I'll have a real update soon- promise.
I'm also going to try and be more disciplined about posting the recipes of what I make, per your requests.
Anyway, I was in Manhattan last wednesday through this tuesday. Most of my time was spent eating and walking, and i'm happy to say I found some fantastic places worth your time. Here's a summary of the damage I did:
1) Once Upon A Tart was fantastic. I've had their cookbook for years. I recommend the Pear Ginger Raisin muffins, but many people swear by the scones and cookies etc. They usually open around 8 and it's great to enjoy a coffee and pastry at one of the tables in front of the store.
2) Balthazar, despite being very busy all the time, makes a -fabulous- breakfast. Some of the more delicious looking things were pastries, quiches, granola, omlettes...pretty much everything. I highly recommend the smoked salmon and the side order of fried tomatos. I saw plenty of people picking up beverage and pastry from the small boulangerie and eating it on the benches outside.
3) Chikalicious was just great. The service, atmosphere, and food were all fantastic. I hear it can get very busy (long lines) but I went right at opening on sunday and got right in. My dessert tasting menu included kiwi gelee with cantaloupe sorbet, lavender marinated kiwis with yogurt sorbet and crispy kataifi, and a petit four plate with a coconut marshmallow, lemon-poppyseed shortbread, and a chocolate/nib pudding bite. All of the desserts looked fantastic- particularly the ganache filled raspberries. They were the hugest berries i'd ever seen. The iced tea was great too, and some of the other cocktails I saw looked really pretty.
4) I always try and hit Payard when i'm in New York. The pastries are quite good, though the service can be a little snooty. I love their canneles and croissants in particular as well as the orange-carrot tart. Just watch out and make sure the pastry you've ordered hasn't been sitting in the case for days.
5) Ceci Cela was recommended to me by a good friend. Unfortunately, i've been there three times and each time it was -awful.- You could taste that the (rather pricy) pastries had been sitting in the case for far too long. Soggy crusts, blandish pastry, and horrible horrible service. I've been ignored by staff there so many times. It's a pity really because everything always looks so pretty. Honestly, unless they make major changes I won't be going back.
6) Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center was nice too. I wish i'd had a chance to try more. I only had time to order a few things to go. Their macarons are fantastic. Though not as crunchy as I might have liked, they were substantial, huge, and packed with flavor. I had caramel and pistachio and they were amazing. It's worth a try, but again, keep an eye out for things that have been in the case too long.
7) Cafe Sabarsky on 5th ave and 86th street is a hidden treasure. I don't think i'd have found it without a friend's recommendation. It is a viennese style cafe that features excellent service, food, and desserts. I went back three times during my trip and managed to sample the apple strudel, streuselkuchen, sachertorte, quark cheesecake, chocolate feuillete, and several cups of espresso. It's fabulous.
8) Tom Colicchio's 'wichcraft wasn't really anything special. It's a good place to get good, fast eats though.
9) 'ino is my favorite place for sandwiches and bruschetta. I've probably had the best sandwich/bruschetta of my life there. I went three times during this trip.
10) I went to an Italian pastry place on Bleeker street called Cafe Bruno, i think. It was pretty good, but I don't really remember it. Many of the cookies tasted similar and were a little stale :(
11) Sfoglia was one of the best dining experiences i've had in a long time. Good lord, GO THERE ALREADY. The bread they serve is out of this world. We had a delightfully spicy and moist roast chicken along with strawberry-basalmic spaghetti, a beet and bean salad, and some antipasto. The restaurant is beautiful and the service is fantastic. It is much easier to get in for lunch than dinner. I wish I could have gone back...
12) Lupa is one of those places I didn't know was popular until after I ate there. It was also UTTERLY FANTASTIC and reasonably priced. We all tried the tasting menu which included a huge assortment of antipasto, good focaccia, two pasta courses, a meat course, a cheese course, and dessert. There were good olives, amazing prosciutto, a baccala salad, a beet salad...curly pasta with AMAZING asparagus ragu, ricotta gnocchi with a fennel sausage sauce, fish with a meyer lemon sauce, spicy chicken diavolo, roast port shoulder, goat cheese, sheep cheese, cow cheese...panna cotta and tartufi that were to die for...I highly recommend it. Zagat calls it "Babbo on a budget."
13) I also made two trips to Kitchen Arts and Letters. It's the best cookbook store i've ever been to, and Matt has given me excellent cookbook and restaurant recommendations. They answer their email, they will ship you anything you like, and generally, if you tell them your favorite cookbooks they'll be able to make you an educated recommendation. They also have rare and out of print things. If you ever need help finding a restaurant to your taste that isn't too touristy, you should give them a call.
Wow...I ate a lot of food last week O.o
I'm probably heading back in July. I have a few places left on my curiosity list including:
Feel free to make recommendations.