JUST SNAPPED @littleswallowchinadoll

Day 2 with the girls + Eataly, Flatiron, NYC

Sunday. The last three times I've been in my favourite city in the world, I've had mixed feelings. I hate leaving, but I miss the CG. And after spending the week before in Amsterdam, I was looking forward to seeing my partner in laughter, a breather from travelling and my own bed.

But before going home, A, B and I, had a little more exploring - and eating - to do. 

We headed to Eataly - a huge Italian market place offering absolutely anything Italian-food related that you can dream of. I adore their manifesto which starts with "we're in love with food"and follows with "food unites us all" - I couldn't agree more. 

Of course, we had to have some freshly made pasta and cured meats after all that walking around, gaping at all that food. 

Bread was delivered to the table wrapped in brown paper. A lovely rustic touch.

There followed a mess of salted caramel and white mint chocolate gelato - but I was too busy enjoying possibly my favourite Italian export to take any photo evidence.

Full and happy, we managed to squeeze in a few more choice shops before heading back to the hotel to finish packing and say goodbye, before I jumped on the red eye home. I would love to have my gorgeous cousins closer to me - but since I can't, it's special weekends like these make me love them even more.

Day 1 with the girls + Balthazar, Soho, NYC

Saturday and the sun was shining and the snow was melting. The little one and I rolled out of bed and headed out for brunch. Via Aritizia. Big mistake.

About a million soft, silky, beautiful garments later, I'd blown a wad of cash thanks to the lucrative sale prices and A's encouragement. 

The big one is mine. The little one is A's. Appropriately.

After working up an appetite, and completely missing brunch, we decided to head straight to lunch: pizza at Rubirosa. Get the mushroom pizza. You won't regret it.

(that's a good little cousin, serve me...)

There may have been a moment of doubt that we could finish everything.

Only a moment.

Have I ever mentioned that my mum comes from a family of 12 kids? No, they aren't catholic. Yes, they were poor. 

The result of all that procreating is a generation of cousins across a broad age range, across many, many miles. In 2011, I met one of my cousins, B, for the first time in NYC. In 2012, I introduced her to our youngest cousin, again, in NYC. So it was fitting that in 2013, we again reunited in NYC.

And what better place to meet than somewhere close to my heart: Chobani Soho. The girls were in fits of excitement, especially as they got the rockstar treatment from the fabulous crew there. 

Yep, other cousins might get you free tickets to gigs or designer clothes, but I can get you access to the best yoghurt experience in town. To be honest, that experience is available to absolutely anyone who visits. No exaggeration, and no bias - promise.

After a quick trip uptown to bag A's favourite macaroons, it was time to head back to the hotel and pop some bubbles. 

Before heading out for the main event: dinner at Balthazar

B and I have been for a drink there every time we've met, and every time fail to secure a table for a meal. This time, we weren't missing out. Briefed a month in advance, B scored the booking and it was worth every bit of forward planning.

We started with the steak tartare and risotto. Simply stunning. Good French food done well is just divine. 

Then followed up with a tower of seafood. 

Spot the student on the right. That's right, A, one day you too will drink champagne and eat seafood  every Saturday night with promising students, dispensing worldly wisdom.

Of course, no seafood platter would be complete without perfectly cooked pommes frites.

Completely stuffed, we got the bill. Then sat and gas-bagged until A managed to convince us that we should have dessert. Which of course, somehow managed to score us complimentary champagne. Don't get me wrong, I didn't hear anyone complaining.

I know what you're thinking. We were full, but not completely and utterly. Gracefully, we retired to our hotel room to gossip, drink, and nibble daintily on macaroons. The perfect day with two of my favourite ladies.

Ippudo, East Village, NYC

The littlest cousin of them all came to meet me on Friday night in NYC for the weekend, which was a lovely treat. After a long catch up of non stop question and answers, we headed out into the freezing snow to warm ourselves with hot bowls of ramen.

I've been to Ippudo before, but that was before the London ramen craze. The Friday night queue was a lengthy 1.5 - 2 hour wait, but just as we were deciding what appetisers to order to accompany our drinks at the bar, we were called up after only 30 minutes to take our places at the big shared tables.

We started with the obligatory pork buns.

Moved on to Chilean sea bass with silken tofu.

Consolidated with spicy tofu and minced pork (while the CG and Miss O aren't around I have to make the most of my tofu encounters).

And finished with the pièce de résistance: akamaru ramen. Look at that smiley face, even the ramen is happy to be eaten. 

I'm going to put it out there: best ramen I've had, EVER.

I obviously took for granted how good it was last time. But I won't forget this time. Every single dish we had was sensational. And I wished we could have ordered a dozen more - their menu was crammed full of tasty delights. I could eat there happily every night of the week. Slurp. 

Ippudo on Urbanspoon

Sauce, Lower East Side, NYC

Why are all wait staff in NYC so damn awesome at their jobs? Yeah, yeah, tips and all that, but seriously - when our waitress at Sauce took us through the daily specials, I was hanging on every word. My stomach was audibly rumbling at her delicious descriptions. Now that's the kind of woman you want on your team.

This was the best octopus I have ever had. Succulent and juicy, cooked to perfection and full of flavour - I'm still thinking about it three meals later.

The antipasti was amazing, the pasta warm and comforting; perfect for a bitterly cold -12C night. 

In retrospect I wish I'd ordered just a bunch of antipasti dishes, they were so good - but there's always next time.

Sauce on Urbanspoon