restaurant reviews and travel

  • Utah Trip and Good Eats Part 1

     Can I tell you how surprised I am with the amazing food and restaurants Utah has to offer? First of all, they are on board with the eating local and organic train… well… a lot of them at least. Many more than we have here in Orange County. Who would’ve thought? If you are wondering what the big deal about eating local is, let me tell you. First of all, you will get produce that is fresh, at it’s peak and in season. And that my friends means fresh tasting and flavor packed food.What a week we had of amazing meals and baked goods! 

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    I have some friends that highly recommended this place. The Tortilla Bar in Orem. This is a relatively new place with a great story and family behind it. I met one of the family members and he shared their story with me. First of all, the Oteo family is a large one and they are the heart and soul of this place. I love that they chose organic and local. It is evident when you eat the food. But as Mosi (one of the sons) says, ” The romantic part of the story is the humble truth of why we chose organic and local. Mom has been fighting cancer and she’s limited to where and what she can eat. Everything on the menu, mom can eat. Everything is her kind of food. I believe the success has been due to this alone. Tortilla Bar is family. It was meant as a vehicle to maintain our family close and at any given time you will catch 3-4 of our family members there cooking, serving tables, prepping food….. My favorite is when mom makes the tortillas. Something about the touch of a woman that makes them truly delicious. I always tell people you don’t just come to try the food here, you hear the story and embark on an experience.”

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     Here are some of the delicious and creative tacos we devoured. Above is their hanger steak with apples taco. 

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    Their avocado and beets taco (there is some delicious goat cheese from a local farm under all of that).

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    This was my personal favorite, the Pork Pibil taco. Everyone had a different favorite. This is just a few of the many, many dishes we tried here including a delicious kale salad with pineapple. I love their take on food. Wonderfully surprising! The menu changes so it will be fun to see what dishes they come up the next time I am in town.

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    Here I am at the end of our meal with my newest friend, Mosi Oteo. Stop by this fantastic, small restaurant next time you are in town and don’t forget to say hello to this awesome family while you are enjoying their delicious and creative dishes! Tell them Jenny sent you!

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    After a long day getting our college- aged daughter moved into her new apartment, we set out with hungry bellies at a late hour. Can you believe we went for Mexican food again? It is a family favorite! They have simple, but oh so fresh food. “Everything is made fresh daily. We use pasture raised organic chicken and locally grown organic produce whenever available. We do not own a can opener.” My kind of place!

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    Chicken Taco

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    My Chicken salad with chicken that was so tender. We got here five minutes before they closed…. whew! Sorry for the terrible pictures. It was really good despite what it looks like with my pictures! Stay tuned for the many, many more wonderful eats from this week including the secret restaurant I am so excited to share with you (I guess it won’t be much of a secret anymore)! Now that the kids are back in school, I will hopefully have more time to blog about this amazing week we had. See you when you check back!

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  • New York Fun and Eats Part Four

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     The Chelsea Market is a great place with a variety of bakeries, small restaurants and specialty food markets. The Chelsea neighborhood itself is a great place to discover.

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    Here is a little peek into this fantastic marketplace.

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    This is The Lobster Place that not only sells fresh seafood, but also serves fresh seafood. Yum! Lobster anyone?

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    Also in the Chelsea neighborhood is a Billy’s Bakery. This is just one of their three shops in the city.

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    Here is a display of their many cupcakes. 

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    This time we opted for cake. We had their chocolate, carrot, red velvet and banana cake. Their cakes were not that great… not moist enough for me. Except for this one… their banana cake. It was unbelievably good! So moist and so packed with flavor!

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    After our appetizer of cakes, we headed to The Meatball Shop for dinner, also located in the Chelsea neighborhood. Dessert first isn’t a bad idea… at least you aren’t too full for it!

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    This place is packed tight and very loud! But we didn’t mind. 

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    We ordered a ton of food. Meatball sliders of all sorts of flavors. They also offer meatballs in bowls with your choice of gravy or sauce, served over your choice of sides such as mashed potatoes, risotto, pasta, beans or polenta. We found the meatballs to be very average in both flavor and texture. I am not sure why so many people flock here. It certainly is a happening place. 

