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30 March 2020

City Break in Seattle: Bex's Guide

[[I wrote this blog post soon after returning from New York and Seattle one month — and a lifetime — ago. At the time, COVID-19 hadn't yet been declared a pandemic, although the World Health Organization had declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern a month earlier, and several cases had been confirmed in the Seattle area. It didn't feel right to publish this post at that time. I'm not advocating that anyone travels anywhere now — quite the opposite, in fact, as we should all be staying at home as much as possible. But some day we'll be able to travel again and if, like me, you're dreaming of your travel bucket list or looking for armchair inspiration, I can recommend Seattle as a great destination for future trips. Its coffee shops, restaurants and other small businesses will certainly appreciate your visit. Read on for my city guide.]]

Seattle 101 walking tour
I often like to take free walking tours when I travel — some are better quality than others — and so, it seems, does Seattle Free Walking Tours founder Jake and his wife Rebecca. They spent their extended honeymoon travelling the world and its walking tours, and incorporated the best elements into their own pay-what-you-think-it's-worth Seattle offering. There's a two-hour Seattle 101 tour and a one-hour Pike Place Market tour, among others. I took the former, which Jake ran and which was funny, informative and irreverent, and a great introduction to the city, its history and its culture. If you prefer tours of a subterranean nature, you might also like to check out Beneath the Streets.

Pike Place Market.
As you'll see from the food and drink section below, and my Seattle coffee guide, I spent a fair bit of time at Seattle's historic Pike Place Market, which dates back to 1907. The market is a multi-level labyrinth of food stalls, shops and eateries, with views over the Puget Sound. I enjoyed visiting by night too, strolling through the deserted, neon-lit hallways that contrast so much with the hustle and bustle of the day (especially weekend lunchtimes). Keep an eye out for the sculpture of Rachel the Market Pig, and the somewhat gross curiosity that is the Gum Wall.

Pioneer Square. This square — and the surrounding neighbourhood of the same name — is claimed by some as Seattle's oldest neighbourhood, dating back to 1852. However, the square also hosts a statue of Chief Si'ahl of the Duwamish tribe who have inhabited the area for thousands of years, and from whom Seattle takes its name. There's a totem pole in the square — the original was allegedly stolen from a Tlingit, and later destroyed. The second version was gifted to the city, but if you look closely at some of the carvings, you may be surprised, and some believe this may be a shame pole. Close to the shiny glass buildings and skyscrapers just a few blocks further north, Pioneer Square has some historic and characterful architecture. Don't miss Waterfall Garden Park, also known as UPS Park, on the site of the original UPS building, a most zen of retreats.

Museums and galleries.
I was in Seattle during Museum Month, where visitors staying in downtown hotels can get half-price admission to many of the city's museums and galleries. If you don't have a Museum Month pass, the $99 Seattle CityPASS, which includes admission to the Space Needle and four other attractions, is very good value.

Although I had heard good things about the Seattle Art Museum, I was more excited to visit the gallery and garden dedicated to the work of local glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. I loved every room and the garden, at the foot of the Space Needle, with its impressive, colourful sculptures. I particularly liked the Persian Ceiling and capturing golden hour reflections of the Space Needle in some of the glass spheres in the garden. The nearby Museum of Popular Culture was fun too, with current exhibitions including: tattoos, fantasy and sci fi, Nirvana, Hendrix and Pearl Jam.

Two of the evening receptions for my conference were held at the Pacific Science Center, in Seattle Center, and the Burke Museum, which made for some fun after-hours viewing. The former had some cool science-based interactive exhibits (and dinosaurs in the fountains outside), while the latter is a great natural history museum, whose collections include a T. rex skull. After I had finished all of my meetings on the Sunday, I stopped by the Seattle Aquarium, where I was won over by the darling sea otters, especially Mishka ('little bear') and a giant red octopus called Hugo. Alas, Hugo was "not super-interested in his shrimp" during the octopus demo session. My Museum Month pass got me half-price admission, but they got their money back from me in the gift shop!

Sunset at Kerry Park
I decided not to pay the $37 to go up the Space Needle, instead seeking a viewpoint that would include the iconic 184-metre structure in the skyline view. Kerry Park, a short but steep walk up from Seattle Center in Queen Anne, offers great views of the downtown, the bay and even Mount Rainier on a clear day. I was lucky to have two beautiful sunny days in the city and was treated to glorious sunset views from Kerry Park, as the sky turned pink and then black, and the city lights came on. If you don't fancy the walk, the park is a short bus ride from downtown. For another observatory that is higher and cheaper than the Space Needle, the Sky View Observatory near Pioneer Square is a good option.

