Delectable Eats at Missy Robbins’ Lilia ~ Williamsburg

The past couple weeks have been filled with epic foodie adventures and yes, my credit card bill can vouch for this.  YOLO.  No regrets.  Carpe Diem.  Eat on and eat on I will.  So last Saturday I helped organize a trip of November Project folks to Lilia –  Missy Robbins’ most recent restaurant endeavor.  To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure of Missy Robbins fame and Wikipedia helped me realize what a treat or honor that meal would be.  Did you know that she is best known for having a Michelin star at each of her restaurants and was also featured as a contestant in series four of Top Chef Masters?

The restaurant in question – Lilia – has had rave reviews from all corners of the web.  From the NY Magazine to just last week Grub Street shared its top power rankings, throwing Lilia among Nishi, Le Turtle and more.  I apologize for the lackluster lighting as it may not do the dishes justice.  If you really must see perfect photography, check out their Facebook page.

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Lilia
567 Union Ave, New York
{Subway stops ~ G, L at Metropolitan Ave – Lorimer St}
Daily 5:30p.m.-11p.m.

IMG_5184I honestly would not have learned about this restaurant or even ventured outside of Manhattan had it not been for one of our November Project friends, Erin, who alerted us to the restaurant’s opening.  It may be Missy Robbins’ new project, but her brother also played/plays a huge part in the restaurant’s success.  So into Williamsburg we ventured!

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^^ To drink or not to drink?  In retrospect, the bill might have been a bit smaller had we not indulged buuut wine made things a little more fun.

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^^ I wasn’t at all sure of what this was, but when we cut into it and smelled the fried cheesy goodness, I knew we were in for a treat.  Every morsel seemed to crumble and melt in your mouth and when I went to research the meal a bit more, I found that this nifty cheese called cacio e pepe even had an article written about it.  Yeah, the combination of sharp cheese, black pepper, olive oil, little bit of pasta + cooking water is just that cool.

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^^ I’m not sure whether it was due to our party’s size or the reservation but we were provided with a set menu and options for three courses plus dessert.

IMG_5190^^ Antipasti (option 2) ~ Little Gem Salad with bibb-like lettuce, parmesan, oregano, and dried chili

IMG_5191^^ Antipasti (option 3) ~ Roasted trumpet mushroom, arugula, balsamic, and Sicilian almonds

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^^ Primi (option 1) ~ Ricotta Gnocchi, broccoli pesto, basil, and pistachios

IMG_5194^^ Secondi (option 1) ~ Grilled chicken leg and thigh, broccoli rabe, olives, garlic, and mint ~ probably the most tender and mouth-watering piece of chicken I have ever had in my entire life.  It seemed to fall off the bone and was so.darn.juicy.

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^^ Secondi (option 1) ~ All about that Black Bass, salsa verde, and perfectly seasoned and roasted yukon potatoes.

When I go out to eat, I don’t always order an appetizer or even a side salad.  I do love my sweets but dessert doesn’t always make the list either.  So, I found the price fix menu quite beneficial, enabling us to sample a variety of items on the menu rather than being tied to just one full entree.  When the question of dessert came around, many of us were reaching our satiation point, but come on, when you have dessert as a GIVEN option, you must take advantage of it.  (ok, I would be a terrible mindful eating coach…)

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^^ Dolce (option 1) ~ Olive oil cake, grappa, whipped cream, persimmon ~ YOU MUST ORDER THIS.  Even if you don’t plan on eating or drinking much at all, I highly recommend making a reservation simply for this dish.  Olive oil is one of those ingredients that has hidden powers.  Who would have thought it could make a dessert so wonderfully moist?  Also, persimmons?  I claimed that I wouldn’t eat a persimmon and Lilia has since changed my view on the fruit.  Well done Missy Robbins, well done.

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^^ Dolce (option 2) ~ Soft-served chocolate gelato, candied citrus, and hazlenuts.  Not a bad way to celebrate national frozen yogurt day (and day after national nutella day) but my heart was already with the olive oil cake.  All in all, an excellent ending to a quite perfect meal.

