Our week in Los Angeles

We rented a car in San Francisco and drove to LA. Although many people recommended we take the coastal highway for the views, we chose the 101 because we wanted the drive to be over with sooner. We have to confess to something: we did stop on the way in Cupertino to see the headquarters of Apple. They were absolutely… normal. Lots of young people walking around with laptops and iPhones. In hindsight, not worth the detour. But hey, we were there! 

Towards the end of our drive, we stopped in Santa Barbara for coffee at the French Press. Santa Barbara is a nice town where many people move to retire and we don’t blame them: it is a nice, cosy town with the atmosphere of a high-end beach resort. The coffee at the French Press was surprisingly good, though. We also stopped to refuel and found that the fuel for the whole six-hour trip from San Francisco to Santa Barbara cost us… 37 dollars! Gotta love those US gas prices. 

Some 40 minutes later, we were in our destination: Camarillo. Camarillo is a fairly small town along the main highway that is famous for its agriculture: 50 feet of top soil and four growing seasons a year never ceased to fascinate us. The other notable thing about Camarillo is it outlet retail centre where many people from near and far travel for the best fashion bargains. We stayed in a small casita (a garden house) of Suzanne and Kevin, a retired couple with whom we exchanged houses: they stayed in our rental apartment in Prague in April and we were really happy to see them again. We then took our car to drive to LA and back every day. The trip took about an hour or slightly more, depending on the traffic. 

This might seem crazy in the Czech Republic, but a long commute seems to be a fairly normal thing in central California. Los Angeles was arguably the most American city of all of the cities we visited during our US trip, namely because it was the only city that was not in the slightest walkable: if you don’t have a car in LA, you don’t exist. Also, we will never, ever complain again about traffic in Prague. You don’t know what traffic is until you get stuck on a inner-city highway with seven lanes in each direction. That said, we liked LA a lot. 

The weather helped. We now understand Californians when they say they miss the weather. Oh yeah. We stayed in the LA area for a week only, and we miss the weather already, too. It is really hard to argue with sunny days and temperatures of about 25C/75F. In late November. We had to pinch ourselves because we could not believe it. LA is a place where people walk in shorts and flip-flops in the courtyard of a mall, listen to Christmas carols and someone shoots artificial snow on them from the first floor.

Also, LA was probably the largest town we have ever visited. It really feels like a lot of smaller towns bolted into a single big city. Nowhere else will your GPS navigation say “after 35 miles, keep left”, and you’re still in the same city. We learnt that planning your route is crucial: if you put just restaurants and cafes you want to visit in a list without thinking about their precise progression and location of each place, you may - and will - end up driving the whole day. Trust us this one - we learnt the hard way.

We started our first day in LA with a visit to the Proof Bakery that serves nice sandwiches and sweet baked products. We had the almond croissant and it was… the best croissant we had in the US. Talk about a good start. After that, we took our car to Sunset Boulevard to see some shops and had coffee at Intelligentsia. You know the feeling when you order something, it costs more than you thought but you feel too embarrassed to say something and just go ahead and pay it? That’s exactly what happened to us with the USD 6 single-origin cappuccino at Intelligentsia on Sunset Blvd. But the coffee was good and the place was clearly very popular. Nice tiled design, too. 

After some more shopping (the shops on Sunset Blv are really great, btw), we went to look for Ricky’s Fish Tacos, the mythical food truck was recommended to us by several of our guests. A bit harder to find when parked in a tiny driveway. The menu? Just fish and shrimp tacos. We had one each and honestly liked them, but would we travel all across the town to have seconds? We’re sorry, LA foodies, but probably not. Still, it’s a great and unique place when you are in the area. 

After the tacos, we had a long walk along the Sunset Blv (you can see the Hollywood sign from there, too), went into some more shops and then - guess what - drove again to an area near the downtown. We visited a shop/gallery where a young man selling glasses in a pop-up shop confessed he was cold (it was 18C/65F) and then had a look at The Pie Hole- a small cafe that sells savory and sweet pies made in house. Looked great but we did not have any because we had a reservation due 15 minutes later at Bestia.

Bestia is a lively and a fairly large place that serves Italian-inspired dishes. The great atmosphere and a DJ lure in various types from glamorous to the more casual. Something like SaSaZu in Prague but with Italian food. The kitchen and the waiting staff work in perfect harmony. We ordered several smaller dishes to share and liked most of them, notably the chicken liver toast or the beef tongue with lentils. The only letdown was the last dish: simple spinach gnocchi with bone marrow - it was too rich and too fatty (and that’s saying something, coming from the two of us - we love bone marrow). All in all, this was a place easy to admire: it is a factory but it is a well-oiled machine, too.

The next day we slept in a bit. The nights in Camarillo actually got fairly cold but the bed in the casita had an electric circuit that warmed it from the inside. We absolutely adored this and we think that we might be getting this for Christmas! In any case, we drove downtown to the Grand Central Market, a large indoors market open into the streets on both sides that is clearly very popular among people from the nearby offices and others. It was not a posh place like some of the inner markets can be, but instead catered to diners of all social backgrounds. The best place in the market was Eggslut. Yes, a truly horrible name, but oh-so-delicious egg sandwiches! There tends to be a long line waiting but the wait is worth it. You can watch the inked staff and listed to hard-core rap blasting from the loudspeakers in the meantime. We had the Fairfax in a biscuit: soft-scrambled eggs with bacon, avocado and Sriracha mayo, all in a wonderful, fluffy biscuit. Our heaven. It was so good we went one more time: they ran out of biscuits but the brioche bread was good, too. There were other popular stands in the Grand Central Market, but Eggslut was the most popular of them all, and for good reason.

We then drove to the Larchmont area. In the best of our traveling traditions, we got pulled over by the police and nearly paid a fine: we changed lanes where it was not allowed… straight in front of a police car. After many explanations and many “yes, sirs” and “no, sirs”, the policeman looked at Jan’s ID card and said: “Czech Republic… Welcome to LA. But you still got to drive right, ok?” And we were off. A close one.

We parked at Larchmont Avenue and went for coffee to Go Get’Em Tiger. This was one of our favorite cafes in town. They are not limited to a single supplier of coffee but offer a nice variety of beans. Our barista patiently explained their sized and we got just the type of coffee we wanted, and it was prepared very well. Nice outdoor seating, too. After the coffee, it was time for ice-cream, which we had at the Salt and Straw shop nearby. Just like in Portland, Oregon, it was delicious. 

