Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Our New York trip 2010

This is our third time visiting New York City. The first time Pearl Jam brought us there. After eating so many amazing things our first trip, food is what brought us there the next two times. This was a great trip. Lots and lots of food. Our months and months of research really paid off.

We flew in late in the afternoon on a Sunday. Got to our hotel around 2 or so. Of course we needed a snack. So we walked on over to Chinatown to Vanessa's Dumplings. This place was insane. Sits less than 20 people including the stand up counter in front of the window. We ordered some pork dumplings (4), pork buns (3), and a sesame "pancake" with cilantro, carrots and cucumbers, also a water. Our total was $4.50. What? How can this be legal. I kept thinking, oh the quality won't be there, oh the portions will be small. When Jason brought us our food I could hardly wait. The buns were big and soft. The dumplings too were very big and stuffed. Then my sesame pancake, which I previously read was awesome, looked so good. It was like a big triangle piece of sesame pizza crust cut horizontally then stuffed with veggies. They had a mystery sauce on the table that was some sort of oil and spices. We used that in combination with some soy sauce and it was delicious. This place stayed on our minds the entire trip. We had planned to go again on our last day but couldn't fit it in. For $4.50 that meal filled us up for awhile and the taste and quality was great.
We walked around Chinatown a little bit and checked out a store we like called Pearl River Market. Lots of Chinese goods. In the evening we had tickets to a comedy club we had been on our previous trip called Upright Citizens Brigade. So we headed over to that neighborhood so that we could find somewhere to eat for dinner before the show. We ended up choosing a pizza place called Co. Since we were eating early their was no wait but I will tell you, once we had been in there a bit the place was full and people were waiting. I had read this. The menu was awesome.
We decided to share a salad and then a pizza. We chose a radicchio salad with shiitake mushrooms, taleggio cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This is the moment we knew this place was going to be great. The salad was amazing. I mean, yeah it seems simple, yet it was so complex in it's flavors. It was a delicious salad. We chose the Stracciatella pizza. Crushed tomatoes, black pepper, stracciatella and arugula. Again, freaking out of this world. It was thin and only four slices which left me wanting more, but it was so so good. Probably one of our favorite meals of the trip. Since we weren't stuffed we decided to order desert. It was a graham cracker cookie crust that was so crisp and thick I wanted to get as many bites of the back of the piece as I could before Jason got to it. Then it was a layer of bananas, toffee flavored whipped cream and crumbled on top with candied hazelnuts. This pie was insane. So delicious. I am glad that Jason talked me into getting it. It was the perfect meal.
The comedy club was super funny. It was an improv show where the audience shouts out a word and they make the whole set based on that topic. Pretty funny stuff. Amy Pollard and Horatio Sanz were the creators of the show so they were the hosts and participated which was fun to see. Then there was Jack McBreyer from 30 rock which was super funny to see. It was a good time.

After the show I had to have my NY pretzel. It was so worth the walk. Had to walk all the way up to Madison Square Garden to find a cart. Man it was killer. Smoky tasting, crusty on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. Yum.

The next morning we hit up our breakfast joint we kept reading all about and I must say there is a reason it gets all the talk it does. This place was freaking amazing. My dream breakfast. Clinton Street Bakery. If you ever go to NY you have to have breakfast here. They are known for their blueberry pancakes. Jason ended up ordering those. I had my heart set on these biscuits I kept seeing everyone eating. Our waitress informed us that they were all out and wouldn't be ready for another 20 minutes. I ended up picking the Southern breakfast and I am so so glad I did because it was my favorite meal of the trip by far. It was fried green tomatoes, cheesy grits, a ham steak and two eggs. Talk about freaking amazing. I mean this stuff was good. The tomatoes were crispy on the outside. The grits were so rich and smooth. The combo bites were killer. Jason even loved it. I think he was kind of jealous.