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“Food is a direct pathway to the soul. It reaches us in a very primal place.”
― Good Witch

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A Mini Trip to Greece

Oh the days that I dream of jumping on a plane and exploring the world.  However since I don’t really have the funds or roadmap to do so, I’ll stick to the exotic flavors found here in New York City.  Last week just so happened to be my college friend Michelle’s birthday and her restaurant of choice was Taverna Kyclades in the East Village.  Taverna Kyclades is a little Greek haven right off the L train (14th street and 1st avenue) with an original location out in Astoria.

The name Kyclades stems from the group of islands in Greece, islands known for its beautiful beaches, gorgeous sunrises, and apparently delectable food and since Astoria is known for its Greek population, it would be an obvious choice for the first location.  But back to the location in the East Village.  I must have walked past that bright blue awning more than 50 times, each time reminding myself to check out the  menu.  Well, finally Friday was my chance!

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Taverna Kyclades
228 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10009
~ History ~ Menu

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Here we are with the birthday girl getting the rundown of menu specials and making the tough decisions of what to order.  The way to go is by ordering a few large dishes for the table and eat family style rather than individual platters.  After all, you can sample so much more this way 🙂

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^^ Traditional Greek Salad with one big HUNK of feta.  There was another gooey cheesy dish >> saganaki << dough filled with graviera cheese, but it was inhaled before I could obnoxiously take a picture.

Side note – I decided Friday would be the last night of whole30 so that I could enjoy the family style festivities.  I’ll draft up some of my thoughts on the experiment but do have to say, going out and being social was quite tough with all the food “rules” and I didn’t want to miss out.  Friday meant wine and cheese to the face and eating at such a lovely restaurant was well worth the splurge.

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^^ Greek style shrimp covered in some sort of tomato sauce.  I’m not much of a shrimp person but soaking up the remaining pieces of sourdough bread with this sauce was an excellent life choice.

IMG_4978 ^^ Our main event – baby shark.  Yes folks, we made that happen.  But I swear, it tasted like a mix between white fish and tender chicken.   Michelle had actually been wavering between the baby shark and one of the market specials, but when our waiter dropped the $75 a serving price tag, we made the decision to stick with mr. shark.

IMG_4980^^ We had asked to have a candle in the shark but when that wasn’t possible, we settled for candles in the custard. 😉 Happiest of birthdays Michelle! So glad we could help you celebrate and explore a little more of the city.

Those New York Eats ~ Part 1

One of the best parts about living in New York is the wide array of food that surrounds you.  Here I am catching up on some of the clutch eats surrounding me in the city.  Many of these pictures have just been sitting around in a draft post (or realistically my iPhoto) waiting to be dropped into a lovely post such as this.  That being said, many of them are from months ago during the warmer days and non-whole30 experiment.  Still, plenty of fun to share 🙂

BREAKFAST

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 Joe Coffee
~ Lexington (UES) ~ Union Square ~ West Village ~ Chelsea ~ Columbia ~ Upper West ~
Iced cold brew latte w/ cherry scone (or a cinnamon chocolate chip scone)

Juicepress

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And if you are feeling a little too healthy with that vegan fresh pressed juice that could cost an arm and a leg, follow it up with some solid sugary fried dough 😉

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The Donut Pub
203 W 14th St, New York, NY 10011
(212) 929-0126

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LUNCH

IMG_4656^^ Famous bone broth from brodo down in the East Village.  I was on my way home from a run (and Juicepress adventure) and decided to take a plunge and test it out.  Ordering from the menu is simple – which type of mix-ins would you like in your broth?  I went for the “marco” or broth with tumeric and ginger since those have apparently good anti-inflammatory powers.  To be honest, it was tasty but I’m not sure if I could afford the $8ish 10oz snack every day.

