In which we embrace the plant-base
(Oh hi, it’s been a while, we’re changing things on…
Here’s part two of our NYC eats!
The Breslin was conveniently located off the lobby of our hotel, so we decided to hang out for dinner one night. We found some seats in the bar and enjoyed French 75s and prosecco cocktails with blood orange liqueur and hibiscus syrup. The bar and the restaurant were definite hot-spots, full of young, hip New Yorkers and hotel guests dressed to the nines.
We started off with salt and cracked pepper crisps, which were just well-seasoned potato chips. We also had a crazy crisp bread with lardo to spread on top, which was awesome. But the best dish was the curried mussels with chickpeas, cilantro, and flatbread. The broth was stellar, the mussels plump, the chickpeas velvety. I think we might have licked the bowl clean.
We also shared seared char – I can’t remember the details of this dish, thanks to multiple prosecco cocktails, but I remember it was good. :) I do remember the creamed escarole side dish – I pretty much devoured it, twirling the greens around my fork and closing my eyes with each creamy bite. Dessert was a dark chocolate torte with toasted marshmallow ice cream, white chocolate ganache, and a biscuit. We really enjoyed this meal – the mussels and the escarole took it over the top. It also helped that home was just an elevator ride away.
Williamsburg was by far my favorite neighborhood, quaint and cute and clean and lovely. It was quiet on Sunday morning, when we stopped in for cappuccinos at Blue Bottle Coffee. It’s a lovely spot – the cafe itself is beautiful, and in the back is the open roasting warehouse. Justin thought that the cappuccinos at Stumptown were slightly better, but the atmosphere at Blue Bottle was great.
Bakeri. What can I say about this place without launching into a 10-page treatise? I. Loved. Bakeri. It was made for me – cozy and quaint, homey and feminine, comforting and lovely. The pastries were excellent, but the atmosphere sealed the deal. It was tiny – think of the tiniest cafe you’ve been in, then shrink it by half. Then add vintage mismatched plates and cups, cake stands loaded with lemon-ricotta-leek galettes and brioche, garlands of popcorn and cranberries, mirrors with ever-changing specials written on them, a baker in the back rolling out baguettes, tin cans filled with breadsticks, staff members wearing blue coveralls, and a never-ending line of people waiting for treats. It was wonderful, and I am busy scheming how to rope in a friend to create something similar in Austin.
We stopped into Mast Brothers, which was just as beautiful as I had imagined. I tasted a few bars, then stocked up on bar after bar of hand-wrapped chocolate.
Ippudo was swanky, super-cool, smooth and hip. We waited in the bar for our seats and sipped on Yebisu (an ode to Ai). The host was the coolest guy ever – Japanese (like the majority of guests and staff), with bleached-blond, slicked back hair, jeans that were worn in where he obviously always carried his iPhone, cigarettes, and wallet, a stylish infinity scarf, and super-awesome shoes. In fact, I found more amazing shoes here than anywhere else in town. These people were stylin’.
In the dining room, there are communal tables and bars, hip hop tunes, and waitstaff yelling out “Irasshaimase!” as guests entered. We ordered the shiromaru kakata classic – original “tonkotsu” ramen with pork belly, and the miso ramen with seasoned soft boiled egg. They. Were. Insane. The noodles were so flavorful, the broth so deep and sustaining, the toppings tender and flavorful. We slurped as quickly as we could, but still couldn’t keep up with the speedy Japanese eaters around us. Afterward, we sipped tea and jammed to the hip hop music – as we were leaving, Ice Cube’s It Was a Good Day came on, and I knew that I truly loved Ippudo.
We stopped in to the tiny Milk Bar and picked up crack pie, a compost cookie, a cornflake-marshmallow cookie, and a corn cookie. We ended up eating these throughout the trip – the crack pie was my hands-down favorite. It was like a pecan pie without the pecans. Of the cookies, we loved the compost and the cornflake-marshmallow the most.
On our last night in New York, we couldn’t decide where to eat. Should we take Kate up on her offer to get us into Spotted Pig? Should we try pizza at Franny’s or Paulie Gee’s? We ended up just walking to the subway and deciding there to catch the L train to Brooklyn. When we emerged, we realized we were too far from Paulie Gee’s to get there before closing, and too far from Franny’s to get there without freezing. So I pulled up my Google map and said, “Well, there’s an Osteria down the street.” And so we ended up at Osteria Il Paiolo.
It was pretty quiet, being a Sunday night, and we were seated right away. We had a rustic lentil soup drizzled with very good olive oil, and burrata smothered in shaved black truffles. Justin had potato gnocchi with lobster in tomato sauce, and I had house-made spaghetti with leeks and wild langoustine. The pasta was amazing – so tender-chewy, so flavorful, so well seasoned. We shared a chocolate cake with vanilla gelato for dessert.
After dinner, we made our way to Dram Bar, which I had singled out as a place I wanted to try for sure. It’s small and dark, but still beautiful and hip. We sat at the bar and chatted with Jeremy, the bartender, and tried out several cocktails. I started with a Loose Noose, made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, amontillado sherry, carpano antica, cinnamon, and allspice dram – it was perfect for a cold evening. Justin had a Oaxacan old-fashioned, made with tequila and mescal. We switched to sazeracs and last words, and then Jeremy made us each a little something special – another mescal drink for Justin, and a Greenpoint for me. I loved it so much that he gave me the recipe, for which I am seriously grateful. We had such a great time with him that Jeremy bought us a shot of El Dorado 12-year rum to end the night – which I couldn’t possibly shoot, so I sipped it gratefully and enjoyed its sweet caramel tones.
When we got back to the hotel, I was quite tipsy, so I needed some salty snacks. Thankfully, the Ace provided us with a bag of Utz potato chips. People! I’ve never had Utz before, but they are so good. They’re like a heartier Lays chip – still thin-cut potatoes, but somehow crunchier and perfectly salted. I’m going to be looking for these at Central Market.
On our last day in NYC, we stopped at Ess-a Bagel to have what several friends called “the best bagel in the city.” We shared a plain bagel (not toasted – it didn’t need it!) with lox spread, and it was perfect. The outside of the bagel is toasty, crispy – the inside chewy and dense. The lox spread was delicious – this kept us full until late afternoon, when we had to submit to horrible airport food before our trip home.
Ess-a Bagel is such a cute place. It was COVERED in Hanukkah decorations, and the line was huge. There was a line steward, yelling, “Close the line, people!” so that people would squeeze in ever-closer. The girl in front of us ordered a “whole wheat plain bagel, scooped out, with tuna” for lunch, and I loved the idea of someone coming here for their favorite tuna sandwich on a cold New York day.
So that’s pretty much what we ate! There may have been a few other things, but they’re not coming to mind at the moment. All of it was so much fun, and so inspiring for my own cooking and eating in Austin!