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Just Opened Meets: Coffee and Champagne

In this series, we delve into the lives of some of New York’s best-informed food and drink bloggers. We’re asking about what’s new and exciting on their foodie radar, as well those old favorite haunts they just keep going back to.

This week, we meet Michelle Williams, founder of Coffee and Champagne.

Tell us a bit about Coffee and Champagne – how long have you been doing this and how did you get started? 

‘I started out with a website without any social channels. I started it as a creative outlet, a passion project that I’d come home to work on after my 9–5. It actually began as a wedding website, giving advice on things I’d learned when I was planning my wedding, and then it expanded into lifestyle, food, cooking, restaurants, music playlists, how to host an event, et cetera. After a while I decided to focus on one specific thing, and learn about it in detail, rather than spanning so much. I narrowed it down to food or fashion, because I get dressed every day and I eat every day. I knew more about fashion at the time and was keen to learn something new so it had to be food! Now I cook food, meet great people, and eat in delicious places for my job – it’s amazing!’

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What makes Coffee and Champagne different from other Instagram accounts focusing on food in NYC?

‘I’d say the biggest difference is that in addition to sharing food from restaurants, I also share recipes of my own development. It’s always been something I’ve loved to do. I don’t necessarily identify with a certain style of cooking; rather I cook based on what has inspired me, whether it’s food from restaurants, people I meet or different cultures. Before creating a recipe, I’ll do a lot of research and really work to create something innovative and different.’

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Where’s your fail-safe date night in NYC?

‘I have two. I love chef Bobby Flay’s Gato in Soho. I’ve only been there once but the experience really stuck with me. When I went, I’d just come back from Spain and his food is Spanish fare that he’s developed from its classic nature and given exciting twists. It’s high-end, quality food. It’s also really beautiful inside of the restaurant; there’s something about the Spanish tiling. Décor is always something I pay attention to when I walk into a restaurant – how I feel in the space. It truly paints the experience.

I also love Chef’s Club – it’s a restaurant founded by Food & Wine. They feature a new chef from around the world every month, who takes over their kitchen, which means the menu is always changing. It’s a really fun place where every visit teaches you something new about a different style of cuisine. Plus they hand-select only the best chefs so you’re guaranteed to get delicious food. It’s a great concept and an exciting restaurant for a date.’

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What’s your favorite recent opening in New York?

‘I really enjoyed west~bourne, a new vegetarian restaurant also in Soho (I guess Soho is becoming my new favorite area!). There’s nothing about the space itself that’s particularly intriguing but the food was amazing and didn’t feel like it was vegetarian food at all. They’re doing an incredible job of showing the possibilities of cooking without meat – what strikes you is that the food is delicious and only later do you realize you’ve eaten purely vegetarian food. It’s satisfying, without being heavy, and I left feeling really surprised at how much I’d really enjoyed it.’

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Where do you think you can get the best desserts in the city?

‘Now this is a tough one. I have a few that come to mind but if I had to choose just one, I’d say Gramercy Tavern. I know their Executive Pastry Chef, Miro Uskokovic, and he’s amazing. He spent a full afternoon showing me the inner workings of his pastry kitchen. He taught me the logistics of what went into a couple of his desserts and my mind was entirely blown. I ate a bunch of them that afternoon. Every single one was so incredible in its own right, I seriously couldn’t stop eating if I tried! From passionfruit to the most decadent chocolate, there is a dessert for every palette. Miro also created the pastry menus at the Studio Café and Untitled at The Whitney. They’ve got their own dedicated pastry kitchen there, below the savory kitchen, and when I visited, he gave me the grand tour of there as well. Exploring the flavors that they use and seeing the care and attention that they put into each pastry is astounding.’

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Best cocktails you’ve ever tasted?

‘I’m much more of a wine and champagne girl. There are so many amazing wine menus out there these days but for experiences, a few stand out.

Sommelier Laura Maniec’s Cork Buzz is always a fun choice. It’s a champagne bar where you can get great champagnes – if you play your cards right and partake in their champagne campaign, you can get awesome bottles at an amazing discount. My husband took me there for my birthday a few years back and Laura sat with us and told us the history of how she became a sommelier – it’s an awesome story.

Black Barn has amazing champagne too – I once paid a visit on a Tuesday and Executive Chef and Owner John Doherty popped a really expensive bottle that he wanted me to try – he was right; it was extremely delicious. He has an incredible collection that’s a must for anyone to check out.

Also, all Daniel Boulud restaurants have amazing wine and champagne. You seriously can’t go wrong there.’

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Best food destination in the USA outside of New York?

‘I have to go with Austin for that one. They have a really different food culture from New York, which intrigues me. Places like Chicago and Denver have delicious and beautiful restaurants, but when you eat there, you could just as easily be dining in New York. Austin has a ‘food truck’ culture. They have restored vans that serve out amazing quality food in a laid-back environment and you can jump from Chinese, to Michelin star, to sandwiches, and sit at picnic tables to eat it. It’s a great way to explore and experience different foods and cultures in a relaxed fun setting.’

Who’s your favorite chef?

‘It’s a little old school but Jean-Georges – I’ve never been to a restaurant of his that I didn’t like. His amazingly refined and beautifully curated menus really resonate with me and have surely inspired elements of my cooking. I actually met Jean-Georges in person at the SOBE Food & Wine Festival in Miami a couple of years back and he was so kind, funny and really genuine. We actually played on a team of doubles ping pong at his Ping Pong, Pizza & Peroni’s event! He’s really funny!’

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Is there anything you’ve discovered on a menu recently that we should know about?

‘Yes, oh my gosh, the Buffalo Milk Caramelle from Don Angie – it’s so good. They’re little homemade pasta presents stuffed with creamy buffalo milk cheese and topped with pieces of persimmon – they literally melt in your mouth. It’s one of those dishes that gives you a real internal battle – it’s so good you want to let everyone around the table taste it, but at the same time you really don’t want to give up a single bite sharing it with other people!’

Which of your Instagram posts has got the most likes?

‘People like things when they’re either huge or when the food is shown in bulk. I once posted a picture of a giant pizza bagel the size of my torso and people loved it. I also went to an event at a barbecue shop a while back where there were 100 chicken wings, 100 fries and 100 beers and I put them all together and took a photo and it literally decimated any other photo I’ve ever put up. It was simple food in a divey bar but people related to it! It’s not the cuisine I typically identify with but it sure is fun.’

Feature image credit: Yumi Matsuo Photography

All other images: Michelle Williams

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