Friday, April 3, 2009

New York Dining Experience AKA: The Worlds Longest Blog Entry

We actually found out about this place on Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network. It's called Caracas Arepas. Totally amazing.
This is me dining upon my arepa. I am so happy I got to try one of these. They are definitely unique, like nothing I have ever had. They were so so yummy. It makes me sad knowing I probably would have a hard time trying to make them.
This is the one that Jason ordered. It was called the La SureƱa grilled chicken and chorizo, with avocado slices and the classic and always enigmatic spicy chimi-churri sauce. It was so amazing. The smokiness of the chorizo and the chimi-churri sauce was so nice. I would eat that chimi-churri on everything.
This was the one that I ordered. We really shared though. This was called the La De Pernil roasted pork shoulder with tomato slices and a spicy mango sauce

Here is me in Chinatown with a street vendor pretzel. Something you must have when you go to NY. I had been dreaming of them since the last time I had one. Yummy. We shared it, just so you know. I didn't eat that whole thing. I could have though.
On our trip up to the Upper East Side we stumbled across this place called Crumbs. Ok, yeah, I am an idiot and didn't get one. It was bad timing. We were on our way to lunch and now that I am talking about I feel even more foolish for not getting one. There is no excuse. So they looked amazing. There were several around the city but they were really big and beautiful.
This was my big beautiful lox sandwich at the famous Zabar's. Why is it famous you might ask, just wait until you go there. This is just a little side joint with bagels and muffins and what not. Next door is the most amazing place I have ever been. It would be like if you imagined your dream place in your mind but in reality stepped into it. The most amazing market ever. Anything and everything you can imagine. Upstairs was an entire floor dedicated to anything you could imagine for the kitchen and cooking. I was losing my mind here. I think Jason wanted to kill me by the time we were done because I was looking at everything. I walked away with a lot of things. I think this is where I spent the mojority of my money. Just on snacks and a few kitchen things. I love Zabar's with all of my heart. We had been here before last time but somehow missed the market. I am glad that didn't happen again. This was an amazing sandwhich. I was so happy to have dined upon it. The salmon was so so fresh and the bread was amazing.
This one is Jason's. He goes for the classic style lox plate. He is such a huge fan of it. I used to get these at a place here in Highland Park called Once Upon A Bagel and he tried it once and fell in love. Of course when you go to New York it's on a whole nother level. But we are happy to have Once Upon A Bagel here. It's the next best thing.
Black and white cookies are sort of a New York thing. So I did my research on where to get the best one in the city. A lot of people said Zabar's so I hooked it up. I must say that I was very skeptical going into it because it was very thick. I thought it was going to be really dry and crumbly. Wow. It was amazing. It was so so good. We ate the entire thing. The frosting was so good. Of course down the middle is the best way to go and then you kind of have to choose from there. I feel like I liked them both as well. It was a really really good cookie.
So, we did tons and tons of research for this trip. We don't mess around. We had note cards for every single neighborhood with the restaurants on one side and the places we wanted to see in each on the other side. We were set. So in my research I discovered this place called Cafe Bari. It's really actually some little cafe you can sit down in for lunch or whatever but on the side of the building is a window you can walk up to and order these mini cupcakes. Little did I know how mini they were. I was shocked at the price. Three for $3. I thought, wow, that's a deal. So we ordered three. We were cracking up so hard because they literally almost blew off of the plate they were so tiny. We could each take a small bite of half and they were gone. I must say, they were really very good though. I liked the "tye dye" one the most. It tasted like funfetti. The other two had fillings. One was cookie dough and the other was peanut butter cup. They are making a killing lets just leave it at that.
This is Grimaldi's and it's under the Brooklyn Bridge. We took the subway over and after lunch walked the bridge back. It's a nice way to feel a little better about eating an entire pizza. Come on, it's not that big. Three thin pieces each. But wow, it was amazing. So so good. They use a coal fire oven so it takes literally minutes. It took us longer to get there than it did for our entire dining experience. This is usually a tough place to get into but we went there at around 2 in the afternoon so it was perfect. Super yummy. A legendary place that is a must do if you go to New York.
Me dining upon the lucious pie and Jason feeling sad about his last bite. Later he went on to tell me that he almost ripped my last piece out of my hand as I ate it in front of him after finishing this last bite.
The kitchen is totally open and as you wait in line for the bathroom, you can watch them making the pizzas and placing them in the coal fire oven. This was the big tub of mozzarella that was being put on the pizzas. It was crazy to watch that much cheese being used. It was interesting because they put the cheese on first and then the toppings and then the sauce. Very interesting. I may try that method. I like it.
So here we have a little ice cream treat from Momofuku Milk. David Chang is one of the top chefs in the country right now and has four places in New York. Momofuku Noodle Bar (visited on our last trip and really was the reason we returned to New York) Momofuku Saam Bar, Momofuku Ko and then this joint. He openend it with the pastry chef from his other restaurants. I have to say, with all of the hype, it wasn't all that great. This here is a marshmallow cereal milk ice cream. They have several different flavors. They literally soak the cereal in milk and then make ice cream out of it. They also have the milks you can order too. It really wasn't all that great. It didn't have much taste to me. Jason ate that. I got this.This was a chocolate cake with a marshmallow buttercream and yellow cake crumb filling. It was really really good and super moist but I couldn't get that from the layers. It just tasted pretty normal to me. I couldn't find those flavors in there at all. I really did love it. But it rotted my stomach out and I had to chuck it. That made me really sad. visited the Green Market one morning and it was really great. I was in heaven because a lot of the stands were baked goods and some vegan and gluten free stuff, which strangely enough I really