When I visit new cities, there’s a moment where I am in complete awe of a place. It’s usually at a time when I take my first bite of a dish I know I am going to think about forever. In a rush, I feel the overwhelming feeling of gratitude, the taste of a meal well-made, the sense of belonging to a place that is not my home, the sheer amazingness of being in a city that existed long before me and will exist long after me but damn, am I here right now and a part of something bigger than myself.  This particular feeling was had when I had my first bite of the first dish at Le Bernardin in New York.

The freshness of the lobster in the bisque, the feeling of the starched linen on my lap, the crisp, velvety white wine that accompanied that bite and the murmur of contentment falling from the lips of the other guests around us made for one spectacular first impression that was followed by a hundred more that only got better with each passing course. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that tears came to my eyes by the third dish; Lacquered Lobster Tail; Tagliatelle, Black Truffle Emulsion. It tasted even better than it sounds. The service was impeccable, the wine was divine-but more on that later.

While Chef Eric Ripert’s restaurant was the star of the trip, we did not have one mediocre meal while in the city. From Indian to Italian to Modern American-New York City outdid it self so here are my foodie recommendations for you.

Beyond Sushi – Chelsea Market

vegan sushi

Know a vegan? Take them (or just treat yo’self) to Beyond Sushi. Made with  only vegetables, this vegan-friendly sushi bar inside Chelsea Market may be your saving grace. So delicious I didn’t even miss the ahi! The charred corn with harissa and cilantro curried cauliflower is a must-try and best of all, this four-piece sampler goes for $5.50.

Serendipity 3 – Upper East Side 

Ok, so Serendipity 3 is fairly touristic. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious. We popped in for some mid-afternoon dessert and shared a Peanut Butter Frozen Hot Chocolate (highly recommend) and this decadent apple pie a la mode inspired by the musical Waitress! on Broadway. Apple Pie is by far my favorite dessert and this slice may have been the best I’ve ever had. The caramel was just sweet enough, the crust was crispy and warm and the vanilla ice cream was simply elegant. Ten out of ten would order a hundred more times.

Epistrophy – NoLita 

Epistrophy is a charming little place, so small you may pass by it without a glance. But please, I beg of you, don’t! If you can, request a window seat, especially in the fall when the windows open up and you can people-watch and listen to the sounds of NoLita. This cute place was founded by friends from Sardinia who decided to make New York their home. Like most immigrants, they took something they loved and shared with their new homeland and I sure am thankful they did. Pictured above are the Zucchini and Ricotta Croquettes seasoned with mint and basil along with a honey yogurt sauce that we scraped off the plate. Those were followed by the even more delectable Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe that I will dream about until I have it again as well as the Homemade Gnocchi with mixed mushrooms, truffle oil and parmigiano-romano. It was the perfect dinner to have as the sun set over Mott Street and the buzz of the city came alive with shoppers and too many French Bulldogs to count. So, in simple terms, it was as close to heaven as I’ve had on a Wednesday night.

Paowalla – NoLita

Because we created our own little food tour of Soho, we didn’t indulge greatly at Paowalla, but what we had was extraordinary. The word, Paowalla, roughly translates to “a person who makes and sells bread”  and is adapted from Portuguese and Hindi. The restaurant features two tandoor ovens, as well as a dedicated bread bar with a wood-burning oven to highlight the Goan breads that Chef Cardoz grew up with. Their naan bread was the best I have ever had. Light, crispy, slightly glazed with oil, airy and fresh – I couldn’t imagine one better. Chef Floyd Cardoz won Season Three of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and it is obvious why. His passion for Indian cuisine shines through his cooking and with Paowalla being his first solo venture in New York, I hope it won’t be his last. We followed the naan bread and chutneys with Shishito Pakoras flavored with cilantro, chickpeas and peanuts. Crunchy, tasty and the perfect small plate that when finished, made me wish we could stay and order more. Bonus, it is next door to Dominique Ansel – keep reading you and you’ll understand why this is a bonus.

Dominique Ansel Kitchen – West Village 

Named the Worlds Best Pastry Chef in 2017, it’s no wonder this place creates lines down the block. If that doesn’t convince you, does the Cronut ring a bell? He invented it. Need I say more? I don’t think so, but I will. He’s also a James Beard Award-Winning Pastry Chef, he’s one of Business Insider’s “Most Innovative People Under 40”.  We showed up on our last day in NYC to take a big bite out of, well,  nothing resembling an apple.

Dominique’s Kouign Amann”: His signature item made with brown sugar: similar to a “caramelized croissant”; flaky and caramelized on the outside with tender layers on the inside is what I had and WOW — all other croissants in this life will pale in comparison. The coffee was wonderful as was the chewy, soft, very chocolatey chocolate chip cookie we bought cause, we’re adults and 8 a.m. doesn’t mean anything. Best part is everything is affordable and most bakery items are made a la minute mostly, so everything is fresh. He has macarons and cakes and a full breakfast if you so wish. But I was there for the pastries and the pastries were there for me. Next time you are near a Dominque Ansel bakery, do yourself a favor and go in and eat something. If you don’t, don’t tell me you did that. I won’t forgive you.