We then walked along the W 3rd Street and Beverly Blvd and visited shops on the way. One of them was the Monsieur Marcel market near the Grove mall, a small market with various vendors selling fruits, vegetables and cooked dishes. Looked very popular. We then continued on Melrose Avenue and stared at the high-end fashion stores lined one next to each other. The other great shopping street was Beverly Blvd: we finally got to buy some Heath Ceramics plates there, and had salted caramel and rosemary ice-cream at Rose Creamery a few blocks away. But by then it was time for dinner.

We had first coffee at Alfred Coffee [In The Alley], the trendiest cafe in Los Angeles by far. Their black-and-white tile decor is striking and fun and the whole room looks like a one big optical-illusion joke. We were served coffee by Stumptown but the preparation was less then ideal. Still, you have to like a well-designed cafe like this one! After the coffee, we finally had dinner at Ink. You see, we have a confession to make: we absolutely love Top Chef. So we knew straight away that we would visit the restaurant of Mike Voltaggio, the winner of one of the seasons. The restaurant is located on Melrose Ave among high end boutiques and the diners seem to fit in. We did like the food: it was creative and packed great flavors. What we liked less was the pace of the dinner: while many restaurants in the US seemed to push the dishes just to clear the table, ink was the most rushed dining experience of our entire trip. That said, it was the most creative dinner we had during our stay in LA.

The next day, we decided to visit Venice. We went to Huckleberry for breakfast but it was packed so we drove to the nearby Superba Food and Bread instead. We absolutely fell in love with this place. We liked everything: the open kitchen and bakery, the communal tables in the remodeled industrial hall, the counter with wonderful pastries, the food (Shakshuka, porridge with fruits and a burata toast), and so much more. We could have spent hours there in the company of our “soon-to-be-a-movie-star” waiter. Superba is a beautiful establishment that bakes its own bread and puts you at ease with the relaxed atmosphere. Another place nearby, Gjusta bakery, had a very similar concept and appearance. These great breakfast places is something Prague needs more of.  

After breakfast, we walked around a bit. We visited Deus Ex Machina, arguably the coolest cafe in LA, nestled comfortably inside a place that is half custom motor bike manufacturer and half motorbike-inspired fashion and accessories shop. They have a few communal tables and two leather couches where you can drink coffee and read some of the magazines and books they have in their small library. We would have loved to stay, but the coffee did not look that great so we went to Intelligentsia instead. The Venice location is really nice, though: lots of light inside with the centrally located bar and stools on the sides. The outdoor seating is nice, too: in a shade yet outside along the street. The coffee was nice. We then did some shopping and visited the Venice beach. It was exactly as we imagined it: nice but super busy. 

The next day, we drove to San Diego to visit our friends Tom and Jenny. Tom is from Karvina and used to be Zuzi’s roommate and Jenny is from Texas. They got married in Prague and moved to Austin, Texas. Now they decided to leave their two little kids with their grandparents and travel alone for the first time since they were born. We had breakfast at The Cottage, which was wildly popular. After the breakfast, we had drinks at La Veranda, notable for the fact that ALL the five bottles of beer brought to the table were past their best before date. Oh well.  

We left San Diego some six hours later and checked in the High Line hotel in Koreatown. We were tired and hungry, so ended up in Pot, Roy Choi’s restaurant downstairs. The biggest surprise of our LA stay. We did know Roy Choi as a chef and restaurateur but did not expect much from Pot. We ended up loving it. The place does not look like much and loudspeakers blast loud hip-hop so you have to raise your voice to talk. The custom-made tables include induction burners so that you can keep your pot hot, although we did not order them. We shared some starters, mostly fermented vegetables kimchi-style. The two standouts were the Uni rice bowl and the Shorty, a fragrant broth with lots of vegetables and chestnuts inside. It was our fist time to try uni and we loved the taste and the texture.

The next morning we had breakfast at République, a fairly large place in Koreatown. We had the granola and a beautiful toast with soft-scrambled eggs, cooked ham and mushrooms and spinach on top. Delicious. They had a nice bar with freshly baked cookies and pies and the interiors were really nice, with a slight colonial Spanish twist. In general, we thought that the interiors of restaurants in LA were nicer than, let’s say, San Francisco. Then it was time for coffee. We had it at Coffee Commissary, a popular cafe on Fairfax. Saw lots of aspiring actors who bad-mouthed other aspiring actors and talked about protein shakes and exercise and what we thought were models and fashion types there. Nice outdoor seating. Liked the coffee and their barista was chatty and fun.

By that time we had to visit an Apple Store because Jan managed to drop his phone on the concrete pavement, shattering his display to many pieces. But the replacement was only an hour wait and reasonably priced, so we were ok. On the way, we tried Ink.sack, Ink’s sandwich shop. Although the shop that features two tables in and outside is clearly popular, we were not impressed. We had the Banh Mi and Reuben sandwiches and both of them felt heavy and lacked freshness. It was a disappointment: we had high hopes but the place did not deliver. If you are in the area, you can skip this one. 

After an hour in the Grove mall waiting for the replacement glass, listening to Mariah Carey’s "All I Want for Christmas” (clearly the king and queen of any shop’s Christmas shopping playing) and watching people in shorts catching flakes of artificial snow, we had probably the best dinner in LA at Animal. Animal is a whole-animal restaurant located in a dimly lit room on Fairfax that is clearly very popular: they were full one hour after the opening time. We absolutely loved the food: we did have pig ears in a Chinese restaurant in Prague with our foodie friends and did not care for them. Animal’s version with a fried egg on top was absolutely fantastic: like eating crunchy bacon with an egg. Who can argue with that? Their pulled pork brioche-bun burgers with coleslaw just melted in your mouth. And their farotto with Katsuobushi had a great texture and a strong umami taste. The tres leches with dulce de leche, which we ordered as dessert, split opinions: while Zuzi thought it might have been the sweetest thing she has ever put in her mouth, Jan liked it. 

We did extend our stay in the High Line hotel for another night. We liked it a lot and had a third celebrity sighting of our stay when Jan shares his elevator with Lil’ Wayne, who had such a fun personality that Jan wanted to go along and walk into his Escalade but his security did not seem to like that idea. Anyway, we had tea and did our emails in the Commissary, another of Roy Choi’s eateries in the hotel, and then moved to Sqirl for breakfast. Having had the four-dollar sandwich at The Mill in San Franscisco, we had to try the LA version. The sandwich here was better than the Mill's: the slice of the brioche bread was thicker and the generous layers of almond butter and the blueberry jam just melted away. Finger-licking delicious. And totally filling. Worth every penny of the six dollars we paid for it.  

