Lee Lee's Baked Goods

Stopped by this small, old-fashioned bakery after brunch at Vinateria.  

Apparently the bake shop is known for its Rugelach, a traditional Jewish pastry. The story is (I googled this after I got home), the owner/baker, Mr Alvin Lee Smalls first came across a rugelach recipe on a newspaper over four decades ago. After making the rugelach per the recipe, he decided he didn't like the recipe. He then tinkered with the recipe for about six month and created his own version of the traditional Jewish treat!  How cool is that?!

I have to say, his version tastes amazing!  I got the traditional ones to go because I was simply too stuffed from brunch. But... when I realized that the rugelachs were still warm, I magically found room in my stomach. Nothing like freshly baked treats! I loved the touch of cinnamon and raisins in this "traditional" version.  Now that I know how amazing Mr. Lee's rugelach are, I will go back and try the other flavors.  

Rugelach  

Rugelach  

These round treats covered in a dusting of white powdered sugar are Sandies. At this shop, they are affectionately called Sandie Tots by the owner. One of the patrons called them Mexican Wedding Cookies. Whatever you want to call them, they are absolutely delicious!  I'm usually not a fan of these types of densely packed cookies. These Sandie Tots somehow managed to be crunchy, but light, with a slight nutty flavor. I can easily inhale a couple of these. 

Sandie Tots

Sandie Tots

I am never one to pass up on cinnamon rolls, especially since I have such a hard time finding good ones these days.  This cinnamon rolls are a bit thinner than most cinnamon rolls.  I was worried that they would be a bit dry, since I didn't get a chance to eat them on the day I bought them.  To my surprise, these cinnamon rolls were perfectly yummy when I had them for breakfast the next day. 

Cinnamon Rolls  

Cinnamon Rolls  

Verdict: AA+; This unassuming bakery is a great find. It is definitely worth trekking uptown for these special treats.  

Lee Lee's Baked Goods
283 West 118th Street (Between St. Nicholas & Frederick Douglas Blvd.), Harlem
http://leeleesrugelach.com

Vinateria

This eatery in Harlem is a little bit off the beaten path for me.  I don't usually venture that far uptown for food.  Since this place has become one of the go-to places for a foodie friend of mine, I thought I should check it out. 

I liked the energy and vibe of the place almost immediately after entering the imposing black doors. The space was light-filled and airy, lively but not chaotic. I was able to get a seat at the bar and have my morning coffee before my friends arrived. 

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The brunch menu had all the usual brunch items.  I liked that brunch items automatically include coffee/tea and orange juice/mimosa/bloody mary. 

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Not sure how I got talked into ordering the Steak and Eggs  I was surprised to see such an enormous portion. The steak was a bit overcooked, but very tender and juicy nonetheless. It was a very yummy dish. Definitely the thing to order if you are hungry!

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I had a bite of my friend's French Toast. It tasted as good as it looked. I would totally come back and order this. 

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My other friend's burger looked ridiculously decadent! 

The french burger with Caramelized onions, Bacon, Mustard Sauce, White Cheddar

The french burger with Caramelized onions, Bacon, Mustard Sauce, White Cheddar

On my second visit, I got the Porchetta sandwich.  Since the sandwich was topped with a fried egg, it counts as breakfast in my book.  The pork was nice and juicy, but not super flavorful. I did like the aioli sauce on the toasted bread.

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Believe it or not, we actually found room in our stomachs for dessert!  This Olive Oil Cake was my friends' favorite dessert item. I liked the combination of the Olive Oil Cake with kumquat.  The citrus of the kumquat balanced out the richness of the olive oil nicely. The sesame seed ice-cream, on the other hand, was a bit of a miss for me. I liked the sesame ice-cream fine, I just didn't think the flavor went with the cake well. 

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This house made blueberry and orange sorbet was my favorite. It was icy, refreshing, and the intensity of the fruit really shines through. Excellent palate cleanser and a great way to end the meal. 

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Verdict: A; Comfortable space, friendly service, good price, and not hard to get a reservation….all good reasons to check this place out if you are in the neighborhood. 

Venateria
2211 Frederick Douglass Blvd (@119th Street)
http://www.vinaterianyc.com

Cafe St. Régis

Catching up with my Paris bestie at our favorite cafe on Il St. Louis. This is the cafe where we had spent countless summer evenings sipping rosés and people watching the summer that I lived in Paris.  

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Given the chilly weather, we opted for an inside table on this particular visit.  The dim lighting and old-school bistro decor further evoked my feeling of nostalgia. 

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Verdict:  This cafe will always have a special place in my heart.  

Hours: Everyday 630am - 2:00am

Cafe St. Regis
6 Rue Jean du Bellay 75004
http://www.cafesaintregisparis.com

Best cookies ever! Levain Bakery

This tiny little bakery on the Upper West Side has the reputation of turning out one of the best cookies in New York City.  Even on a late Sunday afternoon, half an hour before closing, there was a long line out its door!  Thankfully the line moved quickly. The minute I stepped into the bakery, I was overwhelmed (in a good way) by the aroma of the freshly baked cookies.  

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Even though I had the good intention of just getting 1 cookie, somehow I walked out of the store with two =P.  The cookies are absolutely divine!! It's shaped more like a mount than a flat disk.  A mount of warm, gooey, goodness!  My photos don't do the cookies justice at all. 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip

Chocolate Chocolate Chip

The saltiness of the peanut butter chip really balanced out the sweetness of the chocolate nicely.  That said, I really love the chocolate chocolate chip cookie as well.  

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip

The only thing missing was a tall glass of milk! 

Verdict: AAA.  Live up to the hype. It's possibility the best cookies that I have ever had…or at least in recent memory.  

Levain Bakery
167 West 74th Street (@Columbus Street)
http://www.levainbakery.com

North River Lobster Company

What better way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon than cruising along the Hudson River, basting in the sun, taking in the Manhattan skyline, all while feasting on lobsters!  Whoever came up with the idea of this floating seafood restaurant is a genius!

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The boat (the floating restaurant) sets sail from Pier 81 on the westside of Manhattan 5-6 times a day.  We decided to take the 630pm sail so we can enjoy the beautiful sunset.  We ordered our food and drinks at the bar and headed up to the sun deck.  

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We didn't have to wait long before the waiter brought us our seafood feast.  The lobster roll was amazing! Chunks of fresh lobster meat with only a slight bit of mayo sandwiched between a nice buttery roll.  The only thing I didn't care for was the gratuitous lettuce leaves.

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The peel and eat shrimp was good, but not spectacular. I think lobster is the restaurant's strong suit.

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My friend's whole lobster looked great against the Manhattan backdrop! 

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Even though the sails were only 30 minutes long, it was nice to be out on the water.  We were having so much fun eating and mingling with fellow diners that we decided to stay on the boat for the 8pm sail as well.  The two sails had completely different vibes. 

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Seeing the lit-up Manhattan skyline against the full-moon was just magnificent! 

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Verdict: A+. This is a great setting for a summer outing with friends.  Not only was it a fun experience, the food offerings were also solid. The lobster roll is one of the best that I've had in the city. I hope this lobster boat will be back next summer! 

North River Lobster Company
Pier 81  (near West 41st Street)
http://www.northriverlobsterco.com