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Grimaldi’s Pizza
1 Front St, Brooklyn, NY ~ (718) 858-4300
M-Th: 11:30-10:45 pm; Fri: 11:30-11:45 pm; Sat: 12:00-11:45 pm; Sun: 12:00-10:45 pm

Again, pairing all love of foods together.  Some claim Grimaldi’s is THE BEST.  I think to be fair, one would have to order all of the pizzas, line them up and do a taste test.  But, then it ruins the experience if one pie is better inside the restaurant versus takeout.  Anyways, for more pizza joints to check out, here is one versions of the “Most Amazing Slices in NYC“.

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Pure Thai Cookhouse
766 9th Avenue #2, New York, NY 10019 (52nd/9th)
(212) 581-0999

Thai is not always my jam, probably because I haven’t really had a solid Thai outing, until this.  Noodles with perfectly spiced chicken and a cold Thai tea make everything better. Don’t you agree?  It’s the power of food (and people) that make the world go around.

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DINNER

IMG_0436 IMG_0437 ^^ It might be smart to order mussels at a mussel bar buuuuut I don’t like them, so I went for the grab meat guacamole and spicy greens instead.

IMG_0439^^ Had I had extra space, I would have selected the “Deep Fried Whoopiee Pie” or even a medley of the “Flex Donuts” just because.

 Flex Mussels
174 E 82nd St ~ 154 W 13th St
~ Menu ~ Book a Table ~ Info ~

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^^ The Corner Deli, which guess what? ISN’T A DELI!  Officially recognized by the world wide web as a casual taqueria, the menu offers a good selection of authentic and delicious Mexican fare.

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IMG_7631IMG_7635^^ Quite possibly the worst food photography ever but that would because it was shot 1) indoors 2) at night and 3) with flash.  Food photography no-no’s.  BUT the food was delicious if that’s worth anything {fish taco, horchata, plantains, avocado salad – aka sliced avocado}

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Sooooooo if you made it to the end (even if you were skimming as I usually do…true story) CONGRATS!  More coming with of course a list of places that I would like to hit up in the next few months.

Who’s in?  Any recommendations?

when friends come to town

When friends come to town, you decided to check out all the restaurants and plays that you have had on your list for ages, but just haven’t gotten around to.  You walk all over Manhattan in search of nothing in particular, but just a means of catching up and seeing all the sights. This last weekend I had one of my good college friends, Alexis, fly out from California to spend some time soaking in the amazing east coast fall.  While she arrived in a storm (no literally, there were rainstorms and overcast skies for two days), the sun came out and we managed for two glorious days in the city.

Friday turned out to be surprisingly packed, so I had to scrap the leaving early on-time plan.  Since Alexis is always good at sampling different cuisine, I decided to take her to Jeepney, a Filipino joint in the East Village.  I had been there once before and really decided on it because they served Ube ice cream for dessert, which was one of Alexis’s favorite.

When we had arrived, the hostess said there was supposed to be a 90 minute wait for a table.  Since my hunger levels would have turned to hanger levels in that time frame, we opted for bar seating and may have had more fun in doing so.  There we could watch as the bartender whipped up drink after drink, topped with various orange peel and berry art.  I wasn’t in the mood to drink, but really should have at least asked about their virgin selection.  Those juice combinations would have tasted mighty fine.  Ah well, all the more reason to go back.

IMG_3466 ^^ One great thing about friends, especially good friends, is that they are generally open to ordering and splitting a couple different items.  This means sampling more of the cuisine at half the price and still leaving room for dessert.  Entree #1 Bicol Express {slow-roasted pork shoulder, coconut milk, sili, bagoong sauce, vigan longganisa, pickled chilies and baby bok choy} and a baby pot pie.  Double thumbs up for the bicol express with the savory sauce and tender meat.   I wasn’t as much of a fan of the pot pie or bao buns we sampled, but such is life.

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^^ The real reason we ate there.  Because it’s normal to center a meal around dessert.