Boat trips
With an unexpectedly sunny morning on my first full day off in the city, I decided to take Argosy Cruises' one-hour harbour cruise, with views of and commentary on Seattle, its port and the Puget Sound. It was interesting, if chilly (despite the sun), and I took dozens of photos of Seattle's beautiful skyline.

Later that day, however, some friends from the conference told me about their trip out to Bainbridge Island. You can take a public ferry that takes about 35 minutes and costs about $8 one-way (the return journey is free). Although you don't get the commentary, the views are just as good. I spent about an hour on the small island the following day, walking along the waterfront, visiting Eagle Harbor Book Co and stopping by the small but fascinating Bainbridge Museum. If you have more time, there are diverse eateries and wineries too.

Although I had only two full days of sightseeing, I had plenty of opportunities while I was working to enjoy some of Seattle's splendid eateries. I covered some of my speciality coffee experiences in this post.

A crucial fact about Seattle that I only learned after getting there is that there are a lot of happy hour deals. This is because most Seattleites don't live downtown and thus bars and eateries want to keep commuters in town as long as possible before they head back to the 'burbs. Happy hours often run from 3–6 pm, although they can start as early as 10 am, and some establishments have a second late-night happy hour. I wouldn't have been too excited by this until I found out that many happy hour deals also extend to food, from snacks to entrées, if you sit at the bar. If you're on a budget but keen to sample several restaurants in one evening, you can hop between them, enjoying a bite at each. Do bring your passport in case you're in the lucky position of being IDed — I only had my UK driving licence and wasn't allowed to sit at the bar in one establishment, even if I switched my order to a mocktail.

Pike Place Market is a good starting point for a culinary introduction to Seattle. I ate at several of its eateries, including East Coast-beating chowder in a sourdough bowl at Pike Place Chowder. It was worth the 15-minute wait in line! For a quick mid-conference lunch, I headed to Pasta Casalinga for some delicious homemade pasta with pistachio, kale, pesto and crème fraîche. On my last night in Seattle, I treated myself to dinner at Matt's in the Market, a restaurant run by a former market fish thrower, which sources most of its ingredients from the market. Having failed to save room for dessert throughout my trip to New York and Seattle, I didn't make the same mistake here. After some bread and a superb roasted salmon with cannellini beans, I loved the decadent deconstructed millionaire's shortbread that was the candy bar square. The cocktails and service were excellent too.

I also ate well on the stretch of First Avenue south of the market, towards Pioneer Square. At Heartland Provisions, I got one of the city's best deals in the form of the $10 happy hour burger, with gruyère and aioli fries. Perched at the counter, I got to watch and chat with the chefs, who offered me a few small samples, including of the jamón iberico being carved up. I wish I had had time to return to try some of the other dishes on the menu. Another great burger can be had at the wonderfully named gastropub Damn the Weather. It was a beautiful day when I stopped by, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment! Meanwhile at Japonessa, a sushi spot with Latin American influences, I had two sushi platters — one with six very fresh nigiri and one with 10 pieces of the Seattle roll (salmon, avocado, cucumber, tobiko) — for a total of $20 during happy hour.

Over in Capitol Hill, I had an unexpected take on a classic British dish at popular brunch spot, Olmste(a)d. It was toad in the hole, Jim, but not as we know it: French toast with a hole cut in the middle that was filled with braised chard, melted white cheddar and egg, with home fries on the side. I loved it! Strolling down Broadway, I happened upon the Capitol Hill Farmers' Market, where I might just have acquired a fried-to-order bakewell tart doughnut from 9th and Hennepin. I spotted Stateside on the way to brunch at Olmste(a)d and decided to return to the Asian-influenced restaurant one evening. I had the duck rolls, followed by pork collar on rice vermicelli (from which I could make some DIY rolls), along with a piña colada with an Asian twist.