like. Some of it can be really good. Anyhow. I got this thing. It was really the best thing I have had in a long long time. It was made with whole wheat, oats, apples, cinnamon, cranberries, apple juice and walnuts. That's it. I was totally perplexed how they made it so I called them to ask. Thought it couldn't hurt to try and find out. One of the bakers ended up calling me back and explained to me how they do it. I thought, hey no problem. I tried to make them and I messed up the crust a little. I think I can get it right next time. Anyhow. I tried to email them again to ask for a little more details or tips. The owner emailed me back saying how upset she was that one of her bakers ever called me and that all of their recipes were top secret. Whoa. I ended up getting a second one after eating my first knowing that I would be sad to never have one again. It was so moist and amazing. I can't even tell you. Man, I love it. The memory will live on forever in my mind. And this photo doesn't hurt.So this was my favorite meal of the whole trip. Can you imagine that? So simple, yet so freaking amazing. I feel so happy about it still. I am going to frame this picture and put it in every room of the house so I can look at it where ever I am. This was at the famous Katz Deli. It's an old school Jewish Deli with pastrami and rye to die for. It was used in When Harry Met Sally in the infamous scene where she fakes an oragasm. They even have a sign hanging above where she sat. Anyhow. This place was wild. Right when you walked in there was a guy that hands you a ticket, then you walk up to a long counter (there could be a line) and you walk up to whatever guy shouts out to you or becomes open. Then you order. I got the pastrami on rye. Hello? How could you not. That's just what you get. As I was waiting he dropped a fresh plate of pastrami onto the counter saying "You try, mommy." It was just a little snack bite to try. They do it to everyone ordering it. So amazing. I wanted to scream when I tasted it. Then he smeared yellow mustard all over the bread holding it up to me saying, "you want?". It cracked me up. Yeah, I want. Also, had to get the pickles. Love pickles and New York is the place to get pickles if you love them like I do. And, they were free. Well, with the price of the pastrami being $14.95, I would hope they are free. Like Jason says, "Well, they weren't free." So yummy and crunchy. Not like the pickles you have had that's for sure. So so good.Here is me dining upon my sammy. Oh, what a happy, glorious moment in my life. I will be going there every time I go to New York. Sorry Jason. He got this.Lame. Matzo ball soup. He really liked it. That's fine if you want to eat a big ball made out of a cracker. Totally kidding. He just isn't into this type of food. He was loving enough to take me here because he knows how much I love it. The whole thing. The food and the atmosphere. It's amazing.This was what was left. I must state that the only reason this lies here is because I saw everyone around me sharing one and I had almost eaten a whole one. I started to question why I was not feeling full and worried that it was going to hit me and so I stopped. I could have easily finished it. Looking back, I should have but oh well. It was so so amazing.
Later that night we hit up a place a local recommended for Italian on the Lower East Side called Frankies. It was so cute. A little place, only holding about 22 people. I counted. It was pretty empty when we went because we were dining early on to make it to a comedy club at 8. It was really good. This was a mushroom crostini Jason got. So full of flavor. It was amazing. So I ordered one too. Here is mine. It had white beans, lemon juice, sardines, and garlic. It was amazing.This was Jason's dish. It was a hand rolled ricotta cavatelli pasta with a brown butter sage sauce and spicy sausage. It was amazing. I think I ate more of his than mine. Mine was ok. It just tasted like something I could make better at home. It was good, just not great. Gnocchi. I am a huge fan of gnocchi. I had it last time we were in New York at Mario Batalli's place Lupa. It was the most amazing I have ever and will ever have so I don't even know why I ordered it.
This is from a cupcake place in Chelsea Market. I always love looking at their work because it's so over the top. They make these ones with character heads on it literally made of a huge glob of frosting. I would love to just smash one into my face and eat it. I know that I would pay for it though. Tummy ache city. So I never got one. I love to look though.
This was another place that we saw on Throwdown. It was so fun to find it.
This was the menu. You probably can't read it very well but it cracked me up. It was just a printed menu on white paper with some things scratched out with a sharpie. Warm molten dark chocolate lava cake, warm chocolate bread pudding, warm slow baked apples, carmelized pears, warm brioche donuts, vanilla creme brulee, cup of hot chocolate. It's these two guys that started it. One is the business guy and the other is a pastry chef who does gourmet deserts out of this truck. Totally original and fun.You can't really see this very well because it was about 10 at night but this is the warm chocolate bread pudding with bacon fat custard. I know, it sounds weird but who doesn't like a little savory with sweet? You couldn't even taste the bacon. It was just an amazing combo. Lots of gooey fudge melted down in there with the chocolate bread. So delightful. I won't mention that later that night we were walking down the street (yes I did say later, so around 10:30) we spotted Mario Batali's pizza place Otto, and couldn't resist. This was after all an eating trip. So I didn't take a picture but it was good. We couldn't really resist ourselves. We just shared a little pizza. They were really thin crust. I have to say, eh. Wasn't that great. We got one with a fried egg on top. It was probably the oiliest pizza I have ever had. Not sure if it was from the cheese or oil drizzled on top. But the fried egg was literally sliding around on top. How I didn't I gain 500 lbs on this trip I do not know. Thank you, God. I guess that's why they say everything in moderation. this was our last bagel day in New York. We had to hit up Ess-a-Bagel. It's one of the most mentioned bagel places in the city. I have to say, it was the best. So so good. I would go there next time and only there. Well, that and Zabars. These bagels were huge. They almost didn't have a hole in the middle because they were so fat. We had to get Lucy one to take home. That's the one thing she wanted. We got the lox. What else do you get? Man. So mine is the one with the oats on top. Trying to be half-way healthy with all of that cream cheese shmear. Oh, I was in heaven. It was amazing. Love love love love. That is what love is. Look it up in the dictionary and you will see this picure. Well, this and the pastrami.

