A few bites of the Apple

The recent radio silence – perhaps a welcome relief from my initial posts-per-week rate – can in part be attributed to a much-anticipated trip across the Pacific to the city so nice it was named twice.  Armed with a spreadsheet leaving little room for relaxation, and accompanied by a long-suffering travel companion (my younger sister), it’s safe to say that not a single opportunity for gluttony was wasted.  The sheer quantity of highlights on the food front makes bullet points the most appropriate format for a (chronological) round-up.

  • In LAX transit, airport food’s reputation was improved considerably at Wolfgang Puck Express, by way of a mushroom, goat cheese and rocket (OK, “arugula”) pizza.
  • A peach crumb muffin and apple crumb bar from Magnolia Bakery  (evidently they drop the “-le” from crumble States-side)  – yes, we forwent their signature item, the cupcake, for faintly more breakfast-appropriate options.
  • Crinkle cut cheese fries, washed down with Bud Light, at Yankee Stadium.  I felt my arteries harden with every bite.
  • Bagels from Ess-A-Bagel, consumed outside Tiffany’s (in homage to Audrey).  The queue told us were onto a good thing.  I had mine plain and toasted with strawberry cream cheese, and Sweet Tooth went for the cinnamon raisin option with chocolate chip cream cheese.

  • Pan-seared Montauk tuna caesar salad and a glass of Napa Valley sauvignon blanc (for comparative purposes) at Grand Central Oyster Bar, underneath Grand Central Station.  The fair-weather fish fan among us opted for the roast chicken, one of two non-seafood selections on the extensive menu.
  • New York cheesecake from Brooklyn Diner (inexplicably located near Times Square).  At 11pm.  Because there’s nothing like a healthy wedge of cheesecake to induce sleep.
  • A Red Hook Lobster Pound Maine lobster roll for me, and tacos for my sister, from Smorgasburg.  Something of a hipster food truck institution in Williamsburg, we happened upon a pop-up version at South Street Seaport.
  • The brilliantly-named Basic B ice cream (Mexican vanilla and black lava sea salt) from Ice and Vice on the Lower East Side.  Other flavours of note included Shiso Pretty and Milk Money $$$.
  • Cocktails, mini burgers and a cheese platter at The Palm Court at The Plaza.  My mint julep was served in a copper cup.  It cost $25 US.  Feeling like a character from The Great Gatsby almost justified the cost.
  • Toast from Underline, a café located (as the name suggests) under The High Line (a disused railway that has been converted into an inner city park and walkway).  To call it toast is to do it a disservice – try thick-sliced pain au levain, slathered generously with cinnamon ricotta, topped with fresh strawberries and pickled rhubarb, and finished with a trickle of maple syrup.   Sold.

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  • Intensely green split pea and spinach soup at Friedmans in Chelsea Market.  Unexpectedly served chilled, the shock of the first gulp was quickly replaced by satiated satisfaction.
  • More excellence on the icecream flavour name front at Big Gay Icecream.  I’d heard mention of the Salty Pimp (a dulce de leche-lined cone and vanilla soft serve, dipped in salted chocolate) and the Bea Arthur (the same base but dipped in crushed Nilla wafers) on an episode of Burnt Toast, Food52’s podcast, and could not rest until they were sampled.
  • Mexican at La Esquina.  Unbeknownst to me when I booked a table online, it’s a speakeasy: upon arrival at a nondescript taco joint, we approached a man standing by what looked like a door to the restrooms, and mentioned our reservation.  He picked up the phone, and waitress appeared at the door; she led us downstairs, through a kitchen, to a dimly-lit, cave-like bar and restaurant.  Feeling supremely in-the-know, we devoured queso fundido, plantain chips, and tacos, and overheard a woman at the table next door announce with a sigh that her doctor had recommended she lay off the Botox.

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  • Granola at Bluestone Lane, a chain of cafés run by Australian owners.  We visited the newest iteration, located in a converted church on the Upper East Side just along from the Guggenheim.
  • More creamy frozen treats at Milk Bar (I swear, the sweltering temperatures necessitated such conspicuous icecream consumption).  I had a crunchy cereal shake; as promised, it really did taste, delightfully, like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of cornflakes.
  • Pizza (in both fried and regular form), and an obligatory glass of red, at Eataly, Mario Batelli’s behemoth of an Italian food market.
  • A DKA (Dominique’s kouign amann) from Dominique Ansel, home of the cronut.
  • Matzo ball soup right where Harry met Sally, at Katz’s Deli.  The portion sizes of the beef brisket and pastrami sandwiches passing our table at regular intervals suggested that many a cow has sacrificed its life in the name of a hearty (kosher) meal at this famous joint.