His pancakes were good as well. Came with a maple butter that really took those pancakes to another level.
We ended up ordering a biscuit as they were ready before our food came out. Man, I am so glad we did because this thing was heaven and it didn't hurt that they give you this little silver pot of home made strawberry jam. I am telling you, this was a meal from heaven. I will dream about it for the rest of my life. This place knows what they are doing.
We walked around for a bit and then decided we were going to do lunch at this place called Lukes Lobster. It got mixed reviews so we were only going to check it out. When we got there it was a hole in the wall and the lobster rolls were very small for $14 a pop. I didn't want to spend that on a meal for lunch. The crazy thing was there was only one place I told Jason I would pull a repeater on, on this trip and that was Caracas Arepas Bar. It happened to be right next door so we ended up eating there. I am convinced they have the best lunch special in the entire city.

For only $7.95 you can order a salad or soup and one arepa. The arepas alone are almost $7 a piece. This salad was super super good too. So we both ordered the salad and this time we ordered a beef empanada with black beans, plantains and salty cheese. He ordered a grilled chorizo arepa with spicy white cheese, jalapenos and sauteed peppers. Mine was shredded pork with tomatoes and a spicy mango sauce. Loved it. Once again a total hit. I would recommend this place highly to anyone who wants a really unique cheap lunch that is super delicious and high in quality. Saw it first on an episode of Bobby Flay Throwdown years ago. Arepa's are like a Venezuelan burger. The outside is made of corn and it's crisp and puffy at the same time, then they cut it open and fill it. Great great value and superb taste!

After lunch we headed up to Macy's for the 35th Annual Flower Show. It was amazing. Thousands of flowers planted everywhere. It is definitely something to see. I am so glad we did. We were lucky to be there at the right time to catch it.

This was a hot air balloon made out of Martha Stewart bed sheets. In the bottom was the flower arrangement seen above. It was beautiful. I couldn't get a good picture of the entire thing because it was right in front of the main doors.

These insects were hanging on the ceiling throughout. They were made out of flowers.
After the Flower Show we headed back to Union Square where we had dinner reservations at Craftbar. We were a little early so we stopped into a shop across the street called Fishes Eddy. It was the coolest store ever. All home goods. Mainly kitchen stuff and almost everything was breakable so we couldn't really buy anything sadly, but they do have a web site, so look out. Check it out for sure. It is so cool.
We headed across to dinner. We started with an appetizer of Pecorino risotto balls in a spicy tomato broth. They were good. Jason liked them more than me I think. They did have a nice crisp outside with a tender rich inside. The texture was there, the flavor was a little lacking for me. I was more interested in the crispy foccacia breadsticks on the table. I think I must have eaten at least three of them. Yummy.

Next we ordered the grilled octopus salad. When it arrived it was char black. After tasting it we sent it back. They brought us a new one and it was much more tasty. It was served with fingerling potatoes and a lemon puree. Again, good, not great.

For our entrees Jason ordered the Peking duck confit, duck egg, savoy cabbage, chestnut, and
yellow foot chanterelles. He very much enjoyed it. I was not a fan. Too rich for me. Very musty flavors.
I ordered the Dayboat scallop, celery, pancetta, smoked orange purée. It was not as flavorful as it sounds. The scallops were cooked perfectly which is really the only thing it had going for it. It was just too bland for me.
That night we went to our favorite book store, The Strand and picked out some books for our favorite little reader. We always have to hook her up. It's a must do when in NY. Three or four floors, I can't ever remember. Discount books. Millions and millions of books. After heading out from there we went on over to Max Brenner's which we have been to before but I really wanted something sweet. So we shared a chocolate chip cookie. They heated it up for you. It was awesome. That cookie was the most loaded with chocolate than any cookie I have ever seen. It was amazing. They specialize in chocolate. A chocolate dessert bar really, but they also do serve food. Go for the chocolate. It's like Wonka in there. Very whimsical. I love it.
The next morning was crazy. It was the worst wind and rain ever. I had to go buy galoshes and we ended up with two umbrellas. We took the subway up to our favorite bagel place ever in NY and after walking in the wind and rain, we get to the place and posted on the door was a sign saying they would be closed for three days for Passover. How disappointing was that? We ended up going right next door and getting bagels. They aren't too hard to find in NY.

