Jill's 14th Birthday Foodie Tour
Jill’s 14th Birthday Foodie Tour
“You’re thin for someone who likes food.”
I love that quote from the Pixar movie Ratatouille. I love it because it describes my daughter perfectly. She’s thin because she only eats good food. She has spent the last few years reading, watching and listening about good food and how to make it. Among her favorite shows on the subject is The Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats/Sweets.
So, as we approached her 14th birthday, we asked her what she’d like to do to celebrate. Without hesitation, she said she wanted to visit some of the places chronicled in that show. Living just 100 miles from New York City, that was the obvious destination for a culinary tour of those locations. So we booked a hotel and bought our train tickets and set about planning the trip’s stops.
“All Aboard” and Miracle on 34th Street
So we got up early on the Saturday of her birthday weekend and our family of four headed for the train. After parking in Trenton, NJ, we headed down to Track #2 for the Northeast Corridor train to Penn Station, New York! We found a set of 4 seats facing each other for the ride north.
I got the Smoke Shack burger, my wife got the Shack Burger, my son jumped on the Shroom Burger and Jill chose the new Chick’n Shack. Laura and Jill took their time and savored every bite so they still had some left when I was done snapping some pics. Not so much for David’s Shroom Burger; it was gone by the time I looked up!
After thoroughly enjoying our burger fare, we emerged from our subterranean starting point onto 34th St in Midtown Manhattan on a crisp 30º sunny day. The kids got a kick out of being on the famed Macy’s Parade route.
Above the Square and at the Bottom of the Rock
We made our way to 37th at Times Square where we checked into the Millennium Times Square Hotel. They were very accommodating to our early arrival and a few minutes later we were heading up to the 17th floor. The view was OK…very Manhattan. We had glimpse of Times Square, but without the glaring 24-hour lights right in our face…win-win.
The kids skated for 90 minutes and got nice and chilled as well as nice and hungry. This meant it was time to trade the skates back in for their walking shoes and make our way north to our next foodie stop…Bibble & Sip
On a cold day, the place was packed, yet they managed to keep the line moving pretty well. The Cream Puffs were what we came for, and we didn’t leave disappointed! Jill chose the Matcha Tea Creampuff, I got the Earl Grey version, Laura couldn’t resist the double chocolate and David went with the Strawberry. A Coffee, a Latte’ and a Hot Cocoa rounded out our selections. Yet again I missed out on trying the boy’s Strawberry puff…it was gone to fast! The other three were delectable. The crunch of the first bite was surprising and fantastic and I was astounded by Earl Grey flavors in the sweet cream. I had similar experiences tasting the Matcha, while the double chocolate put most traditional cream puffs to shame.
From Bibble & Sip, we headed north again…into Central park. We didn’t have time for a trip to the zoo…that’ll have to wait for another trip. However, we managed to hit a few of the other iconic spots, from the Bethesda Fountain to the Imagine tribute to John Lennon. We even managed to find a kind person to snap a family photo of us all on the Bow Bridge before we made our way to the Subway to head back to the hotel until dinnertime. When we hit Times Square, we ran into a couple of Minions and my wife could resist!
Whoda thought you could get terrific down home southern comfort food in New York? Unique Eats, that’s who! Following the advice from the show, we hopped on the subway and made our way the the Flatiron area to pay a visit to Hill Country Chicken. 3 of us got the Deluxe Thigh & Drum with an assortment of sides that included Roasted Corn Salad, Pimento Mac N Cheese, Cheese Fried Mashed Potatoes, Cole Slaw and, of course, Biscuits. Jill was the outlier who chose a Chickwich…her 2nd Chicken sandwich of the day after the Shake Shack version.
The chicken was all prepared perfectly with a skin-on crunch that contrasted perfectly with the juicy chicken hidden beneath. The Corn Salad was just right, the Mac n Cheese was serviceable, but the revelation was the Cheese Fried Mashed Potatoes. Take a base of buttery mashed potatoes and add cheese and fries and you’re in for comfort food overload!
And then there were the pies! Each of us got to have your own personal pie…why don’t more places do this?!? No one else in my family likes Pecan Pie, but I love it…so I got to have my very own!
It was good that we had some walking to do after dinner to work off the meal!
We woke bright and early since we knew time was tight for our day 2 adventures. After a quick cuppa, we dressed and headed out into the cold once more seeking the warmth and coziness of brunch at Wafels & Dinges
This was one of our most anticipated destinations, and it didn’t let us down.
David and I both got the ENORMOUS prix fixe brunch that featured a savory waffle, eggs and side as well as the choice of fresh squeezed OJ, a mimosa, a milkshake or an espresso drink. Laura got the traditional Belgian Waffle and jill went all in for the caramel coated liege waffle a la mode. How’s THAT for a decadent brunch!
The only thing that beat the food was the awesome service!
We left Wafels & Dinges with the intention of heading to Brooklyn via the bridge pedestrian path. That was all good, but I messed up when I looked at the map and said ‘Hey! I think we can walk there!’ While it was a scenic tour of China Town and the Federal Buildings, it was more than a crew with already tired feet were prepared for. By the time we got to the Bridge, we were pretty tired and cold. The views were still fantastic and I’m glad we did it, but we were definitely ready for a sit-down by the time we arrived in Brooklyn. Thankfully, Bluestone Lane coffeeshop is right near the base of the Bridge and served us well!
Who eats ice cream on a cold day? We do!
The show that inspired this whole adventure featured a shop that made Ice Cream Rolls. This was so intriguing to Jill that she knew she had to try it. So we planned our last stop for a visit to The Juicy Spot.
They do ice cream a little differently here. First you choose traditional cream or tangy yogurt for your base, then you choose your flavors, your toppings and your drizzle. Sound overwhelming? Not to worry, they have several favorite recipes to choose from. Once you settle on your choices, the fresh fruit that makes up your flavor is finely chopped on a super cooled round tray area about the size of a pizza tray. Then the cream is poured on top and mixed with the fruit to form the ice cream. This is them spread thin on the tray and rolled up. Add the toppings and drizzle and you have a truly unique ice cream experience!
All good things must come to an end.
After we finished our delicious ice cream, we bundled back up and hopped aboard the subway back to Penn Station. There we bought a birthday cake (you didn’t think we’d forget that, did you?) and boarded the NJ Transit train back to Trenton. It wasn’t long before the hustle and bustle showed its effect on the family.
All tolled, we had stopped into 5 Unique Eats/Sweets featured locations and sampled a wide ranging selection of foods from savory to sweet…and there was one more sweet to savor!
Happy Birthday, Jill!
Lee, this was and is, an amazing trip you and the family took on....I enjoyed every word and bite (even though only in spirit) and I can see that all enjoyed it. Please wish the "Birthday Girl" a happy belated Birthday wish from me. Thanks for blogging this...It was and is wonderful....
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