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This is a guest blog post by Alicia M., who loves to travel and dine.

Dining out is always an adventure as I discovered during my recent week-end jaunt to New York City.

The first stop was a quick visit to the Shake Shack on a late Friday afternoon. Cute concept but this experience was the beginning of the assault on my Canadian taste buds.  I found the burger and fries incredibly salty but I did manage to finish them both.  The star (I am told) at the Shake Shack is the custard, which sadly and regrettably I did not try but will when I next visit New York City. The

Shake Shack

Shake Shack (Photo credit: Kwong Yee Cheng)

Shake Shack, with multiple locations, is part of the Danny Meyer Union Square Group Hospitality empire.

Blue Fin is a long-time favorite.  As the name suggests this is actually a seafood restaurant attached to the W Times Square however it is my go to place for brunch or breakfast.  Overlooking a prime corner in Times Square, the people watching is sublime and the food is good. The sometimes slow service just allows for more time to check out Minnie and Mickey and exasperated New Yorkers as they try to navigate the throngs of wide eyed first time ever to New York tourists.  Blue Fin has been a gem and I take full credit for the discovery.  I was seduced to enter by its locale and it has become a must whenever I visit New York City.

Saturday night was the Spotted Pig in the West Village and well the experience was spotty.  This restaurant/pub landed on a number of best of lists during my pre-trip internet search.  How can so many people get it all so terribly wrong?  After getting there at a respectable if decidedly late 10:30pm there was still an hour wait to be seated no doubt due to the hype and its small size.  But that was okay, we had arrived at the Spotted Pig.  After nibbling away at crostini and cocktails at a local bar several blocks away (more on this later), we trekked back to the Spotted Pig in the pouring rain I might add.   Indifferent service, salty food and an underwhelming atmosphere makes for one huge disappointment. I politely informed the waiter about the high salt content of my main course steak (that I could not finish) after digesting a salty starter.  I attributed my reaction to the starter once again to my Canadian taste buds and my sense of healthy living but could not ignore the salt content of the steak. The waiter said sorry – he would inform the kitchen.  He never returned.  And neither will I.

Frankie’s, the in-between spot where I spent my hour waiting to be seated at the Spotted Pig, is what traveling is all about – the discovery of a great little place that you can call your own and are just happy to have stumbled upon. Cool cocktails and delicious mini crostini’s. I sampled the avocado, cheese and honey and mackerel creations. Sheer perfection!

After having dinner at DB Bistro Moderne in mid-town – a restaurant I have had on my list for a couple of years – I am happy to report that I had a blissful meal.  Efficient and attentive service, delicious, creative food and the atmosphere together made for a winning combination.  Dinner was an appetizer portion of sagnarelli pasta – light and fresh accompanied with bread sticks and bread.  The Spring Vacherin dessert was simply sublime – a complex mix of mascarpone cream, pistachio streusel, raspberries, ice cream and sorbet. The pistachio ice cream was delectable. And our genial waiter complimented the meal with a  basket of hot madeleines and some mini desserts.  The meal for two was less than $100. I have no doubt I would have paid substantially more in Toronto for an inferior product.  The DB in DB Bistro Moderne stands for Daniel Boulud, who is coming to Toronto via the new Four Seasons hotel later this year.

Red Rooster, the Harlem hip spot by Ethiopian born, Swedish raised transplanted New Yorker Marcus Samuelsson, made me happy to be in New York. Nice vibe, superb service (witty and friendly waiter), good food and the pleasing décor did not go unnoticed. Note – the Reverend Calvin Butts was at the table next to me.  I had tried for Saturday night and Sunday night reservations two weeks in advance but alas could only secure lunch for Monday afternoon.  A lunch of corn bread, Fried Chicken (Fried Yard Bird in Red Rooster parlance), mac and greens with sweet potato doughnuts for dessert were the perfect start for my last day in New York. Thank-you Marcus Samuelsson.

Miss Lily’s Bake Shop and Melvin’s Juice Box in Greenwich village was on my list but I sadly did not visit due to time constraints. In addition to the places above, I shopped, strolled and viewed four movies as part of the Tribeca film festival.   The shops would have taken me back to my Jamaican roots and a New York Times article has declared Melvin as New York’s first celebrity Juicer.

I look forward to sampling the delights of the Belle Province when I visit Montreal in July.  I am targeting Chuck Hughes and his old Montreal bistro.  I can’t wait.

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