Went up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was huge. We had a great time there. Spent a good two hours or more seeing some amazing art.

We headed over to a new location of Shake Shake now on the upper west side. We have wanted to go to Shake Shack every trip to NY but there is always a super long line. So it finally happened and now we know what all the fuss is about. These were the best burgers ever. I was so hungry I ordered the double thinking it was going to be pretty small. No, these were thick and juicy. I mean juice literally ran out with every bite. And I am not kidding you when I tell you that these were the best fries I have ever had in my entire life. Yeah, they look ordinary, but I am telling you, they aren't. They are made from Yukon gold potatoes and the flavor was just insane. I will dream of those fries daily now. We also had to try a shake because it is after all, the Shake Shack. They are known for their custard and it delivered. It was thick and rich and full of flavor. We ordered the black and white which was vanilla custard with chocolate sauce blended in. I know we will be going there for sure on our next trip.
We had to stop at the huge FAO Schwartz. That store is insane. There were so many things that we wanted to bring home for Lucy but we settled on a collection of plastic insects. They were a huge hit. Walked down Fifth Ave in the rain and wind looking for the big Disney store only to find out it was closed. That was a huge disappointment as I had really wanted to find something for Lucy.
We went back to our hotel to freshen up for dinner. This was the night we had been waiting for Mario Batali's Babbo. Very hard to get reservations and I pulled it off somehow. I always invisioned it as this dark room full of little tables. The downstairs was just that, but then they walked us up to the most beautiful room filled with tons of light. Everything was white and crisp. It was really lovely and not stuffy as I had imagined it to be. The servers were super friendly and helpful in explaining the dishes.

We started the meal out with an amuse bouche. It was a crostini with some marinated chick peas. It was tasty and a great sign of things to come.

As a started we ordered the marinated Gulf shrimp with cardoons, budding chives and jalapeno vinaigrette. It was outstanding. The shrimp was so fresh and the jalapeno provided just the right amount of kick. It was so flavorful and bright. We really enjoyed it.

I decided after much consideration to order the homeade orecchiette with sweet sausage and rapini. It was so good. I am so happy I chose it. The meat and sauce were so rich and the pasta had a bite to it. It was a really really great dish. I was just sad to not be able to eat it all. I had to order these peas. I am glad I did because it prevented me from eating all of my heavy pasta. I could not stop eating those dang peas.

Jason ordered the beef cheek ravioli with a squab liver sauce. It was far to rich for me but he really enjoyed it. It's one of their specialties and we had read about it online. They ended our meal with a plate of Italian cookies, compliments of the chef. Such a nice touch. I would highly recommend Babbo if you are visting NY and love food. It was a great experience and the food was amazing.
After dinner we walked in the pouring rain and gusting winds to the historic Angelika Film Theatre to see a movie we read about called Greenburg staring Ben Stiller. A more independent movie that turned out to be really really lame. It was fun to go sit a for a bit and let our food settle while getting out of the rain.

We started our next day at the Union Square Farmers Market. It was much bigger this year than it was last year at this same time. I was so super happy because my stand was there where I had eaten the most delicious apple cranberry bar. We also got some hot apple cider to share. I was kicking myself all day because I decided to buy a ton of baked goods and wound up carrying them around all day in my bag. Idiot. I was happy later when I was enjoying those delightful goodies.

Jason really wanted to try the breakfast sandwiches at wichcraft a Tom Collichio restaurant. He ordered a fried egg sandwich with frisee, bacon and gorgonzola. It was delicious.

I ordered the stone ground grits with smoked ham and cheddar then finished off with a drizzle of olive oil and cracked black pepper. It was delicious, although I have to admit it would have been a lot more delicious had I not had the best grits in the world previously at Clinton Street Bakery. Sorry Tom.