As most of my budget went on food and coffee, I was mainly window shopping in Seattle. I picked up a few gifts from museum gift shops — those at Seattle Art Museum, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and Seattle Aquarium were particularly good. I also did some gift shopping at local chocolatier, Frans Chocolates, and at Pike Place stationery store Pike St PressWatson Kennedy is great for gifts and homewares, while Capitol Hill has a superb independent book store in Elliott Bay Book Company.

I spent two nights at the wonderful Hotel Theodore, a boutique hotel close to the convention centre. My room was small but comfortable, stylish and thoughtfully designed, with decorations inspired by the Museum of History and Industry: a patent for the Seattle Space Needle, a patent for the original Eddie Bauer down jacket and a photo of the Starbucks founders adorned the walls. There is a free cocktail hour every day in the lobby, and even though I showed up at 9:00 am, long before check-in, I was able to check into my room. I booked direct during a Black Friday sale to get a good rate.

For work, I stayed at the Seattle Sheraton, which was right next to the convention centre and which had a very good conference rate. My room was large and quiet, with views over the downtown. There was a small gym and pool on the 35th floor, which I used a few times.

Arriving and getting around. From Sea-Tac Airport, the Link Light Rail costs about $3, departs frequently and takes just over 30 minutes to get to the downtown Westlake station. During my trip, there was construction work that meant changing at Pioneer Square, and taking the journey time to about 50 minutes. To save time on the return, I took an Uber, which cost about $32 and took just over 30 minutes. Within the city, many of the key attractions are within walking distance. The Light Rail is currently limited, but is in the process of being extended. There are plenty of bus routes — I took one to get back from Kerry Park ($2.75, cash only, no change given) — and although the Seattle Center and its museums are only a mile or so from downtown, I took the monorail, because it's fun to do so!

Money. Credit cards, contactless and Apply Pay are widely accepted — I only used cash for hotel staff and walking tour tips and on the bus. Some Seattle restaurants include a 20% service charge, which is what I tend to tip in the US anyway. Alas, the current exchange rate with the British pound, plus tax, means eating out can be quite expensive, even at fairly low-key venues.

2 March 2020

Thirteen Speciality Coffee Shops To Try in Seattle

A conference for work last month meant I was able to make a long-awaited visit to Seattle. The city's long-established and varied coffee scene was one of the main reasons I had been so keen to visit. I was working for most of the six days I spent there, but luckily, the Washington State Convention Center, where I was based, is very central, with lots of good coffee options in close proximity. A few early-morning jogs and two days off at the end of my trip meant I was able to visit a baker's dozen of speciality coffee shops during my stay. I've left plenty more for my next visit, but read on for my thoughts on the places I sampled (my very favourites marked in purple in the map below).

Anchorhead Coffee (Downtown)
I was delighted when the organiser of one of my meetings suggested we rendezvous at Anchorhead Coffee, a large coffee shop a couple of blocks from the convention centre on Seventh Avenue. Located in the lobby of the 1600 Seventh skyscraper, Anchorhead was incredibly busy when I arrived, with the queue snaking around the edge of the room; I suspect a fair few conference attendees had the same idea as me! This meant I had some time to choose among the ten single-origin Anchorhead coffees available on pourover.

I opted for a Guatemalan El Limonar filter coffee, which had blood orange and melon flavour notes. I also realised soon after I ordered that my 'barista' for the morning would be the automated Poursteady machine that stood next to the gorgeous blue espresso machine on the counter. The coffee tasted even better as it cooled, and my colleagues were equally impressed with their espresso-based drinks. A colourful spectrum of retail bags of beans was also available to purchase.

Anchorhead Coffee is located at 1600 Seventh Avenue nr Olive Way. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Capitol Coffee Works (Capitol Hill)
Capitol Coffee Works and its three sister locations, each of which takes the name of the neighbourhood it occupies, like to celebrate diversity and uniqueness. I had planned to visit Seattle Coffee Works downtown but happened upon the cafe in funky Capitol Hill instead. The cafe is fairly small, although there is also a small seating area upstairs that overlooks the main area. It was busy when I arrived on a cold but sunny Sunday afternoon, but I managed to nab a table near the coffee bar. It's a bright space, with minimalist décor, a beautiful Synesso machine and stunning ceramics.

There was an impressive choice of single-origin coffees and brew methods available. Having just had a couple of espressos, I switched back to filter coffee and ordered an Ethiopian Addisu variety. Brewed through the Aeropress, the cherry and hibiscus notes came through nicely. They also sell coffee beans and kit.

