My NYC Foodie Bucket List

Living in Ethiopia is just accentuating my foodie tendencies and it seems like I have a tick list in the notes on my phone for every trip we go on. I took it to a whole new level for my Big Birthday in New York and had all the recommendations as pins in Google Map. The number of pins got overwhelming so I sifted it down to these 10 essentials… all of which we achieved!

Living in Ethiopia is just accentuating my foodie tendencies and it seems like I have a tick list in the notes on my phone for every trip we go on. I took it to a whole new level for my Big Birthday in New York and had all the recommendations as pins in Google Map. The number of pins got overwhelming so I sifted it down to these 10 essentials… all of which we achieved!

The Combo Sandwich at Halal Guys

This is consistently rated one of the best food trucks in New York and it’s not hard to see why. It was the best kebab I’ve ever eaten! And I’ve had a lot of late night kebabs in my day. The meat melts in your mouth, the pita is high-quality and the sauces are out of this world. I’m still dreaming about their Combo Sandwich. We popped here after late-night opening at MoMA and hoisted ourselves up onto a nearby wall to munch away and people-watch. The best tastes aren’t always in the high-class restaurants, Nomads!

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Ramen and buns at Momofuku

There has been a plethora of Momofuku’s popping up in NYC in various forms and there’s a reason they’re so popular. That broth-based goodness, Nomads! I could have inhaled my bowl of ramen, just brimming with umami! And the BUNS. Filled with chicken meatballs and a sweet sriracha mayo, these were a more-ish take on the latest trend.

Chicken Meatball Bun at Momofuku

Tonnes of soft serve – Milk & Cream Cereal Bar and Taiyaki NYC

Soft serve abounds in New York right now covered in all sorts of rainbow unicorn toppings and all with a great neon sign in the shop to pose with. The two we tried absolutely hit the spot. I’ve already raved about Taiyaki over here. Milk & Cream Cereal Bar provided us with cookie dough ice cream with mushed in French Toast Crunch and gummy bears, covered in caramel. YUM.

Posing with the neon sign at Milk & Cream Cereal Bar

Poke at Blue Ribbon Sushi

As a sushi fiend, I was glad to hear that every new opening in New York right now seems to involve poke. But since Concierge Husband does not share this obsession, I took the opportunity whilst we were in the food court opposite the World Trade Center, Hudson Eats, where there was plenty more on offer for him. Poke is great, y’all.

Hudson Eats Food Court

A Sabrett Hot Dog

It’s just so New York, Nomads. From the moment of arrival, my foodie-sense was on high alert, sending out signals for one of those blue and yellow umbrellas. And I found one about 10 minutes in. All the salty goodness was mine! (Disclaimer: the photo is not an actual Sabrett hot dog, it’s at the NFL game that made all Concierge Hubby’s dreams come true. And technically we are in Jersey. But check out that t-shirt, though).

Hot dog at an NFL game

The Chocolate Babka at Breads Bakery

Having heard this was the best babka in New York, we purposefully made a detour. I was thrilled when the older Jewish New Yorker in the queue behind me gleefully confirmed this to be the case. Have no fear if there’s none on display – there a constant stream of it coming out the oven, Nomads. Just ask. We were already stuffed so we took it to go and were surprised that it lasted multiple breakfasts; it was still incredibly moist. I got lost in the swirls of nutty chocolate and doughy goodness. This probably ranks as the best baked good I’ve ever had. Gosh, New York gave me a lot of foodie “Best of”s!

Sign for best chocolate babka in New York at Breads Bakery

Colourful croissants at Union Fare Gastrohall

Not only are these colourful croissants extremely instagrammable, they are really frickin’ good. I opted for the red velvet version, which is full to bursting with a cream cheese frosting. I ended up with croissant crumbs and frosting ALL OVER myself, Nomads, and my grin was like a child with tomato spaghetti around their chops.

Colorful croissants at Union Fare Gastrohall

A Chinatown Food Tour – DIY style

It’s just got to be done, Nomads. I feel so passionately about it that I devoted an entire post to it. Check it out and plan your own.