Muzzarella Pizza – East Village 

Giovanni. A charming and quite handsome older gentleman from Napoli has been running Muzzarella for 25 years. He told us about how he came to open his little shop way back when as he tossed our fresh pizza into the oven. We were the first customers  on a rainy Sunday in the East Village and Giovanni was feeling chatty, or perhaps he is always this friendly. He had only made one pizza for the day and said if we didn’t mind waiting, he would make anything we wanted. I ordered a slice with muzzarella, tomato and basil on focaccia bread and it was the best decision I could have made. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a slice so good. Focaccia is my favorite bread after Naan and damn- I will be searching for a slice as delicious the rest of my life. As we showered compliments on Giovanni in between tasty bites, he gave us his phone number and asked us to open a location for him in Kansas City. I don’t know Giovanni, if you give me your secrets on how you make pizza so good, I just might open it for you. Be aware, it’s cash only but luckily, there’s an ATM around the corner. Don’t leave Manhattan without trying this, I beg of you. Don’t do it for me, do it for you.

ABC V 

These photos are the only ones in the post that are not my own – thanks, Eater NY and Google. I wish I had photos better than on my cellphone because the food here was exquisite. I had never experienced a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant before but I won’t be making that mistake again after our dinner at ABC V. V is for vegetables and everything on the menu is either vegan or vegetarian but I promise you carnivores, you won’t miss the meat.

One of our two lovely Air BnB hosts hooked us up with reservations at this new hot spot. He was even so generous as to comp our meal; talk about a lovely human! Charles was so wonderful (as was his partner, Wilson) and we seriously miss them both. They made our trip even better just by being themselves and this thoughtful touch was the cauliflower on top! Walking in to ABC V is kind of like walking into a photography studio. The surroundings are bright white but the lighting is sexy and dim, begging you to come in and take a seat. At first, I didn’t even notice that we had walked right by Kat Von D and her crew as they nibbled on radicchio (speculation on the radicchio).

The menu is set up to share plates but these dishes are not small. Generous portions of beautifully executed dishes came out one after the other and by plate five we were full to the brim. After we ordered, the chef was so kind as to bring us a bonus dish of heirloom tomatoes, hearts of palm, shish, basil and barrel aged sherry vinegar. The next dish was even more scrumptious -warm crimini and chanterelle mushrooms, sherry vinegar, roasted sweet onions and tarragon. I could taste each distinct mushroom, flavors of the earth mixed with the acid from the sherry brought back down by the herbs,  made something so simple, so beautifully complex and deep.

The star of the night however, was the special, ‘Chicken of the Woods’; saison battered mushroom that looked exactly like fried chicken- it boggled our mind and satisfied our bellies.  Bite after bite we were speechless at how good it was and asked our waitress, “I know this is mushroom but, I mean…are we sure it is?” She agreed it was a mind game on a plate and all we could do was nod in agreement. All in and all done, dinner was so wonderful it made this dairy-loving girl consider, if even for a moment, that going full vegan wouldn’t be so bad if I could eat this way all the time!

I could go on for days but here are some other amazing places to try in NYC – if you have questions or need other recommendations, leave a comment below or send me an email and I would be happy to give you suggestions!

Aldo Sohm Wine Bar – Midtown – Two glasses of wine and a small plate later, you’ll be out quite a few bucks but the atmosphere as well as the experience is worth every penny. Opened by Eric Ripert’s sommelier who was named Best Sommelier in the World in 2008- the wine list is nothing less than impressive.

My recommendations are the Chenin Blanc, Dom. Aux Moines, Berceau des Fées, Loire ’16 or the Kerner, Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige ’16 from Greece if you’re in the mood for white wine. Try the Foie Gras Lollipop and leave a very happy camper.

Hotel Kimberly – Midtown – The rooftop bar is a glamorous spot to stop and drink a glass of Moet after dinner. With incredible views, this cozy bar is the perfect little spot for a romantic escape above the city.

Westlight – Brooklyn – If you want knock-your-socks-off spectacular views of the city, make your way to Westlight and thank me later. This rooftop bar has a billion dollar view of Manhattan and expensive cocktails to go with it. But seeing the sunset over the buildings from this hotel bar is priceless. Don’t believe me? Click the link and browse the photo gallery and don’t forget to send me a snap when you get there because it’s my new favorite place in Brooklyn.

Cafe Reggio – Greenwich Village – Home of the Oldest Cappuccino in NY. Sit by the window, order a coffee and leave with money in your pocket. You’ll feel like you’re in Italy.

DeKalb Market Hall- Brooklyn – Highly recommend DeKalb Taco (Get the Chicken Nachos!) You’ll shout Aye Dios Mio!  I promise.

Buvette – West Village – A little French restaurant in the village with decadent waffles and cute plates to go with the adorable decor. Small menu, simple food and great for a  quick breakfast before you’re on the go again. But here, the atmosphere trumps the food so if you’re unsure, pop in for a quick cafe au lait and a photo

Los Tacos #1 – Chelsea Market – The tacos, they really are numero uno! LOVED every bite and wanted more. Don’t walk, run!

Famous Famiglia – I’ve loved this place since I first discovered it on my first trip to New York when I was 18. The mozzarella, tomato and basil is hands down my favorite (Do you see a theme?) Order a slice and you’ll see what I mean. If you can’t get to Muzzarella, go here.

Ciao, New York. Until we meet again.