Then a quick stop to Eggslut again (we were dreaming of the egg sandwich every day since we had it, and we are dreaming of it still) with coffee at G&B Coffee, which is just a bar at the Grand Central Market that really runs Go Get’Em Tiger we mentioned previously, and then off to do some more shopping. We went back to Koreatown to have steamed buns at The Bun Shop. This was clearly a fast food version of, let’s say, the pork buns we had in Momofuku Ssam bar in NYC, but they were good for the price. 

We totally mismanaged our last day in LA: we wanted to visit the last places we had on our list but they were so far away we really ended up driving most of the day. Learn our lesson, kids. Plan ahead and it will pay off in LA. Really. We drove to Venice again and had coffee at Blue Bottle there. On top of that, we bought the Chemex coffee pot because it was so much cheaper in the US than in Prague. And it’s versatile and beautiful. Totally worth the extra carryon bag on our flights back home. 

From Venice, we drove for another hour back to where we were and had our last meal in LA at Son of a Gun, a sister restaurant of Animal with a focus on seafood. The restaurant was basically packed when we walked in and the staff was really nice to hold our reservation a bit longer because we got stuck in traffic. We had uni again, this time with burrata, and probably the best-prepared octopus we have ever had. Otherwise we liked Animal better. Son of a gun’s cooking seemed a bit simpler by comparison. 

After the meal we shopped for food at Whole Foods nearby because we were going to prepare a salad for the Thanksgiving dinner in Camarillo with Suzanne and Kevin and their family. We said bye to LA because we would then only see the airport. We spent the next day in Camarillo, shopping in the outlet centre because the pre-Thanksgiving traffic was supposed to be horrible, and the last day of our stay was Thanksgiving.

The meal with the Springers was a touching experience. Suzanne and Kevin’s two daughters came by with their husbands and kids (five in total). We totally overdressed for the occasion and were happy to find that the whole event was much more casual than we thought it would be. The food was exactly what we expected: turkey, potato mash, gravy, cranberries, salad and apple and pumpkin pies. We were really thankful to spend the evening in the company of such a nice family. But then it was time to drive off and catch the overnight plane back to NYC.

We always end our posts with a segment on shopping. Shopping in LA is very easy: they simply have everything. The array of shops available is just mind-blowing and whatever we have in Prague as a small selection somewhere in the corner of a multi-brand shop, they have in LA as a separate store, probably occupying a whole block with water fountains, balloons and 1000 square feet of empty space just because they can. For instance, the Marc Jacobs bookstore? Have you heard of it? Yeah, we did not, either. And it's awesome. 

It is more fitting to talk about clusters of shops, or shopping streets, rather than individual shops. We found five locations worth a separate shopping trip:

  • Sunset Blvd around Intelligentsia Coffee has a number of lovely fashion and accessory shops for all income levels. 
  • Beverly Blvd also has a wide array of shops. Our most favorite: the Heath Ceramics shops that sells products of the San Francisco-based manufacturer and other assorted manufacturers of home ware and accessories. Added bonus: Rose Creamery with great salted caramel and rosemary ice-cream.
  • Melrose Avenue. If you like fashion, your head will probably explode here. They have every store imaginable, and every store seems to occupy its own building, which is a big difference compared to NYC, where space is scarce and every store occupies its own… shoebox.
  • Rodeo Drive. Richard Gere brought Julia Roberts to shop there. ’Nuff said.
  • Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice. Great designer shops for fashion and home accessories. Added bonus: Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia coffee distributed along the length of the street evenly.   

Our week in San Francisco

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Well, we did not actually have any flowers in our hair, as the old song goes, but after our three days in NYC and a week in Portland, we did arrive in San Francisco for our next week. We had high expectations - we have both wanted to visit San Francisco, a town with a great reputation in Europe, for a very long time. We were also excited about visiting our friends Alex and Harriet who had been living there for ages. 

The first thing we noticed about San Francisco is that it is a city of contrasts. We stayed in North Beach around Embarcadero and wanted to see the Mission district, so our first walk was headed there along the Market street. The street is not a pretty place by itself - lots of strange hustling on the streets, people shouting at inanimate objects and the so on. Makes you want to clutch that purse to your body even closer. Alex and Harriet later explained that the valleys tend to be like that, while the hills are prettier. Absolutely true. In all honesty, our first days in San Francisco were slight disappointments when we walked through the valleys but we learned to love it as we walked through other parts of the town. 

The first (and not the last) coffee in San Francisco was at Réveille Coffee Co. It is a small corner place near where we stayed and we think we got the best coffee of our SF stay there, although their cappuccino size was a bit too big for us. Nevertheless, we did return there for coffee several times.

Also on our first day, we splashed out for the fanciest meal of our entire US trip - the shorter tasting menu at Atelier Crenn. What can we say: it was delicious, although the artsy style of the restaurant (the menu has the form of a poem written by Mrs Crenn herself, with each line hinting at one course) may not be for everyone. If you like your burger and fries, look elsewhere. Here we are talking about a series of small dishes in the middle of a big plate, but with flavors fine-tuned to perfection. 

The next day we had a sightseeing tour of San Francisco in our hostess Paula’s convertible. One word of advice: it is seriously chilly in the back seat even though the weather may look good otherwise. But we did cover the classics: the Golden Gate Bridge, the Seven Sisters, the Presidio, the crooked street at Lombard etc. Although the sights were expectedly touristy, we did love the ride and we loved the fact we did something we would not have done otherwise, and it is also great to get guided by a local: you get to ask anything and get answers you might not have expected. Paula is an experienced guide (witness the California-focused playlist playing through the ride) and now also the owner of arguably the largest private collection of Zuzi’s photos - yes, Paula loves the city and loves taking pictures of her guests enjoying it.

Later that day, we went to explore the Mission district. We had a meeting with Alex and Harriet at Four Barrel coffee, which we have known as roasters. The premises are great (former industrial hall with the big roasting pots in the back) but the coffee was not the best we had in SF. But perhaps we just got one of their darker roasts. Didn’t matter. We were there with friends and ready to explore. The Valencia and Mission streets have something Prague lacks in our mind: great retail spaces on the street level, one after the other. It is hard to build a street like these two in Prague because much of the ground floor, especially outside of the centre, is residential. Mission has one restaurant, cafe and shop after another, and you could spend days just trying them all. 

Harriet decided we had to try everything on the two streets and the surrounding areas. So we went for a bean-to-bar chocolate tasting at Dandelion Chocolate, had headcheese hot dog and chicharrones at 4505 Meats butcher shop, and made the wrong decision and had burritos at La Taqueria. You know it’s not good when you feel you should apologize to your body while you eat a dish. It was popular to the point of being distressing, and we wondered what their food health record was (probably good, it just did not look like it). We had to go to Dosa later for some Indian lentil crepes with vegetable filling and great dipping sauces that night to eat something over it. 

