One Month Since the 24 Hours in Paris Book Launch (a.k.a. the best day!)

I was supposed to talk about my recent trip to Paris in this post (the second Parisian jaunt in six weeks), because that’s what I declared the last time I blogged. What I didn’t realize, was how much the actual book launch day and the weeks that followed would entail. So let’s re-live it all together!

(And I’ll definitely talk about Paris next time—especially since I found a new magical spot I can’t wait to share with you all…)

The magical book launch day

Around ten years ago, after showing up at a few Indigo bookstore events in a row, I told the Director of Events (who’d now begun to recognize me as a bookish fangirl), that one day, I would go from being a self-published author, to having my name grace the shelves of Canada’s famous Indigo and Chapters locations.

On May 10, 2022, that day arrived for myself and my rom com 24 Hours in Paris (along with the book hitting the bookshelves of libraries, Barnes & Noble stores in the US, and even some independent bookstores across North America).

It almost sounds trite to say don’t give up on your dreams, but that was the one consistent thing over the last ten years: to keep on writing in whatever form, to put in the work, to not lose the joy, to always daydream, and to always remember that amazing things could happen.

On that day of May 10th, amazing things did happen, and thank you to everyone involved.

I’m the book club pick of a hit daytime talk show!

The amazingness didn’t stop, because on launch day, I also learned that 24 Hours in Paris is the official June book club pick of Canada’s hit daytime talk show, The Social!!! Here’s a video of the live announcement on TV and the voiceover of my reaction—I basically (and naturally) freaked out.

The delightful and opinionated hosts of The Social will be sharing their thoughts on 24 Hours in Paris live on air in late June—and no, I’m not freaking out at all. You can follow my social media for more details as it gets closer, along with my eventual reaction (links: my Instagram/my Twitter/my Facebook page/my TikTok).

As a final note on this topic, I got to make a little video appearance on the show’s social media accounts this week, letting followers know they can share their thoughts on the book using #TheSocialChapter hashtag. You can do that too, and here’s the link to the Instagram video if you’d like to (I trust that you can find the Twitter and Facebook links on your own, as this blog post is giving me link fatigue *collapses onto the floor and stares blankly at the ceiling*).

Oh right: THERE’S A SEQUEL!

In all my talk about the book launch, I neglected to inform you that a week before the launch of 24 Hours in Paris, the official announcement came out: the sequel, 24 Hours in Italy is in progress, and it’ll be in bookstores across North America in August 2023!!!

The sequel will be a continuation of the saga of Mira and Jake, and if you’ve read 24 Hours in Paris, I hope you’re as excited about that as I am! If you haven’t yet read 24 Hours in Paris, I will gently remind you that it received a Publishers Weekly starred review, it was selected as the Publishers Weekly #1 Summer Romance Read pick for 2022, and it is also a goddamn freakin’ delight (a not-biased statement at all)! Here is a convenient summary of where you can buy the book: all the pertinent links.

What happens to a book after it launches?

This is a very good question, and one that I found myself wondering after my massive “book launch to-do list” disappeared into the ether once May 10th, 2022 came and went. I certainly still have full-time copywriting and sequel writing/editing to keep me extremely busy, but what becomes of my trad debut baby, 24 Hours in Paris?

(Just a casual shot of my book next to the print edition of the Publishers Weekly magazine that contains the book’s starred review—very casual and not emotional at all!)

Since launch, so many of you have been amazing when it comes to picking up a copy of the book, tagging me in your book photos (which I love and hope you’ll keep doing), reading the book, and sharing your thoughts on social media; thank you for all of that!! Your actions have certainly helped kick things off in a positive way, and the talk show book club breakdown in late June will hopefully build momentum even more.

Still, it takes a lot for a book to be successful, and even more still when the book has a POC lead, and you’re trying to succeed in an industry that up until recently, hadn’t been very welcoming to diverse books at all (whilst pretending it was only acting that way because no one wanted to buy them).

When you add all of that to my upbringing as a child of South Asian immigrants who felt a constant pressure to achieve (which is still engrained in my brain to this day), I find myself feeling extremely challenged, when it comes to accepting how little control I truly have, over how this whole thing will play out.

You might even say that I find myself feeling unhinged, but I’m thinking that’s a very relatable feeling amongst debut authors who are one month in, amirite? Furthermore, if a debut author becomes unhinged and falls, but no one’s around to hear it, did it even happen?

Tell a friend, leave a review, and next step: world domination

Yes, the next step in my plan is world domination, or iconic bestseller status, or whatever you want to call it. Hmm…does that seem outlandish? Especially after this recent article revealed that out of the over 3.2 million books that BookScan tracked in 2021, less than 1% sold over 5,000 copies?

