberry with our old doorman Ralph, who complains that all the cool kids moved out and the young ones moved in who get all their money from “daddy.” We take Mulberry down to Prince and I try to visit my friend Tim at Ruby’s Café but he’s not there. Then we go to my favorite store Sandro before we peak into Pietro Nolita the new Italian restaurant where the color “millennial pink” threw up everywhere. We take a picture. Isn’t that what they want us to do? I make Tracy stop in Nomwah Tea Parlor’s Kenmare outpost which opened right before I left for some Shrimp Dumplings and Chinese Greens. Fuel. It was good, but kind of cold actually. De Maria is the new healthy restaurant that one-ups Dimes in the LES, so of course, I had to walk in to check out the scene. They are opening a bar downstairs soon. Then we skip (literally we did) to Milk & Cream Bar where they are basically infusing cereal into soft serve ice cream. Hard for me to not think about Kith Treats as the original. Oh, then we go to Greecologies which is a grass-fed Greek yogurt store with cool jams, toppings, and coffee. We go for the soft serve and they top it with olive oil and sea salt. YESS.
What I miss most about NYC food is sushi. We don’t have random sushi places on every corner where I could even imagine trusting the sashimi or feeling one bit satisfied. We try to hit up Tomoe in SoHo, closed. Then we head back towards Chelsea for Sugar Fish: closed; Sushi Seki: closed. At this point, I need my freaking tuna, but we go to City Cakes, my favorite chocolate chip cookie, for a quick drive by. Guess what? OUT OF CHOCOLATE CHIP. Wow, Memorial Day is killing me. I opt for a Red Velvet cookie filled cream cheese icing, topped with star sprinkles to get in the holiday spirit. Tracy kindly helps me with a photo shoot. Aw how we miss these days of art and food direction. Finally, we get a table at Momoya for sushi. NO questions asked, I’m getting a bowl of tuna sashimi with sushi rice, and extra ginger. Talk about relief and pleasure. It’s Monday night, so we cap the night off watching the second season of The Bachelorette with Rachel Lindsay from Dallas and then try to fall asleep but are wired until 2 a.m. talking nonstop. IT’S SO GOOD TO BE HOME!!!
DAY 2. Sunday in Brooklyn*The Good Sort* Quality Eats
With one eye open, I somehow get myself to Exhale for a workout class. I miss Crossfit 212, but it’s by our old apartment in NoHo, and I don’t have time to get there before my first meeting ( I AM working and meeting with editors not just eating all day). I walk down back through West Village and Washington Square Park and make a quick detour to see Enrique Olvera’s new restaurant Atla. Much different than I expected, but it seems to be a great place for a morning breakfast meeting and a coffee. I also sneak into Eggslut for a peak. I kind of thought it was going to look a little trendier. After my meeting, I do my favorite thing. I walk from NoHo across the Williamsburg Bridge and head to lunch with one of my oldest and closest friends, Jannika. That walk had my heart in broken pieces. I used to walk this bridge once a week (at minimum) whether it be with a friend to get some exercise or on the phone to catch up with Texas friends. It’s a great escape and view, so I had to do it while I was back. We meet for lunch at my old clients and friends new restaurant, Sunday in Brooklyn. I am ecstatic to see Adam and Todd because we had talked about working together on this project right before I knew I was going to get a job and move to Austin. Packed on a Tuesday during lunch in Williamsburg? W-O-W. I love everything about it. Their plants, their fresh to-go items, the open kitchen at the front door, their pastries, and the lighting. Literally felt like I was in their home. Everyone comes here for the Malted Pancakes dripping in hazelnut, maple, praline sauce, but I say come here for the house smoked salmon and cod and the Maple Cheddar Biscuit. DAMN. I also loved the Grain Bowl with spicy carrots, kale, egg, and avocado.