And to top it off, we went to the most famous place of them all: the Tartine bakery. Of course. Everybody knows the Tartine bread, and SF sourdough is a household name. But what many people don’t know is that when you get to Tartine, your first reaction is “What? Is that it?” Yes, despite the beautiful, tabletop books, Tartine is actually a tiny bakery that is not particularly beautiful. But there is a line outside of the door. Every. Single. Time. We loved their bread. One of the best we’ve ever had and it was pure joy just to spread butter on it from the plastic cup with a plastic knife. It was just so good you did not care. But their pastries are not bad either. We especially liked the banana tarte. How good was it? Zuzi bought the book and now we’re looking for that special occasion to make it. That’s how good it was. 

We were so full from the evening before, we had to start the next day with a cup of coffee and nothing else. We had it at Sightglass in the SoMa district. After this, Zuzi planned a nice shopping route through the hills, which Jan later lovingly referred to as the “March of Death”. Yup, it was pretty long and demanding, especially given the fact that Jan sacrificed his body for science while tasting… and finishing the pastries at Tartine the previous night. We did visit Craftsman and Wolves for some pastries and some energy refill. We also made our way to The Mill at Divisadero for their famous 4-dollar toast and some coffee and tea. Let’s just say it was NOT the most expensive toast we had during our US stay. But after the march was over (both participants luckily survived), it was time for dinner at State Bird Provisions.

We were advised to come early, and what a good piece of advice! We came an hour before the opening time to see a line of some 40 people, the first ones claiming to have waited there for four hours. They brought their own chairs! But we were lucky to get a quick spot one hour after the opening. The concept is genius: a short menu of smaller dishes complemented by small daily specials displayed on carts pushed by some of the waiters. If you are like us, you know how hard it is to say “no” to food, especially when all the waiters could easily pass for “salesmen of the year” in any other venue. And you’re thinking, “Hey, it’s just six dollars!” But when the bill comes at the end, it all adds up. The food was good - we liked their smaller dishes more than the bigger ones (including their staple dish) but the dessert we had was outstanding - lemon curd ice-cream with chocolate meringue and marinated dates. We sadly did not try the dessert milk, which the table next to us proclaimed to be a “game changer” (just like all the other courses that preceded it… just kidding).   

The next day was Saturday so we visited the farmers’ market at the Ferry Building. A great place that packs lots of things into a relatively small space, with vendors happy to sell you their products in tasting portions. You can make a food tour just there, never leaving the site. We did taste some great olive oils, bread at ACME bread, cheeses by the Cowgirl creamery, sandwiches at Out the Door, and many many other things. We did spend a lot of time there.

Next up: SoMa district again and Blue Bottle coffee at the Heath Ceramics site. We liked Blue Bottle basically anywhere we went: you can describe the coffee you like and they will just make one like it. They also use Health Ceramics in Blue Bottle cafes we visited on the West Coast (but not on the East Coast). BTW, Heath Ceramics. Zuzi loved the site and the shop a lot and wanted to buy two things, but then saw a sign for a 20% sale coming up two days later, so we ended up buying six things. Don’t ask, it allegedly makes perfect sense. We did spend lots of time in that cafe. It is nice, airy and has a great atmosphere.

After some shopping (with the inclusion of the Tartine bar for their lemon tart, which were too full to try the last time we were there) we ended up at the 4505 Meats BBQ place at Divisadero. This is what a hipster BBQ place should look like: one counter inside and the rest of the tables outside on what probably used to be a parking lot, great meat, lots of craft beers. But the smell lures you in from two blocks away. We had the brisket with coleslaw and pozoles. And we were happy. 

After that, we met up with Alex and Harriet. Harriet had a plan: she wanted to show us a proper dive bar. The first one Madrone Art Bar on Divisadero served really tasty cocktails, incl. an drink intriguingly called “The Ike Turner”: for 10 USD, you get a 9-dollar shot of whiskey and a slap on the face from the bartender. Very popular, but we passed. Then a dinner at Nopalito, a nice Mexian restaurant that follows a few trends we really like: open kitchen and smaller plates that are easily shared with friends so that you can taste lots of things without getting too full or breaking the bank. Later we had great margaritas at La Urbana, basically a garage next to a popular restaurant, and the only place that did not want to see ID cards on entry (you learn something new every day: we had no idea this would be required and left our passports at home). And where does all this drinking end? In a photo booth, taking stupid pictures of yourself. That’s where it ends, of course.

Sunday morning means pastries for us, so we met Alex and Harriet at B Patisserie near Pacific Heights. The kind of place where you have to stand in a long line and than give a procrastinating table the “ahem treatment” and basically intimidate them to leave because that’s how crowded it is. We loved the pastries but still have the feeling that some US pastry shops make a great piece of pastry… and then add some more sugar just to be on the safe side. 

We were so full we had to walk, so we did. In case you were thinking we are just two mindless food junkies, that’s only partly true: we also visited the de Young museum to see the Keith Harring exhibition and loved both. The Golden Gate park is huge and beautiful. We strolled the park, watched as the locals jogged and rode bikes and exercised, and thought what we would order at Outerlands, our next stop. Oh well.  

Having walked to Outerlands through virtually the whole width of San Francisco, we signed in and had coffee at Trouble Coffee, basically three hipsters blasting Wu-Tang Clan on the stereo and pulling some pretty good coffee. They introduced us to the “Gibraltar”, which is something we would call a “double-shot cortado” here. Then we walked to see the beach and saw the ocean. Some 45 minutes later, our table was ready. BTW, the classic scent of this part of the town was, in our experience, that of marihuana smoke, but we did smell reefer virtually throughout the entire city. Although we visited Outerlands for brunch, it was the best meal we had throughout our entire week in San Francisco. The duck soup was incredibly rich and fresh at the same time. We sat right next to the expediting table and were amazed at how organized the kitchen was. It is out of the way but we would be happy to return there any day of the week. 

After the brunch, we decided to take the bus back to Mission and had the salty caramel ice-cream at Bi-Rite Creamery. Clearly a popular place and for good reason. Let us just say one thing: we are really glad Jan’s mom, an ice-cream fanatic, doesn’t know about this one. Her head would probably explode. From there, we continued down the street, bought half of bread at Tartine and ate it nearly all on the spot just with butter, which meant no dinner later on. 

Our last day in San Francisco proper started by another walk through the Ferry Building. That is another place that Prague misses - a building that would unite more local high-quality vendors like Torvenhallerne in Copenhagen, for instance. We went for a quick lunch to the Slanted Door. If it was recommended by Evan Rail, it has to be good, right? Again, this is a place that should be a model for the Prague Vietnamese food scene, especially when it comes to appearance and presentation. And the food was good and fresh, and because the Ferry Building is one of the piers, it had a view of the bay. What’s not to like?