On Saturday we slept in (try 9.5 hours of sleep!!! unheard of and evident that my body was still recovering from Monday’s red-eye), I went for a run, and then it was off to explore Manhattan.  I took her down to one of my favorite bagel shops (since Ess-A is no longer close by) Tompkin’s Square Bagels, where we drooled over the selection of sandwiches and spreads.

IMG_3471 ^^ Whole wheat everything w/ cream cheese + lox for her and whole wheat everything with blueberry cream cheese for me.  Deeeeelish and not to mention beyond filling.  Thank goodness we were banking on walking the rest of the day.

IMG_3470  No cookies were purchased on this venture, but it makes me smile when I see black-and-white cookies in every store.  Such a symbol of New York.  The rest of the day was honestly spent walking all around the city and if my FitBit were working and syncing properly with my phone, I would be able to tell you all the steps we took, miles we walked, and calories burned 😉

IMG_8191 IMG_8195 IMG_8201 ^^ Both of us agreed that the west village is where it is at, especially with the quaint looking brownstones and lovely fall leaves.  Alexis was just glad that she could wear a winter coat and dress up for cooler weather since cooler weather is rarely a thing in California.

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Who wants to even guess how much it would cost to live in one of these apartments?  Maybe my life savings?

IMG_8211^^ Since we had eaten our bagels around brunch time, we skipped out on a full lunch meal and decided to regroup, warm our hands, and charge my phone inside a Starbucks. This happened to be my FIRST red cup of the season (despite the changing temps, I have always gone for the good ‘ol iced cold brew) and don’t see what all the controversy is about.  Anyways, a new favorite combo >> skim peppermint mocha with only 2 pumps peppermint and make it extra hot 🙂

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Got to love me some Snoopy and Macy’s 🙂 Avoiding some of the chaos, we made our way through Herald Square (NOT my favorite place in town) and up to Bryant Park where the ice skating rink and holiday shops are already open for business.  Luckily for us we managed to take a picture right before the sun set, then continued to walk around and decide on a place for dinner.  Oh if we weren’t planning to go eat a full meal later, I would have taken to buying a snack or two from the vendors because the smells were so inviting.

IMG_8216 IMG_8217 ^^ I still don’t know what that delectable concoction is/was but I will make it my goal to get someone to go back to Bryant Park with me and split one before the holiday season is over.

IMG_8220^^ Not the best quality photo buuuuuut we ate ETHIOPIAN FOOD!  I have never been to an Ethiopian restaurant and was actually baffled at the selection on the menu.  I let Alexis do the deciding and we ended up with a meat combo and veggie combo, all atop this spongey pancake.  They don’t even provide utensils and the trick is to use the pancake in order to scoop up the toppings.

So.darn.tasty and I have to say, it’s pretty cool to explore the different cuisines in the city.  After all, that is something NYC is known for and I tend to stick to my Chipotle and Bareburger.  Once we had digested a bit more, we set off in search of the musical theatre by Lincoln Center.

IMG_8222Though this is a true classic, I had never seen it, not even the movie, so this was quite the treat!  We had picked up tickets at the TKTS booth by South Street (lower Manhattan) so the tickets were 50% off and right near the orchestra!  Originally we had tried to see “An American in Paris”, but all the Saturday tickets had been sold.  Anyways, who knew they had broadway productions outside of Times Square and at Lincoln Center?  (Don’t answer that.  That may have just been me…)

IMG_3472 Since we were watching the musical at Lincoln Center, we decided to drop by Magnolia’s to complete a day of eats with a little sweet banana pudding.  Because when in Rome New York, right? I probably should stop using that excuse since I live here and work right by a Magnolias.  Or not.

“Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.” – Khalil Gibran

Sweet Southern Eats ~ Charleston Edition

A trip to the south – or anywhere for that matter – is not complete without a list of eats.  We were only in Charleston for a short time, just under three days, and I think we did a fine job of making our way around town.

