New York City – Part 3

Here’s the scoop on the last bit of our trip to New York! In case you missed Part 1 or Part 2, I’m picking up where I left off on Saturday morning.

Saturday

We woke up {fairly} early to drive around Manhattan with Christina and Charlie. They probably won’t have their car there for much longer, so it was a treat to get to ride around and see the sights from the comfort of a personal vehicle. We drove all around lower Manhattan before heading across the bridge to Brooklyn to meet Becky for brunch at a place called Sun in Bloom — a gluten-free, vegan and raw food kitchen that I’ve been following on Instagram for a long time. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would actually get to visit her restaurant in Williamsburg, so I was super excited.

sun in bloom outside

Now I know why Chef Aimee’s photos are so fabulous. In addition to the food being pretty, her space is naturally lit with a clean, rustic vibe. I love the look and feel of the whole place.

sun in bloom

We started out with their gluten-free pancakes topped with shitake mushroom bacon and maple syrup. Both the pancakes and the shitake bacon where out of this world. First, you could not even tell the pancakes were gluten-free. Second, the shitake bacon was the most unique addition to pancakes I’ve ever had. It is savory with a subtle hint of mushroomy flavor.

pancakes

I also had the hot chocolate, which was SO good. It was made with almond milk and cocoa. For my entree, I chose a special brunch item with tofu scramble, black beans, fresh salsa, brussels sprouts, avocado and quinoa. Everything was delicious, but what I really wanted was some more pancakes. I changed my order from pancakes to this southwestern dish at the last minute, before I knew how fantastic their pancakes are.

sun in bloom brunch

I’m positive everyone was very happy with their meals, including the boys. I was a little worried John wasn’t going to buy into the whole vegan menu, but he did! I felt good the whole rest of the afternoon knowing I fueled up with honest, real food.

After brunch, we made our way back to the Upper East Side to see Christina and Charlie’s apartment and regroup before heading out to walk around Central Park.

central park

We walked around, stopping a few times to see a castle, some entertainers, and the reservoir. I feel like movies always show people running around the reservoir, so I had to take a look. I wanted to run it myself, but ran out of time.

As the sun went down, it started to get really cold. We made our way to The Plaza Food Hall to get a snack and warm up.

plaza food hall

After our late afternoon snack, we all went home to take a nap before a late dinner. We all had our hearts set on New York Chinese food, but I wanted GOOD New York Chinese food. I researched a few places, and finally landed on Japanese restaurant called Ootoya, which I assumed would be close enough to what we had in mind. Boy was I wrong. This place is authentic Japanese cuisine off the beaten path in Times Square, so far from the Chinese food we had in mind that it’s comical.

We met our friends Lindsay, Sam and Hope for a late 9:00 reservation and I’m pretty sure we were the only patrons in the restaurant who weren’t Japanese. We had to ask our waitress about 50 questions before wrapping our brains around any type of decision about what to eat. Thankfully, we had a bold woman at our table ready to take on this foreign menu. We started with two salads: “Watercress Salad with Special Bonito Flakes” {fresh water cress served with special bonito flakes and wafu dressing} and “Homemade Tofu Salad with Special Bonito Flakes” {homemade tofu salad served with special bonito flakes and wafu dressing}. The tofu salad is pictured on top, and the watercress on bottom. The bonito flakes are the strips inside the red bowls resembling bacon, but are actually fine, sashimi grade skipjack tuna prepared using a 1,000-year-old method. The tuna is filleted, steamed, air-dried, aged and shaved into delicate flakes and adds a savory flavor to many dishes at Ootoya.

salads

Next on the lineup of food we had coming our way was the “Sashimi Moriawase” {assorted fresh sashimi, blue fin tuna, Atlantic and Scottish salmon, amberjack fillet, scallop, fluke and sea urchin}. My favorite was the amberjack pictured on top of the purple lettuce leaf. At least I think that is the amberjack…

sushi

When our food started to arrive, my excitement level skyrocketed. Everything came neatly displayed on trays with individual bowls for different parts of the entire dish.