The rest of the day was spent mostly just walking and window shopping. For dinner, we went to Nopa on Divisadero, the bigger brother of the Nopalito restaurant we visited with Alex and Harriet earlier. We liked the place a lot - we came early to grab a spot at the bar (they open one hour before the proper kitchen and just serve cocktails and beers for the walk-in guests). We were lucky enough to get the “chef’s table” - basically a place at the bar with a great view of the kitchen next to the desk where the executive chef expedited all the dishes. He is a really nice guy who explained virtually everything to us. We loved how proud he was of what they did. Just like in Portland, they liked to do nearly everything in house - buy a whole pig, for instance, and do their own ham and bacon. Again, a great experience to watch the chefs cook with live commentary by the executive chef! We came home stuffed again, but not before a quick visit to the Comstock Saloon for a drink with Alex and Harriet. We loved that place: great 1920s speakeasy atmosphere with live Tom Waits-like band above the bar! They did cocktails just the way we like them. Strong. ;-) 

Because we planned to drive to LA from San Francisco, we got the car one day earlier to visit Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. Napa is beautiful but compared to other wine countries we have visited, it does seem slightly “domesticated” and a wee bit touristy, with the main road in the middle, the buses, the wine train and so on. We did stop at Yountville to see the French Laundry and their “farm” right next door. Seeing the produce they grow there, we did question why we have not booked a table, but then we remembered: “oh yeah, it’s also pretty pricy”. That said, Thomas Keller clearly has a vision and no wonder he is an inspiration to many. We did buy some goodies at his Bouchon Bakery in the middle of the town, though.

Sonoma was much more similar to what we are used to here: small, windy roads going up and down hills and great views behind every corner. We had two wine tastings: one at Copain Wines, which included a small cheese board of local cheeses and charcuterie and was limited to six people per group. We have no idea why more people don’t do events like this here in Prague. The second winery was the Lynmar Estate, a winery that housed an entirely beautiful vegetable and herbs garden. We spent long minutes there, since they told us we could pick anything, and their “anything” included small forest strawberries, a think Zuzi absolutely adores. Then we talked to one of the staff there, a former opera singer who lived in Germany for nearly two decades. That is the best thing about travel. Meeting people. It was hard to leave. But we had to leave. The next morning we were off to Los Angeles.   

As mentioned above, we did visit some shops during our stay. These are the ones we loved the best:

  • Heath Ceramics: This is a must. We love their Mid-Century Modern and younger designs.
  • Mill: A fantastic shop with womenswear and accessories in Castro.
  • Bi-Rite Market: A small chain of co-op groceries focusing on local producers. 
  • Ferry Building: A market for every day and every occasion. Farmers' market outside on Saturdays.
  • Rare Device: Cool accessories and things.
  • Press Works on Paper: Wonderful bookstore with beautiful books and print art.
  • General Store: A lovely store with fashion and home accessories on Judah street. Don't miss their beautiful backyard. 
  • Unionmade: A well-stocked and curated shop of men's fashion. The male version of the Mill shop.
  • March: Designer kitchen accessories, cookware, furniture and home accessories? Yep, they have them aplenty. 
  • The Perish Trust: A "modern-day general store" curated by artsy owners on Divisadero Street. 
  • Reliquary: A store fully stocked with women's fashion accessories.
  • Dandelion Chocolate: San Francisco chocolatier that lets you buy... and taste all their products. Now with hot chocolate! 

Our week in Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon. We had big expectations. The food. The coffee. Kinfolk. The bikes. The hipsters. And the rain. For Zuzi, Portland was a place that she always wanted to visit ever since she studied abroad with some US students and they just sang praises of it. 

Well. We got the rain when we landed, but otherwise we got really lucky and by chance picked the nicest week of the entire fall (as all the locals told us). Let’s not kid ourselves. It helped. A lot. Still, we absolutely loved our stay in Portland. The food. The coffee. The air. Kinfolk. The bikes. And the people, especially the people. 

Having arrived from New York, we immediately realized a few things about Portland. First, the air is somehow “greener”. You can smell the forests around it. Second, the people are super nice. After every visit to a shop or a restaurant, Zuzi was shocked by how good the service was and how nice the people were. It was not bad in New York, either, mind you, but Portland was even nicer. Made you feel welcome, although - and that became a theme throughout our stay - the locals always asked us why did we choose Portland for our US stay? They could not understand. Third, we realized that a week was not enough in Portland, despite the smaller size of the city. There was just so much to do!

We spent the first two nights of our stay in the Jupiter Hotel, an older motel remodeled into a hip, cool place loved by the locals on the eastern side of the river. We realized that we might be a bit too old to enjoy being “in the middle of it all” as advertised on the website - every night is a party night in the parking lot of the Jupiter, and you have the front row seats in the rooms. But hey - they have to clear the lot by 1:30am, so you’ll be ok. Actually, it was fun.

After the long flight the evening before, we were in dire need of coffee the first morning. So we headed over to the original Heart Coffee cafe and roastery. A very popular spot and really good coffee made by skilled baristas. We could not wish for a better start. We did some research beforehand but the weather was pretty bad so we decided to hit some shops from our list. We passed Voodoo Doughnut, a local staple. What a coincidence - Jan was just craving one. It seems that no article about food in Portland can be published without mentioning Voodoo Doughnut, but honestly - it is fun to see but the donuts are not that great. All the locals laughed but recommended Blue Star for donuts instead.

And then the rain got stronger so we decided to walk in the biggest independent bookstore in the world: Powell’s City of Books. Wowza! We could spend hours there… and we actually did. It is a local institution and for good reason. The rooms are color-coded and you can get a map of the store to avoid getting lost in the aisles. Fantastic. We returned to Powell’s several times throughout our stay.

Then we did some window shopping at the Union Way arcade but more on that later. We went to Clyde Common and had a simple and quick lunch there. Despite the simplicity, it was an indication that the food would be great here in Portland. It stopped raining by the time we finished our lunch and we craved something sweet. We decided to have a scoop of the famous Salt and Straw ice-cream. It required some walking but nothing stands between us and any dessert, and we could hit some shops on the way. We could sample everything so we had more than one scoop just by tasting. Our favorites? Pear and blue cheese, and strawberry with balsamico and black pepper. We don’t need to tell you this was not our last visit. 