So I will talk about our dining experience I sadly do not have pictures for. This was Momofuku Ko.
Please watch this for the real idea of this place.
So, this is one of the hardes places to get a reservation in the country right now. That is for two reasons really. One, Chef David Chang is one of the top chefs in the country right now. Second, you can only get reservations online a week in advance and they only have twelve spots. It's a pre fixe menu and some of the best food you will ever eat. So I had my mom trying with me because Jason couldn't break the firewall at school. I failed on my attempt and was talking with her on the phone while trying, when suddenly an opening popped up and she screamed, should I take it. Yes. Shit yes, take it. It was for monday at 9:30. This was probably the lastest meal of my life but proabably one of the best meals I will have in my life. Shit, yes, we got in. I can't believe it. It was a glorious moment really. I don't know if I can express to you the difficulty of getting into this place. Just go online and try one day for funsies. You will see how fast they go. The moment you click they are gone. Just like that. You are charged $150 per person if you don't cancel reservations within 24 hours. That's because to get the reservation you must give a credit card number. They don't have phones in the place either.

So, all day we planned for this meal. Being very careful to make sure we were hungry. We even rode the subway back from Chinatown to rest in our room for a little bit before this meal. This was going to be a feast that we would never forget and needed to be prepared. It was an 11 course meal lasting a little shy of 2 hours.

When we arrived I was happy to see the hostess wearing some jeans and striped shirt. Totally casual and greeted us nicely. She recognized our area code on the reservation and turns out, she too was from Chicago and used to work at a familiar restaurant back there. She talked to us throughout the meal and was very friendly. She is the one who told us about Frankie's the Itallian place we ate at.

Please bear with me as I try to remember everything and I don't know the exact details because the chefs were very quiet and quick with their descriptions.

