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What do you like to do in your spare time?
I spend a lot of time writing – some memoir and lately fiction. I’ve finished one book and am really close to finishing my second. I also have a food blog, Grits in the City, so I’m always snapping photos and writing content for that as well.
Do you have any secret talents?
You can find me flying through the air on the trapeze once a week. I also went to college on a music scholarship for flute, which used to be my life in high school. I also can do some spins out on the ice — I used to skate a bit back in high school as well.
What would your superpower be?
I’d like to be able to magically transport myself anywhere by twitching my nose. Yes, à la Samantha from Bewitched. I love roaming around to try food just about anywhere. I’d like to be able to hop around and try things like that without having to actually plan a formal vacation. I think that’d be a dream superpower for any true foodie.
Indulging in a late afternoon weekend brunch with friends. Or something as simple as raw cookie dough or licking the icing bowl. A bowl of peanut butter cream cheese frosting is especially dangerous.
If you were going to draw a Google Doodle, what would it look like?
I feel like it would involve flowers and cupcakes… cupcakes with flower icing would work. The kind that almost looks too pretty to eat, but you always eventually cave and enjoy.
What’s your favorite Google event you’ve been to and why?
Tough call. I really enjoyed the Pizza Bus because it finally got me to explore some areas of Brooklyn I’d yet to go to. I’m still dreaming about the pizza at Valentino’s. I also really loved the Zagat dinner with Akira Back – flavorful food with a wonderful context provided by Chef Back himself.
What’s your favorite thing about sharing reviews on Places?
I really enjoy highlighting the smaller businesses I enjoy so that other people know why they are so great. It’s the local spots like that with owners that take every aspect of their business to heart that make the city for me.
If you could see any celebrity’s reviews on Places, who would you choose and why?
Reese Witherspoon, because she’s a fellow Southerner with class. Something comforting about getting inside tips from someone who grew up enjoying the same types of foods as you did. And Ryan Gosling, because he’d make it feel personal by starting them all with a comforting “hey girl.” I like that. I feel like he’d appreciate the cozy spots that can often be hard to find in the city.
Haha, we can hear him saying “Hey girl” right now. Can you share with us some of your cozy local favorites?
Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant – I love Clinton Street in the morning. I love Clinton Street at night. I love Clinton Street ALL day long! Ok, I do have to caveat I don’t love the long wait for breakfast. I’ve been a couple of times. Once we arrived later than originally planned and they had a massive wait. We waited some hour and a half to be seated. Last Sunday we decided to be “smart” and head over there at 9:30, 30 whole minutes in advance of their 10am opening. We were greeted by a line and the wait time? Yet again, an hour and a half. Geez! But the food is fabulous. We always get one of their super big uber-fluffy biscuits which comes with the best raspberry preserves as we wait. I’m a big fan of their blueberry pancakes, which come with maple butter rather than syrup. And oh, it is yummy. I finally checked out Clinton for dinner, and was even more impressed. I had their fried chicken, which this lady from the Deep South will say was mighty fine indeed! It had this spicy honey for dipping that I wanted to take home with me. Perfect. We started with sides of fried green tomatoes and cheese grits. I was in heaven. And I’m a’ comin’ back, ASAP.
Taureau – Best fondue in the city. Quaint, personal, and takes reservations. Several prix fixe options allowing you to decide how much you want to commit to. Selling point here is their BYOB option — no corkage fee and they’ll help you keep your second onward options chilling if you need. For cheese, the Devil’s Whiff is amazing. It’s a blend of peperoncino, red wine, and sharp cheddar. It’s got a spicy unique flavor — but no worries. If you try and hate, they’ll change it out. When has being adventurous ever been so safe?!? For chocolate, go with milk as the white chocolate here is room temperature. Service is super attentive.
Levain Bakery – If there ever was a cookie bomb, this is it. And oh yes, that’s a good thing. You have to know this little place is tucked down from street level into a subterranean level of awesomeness. Walk down those stairs, and you won’t be able to resist buying one of their cookies. Yes, know upfront they are $ 4 a piece. Yes, it’s not cheap. And YES, it’s so worth it. Some are purists and will only get their chocolate chip one. It has walnuts in it though and I’m a purist in that I don’t want that in my chocolate chip cookie. I have lots of feelings when it comes to sweets. Instead, my favorite is the chocolate peanut butter. It’s technically dark chocolate peanut butter, but there’s nothing dark about the chocolate taste in my book. Not a fan of heavy chocolate? Don’t be steered away. The peanut butter chips are so plentiful, that it’s nearly impossible to take a bite, no matter how small, and not have at least four mini-chips in it. So good.
Black Mountain – I came here on one of the first chilly days in fall — by the time I made it here, I could barely see since my hair was all across my face. I was so excited to see the blazing fire and find the interior slightly dark, warm and inviting. There’s lots of variation in seating options – lots of space at the bar, standard two- and four-top tables, as well as some sofas over by the fire (as to be expected, those were never vacant). I found their Gruner Veltliner to not be as tasty as their Finger Lakes Riesling. They also have cocktails and many craft beers from which to choose. Their cheese selection, though small, was excellent – paired with bread slices and spreadable preserves. Their food options are decent but not extensive – however, they do have quite a few additions per day as specials. Next time, their pumpkin soup will be mine.
El Quinto Pino – This is one of my favorite hidden gems. Their wine selection though small is carefully chosen. If wine’s not your thing, check out one of their cocktails. For food, don’t miss the Lomo — it’s their take on a Cuban sandwich. And it’s AMAZING. The gambas (shrimp) are also unique — garlic and jalapenos. Super cute!
Posted by Topher Ziobro, New York City community coordinator