A New York State of Mind

I travelled to New York City twice in the past year. My first trip was a week-long shopping extravaganza with my best girlfriend and the second trip was a photography trip with a good friend. These were my first trips to this fantastic city, but they will not be my last.

New York is amazing!! It has an excitement that lasts from the moment you hit Manhattan until you head for the airport to come home.

I love it!!!

I love to spend my time wandering the different neighbourhoods, tasting local bistros and experiencing how the local residents spend their time. While travelling I usually visit the obligatory tourist spots and museums, but get much more enjoyment out of just exploring and breathing in my surroundings.

On the first trip we stayed close to Broadway on 43rd Street in a lovely boutique hotel called the Casablanca Hotel that offered free breakfast and wine and cheese every evening. The decor was a modern take on the classic movie where the service was impeccable and was just around the corner from Times Square.

On my second trip I opted to stay in the more residential Murray Hill area so that I could enjoy a New York weekend like a local. Our hotel, the Affinia Shelburne, was a newly renovated hotel on Lexington and 37th that offered the most amazing suites. It was clean, spacious, luxurious, newly renovated, well located and a good value for the money. The suite came with a kitchenette so we picked up some snacks and some lovely California wine from the local store.

While we were wandering the streets of New York we discovered places that I would love to go back to again and again. The first day that we were there we wandered down to the Union Square area only to find a charming outdoor farmer’s market. This happened to be the first nice day of spring so we strolled through the stalls of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers while soaking up the sunshine and dreaming of days to come.

The next day we wandered the streets of the East Village and ended up in Soho enjoying the best bistros and wonderful little shops. While wandering down Broadway in Soho, trying to find hiking shoes, I came across the quintessential food lover’s paradise, Dean and Deluca. I don’t usually go into food stores while on vacation, but I had to see it. There was row after row of extraordinary gourmet delicacies and delicate baked goods to tantalize any foodie’s appetite. I will definitely return to this store whenever I am in New York.

My girlfriend has celiac disease so I was unsure about how we were going to accommodate her dietary needs while still enjoying great food. Interestingly we found some terrific places that offered gluten-free meals that were delicious. My favourite of all of these was a pizza place in the East Village called Risotteria. We loved the food so much we went back a second time the same week for dinner. Their wood fired pizzas are among the best I have ever tasted and you can enjoy a meal of pizza, salad and wine for less than $25. When you are finished there is a lovely little Gelato place down the street to your right that is across from a small park.

We also decided to try Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. You always see these chefs on the Food Network cooking up interesting dishes but you wonder if they are really as good as they are portrayed. Well Bobby Flay can cook! The restaurant’s atmosphere was very urban chic, with 2 floors of tables overlooking a long bar. The service was impeccable and the food was worth the trip. I ordered a New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin that was so tender I could have cut it with a fork it. I would definitely say that this place is worth a try.

Other places that I would also recommend are Freidman’s Lunch in the Chelsea Market for lunch, Scotty’s Diner on Lexington for an authentic homestyle breakfast and Rare Bar and Grill for the best gourmet burgers on the planet.

I don’t usually like go to another big North American city on my vacations but New York City is definitely the exception to the rule.

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