So I realized as a long time lurker and occasional poster, I hadn't really posted a trip report from my summer trip, and I always try to do so to think you amazing folks for your wonderful advice.
Background on me - I'm a New York City addict/wannabe resident living in small town central PA, and at least once per year I blow way too much of my music teacher salary on food, wine and theater in one of my favorite cities in the world. I've hit most of the biggies, always dining on my own (because my friends think I'm nuts), and I always try new places and usually come here for advice. Here were the highlights of the trip:
New neighborhood - stayed at the Belnord Hotel on the Upper West Side, loved the neighborhood and felt like a local. Plus it was close to my cookie heaven Levain Bakery, and I also had the greatest breakfast at Barney Greengrass, the nova plate was incredible.
Letdown at first drink - I usually love the rooftop bar at Eataly but I was really disappointed. First, it was sweltering hot up there at noon (my dumb fault), but I was really let down by the lack of Italian beers on draft and the really cold unfriendly service from the bartender, in the past the guys have always been fantastic. Probably won't go back.....
First big lunch - Gramercy Tavern. It's my one letdown of a restaurant from a few years back at dinner, went with my mom, we didn't love the food, seemed way overpriced. Did the lunch tasting menu, and food was very good, service was professional, it was definitely solid but not mind blowing. I think I'll just stick to the Tavern Room where I had a great meal in the past.
After theater that night - Saki Bar Hagi thanks to Ttrockwood. Loved it! Waited a few minutes for a seat at the bar, had a great sake that I looked like a fool drinking out of the square bowl, ordered something fried seafood (can't remember, maybe squid?) and braised pork, and also somehow accidentally ordered a beef dish that was a little chewy. But it was just so different from anything I'd ever eaten, so I thought it was a great adventure.
Much needed break from the heat of walking some of the High Line - several Rieslings from Terroir on the Terrace, really cute place but could have used more shade!
First big dinner - Aquavit. This was another suggestion from the board here because Aska was closed and it was spectacular. I did the full chef's tasting with wine pairing, and the only thing that didn't wow me was the venison, found it a bit over smoked. Everything else was flawless and unusual, service was professional but super fun once we loosened up, my main guy Carlos was a dream, and that birds' nest dessert was everything it looks like on all those Instagram photos. And I really like Aquavit the drink, maybe too much.....
Brooklyn food tour - so Ziggy was as amazing as all his reviews here and on TripAdvisor make him out to be (thanks so much if you're reading this, Ziggy), I had a foodie dream day with all of these amazing places/foods that I never would have tried on my own with Ziggy and a lovely young Canadian couple. I couldn't recommend his tours enough...
Late dinner that night - Contra. I wanted something different, and slightly more affordable to give the credit card a little rest, so I settled on Contra. After walking by it on the street and then having to walk past the idiot drunken cat callers smoking outside the bar not once but twice, I really loved the place. I will say, even at 41, I felt really old sitting there. :) But my waitress Liz really started to warm up, and I thought the food was really great, I especially remember the fish with umeboshi plum, so good. For the 2nd night in a row, hugged my server on the way out, it's something that I always get as a single female doing crazy fine dining, just helps so much to get to know the people I'm with for many hours.
Final big dinner - L'Appart. This was one I wasn't sure about, since it was new and it doesn't seem to get a lot of write-up here, but I thought a drink outside on the deck before dinner would be nice and I'd just try some French fine dining to round things out. It was sheer perfection, maybe my best fine dining experience since EMP. The space is gorgeous and intimate, you are introduced to Chef Nico and all the chefs on your way in, and you just feel at home. I went for the whole menu again, with 3 mains (too much food probably, but I can't help myself). Initially, I had arrived right before 2 other couples and it seemed like they were rushing me to keep up or catch up to others, and I really like a slow pace so I mentioned this to my waiter. So Chef Nico says you just let me know when you are ready for the next course, I won't start anything till you say so. And he did this with a bit of a wink, and this was after he also walked me to the restroom the first time (they really do need a bathroom in there) - it became sort of a joke of them starting at me until I gave the wink or thumbs up. After that it was all fun and great food, and some of the wackiest delicious desserts I've ever had (still not sure about the serious flower one, but I certainly remember it). By the end of the night, every worker in that restaurant wrote me a message on my menu to take home, and I got to take a picture with them all behind the line. It was amazing, I felt so special.
And I can't get my bus back home without my normal lunch at Mercato, which was delicious as always.
Probably my greatest food trip yet, and I thank all those who helped and who now read through this extremely long report. I'll be back soon!