And if you know us, you know that after dessert, we craved something savory. So we had dinner at Olympic Provisions. Great dishes, good selection of natural wines, boards of charcuterie, cheeses and pickled and fermented vegetables, all of them made in-house. That was a theme in Portland: all the restaurants we visited bought little but made everything from scratch, and we mean everything: bacon, ham, bread, butter and all. What’s not to like? 

The next morning, we started our first home swap in the US with the lovely Amy and her family. She drove us from the hotel to her huge house above the city and gave us the keys to her huge car. Talk about the American dream! We were also cat-sitting the lovely (and slightly overweight) Lizzie the Cat. We had coffee at Barista cafe in the morning, which was pretty bad on all fronts (a dark roast made too hot by a barista with an I-could-not-care-less attitude), so we drove to the city to explore some more and had coffee at Stumptown right next to the super-hipster Ace Hotel. The coffee was great but we liked the coffee we got at Heart the day before better.

We wanted to tap into the allegedly great food truck scene in Portland, so we hit the few places in downtown Portland to see what's on offer. Obviously, food trucks are loved and cherished in Portland and people love to eat outside. Having walked around and read some recommendations, we chose Khao Man Gai by Nong, a lovely Thai lady. The chicken was nice and tender (no skin, though) and the sauce was great. Very messy, but really nice comfort food. We craved dessert afterwards so we went to Maurice and had the black pepper cheesecake with small apples and ice-cream. The lemon souffle looked great, too.   

For dinner, we went to Ataula, a fairly recent entry on the Portland food scene opened by a young chef from Barcelona. It was full when we got in and we had to wait for a table for about half an hour. The food was basically tapas-sized dishes meant for sharing, which means we ate too much, of course. The waiter suggested the cocktails, which we found generally to present better value than the wine, so we had two boozy cocktails from the menu. We liked the oxtail ravioli with porcini and caramelized pineapple sauce, the super fresh pork tacos and the Iberico ham croquettes the best. We left stuffed, having ordered six dishes. We also liked the personal attention: the chef visited our table and asked whether we liked the food. We did.

On Saturday morning, we did the right thing and visited the farmers’ market that everybody was raving about. It was just too cool. Perhaps the size of Prague’s riverside but in a small park near the university campus, the market was a sunny, friendly affair that really did highlight the local and seasonal produce. Our favorite stand was the apple stand: maybe a dozen types of apples and half a dozen pears on top of it. Throw in some hazelnuts and you’re in Oregon autumn haven. The jam stand with dozens and dozens of jams and marmalades was also pretty cool. We did have breakfast there: Zuzi had the fall vegetable salad while Jan had the bagel with cream cheese, jam, bacon and arugula. Very tasty. 

Then it was time for coffee, so we crossed the bridge to the Eastern side of the town and had two cappuccinos at Coava. The cafe shares a big industrial place with a bamboo furniture producer and draws in crowds of younger creative types that tend to work on Apple laptops. What is great about Portland is the outdoors, so we went up above the city to the International Rose Test Garden (Portland is known as the “City of Roses”) and the Japanese Garden. Beautiful. 

But then it was time for dinner at Ox. We came late, about 30 minutes past the opening time. A big mistake. We spent the next two hours waiting for a table at the Whey Bar next door, devouring locally brewed beers (. BTW, this is a great business concept: you have a popular restaurant that gets crowded easily, why not build a bar right next to it so that people can wait for the table AND give you money for drinks while they wait? Anyway, the wait was worth it. We had never had clam chowder before but if every chowder tastes like the one at Ox, we’d be eating it all the time. But then again, we assume it is not usually served with a big bone full of marrow that you scrape and mix into the soup. The beef carpaccio with fried sweetbreads was not bad either. All in all, a great dinner. Came home stuffed again (and drunk). We’re starting to see a theme here…

Sunday morning we slept in late so we ate brunch at home. Notable purchases for the event: the walnut croissant and blueberry scope at the Nuvrei cafe and patisserie. They we both good and we came back later for more. Anyway, after some serious shopping, we headed for dinner over to Pok Pok, one of the most loved restaurants in town. Calling Pok Pok, a Thai/Vietnamese place, a restaurant is a bit of an overstatement: half of the tables are under tents and people ate in their outerwear because at night it was not particularly warm. What was hot, however, was the food. Out of the four dishes, we liked the lamb salad the best, along with their famous chicken wings. Pok Pok is a great street food place with a noisy, happy atmosphere. Go there if you like spicy food. 

On Monday we decided to visit the wine country. We did expect pinots but not the wonderful scenery of the fall trees turning into wonderful shades of yellow and red. We visited two wineries: Stoller and Archery Summit, both within five miles of each other. Loved both. The first one had a very modern tasting room with sliding windows that would open the room into the great outdoors, which must be great in the summer. The second one had outdoor tables with a fantastic view of the entire valley and reminded us of some of the wineries we saw and loved in Styria. Anyway, we loved our short time in the Oregon wine country. Would we retire there? You bet!

On our way home, we decided to stop for dinner at Departure. We have a confession to make: we absolutely love Top Chef and are big fans of Gregory, the executive chef, who is a contestant on this series of the show. When we saw him in the restaurant, we wanted to run over and ask him about the results ahead but decided not to. Being deported is not the kind of thing you want just after a week or so in the US. Anyway, we did love the food. Our favorites were the beef short rib steamed buns with bbq sauce and the crispy pork belly with pickled cherries, ginger and pumpkin seeds. 

Tuesday was our last full day in Portland, and the weather dramatically changed for the worse, with chilly and strong winds preventing us from exploring the last districts of the town. We did spend lots of time in Powell’s City of Books. We also checked in to the Ace Hotel for the last night. We did not like it so much. Sure, we do understand hip, but you need some basic amenities like insulated windows and steadily running hot water to be cool. But truth be said, the lobby and Stumptown coffee next door were great. And at least we have some funny stories to tell when we get home.

Our last Portland dinner was at Le Pigeon. It is a tiny restaurant near the Jupiter hotel but luckily, we played it smart and had reservations. The food was fantastic. Portland does not have a single Michelin star restaurant, or a Bib Gourmand, for that matter, and we have no idea why. We had two foie gras dishes at Le Pigeon (knowing that we were moving on to California and we would certainly have no foie gras there), and the seared foie gras with cinnamon raisin toast, chestnut and bacon was outstanding, just as their staple dessert, the foie gras profiteroles. We ordered the burger, which was great, too, and served with butter lettuce salad dressed in a blue cheese dressing. The squid and escargots were nice, two, but the highlight was the celery root with and truffle-infused puree. Fresh and full of flavor. Good and creative vegetarian cooking is something we dearly miss in Prague.