Vanessa's Dumplings in Manhattan Chinatown

Tacos from Los Tacos No.1 in Chelsea Market

And we’re up to a 3rd “Best Of” in one list! Fair enough, you wouldn’t expect the world’s best tacos to be found in my homeland of the UK (though many food trucks and boutique chains are doing stirling work), but I’ve been to Texas, Nomads! So I really was surprised when I bit into my Los Tacos taco and swiftly ascended to culinary heaven. I don’t know how they do it and any description would be a gross under-exaggeration, so go and find out for yourselves, Nomads. Order a couple. Thank you’s are welcome in the comments section.

Los Tacos No.1 at Chelsea market

A Splurge at Trader Joe’s

Ok ok, perhaps this isn’t New York specific but Trader Joe’s is a necessary pre-departure pit stop. With 30 minutes before our airport pick up and a packed store, I left Concierge Hubby in the queue and entered into my own version of supermarket sweep, dashing about and swiping products off the shelves. As it is autumn / fall and I adore pumpkin, the Joe-Joe’s, pancake and waffle mix and pumpkin butter all made it into my trolley. I had the pumpkin butter as a topping on my chia pudding this morning and it was yum. For snacks, I grabbed the chocolate covered super berries, maple leaf cookies, toffee chips, peanut butter cups and S’MORES BITES. The Green Dragon Hot Sauce jumped into my cart all by itself. It’s sassy like that. And of course, I circled back around for the cult classics; Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning and Speculoos Cookie Butter. I’ve been putting the seasoning on everything – most recently the curried pumpkin soup I made last night (I did mention I love pumpkin.)

Now excuse me whilst I go to the gym… It’s been a high-calorie month.

5 New York Gems Not to Miss

You’ve a little more time in New York than a long weekend. Or this isn’t your first rodeo in the Big Apple. Or maybe you just don’t love major tourist attractions. No matter your reasoning, I’ve got the perfect spots to add a little something something to your NYC itinerary…

You’ve a little more time in New York than a long weekend. Or this isn’t your first rodeo in the Big Apple. Or maybe you just don’t love major tourist attractions. No matter your reasoning, I’ve got the perfect spots to add a little something something to your NYC itinerary…

The Standard

This is a top spot to watch an NYC sunset. The elegant cocktail bar of The Standard is the perfect stop after an afternoon stroll along the Highline and a foodie stop into Chelsea Market. We enjoyed American G&Ts (Dorothy Parker and Brooklyn) with our sunset, looking out over New York’s beautiful skyline. There’s often a huge queue outside the hotel for the rooftop bar’s separate entrance (even on a cool October evening like when we visited) but this Concierge’s top tip is to pop inside and take the elevator to its inside sister bar, which radiates Madmen-glamour.

G&T at The Standard, New York    Sunset at The Standard, New York

Museum of Chinese in America

After filling your boots with all the yummies that Chinatown has to offer, why not stop in at the incredible MoCA. There so much that commends this museum – the artistic and effective way the exhibits impart information, the fascinating and evocative content and the telling of stories largely untold. I’d make this a New York essential, Nomads.

Paper sculpture at MoCA

Ellis Island

Many daytrippers forego Ellis Island and its amazing immigration museum in their visits to the Statue of Liberty. But they are missing out, Nomads! The renovation of the Ellis Island facility to what it would have looked like, the collection of so many first-hand accounts and the fantastic audio walking tour make this a unique insight into what it was like to arrive in the USA for many thousands of migrants who make up modern-day America. It seems particularly important to visit now with the current rhetoric on immigration in US politics and makes for an emotional but meaningful day.

Reception hall at Ellis Island

MoMA at Night

Visiting MoMA on a day of the week that they’re open late increases your chance of seeing a serendipitous pop-up event (like a saxophonist serenading one of Louise Bourgeois’ gigantic spiders) and finding yourself completely alone with a Monet or Van Gough. The night time makes any museum magical in this Concierge’s book, but add art and it’s something very special indeed.

