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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

The iconic tree at Rockefeller Center. This year my present was a surprise trip to New York City…to see the Rockettes. I had never been to Radio City-nor had I ever seen the Rockettes. If I did see the Rockettes, there would be no road show for me, I wanted to see them at Radio City. So it was a quick trip to New York, but jam packed with fun. We stayed at the Double Tree in Midtown on Lexington between 51st and 52nd. (569 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York, United States 10022. Phone: 1-212-752-7000) We rarely do things in midtown when we come to NYC but the Double Tree was a perfect location this time, being just blocks from Radio City. We arrive to find the hotel pretty full-people were mulling around the lobby-checking in and out. Somehow we were booked for a smoking room-do they really even still have those?? But luckily we switched to a non smoking room.

The lobby decor was modern and simple-it was decorated for Christmas tastefully. There is a bar in the lobby as well as an area for you to sit and plug in your laptop.

When you check in you receive a complimentary chocolate chip cookie-warm. A little crispy for my taste but not bad.

Room 313-third floor next to the service stairwell and close to the elevator. Queen sized bed and one of the bigger rooms we have stayed in.

Tiny bathroom. They feature Neutrogena shower products. They also provide you with a hair dryer with a little more kick than the ones that you find mounted to the wall at some hotels. The water pressure here was excellent (I know it’s a weird thing to be important). Don’t accidentally drop anything down the toilet because the force at which the water leaves the bowl is enough to shoot you to the moon (ok not really…but it seemed like it). You could definitely hear toilets from other rooms flushing when you were in your room.

The room was pretty clean, although the bathroom had paint peeling from the ceiling and the room had peeling wall paper. They had an alarm clock in the room that you could connect your mp3 player to via headphone jack. What I find so amusing about hotels in New York is that no matter how small the room etc. there is almost always a phone in the bathroom.

And here was the view outside our window. You know you are in trouble when they leave earplugs on the bedside table for you. Although, surprisingly the fans weren’t the thing that woke us up in the middle of the night. The door to the room is pretty thin and you could hear people outside in the hallway and at 8 in the morning you would hear the cleaning people using the service door.

How convenient is it that Neuhaus was located right next to the hotel (and a Cafe Metro that serves sandwiches and snacks cafe style)? Neuhaus was founded in 1857 and is the inventor of the praline and the luxury packaging, the ‘ballotin’.

The prestige-a caramel. The inside was liquid.

Tiramisu-butter cream with tiramisu taste, covered with ‘amaretti’ biscuits. Excellent crunch on the outside.

The pagode-coffee ganache and gianduja (a blend of hazelnuts, sugar and chocolate). The coffee is subtle because you also get the gianduja flavor mixed in.

Mephisto-almond and hazelnut praline with caramelized hazelnuts (shown as milk, also available in dark and know as ‘satan’) Smooth ganache center, excellent.

Plaisir-Hand-made nougatine, filled with a rich, creamy ganache made from subtly roasted Turkish hazelnuts and covered in milk chocolate. This one was a little weird for me. The nougatine was super sweet, not unlike a praline, and the consistency was weird for me. Not my favorite.

Napoleonette-praline with coffee. Super smooth.

Astrid-Gianduja (hazelnuts sugar and chocolate) with cocoa butter coated with a sugar glaze. This is my favorite piece of their whole collection-love the sugar glaze on the outside.

Manon Lait-Praline butter cream with caramelized hazelnuts. Really light and mousse-like on the inside.

Cornet: “Let yourself be carried away by the original, luxurious form of this praline filled with gianduja swirled into a cornet to give the dreamiest, melt-in-the-mouth texture.”

Crumbs bakery is right around the corner (501 Madison Ave at 52nd). They have these huge cupcakes (the signature is 4.25″) decorated with all sorts of candy and cookies. You walk in and see a floor to eye level case filled with cupcakes. When you go in closer to see the flavors you will notice that they put the calorie count right next to the description. It’s like: Raspberry swirl…450 calories. No thanks. That is like finding out that Santa isn’t real-it ruins the magic of Christmas. I’m better off not knowing how many calories I am going to consume while eating one of your cupcakes (even though that small voice in the back of my head says a lot), because I just have to feel guilty about it later.

Vanilla cake filled with raspberry preserve and frosted with a swirl our classic vanilla cream cheese and raspberry preserve. ($4.50) The raspberry preserve tastes like a jelly doughnut. The cake was moist although the frosting wasn’t very cream cheese-y….

Carrot cake topped with our signature cream cheese frosting, edged in crushed walnuts and decorated with an iced carrot. ($4.50) Not bad-the cake wasn’t spicy enough for me, and it had raisins. It just didn’t feel like a real cupcake for me.

Vanilla cake with our rich vanilla cream cheese frosting. ($4.50) The frosting is good-not too sweet and the cake is quite moist, even after 2 days. As I said before, the frosting doesn’t taste like cream cheese.