Overall, we really liked our dining experiences in Portland. The restaurants were mostly casual affairs and ready for walk-ins, although getting into the most popular venues did entail some waiting. Many things were done from scratch using local and seasonal ingredients. There was also a sense of pride from the chefs and the staff: people working in Portland restaurants simply loved what they did and the level of cuisine was very high in our opinion. 

As mentioned previously, we also did some shopping. Portland has some great shops with really lovely staff that welcomes and loves their guests. For instance, we got a really cool printed guide of Portland from the lovely people at Yo Vintage! Here are our favorites:

And that’s it. The next morning we were flying out. The temperature was 1C/34F, windy. We were flying to somewhere warmer. We were flying to San Francisco.

Our first three days in NYC

So… we have finally made it. We are in the US. We have been planning this for a few months but the idea of going always seemed so distant. Now it’s reality. We have left Prague for the entire month of November: a few days in New York City, and a week in Portland, OR, San Francisco, LA each, and then back to NYC for a few days more. And then back to Prague, to decent weather and not overtly obese, we hope. 

And because we are the sharing types, we want to share our experiences and maybe tips with you. So if you are planning a US trip soon (or later), these posts may help a bit. We will post as frequently as possible but on the other hand - hey, we’re on vacation, so don’t get too excited, ok? It might take us a few days to write something. We’ll keep you posted.

Three days in NYC 

We landed on Saturday at 2pm. Getting out of the airport was easier than we thought and we were in our BB in less than two hours of landing. We stayed in Brooklyn near Prospect Park. Zuzi always wants to save some money so that’s why. But getting to Manhattan was very easy using the Q train. Oh, another thing about the BB: shared bathrooms. Never again. As we wrote, we are the sharing types, but you have to draw the line somewhere, right?


It was raining bullets the first day so we were in dire need of coffee. We went to Two Hands near Canal Street. Unlike our friends who visited NYC just two weeks before us, we had no problems with rude baristas and everybody was nice to us. We found out later they are not as excited and nerdy about coffee as some Prague baristas tend to be. The one difference? Double shots of coffee in just about any drink. It is hard to get excited over coffee abroad now, with Prague having a really good coffee scene. 

Out of the cafes we visited, we liked Blue Bottle just next to the Chelsea Market and Third Rail Coffee in East Village the best. Cafe Grumpy in Chelsea, Two Hands and Stumptown weren’t bad either. The cafes in NYC are really small affairs with a few chairs that fill in quickly with people using laptops sitting everywhere, so you need to be quick to grab a seat. The one exception is Stumptown on Broadway because you can take your coffee to the lobby of the Ace Hotel and just join their wifi network, but you have to be really quick to grab that armchair where the hacker sat for a few hours. Some hyped cafes were disappointments, like Gasoline Alley, which served a very dark roast. 


As we said, we flew in to pretty nasty weather, and the last thing we would have wanted to do is to run a marathon, for instance (which was due the next day). We had originally planned to visit Smorgasburg but because it was so windy and rainy, we headed to Manhattan for coffee at Two Hands and a dinner at Russ and Daughters, although we did walk past the Butcher’s Daughter and that looked great too. Also, a pretty good name for a vegetarian restaurant. 
Russ and Daughters is a retro kosher deli recommended by friends. The atmosphere was great and we thought it would be a great place for a brunch as originally suggested by our friends. We tried several things and all of them were great but pickled herring three ways on pumpernickel bread was the standout. We wish there was a place in Prague that would do herring that well. We also ordered the creamy borscht to warm up only to find out it was chilled. Nevertheless, it was delicious: smooth, sweet and sour with a rich, concentrated taste.

The next morning, we went for breakfast to Dimes, which is a tiny but a very popular place past China Town. They serve NYC-style healthy breakfasts, including lots of Acai-based bowls. Many people said it was a must-brunch place. We could see ourselves becoming regulars if we lived behind the corner but traveling to this place across the town? No, we don’t think so.

After breakfast, we went on a little shopping stroll (more on that later) and had coffee at Gasoline Alley. Then we got a bit hungry (happens to us always), so we got some pastries at Le Pain Quotidien and Lafayette, which were great and buttery, but still: Du Pain and Des Idees in Paris remains our favorite. And yes, you read right, one pastry place is not enough.

After a bit more shopping and some bookstores we headed back to Brooklyn to Berg’n, a beer hall that was started by the founders of Smorgasburg and that unites the four best places of the market. We had the “burnt ends” bbq at Mighty Quinn’s with some slaw and a Margherita by Pizza Moto. By the time Jan took some decent pictures of the pizza, Zuzi nearly ate the entire burnt ends by herself, claiming it was the best barbecue she has ever had. It was juicy, tender and had an incredibly smokey flavor, but wasnt’s covered in sweet sauce, so it was the meat that had to shine. It was simply delicious by itself. The pizza was also pretty good: great char from the oven, simple and jan liked the taste of the tomato sugo on it. We washed it all down with Brooklyn IPAs. We were so sorry we were so full we could not try the Ramen Burger or the Asia Dog. Perhaps the next time.

But you only live once so we manned up and tried to put some more food in. First stop: Bklyn Larder, a great deli that sells mainly local produce. So of course we had to try some of their cookies. But that made us wonder: what are the best cookies in town? So we googled it and having read the description of Levain bakery cookies as “hot, gooey and buttery”, we simply had to go and try them even if it meant to travel across the city again. And boy oh boy: was it worth it! When we arrived, there were people cueing up to the street and we soon realized why. Now we have to divide our cookie history “before” and “after” Levain. We tried the chocolate chip and walnut and oat and rain cookies. And they were exactly as described. Four dollars for a cookies seemed steep but when you take a bite, you’ll understand. 

We swore we would not eat until the next day’s dinner (although skipping breakfast is against Jan’s religious beliefs). We walked the famous Highline to the Chelsea Market and marveled at the Manhattan Fruit Exchange shop with just about any fruit and vegetable you know (and don’t know), and had coffee at Blue Bottle. But then… all that walking made us hungry again. So we tried our luck and had a quick lunch at the crowded and obviously popular Spotted Pig. We had the burger with fries and the burrata with chanterelles on a sourdough bread toast. It was great, simple food but when we later found out they have a Michelin star, we had to check again. It was noisy, loud, slightly chaotic and run down pub with inked waiters with lots of facial hair under rad woolen caps. Nice change of course for Michelin.

If you know us, you probably know we had to have a dessert afterwards. Our map said we were only 20 minutes away from the patisseries of Dominique Ansel, the man behind the cronut craze but you have to wait for these in a line and we’re simply too lazy for that (and we were not impressed by the trademarked version we had in Barcelona). We opted for the 25-layer Tarte Tatin. Although it was served a little cold for us to enjoy it thoroughly, let us just say this: Zuzi want to try it when we get back home to Prague. 