Louise Bourgeois Spider at MoMA

A Last Supper at The NoMad Restaurant

How cliché that I’d recommend a restaurant with half of my name in it. But honestly, Nomads, I’ve dined across the world and this is the best food I’ve ever eaten. We devoured three courses that had such complexity of flavours and yet were so delightfully simple to eat and enjoy. The dining room was cosy and intimate and I wanted the wardrobe of all of my fellow diners. This was five-star dining and SUCH a treat for our last night of celebrating my 30th in the Big Apple. Once again, props to Concierge Husband for finding this stand-out.

New York Chinatown – How to DIY a Tour

A fun alternative activity to the normal tourist circuit in New York is getting lost and stuffed in Chinatown and there have been a billowing of food tours to help you test out the best of the best. However, this Concierge loves taking her time and getting distracted and popping into whichever shopfront entices her, especially when it comes to food. So after a little research, I decided to self-tour Manhattan’s Chinatown. Here’s how you can do the same…

A fun alternative activity to the normal tourist circuit in New York is getting lost and stuffed in Chinatown and there have been a billowing of food tours to help you test out the best of the best. However, this Concierge loves taking her time and getting distracted and popping into whichever shopfront entices her, especially when it comes to food. So after a little research, I decided to self-tour Manhattan’s Chinatown.

First of all, to show my props, not only am I a foodie travel blogger, I also lived in China for 4 years and I could live on a purely Asian diet. So I have a high bar. Living in Ethiopia, we actually do quite well for Chinese (and Korean) food but LORDY do I miss dimsum. So we 100% had to spend some solid hours in Chinatown, stuffing our faces.

 New York street with cop car and fire escape

Here’s how you can do the same…

First of all, Mott Street is a great street to situate yourself in Chinatown. There are all sorts of interesting wares being sold and smells invading your nostrils. After a little time perusing, it’s DINNER TIME.

Believe it or not, the main event at Fried Dumpling is… fried dumpling. My research led us here for some good… well, fried dumplings and they were the good stuff. Grab a stool, make sure you get some fresh ones and pour on your soy and sriracha (or some vinegar if you can get it). The wrappers all over Chinatown are not going to be China standard, but the fillings were yum and this place has such low prices, it’s wild.

 Best fried dumplings in New York

Mei Li Wah Bakery is a necessary stop for the best pork buns in Chinatown. The BBQ pork is fantastic; melt in the mouth with a delicious sauce. In the steamed version, the dough was a little dense and whilst we were sat, a line of people appeared for the baked version, so I’d recommend the latter. Apparently, this is where Chinatown locals come for their pork buns and that’s recommendation enough for me. (I also loved the Nom Wah version – the pork wasn’t quite as good but the caramelised onion is a nice touch and it was doughy doughy goodness.)

 Mei Li Wah Bakery BBQ Pork Buns

Vanessa’s Dumplings is another Chinatown institution and beloved of all. Whilst it’s a little out of the way, it’s well worth the meander; their dumplings are impressive and there’s a fabulous choice. Try the chicken and basil boiled dumplings, the monthly special and the sesame pancake with Peking Duck.

 The outside of Vanessa's Dumplings in New York Chinatown

No Chinatown trip is complete without some soupy dumplings (xiaolong bao), Concierge Husband’s favourite type. Shanghai Cafe Deluxe is a solid pair of hands for some high-level soupy dumplings. There’s a minimum spend, so we took our’s to go and sat in the park, but the menu looked delightful, so consider adding an extra couple of items and parking yourself in one of their booths. Worried about 3rd degree burns from soup spillage? Here’s a failsafe guide to eating your soupy dumplings with at least some dignity.

 Xialongbao

By this point, you’re probably craving something sweet, Nomads. Golden Fung Wong Bakery has freshly baked fortune cookies and authentic almond cookies. Actually everything looked good, but those are what we tasted. On our visit, we were delighted to spy mooncakes in an abundance of flavours and picked out a pineapple-flavoured beauty.