Starting with breakfast/brunch, we decided to hit up Butcher & Bee, a top recommendation and one which is located off one of the main roads and in the back of a parking lot.  Sure, sounds normal to those folks in L.A. or in the suburbs, but strange for someone who has been absorbed in the New York lifestyle for some time.

IMG_7837 IMG_7825 Options, options, options.  Most of them were along the lunch and dinner realm, but we made it work with some huevos rancheros and epic french toast.

IMG_7831  ^^ Like I said on Monday, when you find yourself in the south, ask for everything on top of a biscuit.  Duh.

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 A food blogger in her natural habitat.  😉  She is queen of the San Francisco eats and has lots of fun explorations if find yourself in sunny (cloudy?) San Fran.

IMG_7833 Of course Gaia’s french toast was the real winner on presentation.  A gooey selection of Challah bread dipped in something sweet, toasted to perfection, and topped with berries and granola. Mmmmm, sugar coma come save me.

Butcher & Bee
654 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 619-0202

IMG_7835Now if you are looking for something a little more casual or maybe caffeinated, I recommend stopping into The Daily (by Butcher & Bee).  We ended up here post breakfast for just that – coffee and juice, and I would certainly have gone back there the next two days if it wasn’t in the opposite direction of our adventures. Oh and the whole “must try new things” idea.

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IMG_7822Lovely pre-packaged items ready to devour.  Like I said, if I lived here full time and had the ability to spend $$$, I would be here all day every day.

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Yes kind sir I am taking a picture of my beverages (split with Laura).  No judgement.  We’ve got Green Lemonade on the left (kale, spinach, cucumber, green apple, lemon, ginger – BEST JUICE EVER) and Iced Almond Milk Latte on the right (BEST ALMOND MILK LATTE EVER).  Just throwing that out there.

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On the first day, we ended up eating breakfast at such a late hour, that there really was no need to stop again for lunch and instead, we spent the day walking and then snacking on various coffee drinks and glorious King Street Cookies.  They even had a milk bar for you to fill up and pair alongside your one, two, or more sweet treats.  I went for more of the chocolate selection while Lindsay had strawberry and lemon and Laura stuck to a snicker-doodle and molasses.

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King Street Cookies
370 King Street, Charleston, SC 29401

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We may not have eaten lunch on day one, but we sure found ourselves in line for BBQ on day two.  The original plan had been to wander through a plantation and then end up at Sullivan’s Island or Isle of the Palms for some much needed beach time.  Well, Mother Nature had different ideas and with a never-ending rainstorm in our midst, we settled in for a nice drink and southern spread.

IMG_2214IMG_7927 Lindsay found the most adorable old-fashioned bar where they make affordable classic cocktails and play black and white movies on the wall.  I decided to go outside my comfort zone and order something with gin and pineapple.  The thinking was “maybe the pineapple will help my legs recover from all that walking, right?”  Good thinking.

Next up dinner, but that went un-pictured by yours truly.  I swear it was delicious, I just decided to live in the moment.

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Husk is yet another wonderful dining option – one that requires a reservation well in advance.  We didn’t think that one through either and couldn’t really show up and ask for a table for 5.  But maybe you can check it out for us!

Husk
76 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401

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Next step.  Find a suitable dessert option to end the night.

We all know the book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but I think there needs to be a book, If You Give Kaitlin a Scoop of Ice Cream (she will love you forever).  But then again, maybe we shouldn’t.  In the end I will say hands down, ice cream is the best creation and certainly the best dessert.  I also think now that Jeni’s has their stuff together, they are churning out some fine flavors.

IMG_2257 Because ending the day, weekend, trip, and summer with another scoop of ice cream is the right decision. (same place, different night)  Really, the diet starts tomorrow.

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A Night Out at the Polo Bar, NYC

Tucked along 5th avenue, around from the Ralph Lauren headquarters store, you will find the exclusive and oh so refined Polo Bar and Restaurant.  This posh bar is only open to guests who have a dining reservation – a reservation that may take up to a month to make.  Sure, there are rules for restaurants in the city that require all members of your party to be present in order to make a standing reservation, but none that have rules such as this.

