A Downtown Delight in NYC and a Dessert Worth Getting Married For

Plus, Edenic dining on San Juan Island and a 10-course tasting menu 60 stories above Manhattan.



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JUNE IS THE month in New York City when suddenly everyone comes to call — no longer spring, but not yet the dog days of city summer — and the first thing that people ask whenever they pay me a visit is, “Where should we eat?” I always feel obligated to give friends and family the best experience possible while they’re in town, so I rely on my fellow New Yorkers (and editors) to keep me abreast of the best, brightest, and most delicious places to break bread. Do they want to sit outside? Do they like wine? Fancy or casual? One of the greatest things about working at a magazine like Departures is that there is never a shortage of amazing recommendations. Before the juggernaut of summer travel kicks off, I made a concerted effort to try new places, explore new neighborhoods, and taste new things in my hometown. Here are a few spots that tickled the taste buds this month. — T. Cole Rachel

A Cosmic Dessert

Cosme – New York City

While I love to eat and enjoy nothing more than a dinner out with friends, it’s rare that I obsess over a particular restaurant or, even more rarely, a specific dish. So believe me when I tell you that, for over a year now, I have not been able to stop thinking about Cosme. The New York City restaurant serves contemporary cuisine that celebrates Mexican flavors and traditions while elevating them in unexpected ways. Not only does Cosme offer a dizzying variety of mezcal and spicy cocktails, the restaurant’s take on seafood — with dishes such as a lobster al pastor and conch tostada — would be more than enough to keep me coming back. However, the real star of the show is one particular dessert — the cornhusk meringue — which I will say (loudly, to anyone willing to listen or join me for dinner) is arguably my favorite dessert of all time. ALL TIME. Served as an amorphous cloud of crunchy meringue that, once cracked, oozes a kind of custardy center, this meringue is the taste and smell of corn in its purest form. Corn writ large. At once sweet and savory, this dessert provides a sensory experience that is both delicate and quietly overwhelming. Since first trying it, I have not stopped coming up with reasons to return and have it again. In fact, I chose Cosme to celebrate my partner’s and my recent engagement specifically because I knew that at the end of our meal, I’d be able to have this dessert. It’s a dish worth getting married for.


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An Island Garden of Eden

Duck Soup – San Juan Island, Washington

A local tipped me off to this spot, and I was smitten from the moment I pulled up the driveway. While most visitors to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, Washington flock to the crowded ocean-view spots, Duck Soup is tucked away in the woods — a 10-minute drive through the island’s scenic pastures. The restaurant looks like a cozy home with a wisteria trellis overhanging the front porch; it’s enough to make you fantasize about abandoning your life and moving here. The food is hyperlocal Pacific Northwest cuisine — some of the veggies come from the chef’s garden behind the restaurant. I had an excellent crusted-halibut dish with pureed peas, fingerling potatoes, and snap peas, but I hear the duck is remarkable as well. You won’t find salmon on the menu, though. Many of the restaurants in the San Juans, including Duck Soup, have stopped serving salmon in an effort to save the fish for the endangered whale populations in the area. I’d like to live in a world where all restaurants were this ecologically minded.
Laura Smith

A Sky-High Jewel

Manhatta – New York City

Not a typo, Manhatta is an homage to its iconic home base. Part of the Union Square Hospitality Group, the restaurant is a self-proclaimed “love letter to New York City,” but the real draw is the breathtaking view from the top floor of a 60-story midcentury skyscraper. I’m a firm believer that a restaurant’s ambiance influences your taste buds, so we were already off to a great start. Perched atop bar seats around an open kitchen, experiencing the newly launched Chef’s Counter program by executive chef Justin Bogle, it felt like watching artists at work. A few highlights of the 10-course menu: decadent, bite-sized oeuf en gelée topped with dollops of platinum caviar served like crown jewels on a glistening platter; a delightfully tender piece of dry-aged squab flanked by morels, green garlic, vin jaune sabayon, and squab jus. It’s recommended to carve out three hours for the meal, which seems long, but we had no trouble staying to witness the cityscape descend into the night.
Annie Lin

Grazie Mille!

Scarpetta – New York City

Even though I live in a city literally overflowing with restaurants, whenever friends come to visit and it falls on me to choose a great place to dine, I always draw a blank. Someplace nice, but not overwhelmingly fancy? High-end, but not exorbitantly expensive? A menu that will please the foodies and wine aficionados but can still accommodate those with an aversion to meat and/or gluten? Lively, but not unbearably loud? Chic, but not stuffy? As of late, my standard answer to this question is Scarpetta. This Italian restaurant’s Madison Avenue location, tucked just inside The James Hotel in the Madison Square North neighborhood of Manhattan, delivers on all fronts, serving incredible food in an environment that hits the sweet spot between luxury and comfort. On a recent visit, I opted for my favorites — a creamy truffled polenta followed by black cod with caramelized fennel — while my vegan friend tried a variety of vegetable dishes and gluten-free pasta, along with a few unique vegan spins on regular dishes that were created on the spot by the chef. Everyone visiting me this summer can look forward to an amazing meal here. — Cole

A Downtown Delight

63 Clinton – New York City

When I need a hug in food form, I turn to Asian flavors (chalk it up to my half-Filipino heritage). So I was thrilled to try the seasonal tasting menu at 63 Clinton — the Michelin-starred restaurant from Samuel Clonts and Raymond Trinh (formerly of 3-Michelin-starred Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare and Michelin-starred Bar Uchu) in New York City’s Lower East Side — which puts an Asian spin on elevated, comforting classics. Consider the “breakfast taco,” a texture wonderland with melt-in-your-mouth ajitama (soft-boiled egg), a crispy hash brown, and a heaping spoonful of smoked trout roe topped with an edible flower, all wrapped in a fresh flour tortilla. Another highlight: a twist on niçoise with meaty slices of fresh bluefin sashimi beneath just enough frisée endives, a tangy olive slice, and a sprinkling of fried potato crumbs. I also savored the greenest congee (a rice porridge), thanks to pureed green and white asparagus, accompanied by crab and morels. It was like being embraced by spring. The koji-aged ribeye was also delectable, seared to a perfect medium rare, then plated with a scrumptious jus, buttery mashed potatoes, and spinach. The prettiest bowl of tart strawberry-rhubarb-shiso sorbet and fruity baba au rhum, a light yeast cake soaked in rum syrup, were refreshing finishes. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the spirited staff, who had me in stitches several times throughout the evening, and the minimal, wabi sabi-inspired interiors, all of which made me feel right at home. — Jackie Risser


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Our Contributors

T. Cole Rachel Editor-at-Large

T. Cole Rachel is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and teacher with over 20 years of experience working in print and digital media. He is currently an editor-at-large at Departures.

Laura Smith Writer

Laura Smith is the deputy editor of Departures. Previously, she was the executive editor of California magazine and has written for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic, and many more. Her nonfiction book, The Art of Vanishing, was published by Viking in 2018.

Annie Lin Writer

Annie Lin is the social editor at Departures. A writer and content strategist based in New York City, her work has been featured in Time Out, Resy, OpenTable, Women’s Health, Elite Daily, CNBC, and many more.

Jackie Risser Writer

Jackie Risser is Associate Creative Director of Branded Content at Departures. Based in Brooklyn, she has written all kinds of words for lifestyle and fashion brands, including Zola, Rent the Runway, and Self magazine. She can also do the worm.

Jess Rotter Illustrator

Jess Rotter is a Los Angeles–based illustrator and artist. Rotter’s work has frequently featured in the Washington Post. Her clients range from Natalie Portman to Questlove.


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