The neon sign of Chinatown's best bakery, Golden Fung Wong

If you’ve still got space, at Taiyaki my favourite Chinatown snack has got a trendy (and tasty) upgrade. Here the fish-shaped waffle is still partially filled by custard or red bean paste but topped up with a yummy soft serve. Drizzled over my matcha and sesame ice cream, I opted for condensed milk, pop rocks with a stick of mochi in the side. NOM.

 Taiyaki

However, if you’re looking for whimsy, Chinatown ice cream factory serves up scoops of ice cream in taro, egg custard, red bean, pandan, green tea, black sesame, lychee and many more!

If you’re less concerned with touring and just want great dimsum, Nom Wah Tea Parlor did not disappoint. I’d almost forego the others next time and head straight there. It’s so evocative of the old teahouses in Hong Kong with the big ceiling fans and the fabulous vintage posters and the formica tables. The food made for two elated travellers; yummy soupy dumpling, cheoung fun with a sweet oozing sauce, stuffed tofu skins to die for, moreish shu mai and shrimp dumplings, I mentioned the excellent buns. And the selection of teas, Nomads! It’s the oldest spot in Chinatown and so reknowned that we were worried it would be a tourist trap, but we left floating along the street in a dimsum daydream!

 Dimsum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor

 

Need more dimsum?

Dimsum Go Go

Jing Fong is a huge dimsum parlour just waiting for you

 

Need more dumplings?

Golden Steamer; ignore the name and try the pumpkin or BBQ pork buns

 

Looking for Chinese dishes?

Tasty Hand pulled noodles

Xian Famous Foods

Little Alley for great Shanghai food and a HUGE soupy dumpling

 Two old ladies eating dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor in New York

48 hours in The Hamptons without breaking the bank

Mentioning The Hamptons conjures up a strong association for most people… New York’s summer playground, the watermelon incident in SATC, a couple of Kardashians… All of which are tied together with a big bow of glamour. Of which I am a fan. The Hamptons is notoriously pricey but going just off season, right before many establishments close and the weather is still luscious, can make all the difference…

Mentioning The Hamptons conjures up a strong association for most people… New York’s summer playground, the watermelon incident in SATC, a couple of Kardashians… All of which are tied together with a big bow of glamour. Of which I am a fan. Plus – this Concierge, living in landlocked Ethiopia, was craving the beach and some excellent seafood. So when Concierge Hubby began planning a special 30th birthday trip for me Stateside, a few days in The Hamptons just had to be on the agenda.

The Hamptons is notoriously pricey but going just off season, right before many establishments close and the weather is still luscious, can make all the difference. We hired a car from JFK (Nomads, watch out for deals with air miles as many car hires are associated with airline alliances) and set off in the opposite direction to NYC, right to the end of Long Island. We chose Montauk as our destination – the grounded sibling of the Hamptons family. On our way, we drove through village after village with pretty ship-lap homes and the manicured high streets. There were even windmills, Nomads! From the get-go, this was entirely what this Concierge had hoped for.

Our dinner stop was Springs Tavern, which combined the feel of a down to earth diner with stylish Hamptons furnishings (I see you, ceiling fan, wooden floor and warm grey hues). Locals lined the bar, whilst relaxed groups of sun-seekers occupied the restaurant and we filled our boots with an excellent burger, mac ‘n cheese and a craft beer that slid down very easily. Hello ‘Merica!

Our hotel was an inspired choice by Concierge Hubby, the Hero Beach Club. This was Boutique with a Capital B; art scattered throughout the hotel and grounds, branding to die for, an iPad in the room to connect you with reception, local rose on tap in the bar, swing chairs on the porch, pool furniture from Bali… Our veranda looked out directly over the sea with an enticing beach just feet away. No white noise machine needed for a deep sleep when the waves are that close!

Room in the Hero Beach Club Montauk

After a restful night, our morning began with a swim in the beautiful pool, a stroll down said beach, and a veer off course in the direction of coffee and pastries. Left Hand Coffee provides excellent caffeination – drip coffee, a multitude of single blends… These people know coffee. The pastry was a secondary event but hit the spot. It’s definitely a solid Montauk option for a grab-n-go breakfast.