Today was our big Brookly day. We had never been to Brooklyn and so we wanted to dedicate a day to explore part of NY we had never seen. We started by heading over to the tkts booth to try and score some discount Broadway show tickets. We ended up getting tickets to the show we wanted to see, although we did have to spend more than I had originally wanted to, it's NY baby and we had never been to a show. In The Heights, awesome seats, $92 each. Something like that.
After that, we timed it perfectly I must say, we headed to the one place we had been so excited to go and it lived up to the hype ten fold. Di Fara in Brooklyn, rated the best pizza in NY city. Total hole in the wall joint.

It's a family operation with only three employees. The main guy who makes the pies, his daughter takes the orders and his brother helps with the prep work. We hit is just in time because there were only four tables in this joint. By the time a table opened up for us our pie was ready in minutes. It's the most amazing beautiful thing, this pie. When it's pulled from the coal fire oven the owner goes over to a big box of fresh basil leaves, grabs a handful and a pair of scissors and cuts it generously over the top of the hot pie, permeating that beautiful basil smell into the air. The love doesn't end there, he grabs a huge piece of parmesan cheese and feeds it through a cheese grater and he sprinkles it all over the top of the pie. After that, yeah, it's still not over, he grabs a silver pitcher with a long skinny spout and drizzles olive oil all over the top.

I can not even begin to tell you how amazing this pizza is. If you ever have the chance to make the trip over there, I would highly recommend it. To be honest there aren't many things I have tasted in my entire life that are better than this.

And of course we finished it off. We each had four huge slices. There is no way in hell I was going to let one of those pieces go to waste. After eating this pie I felt great, satisfied, rebirthed.

After lunch was the perfect time to finally make the trek I had dreamed would never happen: to Baked. It's a bakery I had first discovered on Martha Stewart I believe and then bought and baked many things from their cook book. It's way out in Red Hook Brooklyn. It probably took us 30-45 minutes to get there if you count the walking all the way to the train then the train ride then the long trek through the ghetto to get to it. All I kept thinking was how is this place going to be over here, this is a terrible neighborhood? The other thing I kept thinking is why the hell Red Hook? This was like one street in the hood that was decent. We really didn't walk around much once we got there so maybe there was something I missed but it sure seemed shady to me.
The bakery was everything I hoped for and more. I wanted to try everything. Jason got a chocolate, rice crispy, peanut butter bar. It was sort of like a scotcharoo how it was put together. At first, all I got was the one thing I wanted and that was the salted caramel brownie. I bought that, then decided I couldn't really not try their chocolate chip cookie, and then there was this piece of bundt cake (last slice, too) sitting right by the register calling my name. Burnt caramel bundt cake with a caramel buttercream.

It was super dense with a dense crumb. The icing really didn't taste like much to me other than sweet and the cake didn't really taste much like caramel but it was good. I liked it much better without the icing which surprised me because I usually love icing. I think this particular one was just far to sugary for me. Not sure, but it was good. I have to say, when I did finally try the cookie it was out of this world and for the brownie, it was divine too. It tasted like when you make the box mix and if you eat one right when it's out of the oven. Really fudgy. It was very dense and rich. I loved it. Glad I tried a few things. It was worth the trip, even though I wondered if I was going to make it there alive.

We opted to take the city bus back to a part of Brooklyn called Williamsburg. We have always wanted to check it out. Jason read about this cooking store called Brooklyn Kitchen. It was awesome. Right when you walk in you smell the most amazing smell. Like smoked cooking bacon or something. I don't know what it was but man, this meat looked so good. What I wouldn't give to have a selection like that around. Dangerous for the pocketbook but good for the body. They had tons of interesting cooking ingredients and gadgits. The upstairs was dedicated to the baker. They even had a kitchen up there for demos and classes. It was a really nice place and if you love cooking I would highly recommend visiting this place.
We walked around Williamsburg for awhile. It was a lot of high end boutique shops. Reminded me of Bucktown. It was nice to be out walking, but at this point of the day I felt like I couldn't go on. This was the most walking we had done our entire trip. It was crazy. Up and down the subway stairs, up and down the sidewalks from here to there. Me being 16 weeks pregnant didn't help the matter. Usually I would have been fine. So we headed back to Manhattan for dinner.
We finally hit up the last of our Momofuku restaurants. Well, other than the newest one that we didn't get a chance to make it up to. Ssam bar was recently rated number 26 on a list of the Top 50 Best Restaurants in the World. I would say that says a little something.

