Spring has sprung in NYC - tulips at the Rockefeller Center; view from the Top of the Rock

My final instalment of this trip is about our five holiday days in New York. Accommodation hassles and pounding the pavement tired us out somewhat, so we sought solace in good food, and weren’t disappointed. We arrived at Greenwich Village on a spectacular sunny Sunday and Bleecker St was buzzing. I had a hankering for comforting Italian and we fortuitously came across the original Ray’s Pizza in Spring St. The weekend special was excellent value, and between us we had a shrimp pasta starter, panfried sole with greens, broccoli and garlic linguini, and tiramisu. The fish tasted so good – probably because it was dripping with butter! The folks behind us had the biggest pizza I have ever seen! It was so big it needed its own special plinth. The ambience in the restaurant was just as memorable as the food photos on the wall of has-been celebs, casual Italian mama waitress widda Noo Yawk drawl, three Italian biddies in the corner discussing life, marriage and their favourite programme, CSI.

At the infamous Ray's Pizza: fish in butrrr; giant pizza; gooey tiramisu

A wicked view of the moon rising as we left Ray's

Further down Spring St is the perpetually full Café Habana. We started waiting for a table but then discovered the take-out counter round the corner, so we ordered there and ate at the less salubrious rickety tables, but the service was quick. The grilled corn with chilli powder lime and cheese is their pièce de résistance. We also filled up on the rice and beans plate and delish portobello mushroom quesadilla. Their Brooklyn place is called Habana Outpost, recommended by Ginny, which I am sure is just as good and just as popular.

Cafe Habana - don't forget the corn

Whole Foods Market corner Bowery and East Houston is up there with Haight St in San Francisco as one of the largest in this healthy supermarket chain. The choice in every aisle is mind-boggling, including vegetable chips. Being in America, I had to try the Stripes and Blues.

Excellent chips made from red beets, striped beets and purple potatoes

The High Line was certainly a highlight of Manhattan, a park built on a former elevated freight railroad. It runs through Chelsea from West 12th St to 20th St at 10th Ave, and Chelsea Market is the perfect lunch pit stop while walking the High Line. The ground floor of the 1890’s National Biscuit Company building is a long arcade of food stores of every kind. We had a pricey but nice poached salmon and eggplant parmigiana. I finished off with a parmesan bread twist, coconut macaroon and ginger snap from Amy’s Bread and was ready to walk again.

Two views of the entrance to Chelsea Market

Inside Chelsea Market

The Standard Hotel perches above the High Line

Meaty view from the High Line

We stayed in 32nd St for one night, which was in the middle of Koreatown. A Google search brought up 9 vegetarian places within a 10-minute walk and we ended up at Loving Hut, which claims to be the fastest-growing vegan fast food chain in the world. Supreme Master Ching Hai is the innovator for the Loving Hut vegan concept and she was there, on a TV right next to our table, expounding her philosophies. Our sautéed udon and spinach quesadilla were adequate but not exceptional. However, the friendly service and peaceful surrounds of this tiny slither of a café were a welcome respite from the concrete jungle outside.

Dinky Loving Hut sign and Supreme Master Ching Hai on the telly

Quesadillas and udon noodles at Loving Hut - no points for presentation

Filled with vegan goodness, we were now ready for a dairy dessert, and as we were in Koreatown it was inevitable we would find a suitable place to indulge – Pinkberry! This is frozen yoghurt nirvana: multiple yoghurt flavours with a myriad of toppings and sauces, as much as you can fit in your bowl. I went for a modest fresh fruit and nuts but I know others will be drawn to the cheesecake bites, fruity pebbles, gummy bears, animal crackers, praline hazelnut crunch, Italian caramel ... Yowza it’s good.

We all scream for Pinkberry!

Another tulip interlude - midtown

I must say it was quite useful to have Justin's iphone handy. Walking back to Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge, it was getting dark and we were getting hungry. We punch in vegetarian restaurant and Google leads us to the delightful Teany Cafe on the Lower East Side, only a few blocks from our position. The place was cute and intimate and they encouraged good old-fashioned fun with a bunch of board games on hand. They serve hundreds of types of tea and warming vege fare, including vegan mac 'n' cheese and hearty lentil soup. Dessert was the decadent chocolate bombe with peanut butter mousse - yeah! We happily played last cards before strolling back to the hotel. 

Chocolate bombe with peanut butter mousse at Teany - D for Decadance

On our last night in Manhattan we met friends at the hip Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria in the Bowery. The interior design is way cool - walls lined with bottles of liquor, distressed metal bartop - but it’s rowdy as hell and we were lucky to get a table outside where the street noise wasn’t so deafening, would you believe. Service: attentive. Food: damn fine. We devoured the fried calamari, the endive salad with pistachio, oranges and olives, the roasted sunchoke salad with watercress, smoked pecorino and pickled rhubarb, the mushroom pizza, the pesto pizza and the tiramisu.

Finely made, freshly baked goodness at Pulino's

Where not to go for nutrition but for sheer unhealthy spectacle: the Willy Wonka store and ScoopsRUs at ToysRUs in Times Square. It’s Babylon!

It was only a 48-hour stay, but we instantly liked blossomed-filled Brooklyn, and thanks to Ginny I had plenty of foodie heavens to visit. One Girl Cookies for chocolate and pumpkin whoopee pies; Nunu for divine homemade chocolates; and speaking of chocolate, I also visited Vosges Chocolate in SoHo – so good.

Inside the baking promised land - One Girl Cookies, Brooklyn

Our favourite café in Brooklyn was Ted and Honey on Clinton St next to Cobble Hill Park. Stevie Wonder was playing on the stereo as we walked in and I felt right at home. Coffee was great and the food was wholesome – the avo brioche sandwich and breakfast burrito with special house sauce hit the spot. We lingered at the central wooden table reading magazines and watching the locals – a luxury while travelling.

Our fave place to hang in Brooklyn: Ted and Honey

We ventured to artsy DUMBO precinct (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and the waterfront parks with quintessential views to Manhattan. Despite the constant traffic from two overhead bridges and intense construction works in full force, we enjoyed window shopping around the specialist boutiques. We were positively drooling in Baxter & Liebchen, one of the largest displays of mid-century Danish furniture. Jacques Torres is a must-visit for chocoholics. The sunflower seed brittle is to die for! And you gotta giggle at the white chocolate bar named Barry White. We had one of our best meals in NY at Rebar - Chickpea melt burger with caramelized onions, fried cauliflower, soy spread and artisan potato bun and Cobb salad with mixed greens, egg whites and yolks, blue cheese, cucumbers, seasonal vegetables and seared fish of the day. Service was friendly and they gave us the check in an old book. Coolness!

Rebar rocks! Yummy chickpea burger with fennel slaw and cobb salad with seared fish; the quirky way they present the bill

We didn’t go to Bubby’s in Brooklyn but their cow caught my eye!

Final tulip interlude on the streets of New York City: I shared an awesome moment with this fine lady admiring the flowers.

Stay tuned for more food stories from NYC - I'm going back there in June!