Beach and sea outside the Hero Beach Club Montauk

After a wander through Montauk, we headed on to our lunch spot (a day revolving around food = a good day), the incredible Clam Bar. It feels exactly like being on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, as you pull up to the high-class shack on the side of the highway and park up on chucky stones. This is where one of the Hamptons’ most loved Lobster Rolls can be found and, therefore by default, me. This roll was so stuffed full of lobster, it overflowed and was totally fresh. Concierge Hubby had heard that sometimes the lobster has literally been on the seafloor hours before. The bun was light, sweet and fluffy. I was in Seafood Heaven, Nomads! Add to that a glass of local white and this was one happy Concierge.

Lobster roll from the Clam Bar on the Montauk Highway

Post-lunch, there was a definite need to walk off the lobster and so we headed into East Hampton and then Sag Harbor to peruse the shops and dream of living the other side of one of those white picket fences. J-Crew, Brandi Melville and a Maple Pecan Frappuccino (FINALLY) were excellent features of the wandering. Not to mention getting up close and personal with one of the aforementioned windmills! We soon scooted off for the next item on our Hamptons agenda – wine tasting! At the Wolffer Estate, there’s no long tour with a blow-by-blow account of how every grape was smushed – it’s all about the tasting. We ordered a flight of wine and set about testing Wolffer’s best offerings. As you try, you sit on a sunny patio with the vineyards and blue skies right in front of you. It’s a perfect afternoon. The sharing platters looked very tempting were it not for the amount of lobster already consumed and the prospect of a fancy dinner in a few short hours. There’s a shop inside to purchase anything you’ve particularly enjoyed (alongside a range of ciders and a gin!) but refreshingly, we happened upon it by chance! There was not a single sales pitch, nevermind the reminders ad nauseam that can be part and parcel of a wine tasting. We returned to the hotel thoroughly relaxed.

A flight of wine to taste at the Wollfer Estate in the Hamptons

We headed up to the North Shore to find a perfect spot for sunset. A few of our potentials were closed for the season but we found the wonderful Montauket, a pub full of character (and people) with a great buzz and good beer & wine for sunset-watching. The North shore of the island is where to catch the sunset from and it was breath-taking. Just see for yourself…

Sunset from the Montauket in Montauk

We moved on for dinner at Scarpetta Beach, set inside the luxurious Gurney’s Resort that oozed elegance and Hamptons charm. This is perhaps the part of the post that (despite the title) could break the bank, Nomads, but it was the day of my 30th Birthday and Concierge Husband is very good to me. The lighting was low and romantic, the tables were spaced and intimate, the food was beautiful and refined. As we waited for a taxi to collect us, we sat under blankets at the most well-appointed fire pit I’ve ever seen and floated away home happy, happy, happy.

Hero Beach Club Montauk's smiley face

Waking up to the lapping of the sea, we set off for a healthy breakfast at Naturally Good Foods, with all the superfoods and wondergrains your heart could desire. From there, it was finally time to explore Montauk’s lighthouse *over excited squeal due to girlish love of lighthouses*. The light house is right at the end of Long Island (an area innovatively named called The End) and set in an area filled with nature and protected reserves. We strolled on the beach before clambering up the rocks and lapping the light house.

Montauk Lighthouse

It was time for us to start making our way back to JFK to get a shuttle into the city but we took our sweet time about it. We stopped off at Vicki’s Veggies, a picture perfect stall in Amagansett for some farm-fresh fruit for the road and then perused the town and did a little more shopping. We headed to The Village Gourmet Cheese Shoppe and sat people watching in Southampton with incredible soups, salads and cheese. And we once again lusted after all the beautiful homes and houses of the Hamptons’ villages.

Pretty street with movie theater in East Hampton

We reached New York easily after dropping off the hire car and completely relaxed after a perfect Birthday retreat in The Hamptons. Try it out, Nomads!