Back in Manhattan, I walk down to SoHo to check out some home goods and ceramic shops because I actually cook now and have a place to put these things. I swing by Mile End Deli on Bond to give a high five to Joel. Then I meet my friend Donna who works for the Today Show at the new coffee shop in China Town, The Good Sort, next door to Pinch Chinese. We get the gimmicky Rainbow Latte, BUT before you judge as a sell out, it’s full of nutrients and supplemental things that make you feel like you’re doing a body good: turmeric, blue algae, beetroot, coconut sugar, coconut milk. It tastes mostly like coconut milk, and we slurp them down instantly. I walk to Sei Tomoko in East Village to get my haircut (really needed this) by my Japanese friend, Mutsumi. What a relief. Then I head over to one of my favorite haunts, Quality Eats, to meet four of my best New York City girlfriends. It’s Sex & the City time. After beet tabbouleh, cheese, octopus, steaks, wine, and cocktails, we walk back to Chelsea and I run into my friend Danny who is standing outside his newest restaurant 33 Greenwich. He’s surprised because he thought I had moved…. I’ve covered 12 miles by foot today, and now it’s raining.
DAY 3. The Clam*Cookie Do*50 Bowery*Wildair*L’Artusi
Still no sleep happening yet, I go visit my favorite bosses, Brad and Lisette, at SHADOW PR. Walking up to floor 10 feels normal as ever. Then I race down to The Clam to meet my other most memorable co-workers at my other job, Jetty-Jane and Luciana. Everything is the same. We are still talking about office dynamics, media placements, and I’m giving advice as if I still work there. Do I? I don’t. We indulge in one of the best things I ate this trip—at a restaurant I actually had no intention of ever eating at, but I couldn’t figure out where I wanted to eat and Sugar Fish and Pasquale Jones were not available for lunch. So I dropped the reins and finally let someone else decide. LOBSTER AND FRIED CLAM SLIDERS?? Oh, and on brioche buns to seal the deal even more. The Clam Pizza felt more like a flatbread than a pizza. Just come get these buns and you’ll be thanking me! Next, we trotted to Cookie Do.
My friend Kristen Tolman opened this place, and I had the privilege of eating her edible cookie dough for the last two years that she would send me to sample. Of course, I ordered the most decadent thing on the menu: a cookie dough sundae with two scoops of ice cream, a baked cookie, sprinkles, and both chocolate and caramel sauce (hold the whipped cream, please). This made my heart melt and speed up like a racehorse as I waited in line living in the present and finally realizing I had made it. I have been thinking about visiting the shop from afar every day since it opened ( I know it’s sad). All my dreams came true.
Then I had about 40 minutes before my next meeting. I texted my old pal Ian who now works for Alexander Wang. He came down from his office showing off his beautiful smile and embracing me with his bear hugs that I love so much. Ian tells it like it is, just like me, which is why we get along so well. He brings me a new, grey purse with a silver chain. Are you kidding me? Just what I needed for summer. I love my friends (and AW), and I love New York! I meet my friend Ashley at 1 World Trade Center who works at Bon Appetit Magazine. We talk about Austin and New York food and then she shows me the Observation Deck on Floor 64. Damn, well isn’t this the best view of Manhattan looking north, east and west.
Next, I race to meet my friend Amy at the new 50 Bowery hotel which opened last week. I’m feeling full of pride that I don’t live here anymore, and I’m still going to an opening that none of my friends know about. Should I have kept this thought to myself? Can’t help it. We get watermelon, basil margaritas and head outside on the rooftop for another amazing city view. It’s not enough time to catch up, but then I race to meet Paulette at Wildair, a restaurant I had been to and that Bon Appetit named Hot 10 last year. Our waiter pours us complimentary rosé bubbles. I am in it to win it. Wow, this wine is so good. We start off with the sweet potato dish that I didn’t get to try last time. Then we order the bread so we can sop up the cheese. My favorite dish was the scallop crudo topped with radishes. There was so much seafood, citrus, and flavor in here. After the fried shrimp and more wine, I had to skip out on our Ice & Vice ice cream plan. By the way I made a food itinerary for myself so I wouldn’t leave anything out. Just when I thought there was no room left, I get a call from Charles who I met freshman year of college. When he moved to NYC 4 years after me, he told me he was going to start a blog called Chaz Barfs and only write about bars to rival Chekmark Eats. I never get sick of that joke. He catches me before I am back in Chelsea and we meet at L’Artusi for wine and their chocolate hazelnut dessert (oops). He badgers the bartender in a British accent but she likes it. 9 miles today.
