New York is a place you either love or hate. It’s big, it’s busy it’s fantastic. I can really understand why people say it’s the centre of the universe as when you’re there it almost feels like it is. Everything you need is on the island. Well, almost. Maybe all those bridges are there to keep it connected to the rest of the country and prevent it’s residents from being even more insular than they are.
As a foodie, New York is beyond plentiful with foods from countries across the world, plus American stodge and progressive food that blends flavours and styles of different cultures. Most of my New York posts so far have covered individual restaurants so to speed up our eating holiday I’ve made this small compilation of places we covered over the two weeks in NYC. Otherwise I’ll never get to the next leg of our trip. Not that this will be the last NY post. A couple more to come!
Shall we start with a diner for breakfast?
A miserable day calls for staying in and watching television or hitting the streets and braving the wet and gloomy weather. We didn’t go to New York to sit and watch tv so after purchasing a couple of pocket brollies we grabbed a quick breakfast at this classic Chelsea diner – Moonstruck. Sinking into the vinyl booths and taking a quick glance around made me feel like I was in the centre of a movie set. I love places like this. The service is relaxed and uninterested, on that particular day it was, and the menu probably requires a good 10 minutes to get through. Loads of egg dishes, 7 varieties of French toast, waffles, bagels, about 36 types of salads, 20 burgers, 19 “Diet Delight Platters”, pasta’s … it goes on.
The lightweight settles on a very ordinary bagel with cream cheese and juice, a bargain at $4.25 and I go for a more filling 2 eggs with corned beef hash ($8.45). I could have easily ordered a coffee but, well, I’m not one to drink that diluted drip stuff. You don’t come to places like this for a culinary journey other than one that takes you down a simple and stodgy road. It’s all about big portions and reasonable prices. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
In the thick of West Village is this great little place tucked away on leafy Bleecker Street. August dishes up some market-driven edibles that cover some Mediterranean and northern European flavours in its split dining areas. The conservatory set-up out the back has a relaxed vibe about it while the front feels more like a rustic wine bar with tight window seating and semi-communal benches. The heart of the place is undoubtedly the wood-fired oven and grill that’s lovingly handled by paddle-weilding cooks.
Weekend brunch was the way to go for us and the braised pork belly ($13) was the way to go for me. Now this was a first for me. Not the pork belly, but instead the marriage of it with scrambled eggs, slow cooked beans and pickled onions. Was I in heaven? Hell yeah. From one belly to another, I was relishing every tender mouthfull. Straight out of the wood-fried oven we also had the Andalusian ($12) – baked eggs with chorizo and blistered peppers in a cast iron cocotte. Nothing outstanding about this dish but far from shabby either.
A visit to New York simply must involve Central Park, somehow. The lungs of the city are there to escape, explore and lose yourself in. Admittedly less than an hour was spent traversing its pathways and greens but at least I got familiar again with one of my favourite parks in the world.
There was a reason for traversing Central Park. The last time I was in town I fell in love with black & white cookies and after gorging on a fair share of them, even attempting to make them at home, I made sure that a visit to Central Park involved a visit to William Greenberg Jr. Desserts. This Upper East Side kosher bakery supposedly serves up the city’s best black & white’s, something I simply had to try. For the uninitiated, it’s more like a flat dense cake iced with vanilla and chocolate. I love them. The bakery itself is tiny and stocks pastries, cakes, breads and cookies, shipping them all over the country. The red velvet whoopie pie went down a treat as well.
I didn’t make it on the previous trip but I made sure it was ticked off the list this time around. Katz’s Deli. That highly-touristed place famous for its pastrami sandwiches, and that orgasmic Meg Ryan scene. The set-up is pretty staight forward. Grab your ticket from the dude at the door then head up to one of the counters and order what you want while your friend joins the shit-fight in trying to score a free table. Hold onto your ticket so you can pay on exit. Lose your ticket and you’re in trouble. There is a table service area along the left wall if you’re not into joining the throngs to order your own.
The pepper-crusted pastrami is really good. It’s juicy, a little oily and supremely tender; overflowing my sandwich big-time. It’s a bit of a bitch to try to keep it all together when you hold and take a bite, making for an unglamourous sight. But if you look around you’ll see there’s nothing glamourous about the place or its clientelle. Even on a hot day the chicken noodle soup ($5.45) went down a treat, packed with all that good stuff. Would I return for the pastrami on rye ($15.25)? I reckon I’d give another place a go. It was a good sandwich but I think there’s more hype around this place than there needs to be.
Mere metres away from Katz’s is another Manhattan institution – Russ & Daughters. This is the Mecca for all things smoked salmon; choose a bagel and they’ll smother it with cream cheese, onion, capers and salmon, bag it up and send you on your way. Strings of dried mushrooms hang in the window above dried apples and stone fruits, barrels of pickles sit by the counter. It goes on. It doesn’t take long for the tiny shop to resemble Grand Central Station but if you’re patient, wait your turn and get right in there.
On the many eating visits we made to the East Village we started out by chilling back at this place with a few bevvies before moving on to the restaurant of choice. VBar St. Marks is a little bit of a hipster hang-out that’s diluted with just enough real folk to make it an appealing place to settle in. It was the wines that had us returning several times; wines from Europe (mainly Italy) as well as South American and of course American. The window seats are a prime spot to watch the people parade streaming past and, when open, breathe in that fresh New York air. Food-wise, I only got as far as having the beef carpaccio ($12) as a wine accompaniment but the rest of the menu is a good mix of Italian-esque offerings. If we had more time I could have easily settled in for a long afternoon of sipping and nibbling. Next time.
Dean & Deluca is a bit of a New York institution, showcasing a great bunch of fresh fruit and veg, bakery items, local and imported dry goods, meats & seafood, kitchen accessories, cheese and pre made food to eat in or take home. It seems the locals gripe about the inflated prices but in a place like this I can only expect a higher price tag. Well worth a visit.
Timing had it that we were in town during Little Italy’s Feast of San Gennaro, an 11 day event that closes off Mulberry Street, extending up to Mott Street. Small tents line the streets and offer loads of edibles from grilled sausages and meats, traditional Italian cakes and sweets and some not-very-appealing stands selling cheap watches, stuffed toys and key rings. I guess this is on the cusp of Chinatown. The side-show alley area was a real turn-off which made us exit as quickly as possible.
Not that it has anything to do with the Little Italy visit, I felt a little snacky one afternoon and dropped into Mexicue for a quick bite. This commercialised Mexican franchise has a simple menu of tacos, sliders and not much more. The Berkshire pulled pork slider ($3.5) is nothing much to rave about but it certainly hit the spot. You can’t go wrong with the price of $3.50.
A catch up with a colleague that now lives in New York fell on the wettest day we had in the city. It was seriously bucketing down, especially when we arrived at Habana Outpost in Brooklyn. I was hoping for a nice sunny day where we’d sit beneath the brollies and tuck into decent Mexican fare but we were having none of that. The entire restaurant was devoid of people except for us so we took up the inside bench and devoured some pretty good food. I still can’t get over how cheap taco’s are in this town so it was a given that the chicken and pork ($2.5 each) ones made it to our spread. Not the extensive selection we found at Tehuitzingo but they were almost as good. A huge plato of diablo chicken ($7.75) sits on top of a pile of yellow rice and black beans and is slowly polished off by the expat.
I couldn’t help myself with the juicy Cubano sandwich ($7.75); a lightly toasted roll generously packed with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickle. It was mouthgasm time. The grilled corn ($2.75) on the side comes “Mexican style” with Cotija cheese, chilli powder and lime. Sublime. Who cares if it’s pouring outside, food like this is all that matters.