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    Now I do have to tell you how much we enjoyed their cookie ice cream sandwiches. You pick the flavor of cookie to go with whatever flavor ice cream they offer. Pretty much the perfect dessert! Our favorites were the apricot ice cream with the snickerdoodle cookies and the oatmeal cookies with a brown sugar ice cream. SO good I tell you!

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    The following day we had lunch at this Peruvian restaurant. They have many locations in the city.

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    Their Peruvian roasted chicken was amazing!

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    This is a very common and very delicious Peruvian dish called Lomo Saltado. We absolutely love this dish and Pio Pio makes it perfect! This is a must try!

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    This is fried plantains and I must say, I couldn’t stop eating them. The dipping sauce they serve with it is also amazing. Yum!

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    This is another side they served us. French fries with hot dog weiners. Sounds weird, I know. I don’t like hot dogs, but for some reason I liked this. Weird.

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    I highly recommend this restaurant to you all. It was one of our favorites of the week!

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    My goof ball kids enjoying our walk to Washington Square and enjoying life!

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    While in the West Village we walked by this place and we are major risotto lovers, so of course we stopped in to eat! Beware… this is the tiniest place and seating is very limited. For those of you that eat gluten free, this is the place for you. They offer everything on their menu with a gluten free option and also sell a ton gluten free products. 

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    Here are a couple of the risotto’s we ordered. They were okay. Far from the best we have had.

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    They also make pizzas, and these are so good! I especially loved the shrimp with pesto pizza. The crust was fantastic, they were flavorful and fresh. I would come here again just for their pizzas. 

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    Talk about pizza… we discovered a new pizza place in the West Village. Well… new to us. I don’t think you can have enough pizza in this city full of pizza joints. 

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    Not much seating here, but their pizza is so good you don’t need to sit down. Just gobble it up fast because you can’t stop! We now have a new favorite pizza place. When you come to this city and want awesome New York pizza, this is the place! We will be back many, many times! Well, as you can probably guess after reading all these posts, my pants are a lot tighter than before I came here. Was it worth it? A big fat (Seriously FAT) Y.E.S.!

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  • New York Fun and Eats Part Three, Plus a Little D.C.!

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     No trip to New York City would be complete without a visit to the beautiful Central Park. And what a gorgeous day it was…. a nice break from the rain!

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    And of course, a stop at a frozen treats vendor is a must for these kids of mine!

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    During our hike through the park, the kids saw the sign for Belvedere Castle and had to search it out. If you saw the word “castle” wouldn’t you want to do the same? I did… years ago on my first visit here. A castle in the midst of a park? Sounds too magical to not see it. But as you can see… it is not much of a castle…. but it still fun to explore.

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    My Daughter couldn’t pass up the chance to play “Rapunzel” at a castle! 

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    While we played, my hubby enjoyed the view. He served a mission for our church many, many years ago right here in this wonderful city. NYC has a special place in his heart.

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    A horse drawn carriage ride through the park? Don’t mind if we do!

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    Our next stop was another kiddie wonderland. Well, maybe for kids of all ages! Dylan’s Candy Bar. We are talking a huge store dedicated to the sweet stuff. Maybe we indulged just a little!

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    How cute is this landing on the steps in the store?

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    And then because I am a crazy person and cannot get enough to eat on vacation, we headed over to another bakery I wanted to try. I didn’t get any resistance… I trained my family well! No such thing as too much sugar on vacation, right?

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    Here is a sampling of what we tried. I heard their cupcakes are the best, so we got a few of those of course! I also heard their cheesecake is amazing so trying that is not even a question. And my hubby wanted to try their scones simply because they looked amazing and he is my best partner in crime when it comes to eating ourselves sick! He is always game…. Oh how I love this wonderful man of mine! Yes, the cupcakes are moist and fantastic! Yes, the cheesecake is out of this world good and that is saying a lot coming from me! And yes, the added scone was also so, so good! We all give this place two thumbs up so you should all come try it yourself the next time you find yourself in this city!

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    While we were uptown, we had to take the kids to visit the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art). It is huge and amazing. 