The amuse bouche was the most memorable thing for me. So so amazing.
Buttermilk Biscuit black pepper butter, mirin chicharone, togorshi
It was a stack of something that was the texture of a buiscuit but the size of a quarter and stacked high. It was layered with a peppered butter and toasted, served on a hot stone. Ok, so this description is horrible but I have to tell you, it was heaven in my mouth. Oh, they didn't allow photography which made me very sad, but is understandable.
So the second dish was a small piece of veal tongue served on a small spoon with some tiny greens and some broth. I can't remember the details but it was ok. I wasn't that thrilled with eating veal tongue but proud of myself for trying it.
The next dish was Long Island Fluke buttermilk, poppy seeds, white soy. It was kind of like having sashimi, which is just the raw fish. It was very very fresh tasting and the buttermilk, strange as it may sound, was an amazing compliment to the fish. The poppy seeds lent a nice contrast in texture to the dish.
Next was Cold Dashi Broth, Sugar Snap Peas, Santa Barbara Uni, Cucumber. This one really scared me because the Uni (raw sea urchin) was like a paste. You are literally sitting in front of the chefs watching them prepare your food. And when I say right in front of the chefs I mean, like a foot. So I could see him scraping this from the container in was in. I was really pleased with the taste and texture though. All of the flavors came together nicely. The pea shoots were the crunchiest, freshest vegetable I have ever tasted.
After that was the Smoked Hen Egg onions, potato, caviar. This was heaven in your mouth. This was a dish we were waiting to taste. It was kind of cool because they stagger the reservations so that not everyone is getting the same thing at the same time. They only have four chefs so they serve things staggered. You could always see what you were going to be eating soon. The eggs were something we had read about and were excited to try. They did not disappoint. Imagine a soft boiled egg split open on it's side with all of that love spilling out. Then topped with a little caviar and some other flavors. It was amazing and definately unique. This was one of our favorite dishes.
Hand Torn Pasta, Burgundy Escargot, Chicken Skin
I was scared to try this. Snail sausage just doesn't sound that appealing to me and really I didn't know how I was going to bring myself to try it. Then I realized that we were at one of the best restaurants in the country and it would be rediculous not to try it. It was phenominal. I am glad that I didn't pass it up. It was cut into cubes. The pasta was so tender and a nice accompaniment to the more rustic meat.
Atlantic Halibut cauliflower
This was a perfectly cooked halibut filet. It had a nice golden crust on top of it and was tender on the inside. It was really a nice dish.
Shaved Torchon of Hudson Valley Foie Gras lychee, pine nuts
This was the dish that everyone had be raving about. It was good at first to me, but became far to rich for my palate after a few bites. This was our first time having foie gras and it was prepared very different than usual. I was frozen into a log like you would see sausage and then grated on a microplane over the top of the lychee fruit which is an asian fruit most similar in taste to grapefruit. It was a burst of flavor and the foie gras melted in your mouth.
Dry Aged Striploin pickled jalapenos, black trumpet mushrooms
This dish for me fell flat. It sirloin was cooked sous-vide which is a method of cooking that is intended to maintain the integrity of ingredients by heating them for an extended period of time at relatively low temperatures. Food is cooked for a long time, sometimes well over 24 hours. Unlike cooking in a slow cooker, sous-vide cooking uses airtight plastic bags placed in hot water well below boiling point (usually around 60°C or 140°F). Anyhow, it's a technique that's all the rage amongst these top chefs. So the beef was super tough and really, to me flavorless. I honestly could barely cut through it with my knife. I just didn't care for the dish at all and was sort of sad to end on that note.
Guava Sorbet, Cream Cheese
This desert was amazing. It was basically the sorbet dropped into a container of this liquified cheese cake then sat and solitified while the sorbet softened inside the coating. When you cut into it, the sorbet was so tender. The guava taste was so fresh and bright. It was a great desert.
Funnel Cake, Black Sesame Ice Cream, Coconut, Lemon
This was definately one that I was excited to try as I witnessed it being served to fellow diners, however the black sesame ice cream was not for me. It was more savory than sweet, which I sort of expected, however, was not a fan. The lemon curd was delicious as was the funnel cake.
So, our culinary excursion came to an end abour 11:20 as the small alarm clock above the kitchen read.
The bathroom cracked me up because above the toilet was a wall full of cook books and on the other wall was a goofy poster of a chinaman with a lazy eye and some crazy knives in his had. David Chang is a man with a sense of humor. He is super young and one of the most talented chefs in the country if not, the world. We were so lucky to have dined at Ko.

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