Dining · New York · Uncategorized

New York Weekend and My Favorite Meals (Including Best Pizza Ever)

For Labor Day weekend, my husband and I spent three days in New York City.  Having been to NYC a few times, we knew we were going to skip the major tourist sites like the Empire State Building, major museums, Statue of Liberty, etc…as we have done them before.  This trip we wanted to relax and enjoy the city by focusing on dining, shopping and exploring some neighborhoods.  We started with a very early morning flight from Dallas to LaGuardia on American Airlines, which was delayed, as usual.  We landed close to 1pm so we were starving for lunch!  We did have fantastic clear views of Manhattan on the approach though.

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We checked into our hotel for the weekend, The Ritz Carlton on Central Park.  This is a beautiful hotel that is located right on the south end of the park, right next door to the Plaza Hotel.  I used points that I have been hoarding for years so we paid nothing for what is usually a $1,000 a night room.  The room itself was large and comfortable but because it was the “free points room”, there was no view of Central Park.  Our view was actually looking at the brick walls and fire escapes of other buildings but on the plus side, the room was super quiet at night – no street noise at all. Our baggage valet gave us a recommendation for a nearby Greek restaurant, Loi Estiatorios, that is run by a Greek family so we walked over there and ordered a lovely lunch of grilled Branzino, hummus and spreads and some baklava.

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Grilled Branzino at Loi Estiatoria
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Grilled Octopus

After lunch we went for a walk through Central Park and stopped by my favorite fountain, the Bethesda Terrace.

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One of the perks of staying at a pricey hotel like The Ritz is you can use their concierge services.  All of their concierges are members of the Clef D’or, which means golden key.  These guys can work miracles – tickets to Hamilton, reservations to impossible restaurants, etc…  I have been wanting to try Le CouCou, a highly sought after French restaurant that recently won a coveted Michelin star.  The concierge was able to snag us an 8:45 pm dinner reservation on a Friday night.  This place was amazing.  One the very best French meals (if not the actual best) that I have ever had and it was a beautiful restaurant with a single taper candle on each table, subdued lighting, chandeliers and an open kitchen.

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Bar at Le CouCou – very dark and romantic
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Lovely corner table at Le CouCou

We started with appetizers of sweetbreads in saffron sauce for Stephen (he loves organ meats) and I had an oeuf gelee, which is a poached egg encased in homemade aspic and surrounded by a ham and herb salad.  I will say that I really don’t care for sweetbreads but Steve’s dish was amazing.  It completely changed my view on those little innards.

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Egg in aspic with ham and herb salad
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Sweetbreads in saffron sauce
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Steve had rabbit 3 ways (only 2 ways shown here) – a breast hidden under an onion gratinee and rabbit legs and other parts is a country style broth
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My lobster with peppercorn sauce

The next day we were both up for a morning run in Central Park and then I had a facial at the hotel spa.  Afterwards we showered and ubered it down to Soho and Nolita where we had an amazing pizza pie at Rubirosa in Nolita. This place was casual and had the best thin crust pizza ever.  We decided to split some meatballs as an appetizer and then shared the white clam pizza with garlic and oregano.  It was my favorite pizza in NYC to date.

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Meatballs at Rubirosa
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True – Pizza IS the answer to everything
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White clam pizza – just get it

Afterwards, we I did some shopping in Soho. Steve carried my bags and complained about how long I was taking.  We then walked through Little Italy and stopped for a drink at a no name bar before heading back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner afterwards

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My sherpa

Dinner was at another hip restaurant recommended by the concierge called Legacy Records.  It’s located near Hudson Yards and the HiLine so we went down there early to check that out.  Sure, the new vessel sculpture is pretty cool but I honestly felt the HiLine was way overrated.  It’s a cool concept but it’s narrow and stupid crowded.  You really can’t enjoy it because of the mob of people on it.

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The Vessel in Hudson Yards

This place had food just as good as Le CouCou in my opinion but was a totally different vibe.  Le CouCou is very French, very dark, very subdued and romantic.  Legacy Records plays contemporary rap music and has a livelier, more hip vibe with more modern cuisine and lots of tasting and sharing plates.  We ended up trying their “green pasta” made with sage and mint and a lamb ragu as a starter and then we shared their lacquered duck with cherries for two with a side of roasted carrots.  The duck is a signature dish and stole the show.  Order this dish if you go there.

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Lacquered duck at Legacy Records

It was another late dinner and being old, we just went back to the hotel.  The next morning was another run in Central Park and then brunch at The Waverly Inn in Greenwich Village.  The Waverly is a historic building (formerly a tavern and a brothel) and was turned into a very popular restaurant by Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair.  It’s a popular celebrity spot and photos are very strictly not allowed but I snuck one of the murals on the interior of the building when no one was around.  It wasn’t busy at all and we sat in their garden and thoroughly enjoyed a burger and fries and BLT sandwich with mimosas for brunch.

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Murals inside The Waverly Inn

Following our extended brunch, we walked over to Washington Square where they were having a local art fair.  It was pretty warm in the sun so we didn’t do that very long before grabbing a cab and heading to 5th Avenue for a little extra shopping.  I popped into Saks for some makeup and a walk around to see the displays of silly, overpriced clothes.

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Hmmmm…Lime green plastic suit for the office?  Maybe not.

We then walked over to one of my favorite bars in Manhattan, the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel, and had a snack and glass of wine.  I love the Maxfield Parrish mural in here.

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King Cole Bar

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Sunday evening we met some friends of ours that were in town to see Broadway shows with their daughter.  We had some lovely traditional Italian food at Il Corso in Midtown, which I can recommend as well.  The next day we decided to sleep in and order some room service breakfast.  We checked out right before noon and grabbed a casual lunch of Chinese food on the lower west side before going to get our bags and head back to the airport.  We had such great views of the city on our takeoff and landing this trip.  We really enjoyed our low key weekend in NYC this time.  We often are running around to see shows or visit museums or sites and this time it was nice to only worry about some dinner and lunch reservations. We certainly ate well.

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Great view of Manhattan and Central Park on our flight home

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