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    I love how our schools are teaching our kids about great artists and what art is all about. My son found an painting from an artist he learned about in school and was excited find it!

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    When I first came to the MET, I was enamored with the display of the knights and and all their armor. I wished I had my kids with me to see it. I was excited to have them experience it and love it too! But honestly, our visit here didn’t last that long. The kids got bored after a while…. I know.. so uncultured! Well folks… that is how we roll. 

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    No visit here is really complete without having some street food. And this here, is my favorite in this city. A souvlaki… perfect in every way. The mix of different flavors and messy sauce equals awesomeness! You can find these on street carts or food trucks throughout the city. A definite must try! You will thank me later.

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    Everyone and their brother told me I HAD to go to the Shake Shack, so we did. Hamburgers, fries, onion rings and shakes…. you don’t have to twist my arm. 

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    Their cheeseburger with a fried mushroom.

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    French fries are a must with a hamburger!

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    Assorted shakes we ordered. Chocolate peanut butter was our favorite hands down. Now the verdict? Eh…. the burgers were okay. Sorry, but I have had some amazing burgers and these just don’t make the cut for me. My family felt the same. Yes, my kids are a bit spoiled when it comes to good food. These were in the same league as In n Out I guess. Don’t hate… I really wanted to love them. 

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    The next day we loaded onto the train and headed to D.C for the day. My two youngest have never been. Do you think they are excited?!

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    Our first stop was Ford’s Theatre. One of my favorite places to visit in D.C.

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    Next, we headed to the Capitol where we got a private tour from a family friend. How cool is that?

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    As part of that private tour, we got to ride in the Senate tram that runs underground from their offices to the Capitol building. Why is it always so fun to be able to be in places that the general public is not allowed in? 

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    The National Archive building is another favorite! 

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    How gross is this? A real mummy in the Natural History Museum. Kids of course thought it was cool! I guess you don’t see these everyday!

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    The White House is a must. So sad they don’t offer tours anymore. 

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    Julia Child’s whole kitchen was brought over. I loved it! She had some great stuff… of course!

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    The reflection pool, the Lincoln Memorial and the National Monument are all such a beautiful sight. This city is simply gorgeous!

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    My son was so happy to be here he literally jumped for joy! We visited so many great places… more than I can show you here.

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    Back on the train headed back to NYC after a long day. We arrived at Penn Station at 1:30 a.m.! Sleep was not something we got a lot of on this trip!

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  • New York Fun and Eats Part 2

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    A friend recommended this amazing restaurant to me and I knew I had to try it. We decided to try it for lunch one day and it was raining cats and dogs on our way to this gem of a place. But boy, was it worth the wet adventure of finding it. It is located in the beautiful Tribeca area. 

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    We started with their fresh ricotta and grilled bread. It was heavenly! 

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    And this my friends, was the best arugula salad I have ever, EVER had! It was simple but so flavorful. I dream of it now. 

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    This pasta dish was another highlight. It was a special and I cannot remember what it was called. But once again, it was beyond amazingggggg! This place knows how to make amazing food and I fell in love. Locanda Verde was my favorite restaurant of this trip. I cannot recommend it enough to you all!

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    We continued on our rainy day adventure to find another highly recommended bakery. The first of many, many bakeries we ate at this week. Yes, we take our desserts seriously… maybe too serious!

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    I want to show you a shot of this place from across the street. Why you ask? Because we walked by it time and time again! It was so little I kept overlooking it. But no, I was determined to find it and so that is what I did… after walking up and down, then down and up, and up and down again. I will blame it on the rain! Hopefully we walked off some calories before we indulged big time. 

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    I have heard of this place for so long, but never took the time to search it out until this time. The cookies are big, heavy and thick. 

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    We took shelter in a covered walkway across the street to start devouring these babies. The last one (Chocolate Peanut Butter) was my personal favorite. Don’t hate me, but I could be fine to never eat another one again. Yes, they are good, but they did not rock my world. I am sure it is a personal preference. Some like their cookies like these, more cakey ( at least these are moist, cakey). I am more a chewy, almost dough like cookie lover. We all have our favorite preference, and these are just not mine. But I was glad I came and I conquered!