Cupcake of the month: Chocolate cake filled with vanilla butter cream topped with peppermint cream cheese frosting mixed with crushed peppermint candies and edged with crushed peppermint candies. ($4.50) The cake was moist and the frosting was a subtle peppermint taste. On the way home the peppermint candies had a little bit of a meltdown, so I missed the crunchiness of the candy when I ate it, but it was still good. Over all the cupcakes were good. I don’t crave them like I do other cupcakes, but in a pinch, they’re not bad. They may look fancier than some other cupcakes but are average as far as taste goes (I would consider them novelty cupcakes).

My new favorite cupcake place is Butter Lane on 123 East Seventh Street. We had been there before (see previous review). This time we went earlier in the evening, so we had a better selection to choose from. We had the vanilla with vanilla frosting (above) that was good-the cake was a vanilla cake (not a yellow cake like most places) and you could see the vanilla bean flecks in the frosting.

They frosted this one while we were there-vanilla cake with chocolate hazelnut frosting. While I love chocolate, I don’t usually like chocolate cake or chocolate frosting. That being said, Butter Lane could convert me-the frosting was excellent:good consistency, light, just sweet enough, subtle taste…yum!

Butter Lane Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Highlight of the trip was breakfast at Norma’s in Le Parker Meredien Hotel (119 West 56th Street). I had seen The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Brunch the day before. Alex Guarnaschelli, the executive chef at Butter (another favorite restaurant in NYC of mine) was on talking about how wonderful the chocolate decadence french toast was at Norma’s. Sold.

The restaurant is right off the lobby-you walk up the stairs to a raised area that is the restaurant. The decor is modern cafe-it looks busy but the hostess tells us this is slow for them, it being Christmas Eve.

We are at a small two top towards the back of the room-the place has a nice low hum to it. It’s bustling but you can still have a conversation with the person across the table in a normal voice.

I already know I am getting the French toast, but there are so many good things on the menu here (you just want to try them all). The good news is that the table comes with a complimentary smoothie shooter-the bad news….a glass of orange juice is $10.

Norma’s is a special occasion place-not just because of the prices but I could never eat food that rich every day. So the infamous Chocolate decadence French Toast ($23). They make the French Toast with home made yogurt cake-it is rich but not overwhelming. It comes as cake topped with a layer of strawberries, then cake, then strawberries and then cake. The strawberries are cooked in a little bit of butter and brown sugar and some Grand Marnier. The dish is finished off with some pistachios and a dark chocolate sauce (dark chocolate, doesn’t that make this a healthy choice?). They add some home made whipped cream (that is TO DIE FOR) and an orange chip. I only manage to eat about half…sad I know.

My dining companion gets the light and lemony griddle cakes with Devonshire cream ($21). The description is right on-they are indeed both light and lemony. If you could put lemon yogurt into a pancake, this is what it would taste like. The lemon taste is subtle and delicious. It’s an excellent choice. If you are feeling saucy-try the “zillion dollar lobster frittata” for $100 served with 1oz of Sevruga caviar or for $1000 with 10oz of caviar. (Norma’s writes “Norma’s dares you to expense this”). While the food was excellent the service was just ok-for an 80 something dollars for breakfast, I believe it should come with top notch service. Our waiter had a ‘couldn’t be bothered’ attitude and was hard to find when we did need something. There were gingerbread houses on display in the lobby-made by different local restaurants/bakeries and Norma’s charged you $1 per person for raffle tickets to vote on which you thought was the best (unless you opt out-but we didn’t know about it until we got the check. It’s the holidays, what the heck right?)

Norma's at Le Parker Meridien on Urbanspoon

Based on the movie “Big”.

King Kong made by Norma’s.

Stuart Little.

We walked around the city to walk off some of the food we had consumed. The best part of being out in any city during the holidays are the shops all decorated with lights and Christmas decorations. Above is Cartier.

Fendi.

Stopping by to visit my friend Harry. Winston that is. (I wish).

The Swarovski star in Rockefeller Center.

The tree and all the people skating.

You can head over to Central Park and skate at the Trump rink too.

After taking a nice long walk-we head over to Eataly located at 200 Fifth Avenue. I heard mixed reviews, some people loved it and some people told me it was over-rated. It was crowded, and I’m sure it’s a tourist trap on most days-but it is quite the sight.

Being the pasta lover that I am, I’m pretty sure that I would be there every day! Rows of pasta.

A case full of fresh pasta (too bad we couldn’t bring any home).

Preserves, jams, sauces, olive oil, coffee, chocolate oh my!