christinas

Of course, mine came last and was a spectacle of a presentation. It made an entrance, to say the least. I got the the “Grilled Atka Mackerel Set” which came with miso soup, homemade pickles, steamed egg custard and brown rice with several toppings – each in their own bowls – including veggies, organic poached egg, and grated Japanese yam. I’m glad she told me how to start eating the fish, because I had to pull back that entire top layer of bones and I would have had no clue to do that. Once I got underneath that layer, the fish was incredibly tender and flaky with a mild grilled flavor.

my entree

We ordered four different kinds of gelato for dessert. I am having a hard time recalling the flavors, but I think they are vanilla, green tea, black sesame and salted caramel. All were fantastic and so fresh that they didn’t add a layer of stuffed feeling, but more of a cleansing component to the end of the meal.

dessert

We walked out as the place was shutting down to head to the lobby of the W Hotel {where our friends Lindsay and Sam were staying} for a very interesting night cap.

walking out

Apparently the lobby turns into a public bar complete with a DJ, white leather couch lounge areas, and lots of blue lighting. It was probably the best people watching we did all weekend.

Sunday

John and I took our time waking and packing up on Sunday. After we got our luggage where it needed to be, we had a couple of hours to kill before leaving for the airport. Obviously our main objective was to squeeze in one more good meal {as if we hadn’t had enough}. We walked around Times Square and landed at The Counter: Custom Built Burgers. We passed it on our walk Friday, but the place was packed with a line out the door. I guess a Sunday at 11:15 was the perfect time to check it out because we were some of the first customers and din’t have to wait at all.

burger

I absolutely love their menu, and the fact that you can also get creative and build a burger any way your heart desires. Not to mention they have a market selection featuring “locally sourced and sustainable protein, cheese, topping, sauce and bun choices from local chefs and customers.” I created my own salad style build {basically a burger in a bowl} with 1/3 lb hormone and antibiotic free beef, herbed goat cheese spread, roasted red peppers and grilled onions on top of organic mixed greens with sauce flight of basil pesto, sweet sriracha and house mustard. We shared an order of the “Parmesan Fries” {parsley, rosemary and roasted garlic aioli} which were out of this world.

sunday lunch

I don’t normally let myself have fries, but all healthy eating bets were off as soon as I popped one in my mouth. After that, I think I gave up on trying to be healthy for the remainder of the day.

Especially when we saw that the famous Magnolia Bakery didn’t have the ever present line wrapping around the building. I’ve always wanted to step foot inside, but never enough to wait. We walked right on in! John immediately knew all he wanted was a hot chocolate, but I was faced with the hardest decision I had to make all weekend.

magnolia bakery

I finally landed on a “Whoopie Cookie,” which is a compromise between a cookie and a cupcake in my mind. I really wanted a cookie, but I also wanted to taste that insane icing. I considered getting both a cookie and a cupcake, but I thought that might be a little much. Two brown sugar cookies with maple cream cheese filling hit the spot, for sure.

cookie

I ate my whoopie cookie before we started our journey to the airport. I tried my best to save it, but that puppy was gone in like 2 minutes. Then on our way to the airport, we stopped the cabbie van so we could experience Dylan’s Candy Bar. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I picked up even more sugar. A red-velvet macaron, lavender macaron, and chocolate macaron to be more specific. I took bites of each, then shared them with everyone in the van. Unlike the cookie, which I ate all by myself.

dylan's

As we said goodbye to the City, I got a much better understanding of the layout of the island and a grasp on how big Central Park really is.

island

When we finally got home, we were zonked. We unpacked and then we ordered pizza, which I haven’t done in FOREVER. It wasn’t worth it, but I had absolutely no motivation to do anything at all. Papa John’s it was!

pizza

And that’s all for New York!