Outlandish indeed!

But here’s the thing: it probably seemed outlandish when ten years ago, after over 100 literary agent rejections, I self-published and boldly declared that one day, I would wind up in bookstores anyway.

And here I am.

So onto my next outlandish dream: once 24 Hours in Paris becomes an inevitable hit (with your word of mouth and Amazon reviews—which are extremely crucial and which you can quickly write on the Amazon Canada and Amazon US book pages, depending on where you’re located—thank you in advance!), I hereby declare that my whirlwind rom com very much belongs on screen.

In fact, I see 24 Hours in Paris as a half-hour streaming series, following by a season 2 which will focus on 24 Hours in Italy. This bold and outlandish declaration is such a source of passion, that I used my screenwriting background to casually write a pilot and an episode two script in my oodles of free time (laughs sweatily). You can read them here and here.

I know, the outlandishness is getting out of control, and you can make fun of me if you want, but the way I see it, if I’m not to be bold and outlandish now, then when? Like even if reincarnation is real, what if I return in my next life as a mealworm? Mealworms can’t write books or screenplays! They might not even have eyes!!

Therefore, there is no time like the present to boldly follow your dreams, don’t ya think?

I feel vindicated. Until next time…

The Return to Paris, the Starred Review, an Upcoming Book Launch…and More!

Less than a month ago, I was strolling the streets of Paris once again, after two and a half years away. Needless to say, I am grateful to be able to travel again, grateful to be here, and just in general, I am trying not to take things for granted anymore (especially with everything going on in the world).

Paris, je t’aime

When I arrived in Paris after all that time away, my two best friends who live in France were waiting for me at the airport, and let me just say—when I hugged them tight and my eyes got misty, the ugliness of Charles De Gaulle Terminal 2A melted away, replaced with the vivid brushstrokes of raw and unfiltered joy.

The funny thing was, this trip wasn’t even about Paris at all. We’d planned the trip as a getaway to Sicily, our first jaunt together as the three musketeers. But would I pass on the chance to fly in and out of Paris, and spend a few days in the city that has my heart? Of course-fucking-not.

I will write about Sicily another time (and I still have to write about the wondrous time that was had in Puglia in 2019, and in Slovenia the year before that), but for now I can confirm that Paris is as glorious as ever, fresh croissant are as flaky (and chewy) as ever, “wine on a terrace” life continues to thrive (thank god), and walking 20,000+ steps a day still feels normal and essential when in Paris (although I had to stop at the foot of Sacré Coeur on the second day in Paris by mid afternoon, to apply a bandage to a bourgeoning blister). I can also confirm that leaning on the bridge at the Seine River at night, and watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle while you’re arm-in-arm with your BFF, is still as glorious as ever. It simply never gets old.

There are also those hilarious and unexpected moments—which still seem to occur despite this being my ninth time in Paris—and this latest one happened in Montmartre, after a long walk, a lot of stairs, and an intense need for a late afternoon drink on a terrace. It happened across the pedestrian street, where in plain view (and full earshot), a Frenchman with an accordion seated by the curb, was full on shouting expletives at the woman at a table just a few feet away. She, meanwhile, was smoking her cig and muttering some things, not giving a shit at all. From what we could surmise, she had said something to provoke him—not that it should excuse his aggressive outburst. She probably called out his terrible music (justified), and when the waiter in his crisp white shirt and black apron arrived on the scene to break things up, he actually, kind of…didn’t break up anything at all. He seemed as disengaged as the woman, staying on theme of giving very little shits, despite the fact that a rowdy situation was unfolding at his literal workplace. It’s France, you guys. Needless to say, the curbside cobblestoned theatre made every sip of my drink taste better, and every laugh between myself and my pals even louder. I love Paris.

Here are some photos from my whirlwind return to beautiful Paris (with a second return just a few weeks away—more on that in the next edition).

Less than 3 weeks until the launch of 24 Hours in Paris!

Meanwhile, I have a novel about Paris that will be releasing online and in bookstores in less than three weeks, so now’s a good time to talk about the many (many!) things that have happened since I last wrote about the book deal.