Capitol Coffee Works is located at 907 East Pike Street nr Broadway (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Cedar & Spokes (Belltown)
I saw an A-board for Cedar & Spokes near Pike Place Market and followed the short trail to the bright, airy cafe in the southern part of Belltown. Although they were serving pourovers brewed in the Kalita Wave, I was about to head back to the airport and short on time, so I ordered a cortado.

The espresso was a single-origin Guatemalan coffee, which was brewed by the friendly barista and which paired nicely with a little milk. Sitting in one of the window seats, I enjoyed soaking up a few last moments of sunshine before returning to grey London. Cedar & Spokes is open until 7 pm and they serve wine, beer and cocktails too (if you're on a Seattle happy hour crawl, Cedar & Spokes' is 4–6 pm).

Cedar & Spokes is located at 2125 Western Avenue nr Elliott. Website. Instagram.

Cherry Street Coffee House (Downtown)
As well as the original location — on Cherry Street, funnily enough — there is a veritable orchard of other Cherry Street Coffee Houses in Seattle. I visited the one nearest the convention centre, on Olive Way, for a pre-conference breakfast one morning. The macchiato, brewed with Counter Culture coffee, was very good, and my egg and cheese breakfast bagel.

Cherry Street Coffee House is located at 509 Olive Way bet. 5th and 6th Ave (and other locations). Website. Instagram.

Elm Coffee Roasters (South Lake Union and Pioneer Square)
I was able to visit both of Elm Coffee Roasters' Seattle cafes, starting with the location on Ninth Avenue North, a few blocks south of Lake Union. The coffee shop is located in the entrance of an office building, occupying a light, high-ceilinged space with a marble counter and green tiling. I knew they served a one and one here, but when I spotted the 'one of everything' on the menu, that was always going to be my order. During my visit this involved a split-shot espresso and macchiato with a single-origin Colombian 9 Swans coffee, and a batch-brew filter coffee with a different Colombian variety, the Yorgeny Torenz. Everything tasted great, but the espresso drinks were particularly well brewed.

On my last day, I stocked up on beans at Elm's other location near Pioneer Square. The gorgeous coffee bar is pictured below. I was lucky with the weather, but the light was particularly lovely. I sampled an Ethiopian Guji coffee as a filter coffee, which I enjoyed so much that I bought a bag of the beans, roasted on site, to take home. The forest green packaging of the retail bags was very classy too.

Elm Coffee Roasters is located at 240 Second Avenue South at South Main (Pioneer Square), and 230 Ninth Avenue North nr Thomas (South Lake Union). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Espresso Vivace (Capitol Hill)
One of Seattle's longest-established independent coffee companies, Espresso Vivace has been serving up quality espresso for over 30 years. I visited the large, bustling cafe–roastery on Broadway East in Capitol Hill, which also doubles up as a live music venue. There's also another cafe and a kiosk. As I was in Espresso Vivace, I knew I had to order an espresso, and as it was single-origin Sunday, I decided to try the Sulawesi single-origin coffee from Indonesia. The coffee was good, the staff were welcoming and the atmosphere was great. Espresso Vivace is a must-visit for anyone interested in Seattle coffee culture and history.

Espresso Vivace is located at 532 Broadway East nr E. Mercer. Website. Instagram.

La Marzocco Cafe (Queen Anne)
It was a chilly, grey morning after a late night reception at the Burke Museum, but my motivation to run up along the waterfront to Seattle Center was high. I was excited to visit the La Marzocco Cafe, a spacious cafe inside KEXP radio station. With many small tables and some comfy seats, I can imagine it's often very busy, but early on a Sunday morning, it was fairly quiet, giving me time to explore the mini museum of La Marzocco espresso machines and coffee kit available for purchase. I wasn't quite persuaded to impulse-purchase a Linea Mini, but I was up for some breakfast.

During my visit, they were serving coffee from Five Elephant, one of my favourite Berlin roasters, and I had an impeccable piccolo brewed with Five Elephants' Dancing Goats blend, which was smooth and sweet. I enjoyed some banana bread too before putting my gloves back on and running back out into the cold.

