“We could try and see if we could find cheap tickets for a show?” I half-heartedly suggested to Husband. He was silent a little too long so I continued, “Or we could just walk around and eat!” Immediate agreement. Husband and I are foodies, plain and simple. Give us the option and we’ll choose to get to know a city by a handful of restaurants every time. After all, what better way to get to know a place than through it’s food (and cocktail) experience. So while we often spend our NYC Day Away eating, we decided this year would include a twist; it would be Husband’s choice. We would stick to Midtown food since we didn’t want to wander far from our hotel and stick to appetizers – so we could eat more variety. Other than that, Husband would have complete discretion as to where and what we ate with no shit talking from me. I did not, however, hand over my authority for ordering my own cocktails. I’m adventurous…not crazy.
After a quick hotel check in, Husband’s Choice Midtown Tasting Adventure was underway. Our first stop was as close as we could possibly get – right next door.
Husband’s Choice Midtown Food Tasting Adventure
Ding BBQ and Hot Pot Restaurant
We had never had a hot pot before. For those of you who also have never tried one, it’s interactive eating. You could create your own hot pot or order a basic one, which is what we did to simplify ordering. The waitress brought a bowl of our chosen broth that she then set in a hot plate cutout in the table. With that she brought a plate of vegetables and our chosen meat. Now that the broth was boiling we picked what we wanted to go into our hot pot. For a NYC day that felt to be below freezing, a hot soup made to our liking was the perfect way to start our Midtown Food Tasting Adventure. Good choice, Husband!
On our way to whatever would be next, I spotted a nutcracker as tall as I am that guarded tall, Victorian doors decorated with twinkling lights. I can’t resist Christmas anything so we walked closer to investigate. To my happy surprise, it was a bar.
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment
When I tell you that this was the most beautiful space I’ve ever encountered in New York City and maybe in any travel, I am not exaggerating. Open the door here (especially around Christmastime) and you’ll want to pack your belongings and move in. No, seriously, I told the bartender I wanted to live here. Not all places have the ability to transport you to another time and another place but this one certainly did. Cozy and grand, I could rave for hours about the ambience but we’re here to talk food – and in this case, cocktails too!
Husband’s choice here were the buffalo wings. Yes. It seems so ordinary but I’ll tell you that these wings were far beyond ordinary. There was a smoky flavor in every bite and even a bacon-y taste to the wings. We moaned after each bite.
And as delicious as they were, they were (for me) no match for the cocktail. The Harvest Collins, under their Seasonal Cocktail Menu, included Effen Cucumber Vodka, Elder Flower Liqueur, grapes, and flames rosemary. I’ll give you a minute to take in that recipe.
Ok. ready to continue?
I’d say, easily, one of the top 3 drinks I’ve ever had in my life. Each sip was preluded with the smell of rosemary and finished off with a hint of grape. And not like grape juice grapes but graduated adult grapes. I cannot love this stop on our Midtown Food Adventure enough.
Husband had to drag me off the bar stool; he knew I had found my happy place and would gladly stay here the rest of the day (heck, the rest of my life) but our wallets couldn’t afford it.
We continued one block north before running into this sweet spot of heaven.
Years ago, Husband and I discovered this restaurant when we went to the city to watch Celia, an off-Broadway musical remembering the life of Celia Cruz, at New World Stages. Along with their made-to-order guacamole bar, Husband fell in instant love with the De la Calle, a margarita style drink that he has made his life’s mission to replicate and perfect thanks to this place. So there was no decision to be made about whether or not we’d be heading into Toloache when we accidentally stumbled across it.
We ordered the Queso Fundido con chorizo – melty, hotty, cheesy goodness sprinkled with chorizo and accompanied with 4 flour tortillas. It was as yummy as it sounds, though if I’m honest, one flour tortilla full of cheese heaven was enough for me.
We were starting to slow down at this point so elected to take a quick rest at our hotel with an espresso in preparation for dinner plans with friends at a pizza bar.
3 words: Wine. On. Tap. 😳 That alone gets this place a blue ribbon from me but what it boasts is its craft beers and specialty pizzas. Uh… hello, lover. As proud New Jerseyans, we had to try the Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out pie, an ode to the Boss, himself. A red pie with crushed tomato sauce, fennel sausage, broccoli rabe, and fresh mozzarella. Additionally we ordered the Clam Digger: fresh little neck clams, garlic, parmesan, fresh mozzarella, and extra virgin olive oil. Major win this one. It was a sweet spot to meet up with friends for beers, pizza, and some catching up.
When we walked out of Kiabacca, the snow had steadily began to fall. I love snowy nights just about anywhere and snowy nights in NYC are magical because for that evening it seems as if the city that never sleeps, takes a power nap. Everything grows quieter and the bright lights fall under a pure powder, exaggerating an already beautiful city.
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We walked back towards our hotel, cuddled closer than usual because, well, snow. I had one thing on my mind. I looked up at Husband, rosy-cheeked with snowflakes on my eyelashes. “Could we go back to Lillie’s for another one of those drinks?” It was the only choice I made that day and I believe it was a good one.