The first dish we had was fried baby artichokes with pistachio, sunchokes, bottarga. You can pretty much assume that nothing is going to be ordinary when it comes to David Chang. This was a delicious and light dish. Tons of crisp and tons of flavor.

Ok and this is where we really start to become gluttons. We couldn't decide between these two so we got them both which I was kicking myself for later. The first one was bread & butter with sea salt butter and whipped lardo. Can I just tell you that this was pure heaven. I would never eat anything like this in a million years but I did and it was insane. I don't know exactly what goes into make whipped lardo, and I don't want to, but it was so good. And the two of them together was pure heaven. But not only did we order that, we had to order the edward’s wigwam country ham. Can I just tell you that bread smeared with a little lardo, butter, and ham was like heaven in my mouth. It was really enjoyable to sit and eat that.

The last dish was Jason's choice. He really wanted to try it. This was tripe with crushed peanuts. It was interesting. In case you don't know what tripe is, it's beef tendon. Yeah, weird I know. One reason I would have never ordered it. But I have to say, it was really tasty. I was a little put off by the texture and it was served cold like a salad which I also found a little ofputting but overall it was a really tasty dish. The tendon was actually really tender and almost like a noodle. Intersting.

After dinner we headed off to Time Sqauare for our first Broadway show: In The Heights. It was really really good I must say and the winner of 4 Tony Awards. I would highly recommend it to anyone and our seats were killer. They were center stage and not too far back. It was a small theatre too which helped. I am really happy we went.

We started our final day off with bagels. We really wanted to try a new bagel joint and had seen this one on tv and thought it looked good. I have to say I have never had a harder time eating bread in my life. This would explain people eating theirs one half at a time and I don't mean like you see in the picture here, I mean like take the top off and eat the bottom and then the top. It was the toughest bagel ever. I felt like my jaw was going to dislocate itself trying to chew the damn thing. I would not recommend this place to anyone. Hey, but we tried it.
We headed up to Zabar's to pick up some black and white cookies for people back home, especially Lucy since that is the only thing she asked for. They have the best ones in the city.

Then we got to go to a bakery I was really pumped about. Levain Bakery, which is known for their super heavy cookies that are almost raw in the middle. They were probably one of the best cookies of my life. I bought two of them. I was so happy I did because I got to enjoy one days after coming home from our trip. These cookies are to die for. I am so sad to know that it costs a whopping $47.52 just to order 4 cookies. $22 for the cookies themselves and $25.62 for shipping. Outrageous but one day you never know, I may crave them enough that I just go for it.
At the end of our trip we wanted to see Battery Park so we headed on down there after the cookies. It was really neat. Lots and lots of tourists though. This is where you get on the boats to Ellis Island so the there was a line weaving in and out of the entire park. I don't know how they get through everyone and I don't know how long most people end up waiting but man, I can't even imagine. It was really neat to see. They had a sculpture from the World Trade Center that was all magled from the attack. That was very somber.
This was really a great trip. I always hold the memories we make on these trips close to my heart because it's something that me and Jason share a love for and will always remember. I look forward to our next visit. I am not sure when that will be with little Miles on the way, but I know it will be down the road somewhere.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this looks awesome! I would have loved to try out Ssam Bar, Di Farra and Babbo. Looks like CraftBar was a little disappointing, that's too bad.

    We did very similar things one day - dumplings in Chinatown then fancypants pizza for dinner! Except we went to Prosperity Dumplings then Motorino :D