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    Next, we decided to take cover for a while… and there was no better place then the Natural History Museum. My kids were excited to visit the “Night at the Museum” museum! We had a blast searching for all the movie displays. 

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    Of course, the “dum dum want gum gum” Easter Island statue was the biggest find!

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    Then we headed downtown to find the bull that is so famous in so many movies. This boy of mine was so happy to find this!

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    Another tradition we have is take our “first timers” to Liberty and Ellis islands. But sadly, they were both still closed from the damage from Hurricane Sandy. This is as close as we got. 

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    Our dinner spot is actually kind of a famous place. The Little Owl is located at the bottom of the building that was used in the Friends show. It is located where “Central Perk” would be. It is also the absolute tiniest restaurant! Definitely make reservations before you go. 

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    We started with their meatball sliders. Bon Appetite did a write up on these and so I knew we had to try them. They were tender and very good.

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    This was my favorite dish here. Broiled Halibut with summer peas, corn and a pesto vinaigrette, So good!

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    My hubby loved their pork chop. 

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    Their branzino was also very good and so tender. My son couldn’t get enough of this one. We also ordered their lobster risotto (I don’t recommend it) and the crispy chicken that I also do not recommend. It was crispy, but also very salty and just not that tasty. Win some, lose some. 

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    For dessert, we ordered beignets with nutella and raspberry sauce and a vanilla panna cotta. The beignets were just okay tasting and the panna cotta was the worst I have ever been served. In their defense, the hostess saw how gummy and tough the panna cotta was and she apologized and said that was not how their panna cotta normally is and there was a mistake. Unfortunately, we already paid for it and it was completely unedible. Oh well… 

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    Another big tradition we do for our “first timer kids” is the Blue Man Group at the original Astor theatre where they started. It is such a fun experience. If you have never been, you must go! It is a tiny theatre and just perfect!

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    Dad, treated us good and bought us seats in the “splash zone.”

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    After the show, the blue men come out and are happy to take pictures with everyone that wants a picture with them. The kids loved it!

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    Back to eating…. again. I am a lover of rice pudding and they have a place that is all and only about the stuff. They offer so many flavors… it is unreal. 

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    I wish I could remember what flavors these were, but with everything we ate all week… it has become a blur. I don’t recommend you get this size or multiple flavors. It is heavy, rich and overwhelming with too much. Maybe we just weren’t hungry anymore???

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    Call me crazy, but on the way home I had to try another bakery. You all have heard of Momofuku’s Milk Bar, right?  I was dying to try the cereal milk soft serve, their cookies (especially their compost cookie) and the crack pie. Luckily we caught a cab and got there right before they closed. But honestly, I was somewhat disappointed. The cereal milk soft serve was nothing special, but the biggest disappointment was their baked goods are not baked on the premises. They are baked elsewhere and prepackaged. It was more like a store than a bakery. The cookies were not that great. But I did like their cake truffles and their crack pie (even though it too was prepackaged) was fantastic! We all went to bed that night with very very full bellies!

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  • New York Fun and Eats!


    I am finally blogging about our fabulous trip to New York city and Washington D.C.! It was a fabulous, busy, wonderful trip with a lot of eating! I will share the fun and tasty experience with you through the next few blogs over this coming week, so check back often!

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    Here we are (with four of our six kids) fresh (well maybe not so fresh!) from the coast to coast flight. We are so happy to have arrived and we are hungry!

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    For those of you that have never been to New York City before, this is Times Square and it is crazy busy and crazy crowded! It is truly not my favorite part of the city, but this year we stayed at the Marriot Marquis in Time Square so we were in the thick of it…. a lot! This was the first time in this city for my two youngest kiddos and they were excited to be here and soak it all in.

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    We arrived on a Saturday night, so getting in any good restaurant was more than a challenge for this hungry bunch! For those of you that know me, I am not one to just go to any restaurant. Especially in New York! Every meal is hopefully a great one for me! But as I said, I was not having any luck getting in any restaurant I called before 11:30 pm…. yikes! So we opted for good ole New York pizza. But I am picky about my pizza joints too! I have loved Ben’s pizza in Soho for years. I first fell in love with this place when I tried their salad pizza. The best and most refreshing pizza on a warm sunny day or night. They have a great selection of so many flavors and two different crusts… thick and thin. I love them both here.