The starred review a.k.a. holy shit

The first thing—which shocked me and filled me with joy—was receiving not only a Publishers Weekly starred review for 24 Hours in Paris, but a review so positive, it blew my mind and the minds of multiple people on my team who have worked in the traditional publishing industry for years. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I come from the self-published world, so to receive a review like that for my traditionally published debut? It made me feel like I wasn’t wrong for believing in myself for all those years when I was a self-published party of one (and it made me grateful for the people in my life who always believed in me too). Here’s a link to the review and you can also read it below:

The physical book a.k.a. also holy shit

Receiving my author copies and getting to hold the book in my hands—the result of 86,000 words written, structurally-edited, line-edited (twice), copy-edited, and proofread within nine months with a full-time copywriting job to boot—well…it was a monumental thing. It also closely aligned with my birthday, so naturally I had to celebrate.

Preorders (and no rest for the type-A dreamers)

It would’ve been great to be like “I got a starred review, I’m launching a book in a month, time to chill out and bask in my success, suckas!”, but anyone who knows anything about publishing knows you have to scrape and claw to find success in an extremely saturated market, even when you’re traditionally published. You also probably know that the traditional publishing industry has historically ignored POC writers, and even though efforts are being made to fix that, the industry is still years behind other mediums like streaming services, which are finally giving more POC-led artistic endeavours a chance (which has resulted in the opportunity to binge-watch some of the best and most memorable shows in recent years with POC characters and creators at the forefront—see that, industries? You’ve been missing out!)

As a POC author with a novel that is led by a POC protagonist, I feel immense pressure not to fuck this up. I’ve spent over a decade trying to make my mark in writing books, and I finally have the chance to be on a broader stage, to have the kind of exposure I never would’ve had as a self-published author. With this opportunity before me, I don’t want my book release to barely make a dent and be quickly forgotten. I don’t want to fail and then give ammo to the ones in powerful positions, the ones who still wrongly believe that “diversity doesn’t sell.” I want the book that I wrote from my heart—the one that doesn’t use POC characters as tokens, but rather as complex people with hopes and flaws and desires and dreams (because hello—we are human beings too)—to be successful!

No pressure, right?

For the reasons above, my mind won’t rest, nor will my colour-coded marketing content calendar that I continually update in Google Sheets, even though I know my publisher is helping me too. I have lost my mind.

The good thing is, all the thinking and planning and communication has resulted in a good level of social engagement, and even some conversion into preorder sales, which are another new aspect I didn’t experience in the solo self-publishing world.

I’m told that preorders are very important, to drum up demand and help bookstores—and libraries—see that your book is an exciting story, a cool-ass thing they should be stocking up on ASAP. I can’t control every aspect of this preorder thing, but thank you to the many on social media who have preordered my book thus far. It is very appreciated, and if you haven’t had a chance to preorder 24 Hours in Paris but are interested in doing so (or would like to order another copy for a friend), all of the purchase links are here.

A first podcast interview and hating my voice

I mean…the subheading pretty much sums it up. It was an absolute thrill to be invited on This Podcast Needs a Title, for an amazing talk about publishing, random stuff like Jurassic Park and Seinfeld, and of course my upcoming book. It was such a thrill, in fact, that I’m not even embarrassed to share the link (which contains my ridiculous Canadian voice that kind of sounds like a 1990s valley girl). You can listen to episode 21 on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Just when I thought the starred review was the pinnacle…

So…every year, the Publishers Weekly staff decides on their “Best Books Summer Reads 2022” list. Somehow…me, just the debut author girl from the self-published world, was the TOP FREAKIN’ ROMANCE PICK OUT OF ONLY FIVE ROMANCE BOOKS CHOSEN! This happened two days ago. I’m still buzzing about it. You can see the list here, and here’s what they said about why it’s a great summer read.

And to be exact: two weeks and four days ’til the book launch (yes, I’m counting)

I’m tired, but it’s the glorious tiredness of watching a lifelong dream take shape. In the next two weeks and four days (as of midnight), I’ll be keeping my head above water at the full-time copywriting gig, sharing sneak peeks and tidbits about the book on Twitter/Instagram/TikTok (you can find me on all those channels at the username “romimoondi”), and finally, on May 10th (a.k.a. release day), I will be giving myself a moment to take a break, soak it all in, and ENJOY IT.

Until then, follow along on social media, and thanks for coming by and reading this blog, this thing that in the world now ruled by Gen Z, feels as archaic as Fred Flintstone ordering a brontosaurus burger (at the drive-in he arrived at by peddling his stone-made car with his fucking bare feet. Young people scare me).

More to come after the launch!

À bientôt,

Bookending 2021 with: A Book Deal, and a Freakin’ Finished Manuscript!

It was mid-January 2021.

I was doing really well with my New Year’s resolutions, primarily because I hadn’t made any (don’t we have enough to deal with already, without trying to be even better? I’ll just keep being true to myself, thank you very much).