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  • David Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar was superlative.  Buffalo pork buns with blue cheese, an heirloom tomato and plum salad, and a blackened bluefish sandwich with miso were polished off in no time, enhanced by the addition of the eponymous Ssäm sauce.
  • Emergency icecream from Morgenstern’s (it was still 30 degrees Celsius at 10pm and there was a queue down the street): salted caramel pretzel for me, bitter chocolate with salted caramel sauce for the sister.
  • A lovely brunch (smoked salmon and avocado on toast, and orange blossom pancakes) at Jack’s Wife Freda in the West Village.
  • I can attest that they do good icecream both sides of the East River: OddFellows in Williamsburg served a tasty caramelised white chocolate and roasted almond combo.
  • Much-acclaimed pizza at Roberta’s in Bushwick.  The purist went for the Margherita.  Swayed by the allure of heirloom tomato and prosciutto breadcrumbs, I had the Family Jewels and was so happy I did.

  • Almost scone-like chocolate chip and walnut cookies from Levain Bakery.  Given its proximity to our hotel, it was probably for the best that we didn’t discover it until the final days of the trip.
  • Confessional: I finally lost my Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough v-card at the U.S. Open.
  • The Black Label burger from Minetta Tavern had been recommended by at least two independent sources.  It did not disappoint.  The Rhubarb Sophie cocktail seemed compulsory for my trusty sidekick.
  • Breakfast at the austere Cafe Sabarsky.  In deference to the setting (the Austrian Neue Gallerie), I chose the apfelstrudel.
  • Peanut butter frrrozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3 (those rs are not a typo).  As indulgently ridiculous as it sounds, although perhaps not as ridiculous as the Golden Opulence Sundae, priced at a cool $1,000.00 U.S. (if only we’d been forewarned of the 48 hours’ notice required).
  • Soul food at Red Rooster in Harlem.  Spicy chicken wings, street corn, mac & greens, and Uncle G’s pastrami.  To commandeer the motto of another poultry-centric eatery, it was finger lickin’ good.

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  • Brunch at Sarabeth’s on the Upper West Side, in the form of morning crunch granola and coconut waffles with vanilla butter and mango.
  • A glorious dinner at ABC Kitchen in the Flatiron District.  Roast carrot and avocado salad with crunchy seeds, sour cream and citrus to start, followed by a spinach, herbs and goat cheese whole wheat pizza and fresh fettuccine with pistachio pesto, wax beans and cherry tomato, and a cookie plate and a faintly coconutty hot chocolate to finish.
  • Sticky buns and bagels from the institution that is Zabar’s as a fitting final meal (and don’t get me started on their cheese selection).

Then, armed with bus food in the form of M&Ms – both peanut butter and pretzel – and corn nuts, we jumped on a Greyhound to Washington DC for Labor Weekend.  The Capital’s culinary offerings did not disappoint:

  • We enjoyed a Puerto Rican feast at Mio: buñuelos de yuca (cheese-filled yucca fritters), chicken with charred corn salsa, arugula and crispy roasted sweet potatoes, and pionono de vegetales (roasted vegetables and cheese wrapped in ripe plaintains)
  • Toast again – this time with crème fraîche and berry compote – at Slipstream.
  • Not wanting to neglect our self-imposed icecream duties, gelato from Dolcezza.  Valrhona milk chocolate pearls and dulce de leche elevated my vanilla gelato to a thing of beauty.
  • #instafood: Shake Shack.  I had the Shake Stack (the best point of which was a crumbed portobello mushroom filled with cheese in addition to the regular beef patty) with crinkle cut fries.  The sister couldn’t go past the bacon in the SmokeShack.

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  • Zucchini bread and pumpkin ginger loaf from Baked & Wired in Georgetown.  Densely, moistly delicious.

A few beverage-related points of note:

In short, we certainly didn’t starve in The City That Doesn’t Sleep.  It’s a very Big Apple, though, and I can’t wait to return to nibble some more.

 

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A few bites of the Apple

3 thoughts on “A few bites of the Apple

  1. Petrina says:

    Wow you sure got around! Which boroughs did you visit and why did you choose them? I know many visitors don’t leave Manhattan but I feel I’d like to visit at least one more borough but unsure which one. Thanks. 😊

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    1. Hi Petrina – I too mainly stuck to Manhattan, but I do think Brooklyn is worth an explore (Park Slope, Prospect Park, Williamsburg, Dumbo, Bushwick) – and all accessible via a nice walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (or a subway ride on the E train). I would’ve loved to explore Queens too, but ran out of time!

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