La Marzocco Cafe is located at KEXP, 472 First Avenue North nr Republican. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Monorail Espresso (Downtown)
Minutes after checking into my hotel in downtown Seattle, I walked past a hole-in-the-wall coffee counter on Pike Street. There was a long queue and several customers sitting at one of the two benches on the sidewalk. When fellow coffee lover Coffee & Content recommended I visit Monorail Espresso, I realised that the coffee shop, whose original coffee cart was set up in 1980, was the popular spot I'd spotted earlier. I returned another morning for an excellent macchiato and a good chat with the barista. There is also a tongue-in-cheek 'directions menu', so bear in mind the small supplementary charges when asking the baristas where to find the monorail (it's very close!), Nordstrom or REI!

Monorail Espresso is located at 510 Pike Street nr Fifth Ave (and other locations). Website. Instagram.

Slate Coffee Roasters (Pioneer Square)
I visited Slate Coffee Roasters' cafe on Second Avenue, a couple of blocks from Pioneer Square, though the roasting company, founded in 2011, also has branches in Ballard and near the university. The Pioneer Square cafe is long and slim, with most of the small tables and seats along the wall opposite the counter. With monochrome décor and a selection of freshly roasted single-origin coffees, it made for a pleasant visit on a quiet afternoon.

Sheltering from the drizzle, I warmed up with a Ugandan Sipi Falls natural coffee brewed as a pourover in the Kalita Wave. The raspberry and dark chocolate flavours made for a sweet, well-balanced brew, and I regretted my failure to buy any beans after I didn't manage to return to the coffee shop.

Slate Coffee Roasters is located at 602 Second Avenue at James (and other locations). Website. TwitterInstagram.

Storyville Coffee (Downtown)
Rather slicker than some of the other coffee shops in town, Storyville Coffee's Pike Place Market cafe has a mesmerising curved coffee bar at its centre. I enjoyed my cortado, but if you go, promise me you'll try one of the frosted cinnamon rolls, one of the best incarnations of this decadent treat that I've tried.

Storyville Coffee is located at 94 Pike Street (top floor) nr First Ave (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Victrola Coffee Roasters (Downtown)
Less than two hours after touching down at Sea-Tac airport, I was sipping a delightful pourover coffee at Victrola Coffee Roasters' sleek Pine Street coffee bar. I had been eyeing up some natural Burundi Mpanga beans on the retail shelf while I was waiting to order, so I was happy to hear that was the coffee they were serving as a hand-brewed pourover. I sipped my coffee at the long table facing the futuristic coffee bar, enjoying the juicy blueberry and plum notes.

Victrola Coffee Roasters is located at 300 Pine Street nr Third Ave (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Zeitgeist Coffee (Pioneer Square)
Another Seattle coffee mainstay, Zeitgeist Coffee has a real sense of community with friendly baristas, local artwork on the walls and retro décor. Serving Italian espresso-based drinks and pastries, the doppio macchiatos and almond croissants here came highly recommended, so that was my breakfast. The coffee was strong but smooth, and the pastry was delicious.

My walking tour guide told me that Zeitgeist and Espresso Vivace regularly top polls of locals' favourite coffee shops and while there are certainly coffee shops in the city that are more modern or higher tech, a tour of Seattle's coffee scene wouldn't be complete without a visit.

Zeitgeist Coffee is located at 171 South Jackson Street nr Second Ave South. Website. Instagram.

A note on Starbucks...
The first Starbucks opened in Pike Place Market in 1971, and whatever you feel about the company, its impact on the coffee scene of Seattle, and the world, is impossible to ignore. As of 2019, there are over 130 Starbucks in Seattle. The original Starbucks relocated slightly and is now based at 1912 Pike Place, just opposite Pike Place Market. The store features signage and other items from the original store, and it's always busy. Had I had a bit more time, or fewer independent coffee shops on my list, I might have lined up for an espresso at the place where it all began...

The original Starbucks Reserve Roastery is also based in Seattle, at 1124 Pike Street. The mammoth store is impressive with areas dedicated to roasting, brewing, consuming and retail. It was extremely busy even late on a Sunday night. I had had my fill of coffee for the day, but there was a nice-sounding Guatemalan single-origin coffee on the brew bar. Some of the merchandise — mainly the coffee-making and -drinking kit — was nice too, although rather expensive.