And then, I got the email. Less than a week later, it led to the official video call:

A book deal!

In my post back in August, I described the whole glorious and daunting thing, so I’ll pick up where I left things, and tell you what’s been going on since then.

The book cover

What I love about working with Wattpad (among many things), is how much they’re willing to involve me in the process. They gave me the opportunity to fill out a book cover brief in advance, detailing all the elements I was hoping to see, and flagging all the elements that usually make me vomit when I see romantic comedy book covers (the couple making out, the woman being so dolled up it’s completely unrelatable, etc.). That didn’t mean I’d get everything I wanted—since the final decision is not mine to make—it simply meant that my input would be considered, which was nice.

I suspect most publishers offer that initial input, but what followed is what really made me feel like they value my thoughts. The book cover went through a couple of iterations that were vastly different from one another, and remarkably, I was able to give detailed feedback on each one. In the end, when I compared the final cover to my original brief, it was so heartening to see how well it lined up with what I wanted—along with some cool direction from the sales team, on what they feel will be appealing on physical bookshelves and online.

Anyway, ta-da!

As a woman of colour (please read that in Mindy Kaling’s voice), it’s so wonderful to see “POC-ness” reflected on a romcom book cover, because a quick scroll online will tell you that it doesn’t happen often enough. It especially doesn’t happen often enough in a way that doesn’t feel like tokenism.

On that note, I am so thankful to Wattpad Books for at no point pushing me into making the character seem Indian in a stereotypical way on the book cover. That, in turn, has allowed the cover to more accurately reflect what’s inside the book. My main character—like myself—has a South Asian (specifically Indian) background, but she—as well as I—don’t spend weekdays guzzling chutney or weeknights sashaying around in fancy embroidered saris. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my culture, but it’s a part of me, not all of me. That’s the same level of realness I aim to bring to the stories I write these days, whereas in the past, my self-published books were admittedly more entrenched in Indian culture. I suppose that happened because the books of the past were a vivid reflection of my life back then—i.e. the plot of the first book was literally about avoiding an arranged marriage, hashtag awkwardly relatable.

It was great working through all that shit back then (what fun!), but now I’ve settled into the everyday reality of being a brown girl in a North American world; it’s the world that reflects being light-hearted yet dramatic, multi-faceted yet obsessive, westernized yet culturally diverse, and messy as fuck!

The main character in 24 Hours in Paris has a cutting sense of humour, is obsessed with the City of Light, deeply believes in wearing casual clothes and flat shoes for touristy endeavours, enjoys wine, and is horny for scenic picnics (aren’t we all?). She’s also reeling from the recent upheaval of her personal life, and when the book comes out, you’ll be able to read all about it. In short, the cover reflects the reality of the character, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Oh yeah, there’s a guy on the book cover too, and while I certainly endorse him as a worthy male lead, we all know who the real star is (just sayin’).

The two of them are Mira and Jake, or Mira then Jake, or me before you, or whatever encompasses the woman being dominant and way more important (haha kidding, equality, yay!). Yes, these are your two romantic leads in 24 Hours in Paris. And yes, you’ll be able to read entire chapters from each of their perspectives.

And…*drumroll*…you’ll get to follow them around for a twenty-four-hour romantic Parisian adventure on May 10th!

The book release date

24 Hours in Paris will be online and in bookstores on May 10th! I know, I just said that, but it bears repeating, as it’s a pretty exciting fucking thing. You can preorder the book at Indigo and Amazon in Canada, at Barnes and Noble and Amazon in the US, and at Amazon in the UK. You can also preorder it directly from Wattpad if you’re in the US. It will also be available at independent bookstores and libraries in North America on May 10th, and if becomes available anywhere else, I’ll let you know on social media.

Physical advance reader copies

As you’ll recall from my last post, signing this book deal meant an overhaul; a total re-outline and a page-one rewrite to transform these characters from college students in the original story, to seasoned adults who have been through some shit in the reboot. I don’t even know how I re-did the outline and finished that draft by the end of July (after only beginning the process in April), but somehow I got there, and somehow, after one structural edit, a line edit, and then a final line edit (which my obsessive ass relished every minute of), we have a cleaned up version that is going into final copy edits as we speak—and, more importantly, that is now available on NetGalley for reviewers to request!

That last edit was completed, oh, five days ago (I’m still sweating), and we needed to hit those deadlines so we could make physical, juicy, advance-reader copies, because yes, I have been told that due to the exciting sales potential of this book, the marketing and sales team want physical advance reader copies; yay!