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    Here is a slice of the salad pizza. And yes, it is really good!

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    Did I mention their garlic knots? Pretty amazing.

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    Also, in Soho is a tiny little takeout window for the tiniest bite sized cupcakes in a ton of different flavors. They are pretty good and I don’t know how they make them so moist when they are literally bite sized! It was a perfect sweet treat. We have been coming here for years.

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    The following day we were going to a musical and literally had one hour to get something to eat. As I mentioned, Times Square is not my favorite place and the eating joints there are touristy and not my cup of tea. But with no time, I opted for this new place with a menu that didn’t sound half bad. It is located at the bottom of the W hotel on Broadway. I was surprisingly happy with this place!

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    This was my favorite dish. It is their lobster popover with spinach, gruyere cheese, runny eggs and hollandaise sauce. It was amazing! I think I may have to recreate this dish someday. 

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    We went to see Cinderella and it was magical and perfect! Even the hubby and boys loved it. I highly recommend it if you are ever in the city!

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    Our next stop was the Empire State Building. We have taken all of our kids here on their first trip to this city. This was the first time we went up to the 102nd floor. You pay extra and if you ask me, it is worth it! Look how close we were to the very top! The views are even more amazing!

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    Isn’t this view spectacular? Do you spy a restaurant at the top of that building fourth from the bottom of the picture? It has me intrigued. I must find it and try it on my next visit!

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    Our family also got a chance to attend church in the city. It is located in a beautiful building located across from Lincoln center. Such a treat!

    IMG_3336Of course a visit to the 9/11 site is a must. The new building is almost finished. A lot of construction is still going on with more great things in the works.

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    The memorial pools with inscriptions of all the names of those that died that day is so moving. It is a beautiful memorial. 

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    Here is my beautiful daughter Hadley. Our budding, talented photographer.

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    We had lunch one day at this charming restaurant near Chinatown. 

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    Just look at this place! Charm up the wazoo!

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    Here is their kale caesar salad. Delish!

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    Their bacon cheeseburger with duck fat fries was pretty fantastic as well. 

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    Their highly recommended banoffee pie was as good as they said! And it takes a lot to impress me, especially with desserts!

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    The Toys R Us store in Time Square has a huge ferris wheel inside and I have always thought how much my kids would have loved to ride it. Well, the day has finally come!

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    Yup, they enjoyed it and the ride was so long I was beginning to wonder if they were ever going to let them off!

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    It was fun to be in this city and see it through the eyes of my kids. I have so much more to share with you, so check back for part two!

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  • Santa Monica Getaway and Restaurant Reviews Part 1

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    Me and my hubs stayed at this charming hotel with a room overlooking the ocean. My favorite view!

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    The Third Street Promenade was busy and happening. Lots of street performers and great shops. Not that I like to shop or anything 😉

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    The first night in town we ate at The Misfit, just around the corner from Third Street. Don’t you just love the name? It did not disappoint!

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    This is the restaurant from the inside. We sat upstairs and this was the view from our table. I felt like I was in NYC. A very happening and busy restaurant with lots of small tables. It would be hard to accommodate a family of my size! Good thing it was just my hubby and I.

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    Their roasted brussels sprouts were amazing good. (I apologize for the poor photo quality. I only had my phone to shoot the pictures.)

    6photoHow do they make prime rib sliders so good? Such a simple dish but we loved them! I know they don’t look like much but looks can be deceiving. The perfect slider all around.

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    This is their fried chicken sandwich that we did not order. As soon as I saw this as we were walking out, I had huge regrets! I have to go back to try this. It looked beyond amazing and the waiter said it was his favorite thing on the menu. We had a few more dishes and we loved them all. I highly recommend this gem of a restaurant. Oh how I wish we had restaurants like this in Orange County! After your meal, the waiter comes to your table with a plateful of salted chocolate chip cookies for you to taste. I found the salt on the top of the cookies too salty but I loved the gesture! I will write about some other restaurants we ate at later this week so check back! It was a few days of some seriously good eating!

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