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Monday
Feb062012

back to sarabeth's

When you're lucky enough to find a soulmate (and somehow convince her to marry you!), it's not unusual that you'd have things in common ...maybe a similar sense of humor, style, dreams...but, every once in awhile, you learn that you also share something you thought was uniquely yours...coincidence?  Maybe.

When Allie and I were each very young (think: in-a-stroller little) our mothers each visited New York to purchase baby clothes and take a break from their daily grinds.  Whatever the day brought and whatever the weather, an absolute staple of each and every visit: Sarabeth's for brunch.  With a true commitment to handmade quality, Sarabeth Levine and her husband launched a small retail store in 1981 to sell her fresh fruit preserves and bespoke baked goods.  From humble beginnings, Sarabeth's is now a household name...in fact, even if you think you don't know it, I can almost guarantee that readers on the East coast have tried her wonderful preserves, now widely distributed - even at Williams Sonoma!

Shown actual size!

Allie's burrito.Sarabeth's East, on Madison Avenue just above 92nd Street, is the very place that both Allie's mother (with Allie in a stroller) and my mother (while trying to keep me in my stroller) always rested up before a big day in the City. 

Returning to Sarabeth's is nothing new for me...unlike some other food memories (the Miss Worcester Diner that I returned to only this fall after over 25 years), I have continued going to Sarabeth's on almost every visit to New York...  Is it a coincidence that my first Manhattan apartment after college was on East 92nd Street?  Probably, but a short walk to a delicious breakfast is a central factor when apartment hunting!

A classic omellete.Despite a lot of birthday surprises, when Allie learned that we were headed back to Sarabeth's on Sunday morning for brunch, she was more relieved than excited...it's just that comforting.  I wondered whether Barbara and little-Allie and Amy with toddler-Jacob ever enjoyed the fluffy omelettes and perfect muffins on the very same morning so many years ago...we'll never know...just as well, I was probably still working on my manners!

Our wait was nice and short...if you brave the Sunday Brunch crowds, be sure to check in no later than 10:00 AM (they don't take reservations)...if you're with a big group, try for 9:30 AM.  We sat down in just 20 minutes.  To eat: Allie ordered a special breakfast burrito with chorizo sausage and I went for a spinach omelette with creamy goat cheese.  We shared their famous (LARGE!) Bloody Mary with homemade pickles...to die for.  With your breakfast, of course, comes some homemade baked goods and fresh jam...I went for a classic corn muffin...perfect.

CLICK to visit Sarabeth's East...and find your way to some of their other locations.Although Sarabeth's has delicious coffee, we were already very caffeinated and skipped (on your walk up Madison toward brunch, stop in at Dean & Deluca for one of their classic grey to-go cups filled with rich strong coffee...it makes whatever the wait at Sarabeth's perfectly doable).

So, Sarabeth's is more than breakfast, or a really good corn muffin...it's New York.  An institution that deserves your time on your next visit to Manhattan.  This is no "unknown hole-in-the-wall" but, instead, a time-tested staple that will remain a delicious routine in this family even when we someday negotiate with little ones and wrestle with strollers of our very own.

Friday
Feb032012

musts for the upper east side

Returning to my old (and favorite) neighborhood, the Upper East Side, for Allie's birthday last weekend gave us the chance to dig in and enjoy a magical place without the daily grind of city living...we came to the dream-conclusion: "...sure would be nice to have an apartment down here one day!"  In the meantime, weekends like our recent visit will more than satisfy the craving.  What follows are a few treasures that you just can't miss!

ORWASHER'S BAKERY: Started back in 1916 by Abram Orwasher, the third generation of the family sold the bakery to Keith Cohen in August of 2007.  The result?  Out of this world!  Respecting the bakery's history while elevating tradition with locavore innovation and foodie attention-to-detail, this is now the ultimate spot for your Saturday morning coffee and pastry.  Cohen has expanded the products beyond the Eastern European breads the bakery is known for with artisanal breads and countless treats...most notably: custom-filled jelly donuts stuffed to order.  We had the sour cherry.  Ridiculously delicious! 308 East 78th Street, (212) 288-6569.

KING'S CARRIAGE HOUSE: Living on East 82nd Street down the street from this treasure, I laughed with Allie that while I walked by this small townhouse of a restaurant for years and often longed to go in for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even their afternoon tea, I had never treated myself... I looked forward to this lunch for years and it was even better than I had imagined. 

The Upper East Side certainly has its share of luxury highrise apartment buildings, but the charm is in the brownstones, the walkups, and the single family townhomes...  When you enter their cozy and elegant restaurant, a friendly manager whisks you away into one of the few rooms (and it feels like you're in someone's parlor surrounded by wonders that time forgot)...  What follows is a refined and simple meal that hits all the marks...there isn't a real emphasis on discussing the details much like when a dear friend invites you over for lunch (we simply ordered "Chardonnay" and no one presented a choice, label, or bottle...what a welcome change)...it's so much more relaxing to just say "yes" when offered a glass of wine, instead of having to choose one from the list!

In sum, this is the hideaway from an otherwise busy day of museums, shopping, and general exploration.  To start: a salad and the cauliflower bisque...followed by Allie's omelette and my roast chicken breast...cooked perfectly served with expertly roasted asparagus and sliced fresh orange...  We skipped dessert despite some real temptation...as we were getting ready to go, the afternoon tea service had begun complete with tiered platters of freshly-baked scones and muffins, and of course, homemade petit fours and tea sandwiches.  It may have taken me 10 years to finally treat myself to The King's Carriage House, but, I'll be back much sooner.  251 East 82nd Street, (212) 734-5490.

LA MAISON DU CHOCOLAT: Never order dessert at lunch when you plan to stroll up and down Madison Avenue...you might just miss one of my favorite traditions.  Walk in to this chic French chocolatier and confidently charge right past the salespeople on the floor...you're headed for the nearly secret cafe in the back.  Treats here abound, but, to share for two people, I always order a small sampler plate that includes a cookie, a sliver of cake, a piece of chocolate candy, freshly whipped cream, and their absolutely-insane "caracas" drinking chocolate.  A glass of ice water is also a very good idea! 

If you are a chocolate fiend, you'll understand how my words fail me now...a visit here is a must.  Alternatively, if you have a bit less time or want to keep walking, stay up front and order by-the-piece...  I try to make time to sit in the back; I'm not sure if it's how deliciously small everything is or the quiet elegance you can only know over a piping hot cup of bespoke chocolate that is perfectly under-sweetened...  Get here.  1018 Madison Avenue, (212) 744-7117.

LADUREE: One more sweet treat... As Allie and I walked down Madison after Sunday brunch, we both had that sweet-tooth-craving that can set in rapidly and without warning...  A quick fix: Laduree.  There are many other wonderful boutiques that make the wonderful French macaron cookie...a double-decker treat.  But, the experience of standing in this busy little shop and choosing your individual cookies by the flavor (and COLOR!) is very special here.  Many say that Laduree invented the macaron...  Their boutique on Madison is straight from Paris...our favorites: salted caramel and rose.  864 Madison Avenue, (646) 558-3157.