And so, if you’re a book reviewer on Instagram, TikTok, a blog, YouTube (or some other platform my withered old self hasn’t heard of), and you’re looking for a different kind of rom com, you can request a free review copy on NetGalley now.

Where I’m at now

Like I said, it’s been a mere five days since completing the 2021 book-deal-rollercoaster that kicked off in January. I’m definitely still sweating and my brain’s a little fried, but I’m here. Upon reflection, perhaps things would’ve been easier if I hadn’t embarked on extra obsessive things that weren’t part of the contract. Things like doing an 8-page marketing plan complete with a table of contents, so the publisher would know exactly where my head was at, to maximize collaboration. Or things like launching a weekly #24QuotesFrom24HoursInParis on both Twitter and TikTok. If not for those things, I likely would’ve had a little more energy on this Monday evening of December 20th, 2021.

But I am who I am, super extra all the time.

Despite my deep-rooted character traits, I’ve managed to stay involved in the usual human things.

Bringing back the bold lip and feeling fancy

The 2020 version of the holidays was horrid, and even though these holidays, while briefly wild and free, are retreating into that limited-gathering landscape, I’m impressed that I was able to freshen up my sweaty self long enough to slather on a bold dark lip, and even have some fancy-bar fun (on multiple nights, no less; just wild!).

The love of baking lives on

No one would have blamed me for skipping out on the baking this year, and yet, this past Saturday, I found myself spending nine freakin’ hours in the kitchen, baking all the things. I suppose it’s okay for one to feel occasionally exhausted by one’s endeavours, if said endeavours align with the things one loves. I believe this applies to baking just as much as writing.

And so, here we are, at the end of another up-and-down year.

While I’d love for you to now preorder my book—as the pre-launch demand helps authors very much‚ please only do so if you have some extra budget after helping out your favourite charities. Because, after all, it’s the season of giving. If you need some ideas on where to direct your donations, my post from last December can help you get started.

And with that, I bid farewell to 2021. It was a challenging year for society as a whole, but I’ll allow myself to say it was a special one personally, in terms of this lifelong book dream coming true.

I’m leaving the year feeling grateful, and even though I don’t really blog very often, I have a feeling I’ll have more to say before the launch of 24 Hours in Paris on May 10th.

Be well, and stay tuned,

It’s Been Busy + A Book Deal!

The last time I wrote in this seemingly archaic format (I’m just a blog girl living in a TikTok world), I was reflecting back on a humanity-changing year, whilst sharing a list of ways to give back.

But now, the giving back is over. That’s right, ME before EVERYONE, thank you very much.

Correction: it is always a good idea to give back if one is able to, even if it’s out of annoyance, i.e. my Red Cross donation yesterday stemmed not from a desire to help out (just being honest), but as a way to get Red Cross Canada to stop calling me multiple times a week, which is what they’ve been doing since I last donated. Do they not realize that the biggest perk of donating online is to never have to speak to a human? I was so turned off by the frequent calls, sometimes during business hours, that I almost vowed to never donate to Red Cross again. Luckily, I realized that the people in need are not to be punished for the sins of the Red Cross employee—or volunteer—handbook, which apparently requires an overzealous frequency of calls. Anyway, I hope they’ll never call me again; just take my money and leave me alone.

Now that I sufficiently sound like the grumpy old man who sends handwritten complaint letters to companies that have wronged him, I HAVE SOME WONDERFUL NEWS TO SHARE!

(This news has been extensively shared on social media, so if you’re familiar with said news, feel free to skip ahead to the juicy teaser)

This year started off with a bang, in the form of being offered a book deal from Wattpad Books, specifically from their new imprint W by Wattpad Books, which will specialize in women’s fiction.

It was something I didn’t see coming, because after years of self-publishing and screenwriting and ad copywriting, I was, at the time, existing in that magical space of not really worrying about what came next, and simply writing fiction for the fun of it.

But isn’t that when the magic usually happens? When you’re focusing on the joy of it, instead of on the outcome?

I shared the news publicly in April, and had always intended to share it on this blog—where my writing dreams were born—but somehow the subsequent four months passed by in a flash. I think that had everything to do with the fact that the story in question, the one that got deal, needed a full re-outline and a page-one rewrite, all of which needed to occur within this four-month timeframe.

This is not the typical trajectory of a traditional book deal, but let me tell you: I couldn’t have been more thrilled by the prospect of a shit-load of work. Why, you ask? Well, the story in question, 24 Hours In Paris, was a story that was born on Wattpad, a rom-com story of college-aged students on a school trip. This new imprint, however, is focused on adult women’s fiction, and so, when I was asked if I’d be willing to age up the story…I WAS THRILLED!