To be completely honest, I had only recently discovered this bar thanks to a friend’s pictures on Instagram.  This friend happens to work as a designer at Ralph Lauren and took a few friends out to dine and of course documented the event.  (I mean, if it’s not on IG, it didn’t happen, right?)  Anyways, as I wrote it on my New York and East Coast bucket list and thought nothing more of it.  Knowing me, I would have forgotten to read into the rules about reservations and would have just showed up at the front door only to be turned away.

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Well, a few weeks later and I was in luck when another November Project friend offered me her reservation.  I was sad that she couldn’t attend and promised to document the entire experience.  I sure do owe her a drink or somehow get her back in there because it was truly a treat!

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I decided to invite my friend Lindsay to tag along as she would totally get a kick out of the atmosphere and chic dining experience.  She too is from California and we are bound and determined to experience everything that the city and the east coast has to offer.

When we arrived, we were greeted by two “bouncers” at the front door.  I use quotes because it was pretty much a host and hostess but doing the job of bouncers, checking ID’s and probably eyeing you up and down to make sure you wouldn’t make a spectacle of yourself or the restaurant.  Just kidding, they were probably only checking for reservations.

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Anyways, once we submitted the name on the reservation, we entered into the bar and were greeted by bartenders mixing cocktails and decked out in Polo plaid ties.

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^^ Drinks are certainly on the pricier side, but this being New York and a swanky Ralph Lauren restaurant, I guess I would expect nothing less.  My Blackberry Cobbler (Botanica Spiritvs Gin, Cassis, Blackberry, Pineapple – $20) and Linsday’s Rosé Royale (Provence Rosé, Champagne, Royal Combier, Grapefruit – $20)

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Even if you arrive extra early, you probably won’t be called to dine until your reservation is ready.  This is probably best to keep things nice and orderly and allowed us to people-watch from the bar.  Also, even though we had arrived at 7:30, the bar did not start to pick up steam until 8 or so when we were escorted downstairs for our reservation.

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The dining room itself is located downstairs from the 36-seat bar/lounge area and filled with 132 seats.  The ambience reminded me of a very refined version of the Tam-O-Shanter in Los Angeles (a Lawry’s restaurant and one of the oldest in L.A.) with the plaid and cozy ambience.  It is decked from floor to ceiling with elaborate wood floors, real life polo mallets, helmets, and saddles on the walls, and endless pictures of horses.

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For this being an exclusive dining location, I found no trace of snobbery or snootiness from the diners or staff.  It was truly one of the nicest dining experiences I have had out in some time and makes me look at New York in a different light.

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^^ Of course we would indulge in the butter provided alongside warm popovers topped with Gruyère cheese

IMG_1927 ^^ Pigs in a Blanket as an appetizer, a dish that throws me back to my childhood days.

IMG_1928 ^^ For dinner we decided to split the Maine Lobster Roll (on Toasted Brioche Bun with Old Bay Shoestring Potatoes $32).  Delicious is all I have to say.

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^^ Last step, dessert of course!! The reservation had originally been made for a birthday, so we played along with the celebration and agreed upon the coffee ice cream with dark chocolate shortbread cookies. (I’m not sure if “Ralph’s Coffee” was included but they didn’t ask or offer, so I guess that may be an add-on)

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Lindsay and I discovered that this was the first formal dinner we had paid for by ourselves.  Sure, we probably looked like we were on a date of our own, especially by spitting the entree and dessert, but who cares because dining at the Polo Bar and Restaurant was completely worth it! Plus, let’s be honest, the people dining in the restaurant most likely run in different circles than she and I do.  The likelihood that we will ever meet them again?  Slim to none.  So carpe diem!

The Polo Bar
1 E. 55th St.
(212)207-8562
~ Cocktails ~ Dinner ~ Dessert ~
~~ Grubstreet Review ~~

“The world is open to us and each day is an occasion to reinvent ourselves” – Ralph Lauren