DAY 4. BCD Tofu House*Motel Morris*City Cakes*Metta* Prince St. Pizza
This is my last full day and I’m trying not to think about it. By this point, I’ve made it to every neighborhood below Chelsea, surveyed all the new restaurants from the outside at least, seen all my old colleagues and best friends, and felt like I’ve been ruling the city again. I have my last work meeting and then meet Dan for lunch in Korea Town at BCD Tofu House. Dan has a special place in my heart as we are 8 years a part and feel like long lost siblings at times. He started Spoon University at NYU, is from Houston, and now writes for Saveur. Well, I loved this Korean restaurant and all the accompaniments that come with your tofu soup. We got green vegetarian dumplings, too. Then I walk down to Flatiron, check out Made Nice, their bags are perfect.
Next, I hug my first roommate in NYC, Meredith, who is also my life mentor. She moved on to Phoenix last year and was in town for a wedding ironically. Really she was in town because the world aligns, and I needed to see her on my first visit back to NYC. Then I hug Kristine who I met through Meredith in Madison Square Park. She’s about to buy a place. People are killing it!
Then I run into Bianca on the street who is also confused how I’m in town, and then my last run in is at Club Monaco with my writer friend Julie who has the best stories because she works at Cosmopolitan Magazine. I’m actually having dinner with her in a week in Austin. I take her on my way to visit Motel Morris. My friend Sam just opened this place. The interiors are cobalt blue, the bar is in the center of the restaurant, and he makes sure to give me a tour of the pink bathroom which comes with a phone. I’m so proud of him and all of my friends! My last stop is obviously back at City Cakes for my two chocolate chip ½ pound cookies. Not going to risk only getting one. Then I head back to Jannika’s, and we meet Charles and Tracy for dinner at Metta out in Fort Green. This was a 45 minute drive, and they were all very nice about treking out this far for me just because I needed to try this new restaurant with an open fire. I also make them share a bottle of orange wine with me and they like it or at least pretend they do. Good fire roasted beets, chicken, and steak with chimichurri.
We Uber back to the city and listen to Tropical House. We meet up with Nick, AJ, and Jeff for a drink and then my favorite cakebaker/friend Randi joins us. Well, I have to admit that I’ve never had Prince Street Pizza, so while we were still at Metta, we planned to head here after the bars for “dessert.” Oooh, that square pepperoni slice is good. It’s not too greasy, it’s not dry like other Grandma Pies, and I am sold! I see Magnolia Bakery started a rainbow banana pudding that day on Instagram. We walk down my favorite street Bleecker to go test out the waters. As soon as I walk up, I get a terrible feeling (no not from the pizza). THEY ARE OUT, DUH! Oh well, I’ve already had two dinners and a pre-dinner cookie. What I really want is Ample Hills Munchies ice cream flavor. They are now closed. As Jannika and I walk back to Chelsea, I turn around and there is my angel Maggie. We had been trying to link up all week and couldn’t make it work. JUST IN TIME!! We embrace and then head to her apartment where we hang out until after midnight. Life is complete, and the stars are looking out for us.
DAY 5. abcV —–> BYYEEE
I meet Sweet Lorens at abcV for some vegetarian breakfast. This is my last hoorah and Tracy comes in to say one last goodbye or hello if you will. I loved this menu, but was most enchanted by the Kitchari aka “veggie bowl” with carrots, turmeric, coconut milk, rice, yogurt. The Wild Blueberry Bowl had homemade jungle peanut butter, fresh and dried fruits and was an instant hit. They sent out the Avocado Toast. Thank you!
I grab my stuff and head to Penn Station where I leave for Boston to go to my cousin Jenny’s wedding. I ate the rest of my City Cakes cookie on the train even though I was full from having 4 courses at breakfast! It just seemed right. New York is the best place on earth. It is the same from when I left. My people are still there, my restaurants welcomed me with open arms, and my relationship with the city didn’t change a bit. New York is one of the only cities you can actually have a relationship with. It spits you out, spits on you, pushes you, turns its back on you, but in the end it will always have you, catch you, and love you back. I’m excited to finally sleep now.