They have a few different choices for eating in Eataly. MANZO is Eataly’s more formal dining experience that celebrates meat from the United States. “Manzo offers both modern Italian preparations as well as traditional Piemontese beef dishes.Chef Michael Toscano, formerly of Babbo Ristorante, works like a true Italian butcher to use every part of the animal, tongue and cheek. Like all of Mario, Joe & Lidia’s fine dining restaurants, Manzo also provides a complete dining experience that’s not all about meat: antipasti, pasta and main courses give a variety of delicious choices and desserts will satisfy every taste bud. Meet friends at LA PIAZZA, our standing table enoteca in the heart of Eataly. Its marble cornered facades will transport you to the grandeur of Rome. Indulge in the highest quality Salumi & Formaggi. Order from our crudo menu and choose from Dave Pasternack’s freshest fish. Dave Pasternack is an unadulterated fish guru. He is famous for it and now you can enjoy his seafood at not just Esca, but at IL PESCE too. Visit our Seating Point to get a counter or table spot to dine on Dave’s raw bar offerings, as well as his creative and traditional takes on Italian seafood. In view of our abundant local produce, LE VERDURE honors ingredients with preparations that focus on flavor, not fussiness. Try our version of bagna cauda and entrée dishes. Specials on the chalkboard describe today’s harvest. Eataly has teamed up with experts Rossopomodoro to bring you classic Neapolitan pizza at LA PIZZA & PASTA. Creamy mozzarella, charred and elastic crust and sweet San Marzano tomatoes make for a pie so delicious you will be singing along with our vibrant Neapolitan pizzaioli. Watch dough fly and order a plate of pasta for a meal that will make you want to come right back.”

We grab a bite at the Pizza and Pasta area. There is seating on the main shopping floor and seating upstairs. We are lucky and don’t have to wait for a table. We sit upstairs in this awful location, right at the top of the stairs where they have put two- two top tables…You can’t even more your chair out to get in it, you have to slide in sideways.

The only redeeming quality of this table is that you get a nice view of the market below.

After  having such a big breakfast, we opt to share a small lunch. We order the mozzarella as a starter-made fresh in house daily ($11).

We also order the bucatini all’ Amatriciana ($16) which is served very al dente with tomato, Guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig’s jowl or cheeks) and red onion. The pasta is excellent and the guanciale is rich in flavor.

La Pizza & Pasta @ Eataly on Urbanspoon

After lunch we do a little shopping and pick up a few things to bring home:

Egg pasta “maltagliati” ($5.80)….

Egg pasta Tagliolini ($5.80)….

Tortiglioni carta paglia ($5.80)….

Albesi egg pasta ($9.20)….

And caserecce pasta ($5.80). Ok, I swear that’s it for pasta.

We make a pit stop over at Dylan’s Candy Bar at 1011 Third Ave just to see what it’s all about. Owned by Dylan Lauren, Ralph Lauren’s daughter, the store is 3 stories, includes a cafe and is the biggest candy store in the world (it’s 15,000 square feet). The candy bar has over 5,000 types of candy. People flock to this store, it’s like any of the stores in Times Square-you can barely move inside it’s so packed.

We head over to Radio City for the show.

The inside is decorated beautifully for Christmas-note the Martha Stewart tree on the balcony.

I didn’t know what to expect when we got there for the show. They have a 3-D santa ride segment in the show which was great for kids. There was a little bit of a story line…I thought it was going to just be all precision dancing…

We had great seats in the 1st mezzanine-I was surprised that everyone was taking pictures while the show was going on. The signature line with the leg kicks was great and the toy soldier marching segment was pretty amazing to watch. A fun show and a perfect thing to do Christmas Eve.

We have dinner across the street from the hotel at Mr. K’s (570 Lexington).

I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures but it was dim in the restaurant. They are going for an old school upscale Chinese food vibe. They have high walled booths for privacy, with the seats covered in pink velvety material.

Everything is gold in color-the soup is served in these gold orbs. We got the seafood wonton soup shown above ($7.50) which was shrimp and crab meat filled wontons in a seafood broth.

The chicken and corn chowder ($7.50) chicken and creamy golden corn in a velvety soup base. I wouldn’t call this a chowder in a traditional sense-it’s not thick and cream based, it’s more of a hot and sour sour consistency.

This is an awful picture. We ordered a lot of appetizers instead of two meals. We ordered the Shanghai spring roll (2/$7.95) which was freshly made with chicken, shrimp, vegetables and fried to crispy golden brown. They were ok-the filling consistency was a little weird for me. We also had the vegetable dumplings (4/$11.95) that were steamed dumplings filled with dried bean curd, bamboo shoots, Chinese vegetables and winter mushrooms. They looked like Peking dumplings, except the wonton wrapper was green-and a little tougher than I like. We also had the crispy beef ($14.95) which was the crispy shredded beef with a soy scallion glaze and a touch of vinegar. This dish was excellent

A little complimentary lemon sorbet to cleanse the palate.

Pork fried rice ($16.95) served on our lit lazy susan.

Our strawberry shortcake dessert. Wonderful in that first twinkie after not having one for 10 years kind of way-not freshly made or gourmet in any way, but good.

Mr. K's on Urbanspoon

And that was our trip. Now, to leave you with some fun images that are completely random. Above is the Salvation Army Crew in Rockefeller Center-belting out Feliz Navidad American Idol karaoke style.

A decked  out food cart.

And finally…a sign that was posted in Central Park.

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