Then some shopping, and - more pastries! We had to try the creme brûlée donut at the Doughnut Plant near NoLita. For the hype it gets, we were not impressed. Neither the dough nor the glaze or the pastry cream were that exceptional. The walking and eating got us a bit tired, so it was time for coffee at Third Rail, and then our first big dinner in NYC: David Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm bar

We thought we would have to wait so we came precisely on the hour. Smart move. Some twenty minutes later, there was a line outside. We had a great waiter (yes, we are still amazed by the customer service in the US) who recommended his favorite dishes and beers so we just went along with his recommendations.

We ordered six dishes and got one extra, so we tasted quite a substantial portion of the menu. We have this thing that we do in restaurants: at the end of the dinner, we rank the foods from first to last according to what we liked the best. It was really hard to do in the Ssam bar because we simply liked everything. Everything was prepared perfectly. But still, here are the three medalists: Momofuku steamed buns with pork belly, hoisin, cucumber and scallion, X.O. roasted skate with clams, carrot and cabbage, and the pickled sardines on toast with Bottarga butter. Sounds good? Tasted even better. The atmosphere was great: right next to us, a party of about ten 16 yo girls ordered the huge Bo Ssäm (with the b’day girl’s father walking in to check up on them, while the communal bar and tables were an invitation for some interesting discussions among ages and nationalities. We were so full we skipped dessert afterwards (a rare thing for us).

The next day was our last full day of the first leg of our NYC stay so we had to cram everything in. Because we skipped dessert the night before - Jan cried himself to sleep because of that - we had to start the day on a sweet note with some chocolate and hazelnut and the almond Rugelachs at Breads Bakery. They were so could eat ten of each. We recommend the former over the latter, though. Because we liked West Village so much before, we had our morning coffee at Cafe Grumpy. One of the largest cafes we saw in the entire town, and it had a really nice, meet-some-neighborhood-friends kinda atmosphere. 

After this, we headed back to the city to buy some books but we had to stop for a donut at Dough. The manager was just interviewed by some TV station and said that she considered the Hibiscus donut the best, so we had that. Let us tell you: it put all the other donuts we had thus far to shame. The dough was incredibly smooth and rich, and the hibiscus glaze gave the right mixture of sweetness and zing. As the staff was saying to the customers, it is really hard to share these donuts once you take a bite. 

We did some book shopping and sightseeing later on, took a stroll through the Central Park, which was nice, but getting there was a bit worse (the super busy 5th Avenue is nice to experience for a while… and then get the hell out of there). We headed to Upper East Side and had the Luke’s lobster roll for lunch. Great, buttery brioche, nicely cooked lobster and good, subtle seasoning that doesn’t take anything out of the lobster itself. Great fast food. By that time, Zuzi’s food guilt levels reached astronomic proportions so we just walked in to a juice bar on the way to get some greens inside… and got falafel and tahini for free for some reason. Just our luck. And then dessert again: the classic NY cheesecake at Two Little Red Hens. What can we say? It was great. 

After this, we had to have a walk, so we walked back to East Village. For dinner, we wanted have ramen at Ippudo but got there too late and the announced waiting time was about two hours. We had wanted to go to Tuome the night before (but chose Ssam bar instead), so we tried our luck this time. A few hours before, the relatively new restaurant of Thomas Chen of Madison Eleven Park fame received a great review from the New York Times, so we were lucky we got the last table for an hour and a half when we walked in right when they opened. As the manager said, the phone was ringing the whole day. It is amazing how influential a magazine review can be.

The food was incredibly good and we still fantasize about some of the dishes. Our favorite was the oxtail-filled phyllo dough fried roll with cumin and herb sauce. Remember how Uncle Scrooge was taking a swim in pools of money in the DuckTales? That’s exactly what Jan wants to do with the dipping sauce. But the other dishes were great, too. The best prepared octopus we’ve ever had, and the spare ribs just melted when you looked bad at them. The deviled eggs? Yum. Also, great use of vegetables. The Brussel sprouts and the broccoli as sides were just perfect. It is really hard to choose between Tuome and Momofuku Ssam bar for the best dinner in NYC so far. 

We had to catch a plane to Portland, OR, around noon the next day, so it was just breakfast and bakery for us. We had breakfast at Rosemary’s, an Italian bistro and restaurant in West Village. We may talk about farm-to-table, Rosemary's does roof-to-table: they have an urban garden on their roof that you can visit. We had a standard breakfast and it was all good. We just could not stop thinking that breakfast value is not that great in NYC, compared to lunches or dinners: you pay good money but the cooking is simpler and slightly less exciting. We’d rather have something nice and baked for breakfast, like the croissant and pear and vanilla baguette we had at Arcade Bakery (wink wink to our friend Misa - the bread is on the way!) and save money for lunch and dinner. But maybe that’s just us. 


There's one thing you might not know about us: we love shopping when we travel. Well, not exactly. We are not hunting for souvenirs but love to browse through the shops of local designers and craftsmen. It is a great opportunity to see what are the traditions and trends in the places that we visit and to talk with the shop owners or the designers themselves. And despite what we try to tell ourselves, you can't just eat on vacation all the time.

That's why we decided to share a small list of the shops we loved in Prague:

  • Steven Allen Home Shop Our favorite shop in NYC. Signature glasses, great furniture and a wide array of home accessories and high-quality woolen products. We wanted it all. 
  • Still House A single room full of beautiful ceramics and home accessories in East Village. Also great for small gifts.
  • Shinola A thought-out shop of Shinola from Detroit in Tribeca: great-looking bikes, some clothing, wristwatches, stationery, small leather goods and fashion accessories. Bought our San Francisco guide there.
  • Creatures of Comfort A high-ceiling clothing and apparel shop in Nolita. Lots of higher-end European and American brands for both women and men.  
  • Top Hat A tiny, tiny shop with a nice selection of accessories for the home. Loved the minimalist decor of this place.  
  • Miansai A long noodle of a shop that serves tea and coffee in the front and offers signature bracelets, jewelry, watches and straps in the back. Some of the bracelets are assembled to the customer's liking at the work table in the middle of the shop. 
  • Saturdays Surf NYC Again, and long noodle in Crosby St next to Miansai: an espresso bar serving La Colombe coffee in the front, and men's fashion in the back. In the very back, a small but lovely patio where you can enjoy your coffee.
  • MacNally Jackson Goods for the Study A tiny but lovely stationery shop in Nolita. Added bonus: they carry a healthy selection of Kooh-i-Noor products. 

We will be coming back to NYC at the end of November for three more days, so this post is to be continued!