If you know my writing, you know that 95% of my characters are a bit older than college students, especially in my most recent stories. They’ve lived through some shit, they’ve seen some shit, and even if they’re a little frayed at the edges, they still dare to dream and love. And so, to have the chance to take one of my favourite story concepts (it really takes place over 24 hours!), and age it up to my favourite demographic? It was the best news I ever could’ve heard.

But as I said, it meant a shit-load of work.

With full-time ad copywriting hours serving as my biggest obstacle, I squeezed in a full re-outline of the book over a 4-week period. Then, over the following 12 weeks, I squeezed in 28 chapters or 78,000 words, along with my own line edits and copy edits, for a brand new draft that—once it’s all polished and done—will be shared with the world in print and e-book form in May 2022.

I wrote the original 24 Hours In Paris nearly six years ago, and I’m so proud of how much my writing has changed in that time, based on personal growth, new sources of inspiration, and lived experiences. If you’ve read the original 24 Hours In Paris, consider this a whole new book, and one that I hope you’ll enjoy once it sees the light of day.

In the meantime, I figured I’d take some inspiration from Emily Henry, and share a little in-progress teaser from the book—and yes, we both have romantic comedy new releases coming out in May 2022. Will mine be as popular as the latest from the aforementioned international bestselling author, who has probably sold millions of copies? I mean…obviously?

(I didn’t make it this far without delusions of grandeur)

I’ll leave you with this teaser that introduces you to our two main characters, and without giving too much away, I’ll also say this about the book: this one’s for the ones who love Paris…for the ones who are excited to see a person of colour as the woman protagonist (!)…for the ones who love the urgency of a 24-hour running clock…and for the ones who like entire chapters written from the man’s prospective (yes, that will happen, and yes, that is a first for me!)

Read on below and enjoy. I’ll be back sometime soon with the book cover reveal—I saw some sketches today, and I love the direction it’s going in!

À bientôt,

Gluttonous Autumn in New York

What is the meaning of life? Who am I? 

These aren’t just questions asked by Derek Zoolander (in-between conversations to god on his tiny cell phone), but they’re also questions one might ask when travelling to New York City for the primary purpose of eating ALL the food.

Is pizza-ness the meaning of life? Or chocolate-y-ness? Or burger-ness? Or cronut-ness? My response would have to be all of the above, so what does that make me? A privileged mammal I’d say, and one who is proud to be able to react to the deliciousness of food (sorry, naked mole rat, maybe in your next life…).

Full disclosure: eating “all the food things” wasn’t the initial reason for going to New York City. Instead it was an invite to speak on a writer’s panel at Wattpad’s annual convention. Hmm…a panel hosted by the biggest reading app in the world? Of course I was in — as well as honoured to be in the mix. It was a great afternoon of discussing different writing mediums while hopefully inspiring others.

And then there was the food.

I’ve been to New York City before, three times before in fact, but due to some distraction or another, food never played a starring role in the previous NYC jaunts (a lingering shame I carry with me to this day). This time however, with a best friend along for three days of the trip, the scene was entirely decadent.

This was best friend’s very first journey to New York, and as an equally obsessive maven in food consumption (did that sound classy or what?), she researched the million food blogs and together we formulated a food schedule. In Microsoft Word. To the tune of a three-page document. Single spaced.

Listen, this is totally normal and not excessive at all, okay? And why? Well it’s simple: timing, meal count, snack allowance, sweet/savoury balance, hunger estimates, and of course — geography. A lot of cities have a central nucleus where all the action is, but it’s not exactly like that in Manhattan (and the adjacent sprawling Brooklyn). Deliciousness is everywhere, so when you’re planning a NYC gluttony tour, you must bring out your best and most aggressive type-A personality to get shit done.

That brings us to our excessive meal plan organized by geographical progression, flowing as smoothly as a Carnegie Hall orchestra rendition of Robert Schumann’s “Scenes From Childhood Op. 15 VII Träumerei” (a composition which is liquid butter for the ears — check it out to confirm).

By mapping out where and when we’d be reporting to the feeding trough like salivating sows, we eliminated amateur-hour errors like strolling the Brooklyn bridge at noon, and then trying to have lunch on the Upper West Side before indulging at a bakery in Chelsea. No, we did not do that, because wasteful transit time would cut into eating time, and we’re not insane idiots.