27 February 2020

A Wintry Week in New York City

Ahead of a week in Seattle for a conference, I got to spend a few days in New York. I was staying in the Financial District, close to my company's office, where I was working for most of my trip (happily, I'll be back again in May). I did, however, have a free day-and-a-half in the city at the weekend. I was very lucky with the weather too: although it was cold, it was beautifully sunny on Saturday and Sunday, the rain coming out in time for my return to the office. As well as visiting a few speciality coffee shops, old and new, here's what else I got up to.

After reading about the impacts of the novel coronavirus outbreak on restaurants in New York's Chinatown, I wasn't sure whether the Lunar New Year parade would go ahead, but Mott Street and the surrounding streets were not short of festivities, with firecrackers, lion dances and other performances. Sadly, the coronavirus does seem to be having an impact on restaurants and shops in the neighbourhood.

Regular readers will know that I usually cross Brooklyn Bridge at least a couple of times on each trip, and this time, I enjoyed two cold but sunny morning jogs — one with a fantastic sunrise. I also returned by night to view the Snow Moon. It was impressive in person but with neither a zoom lens nor a tripod, my photos couldn't really capture the beauty of it.

I spent some time on Sunday ambling up through Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village and the West Village. I love the architecture in this part of town, and like to play fantasy apartment shopping when I visit. The afternoon light was lovely, and the sky remained clear as dusk fell and I made it as far as Madison Square Park and the Empire State Building.

I've visited the High Line many, many times, but had somehow never taken the opportunity to visit the Whitney Museum of American Art, which perches over its southern, Meatpacking district, end. From, er, fruit and vegetables, to Liza Lou's Kitchen, the exhibitions were varied and well-curated.

And if you've ever wanted a good overhead view of the High Line, the top-floor outdoor viewing terrace of the Whitney is a great place for some iconic cityscape photos.

Cobble Hill is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Brooklyn and when I was looking for a cinema to watch Bong Joon Ho's excellent Parasite, I happened upon Cobble Hill Cinemas. With no ticket counter inside, it reminded me of some of those lovely cinemas around Odéon in the sixth arrondissement of Paris, and it was a world away from the big multiplexes near Union Square that I often end up frequenting when in New York.

With only a few days in the city and a long wishlist of restaurants and eateries, I ended up planning most of my meals with military precision — and planned most of my evenings around my evening meals.

In Brooklyn, I had an excellent breakfast sandwich at Yafa Cafe (Sunset Park), a Yemeni cafe about whose coffee I've already sung the praises. Further north, in Carroll Gardens, I dined at Buttermilk Channel one evening. I've been wanting to go for a long time but you can't book for brunch, which made an early, brunchy supper a good option. The buttermilk chicken and cheddar waffles were as delicious as I'd hoped, although the portion was so huge that the prospect of their special Monday supper (three courses for $40) was rather too much. The cocktails and service were both very good.

Speaking of chicken, I also had dinner one night at the intriguingly named Banty Rooster in the West Village. Specialising in New Mexican cuisine — and underdogs, like the titular banty rooster, it seems — the new West Village eatery combines warm service with high-quality cooking. Again, the portions were on the large size, so after spicy sea bream aguachile with blood orange, and a roasted half-chicken, I was too full to try the sopapillas — little doughnuts with three different fillings. Also in the West Village, Bar Sardine satisfied my need for a good burger. The small bar has a small menu — though a bigger bloody Mary menu — but a big Fedora Burger, served with smoked cheddar, crispy potato, BBQ mayo and cucumber. Messy but delicious.

Over in the East Village, I made another burger pilgrimage, this time to Superiority Burger, whose sublime veggie burgers, made with freshly sourced, high-quality ingredients, attract large queues. Early on a rainy Wednesday evening, I managed to score a seat in the elbows-room-only cafe. The burger wasn't up there with my favourite incarnations of its meaty counterparts, but it was very good, and the broccoli, cashew and chilli salad made a great accompaniment. And it wouldn't be a trip to New York for me without a good pizza, and the Neapolitan pizza at Ribalta, just south of Union Square, really hit the spot and helped me fend off the jet lag on my first night.

Working in the Financial District gave me the opportunity to return to The Dead Rabbit for a cocktail in the upstairs parlour bar. I ordered the Press Release (you can take the girl out of the press office, but...), which was impeccably mixed by the charming bar tender. The menu itself is literally a work of (graphic novel) art, and well worth diving into. I also indulged in some lunchtime sushi at Haru Sushi and in taco Tuesday at Toro Loco.