DAY 1

10am – Stroll on the beach and coffee & pastries at Left Hand Coffee

11am – Walk through Montauk

12pm – The Hamptons’ best lobster rolls at the Clam Bar

1.30pm – A wander through East Hampton and Sag Harbor, checking out the marina & the windmill

3.30pm – Wine tasting at the Wolffer Estate

5.45pm – Sunset at a North Coast pub like the Montauket

7.30pm – Dinner at Scarpetta Beach, Gurney’s Resort

DAY 2

10am – Healthy breakfast at Naturally Good Foods

11am – Discovering the Montauk Lighthouse and some of the surrounding trails

12pm – Explore Amagansett and stock up on fruit snacks at Vicki’s Veggies

1pm – Lunch at the Village Gourmet Cheese Shoppe

2pm – Explore Southampton and then on to JFK

Windmill in Sag Harbor, The Hamptons

24 hours in San Francisco

San Francisco had long been on my bucket list and so when I could make it work to fit in a weekend there before a Californian wedding… it was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, a flight cancellation made it into 24 hours. But what a 24 hours; all the food trends, instagrammable houses and tram-filled streets and THE COFFEE! This itinerary is ideal for the active city-explorer or could be spread over two days for the city-stroller, adding in a few other gems I didn’t have time. Get planning, Nomads!

San Francisco had long been on my bucket list and so when I could make it work to fit in a weekend there before a Californian wedding… it was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, a flight cancellation made it into 24 hours. But what a 24 hours; all the food trends, instagrammable houses and tram-filled streets and THE COFFEE! This itinerary is ideal for the active city-explorer or could be spread over two days for the city-stroller, adding in a few other gems I didn’t have time for like the zig-zagging Haight-Ashbury or a boat trip.

I stayed at the Cartwright on Union Square to be super central and for easy access to the shops, where I could stock up on Benefit products etc. The Cartwright had a roaring logfire and comfy sofas in the foyer and the rooms were all dark wood, tufted headboards and ceiling fans. Just my aesthetic, Nomads.

After enjoying your hotel breakfast, head straight off to the Golden Gate Bridge to start your day in the most iconic way possible. It absolutely lives up to expectation; take the time to wander across the bridge and admire the scale. And take a million photographs, let’s be straight about this, Nomads.

From here, head back into the city down Divisadero Street, stopping in at The Mill for some excellent Four Barrel coffee. If you didn’t manage breakfast, the Bi-Rite Market is closeby for deli and snacking goodies. This area has some great little boutiques in this area, but I was saving myself for Mission District.

Make your way to Chinatown and enjoy getting lost amongst the hub-bub. Find the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory down Ross Alley (the city’s oldest street) and watch the gentleman making up the cookies before leaving with a big bag. Wander down Jack Kerouac Alley, named after its most famous loiterer, and enjoy the mix of East and West poetry decorating the pavements. At the end, you’ll find the City Lights Bookstore, which will through you straight into the Beat Age. Pick up a book and take a seat.

It’s probably time for some food, so if you’ve resisted the Chinatown smells, head over to Dolores Park for an al fresco lunch. The Tartine Bakery has a wonderful selection or try the incredible Rebel Within from Craftsman and Wolves (it’s a trendy scotch egg and I LOVED it.) Dolores Park is an attraction in and of itself; bringing to mind the summer of love and LGBTQ movement. Take your time and enjoy it, definitely with an ice-cream from the nearby Bi-Rite Creamery to finish off your picnic. It’s so worth the queue.

Spend a good chunk of the afternoon lusting after Mission’s pastel homes and darting in and out of the range of boutiques in this area. I loved Gravel and Gold for beautiful interiors.

Late afternoon is a great time to make your way to the Marina District and Fisherman’s Wharf for a walk along the sea front and a view out to Alcatraz. For dinner time views, I headed to Boudin’s, an old bakery which is now a large restaurant for a bread bowl of chowder and a huge glass of good local wine. A dreamy end to a dreamy day.

I’d love to hear your extra tips, Nomads – shopping, eating, evening entertainment. Drop them in the comments section below!