Now that I’ve validated the legitimacy of our 3-page Word document (highlighted in different colours based on edits/weather-permitting updates — are you as turned on as I am?), we can move right along to the full-frontal food porn pictorial (full gallery at end of post)…

It all started with a cronut, and it set the tone for a food adventure to remember.

It’s in Soho where you’ll find the fabled cronut bursting with a juicy filling — at Dominique Ansel Bakery to be exact. Dreamed up by a French pastry chef who wanted donuts and croissants to live in harmony, it’s a fine example that we can all get along if we simply consume a donut thingy that feels like it weighs a pound. This particular rendition can only be described as a strawberry pistachio fusion so delicious, that you’ll never need basic bitch chocolate again (until you’re ready for another pastry three hours later). Bon appétit.

We worked off maybe 5% of the cronut calories with a casual stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge, and when we found ourselves on the other side in Brooklyn, it was time for some of the best pizza in the city.

Roberta’s doesn’t have a facade, but when you find yourself on a rough and tumble graffiti side street that slightly resembles “Crack House Row,” you’re there! Don’t be alarmed by the exterior, as inside you’ll find cozy coloured lights, communal tables, a weird painting of people’s faces made out of pizza ingredients (??), and some of the best, thin-crust, chewy flavourful pizza I’ve ever had. Bless.

It’s Friday night, it’s happy hour, but it’s too cold for a rooftop terrace with a view. Or is it? The Press Lounge cocktails in Hell’s Kitchen are expensive, but if Rockefeller Center can charge $36 USD for you to elevator up to their rooftop to take awkward windy selfies, then a $20 cocktail with an awesome view and blankets you can cozy up in are a steal.

We need to talk about dinner at The Dutch, we really do. Think classic farm-to-table American comfort food with an upscale twist, and an endless sea of mouth-watering delights. It’s basically like Homer Simpson’s dream when he’s prancing around in “Chocolate World,” taking bites out of lamp posts and such, only instead, imagine a CRAZY huge domed rabbit stew pie, a crispy, bright apple/cheddar sweet/savoury salad that was SO good, all other salads will now taste like garbage forever, and epic fried chicken that…well, we need to talk about that. On a previous trip to New York I had some pretty amazing fried chicken in Harlem at Red Rooster, but what was happening here was a magical situation. Not only was the batter crunch-er-ific and flavourful, but when I forced my friend to consume a piece about thirty minutes into our dinner, a cloud of steam escaped from inside when she sliced it open, almost as if the fried crispy batter had been encasing eternal juiciness; it was unicorn fried chicken with the power to stay fresh on demand, and it filled our hearts with gluttony cheer. And those homemade biscuits? That sweet and salty glaze will enrobe you in bliss and you’ll wonder if it’s all a dream. Also: the caramel sauce on the freshly baked apple pie was poured onto the plate from the end of a candy apple soaked in caramel. Nice touch.

The conclusion of that meal had us cradling our bellies as we checked out the “facade porn” in Soho. Doing lots of walking and creeping townhouse exteriors? It’s the only way to survive a food adventure in New York City.

Some other highlights:

There had been so much hype about Shake Shack, that we thought this would be our first over-hyped let-down meal. It was not. It’s extremely hard to get a table at this bustling Times Square location, but aggressive prolonged eye contact with other customers who are eating can coerce them into finishing their meals faster than normal.

As for the famous “Shack Burger,” it definitely had a melt-in-your-mouth quality that will forever inhabit my dreams. Also, this was the first time since I was a teenager that I had a milkshake. Why did I ever stop? More milkshakes will henceforth be incorporated into adult life.

After Shake Shack, we burned off 4% of the calories by strolling around the beautiful New York Public Library and spending money on library swag, as book nerds do.

Dinner was an interesting situation of wanting fresh pasta, but not wanting to go to an old school Godfather style restaurant in Little Italy. There are actually some good Italian restaurants in Brooklyn, but excuse me — we’d already covered Brooklyn in the geographical progression of our 3-page document. Instead we found Bar Primi in Soho, which is a hip and cozy place with a wine bar feel, along with plenty of fresh pasta options to choose from. Super yum.

Cocktails later that night at Pegu Club were not only delicious, but the origin story written in their menu is the coolest one I’ve ever seen. This was way better than waiting in line at some of the West Village bars that have been so over-exposed in Thrillist type articles, the ones where people wait outside in stairwells just for a desperate shot to get in. We passed two of those on the way. No thank you.

On this night we burned a solid 6% of the calories by walking back to our hotel in Tribeca, while creeping some cool Soho galleries along the way.

Morning. Hungover. And Black Seed Bagels in Soho saved the day. I think I blacked out from Black Seed and it was totally worth it.

So about chocolate chip cookies. I’m obsessed. The monstrosity photographed here is what Levain Bakery in the Upper West Side is famous for. This bakery has definitely made the rounds of must-eat blog posts — not unlike the town whore of indulgent delights — and as a result there was a serious line-up at 2:30pm on a Sunday. I know I just said I won’t wait outside in stairwells for a speakeasy cocktail, but will I wait outside in line for a cookie? If you’ve ever met me, fill in the blanks. From the outside, this looked like a giant scone. From the inside, you can catch a glimpse of the endless chocolate chips. Peak “food porn ecstasy,” and we burned off 2% of the calories by strolling in Central Park.

That cookie was the final hurrah before best friend got on a plane to head back to Toronto. I would miss her, but did that mean it was time to halt the food adventure? Not as long as there was breath in my lungs and a stomach in my skeletal cavity (there was).

That night I met a dear friend and we had an amazing dinner in Noho, at Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant NIX. She’s vegan and gluten-free, and the staff ever so kindly provided her with a modified menu. That pineapple dessert will inhabit my dreams forever along with the burger.

The next day I strolled around Union Square, creeped a Farmer’s Market, and decided my body needed this amazing, twisted roll thingy from Breads Bakery. That looks like chocolate but it’s actually a million poppy seeds. I was replenished.

Soon after that, I decided to burn more than 6% of the calories by heading to the Upper East Side. I went to the Guggenheim to feed my brain — Hilma af Klint, you talented Swede — did some shopping, and strolled the other side of Central Park. I burned so many calories that it was definitely a top priority to eat more food as soon as possible.

This food adventure had already been filled with so many highlights, that I was starting to wonder if lunch at Refinery Rooftop in Midtown with another dear friend would be “basic.” It was not. The only time I’ve had more flavourful and vibrant tacos was when they were made by a best friend who is Mexican, uses Mexican ingredients, and is a very talented cook.

Later that day, I ate the legendary brownie from Fat Witch Bakery in the comfort of my hotel room, since I was, after all, becoming thy namesake.

That night it was off to Greenwich Village, to meet a new acquaintance for some fancy Korean BBQ at Do Hwa. I’d never had cocktails made with rice wine before, and after three of them and nearly three hours of scintillating conversation, I can safely say that those cocktails were like the sweet, sweet nectar squeezed out of candy that was stolen from the clutches of screaming children. Amazing.

For the rest of my trip I covered the important things left on my food adventure to-do list: a great slice of pizza, and an amazing cupcake.

When it comes to pizza, on a previous trip I’d had John’s Pizza on Bleecker Street, and it was absolutely delicious. So this time I needed to try Joe’s. Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village is a no nonsense $3-a-slice situation. You must fold it and you must fold it good. I ate it in a quiet little square on a sunny day with the autumn leaves in full bloom. I also spilled a blob of tomato sauce on my jeans. It felt like a rite of passage.

As for the cupcakes, I am a major snob a.k.a., there’s nothing I hate more than overly sweet one-note frosting, and a shitty dry cake underneath. Why are the cupcakes so dry? Do you not know about putting milk and oil in the batter you wretched fool?! (this is also my biggest pet peeve with bakeries in Paris that attempt to make cupcakes. Please stick to your expertise of amazing croissants. Merci).

I’ve had Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes before, made famous in that season 3 episode of Sex and the City, and if you ask me, it’s a classic case of over-hyped. But I had an alternative. I wanted to check out the Chelsea High Line, and on my way I ran into Michael C. Hall a.k.a. Dexter. He was wearing a baseball cap and we locked eyes for a soulful exchange. This has nothing to do with the cupcakes. On the way back I checked my map and noticed something called Molly’s Cupcakes in Greenwich Village. It wasn’t a busy establishment, but the cupcakes were AMAZING. It was a well executed cake with diverse frosting qualities, and so many interesting flavours. This particular one was based on the “Samoa cookie,” and I must say, there was a lot of chocolate, coconut, and caramel things happening with that frosting. Thanks Molly, top-notch and underrated.

Afterwards I creeped more townhouse facades, as Greenwich Village has the best of them, particularly around Perry Street (which is coincidentally where you’ll find the fictional Carrie Bradshaw’s place of residence).

And thus concludes a whirlwind food adventure in New York City. I mostly wrote this for myself so I can always have a meticulous record of the food consumed and the joy experienced. If you yourself actually made it through this 2,200-word post, you are a rare soul and I hope you drooled a little along the way.

Live to eat,

Romi