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NYC Food, Part 2

Here’s part two of our NYC eats!

The Breslin

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.

Blue Bottle Coffee

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

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.

Mast Brothers Chocolate

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 NY

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.

Momofuku Milk Bar

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.

Osteria Il Paiolo

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.

Dram Bar

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.

Utz Potato Chips

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.

Ess-a Bagel

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!

NYC Food, Part 1

We ate a ton in NYC. We only had five days, but we packed as much food as possible into them!

I have very few photos, but I wanted to remember all the lovely things we tasted, so I’m writing about them here. :)

Sushi  Yasuda

This was one of the most zen-like restaurants I’ve ever been in. Everything was bamboo – walls, ceiling, bar, tables. There was a beautiful ikebana sculpture on display, and no sign on the awning outside – just a stamped image of a fish. We shared sake, which was poured into tiny little bowls. We ordered the flash-fried fluke bones for an appetizer – they were so delicately crunchy but still somehow fatty – like very thin slices of chicharron. We opted for the omakase dinner, and received a platter of sashimi, one of sushi, grilled fresh water eel, and a crisp maki of fatty tuna and scallion. The fish was impeccably fresh, and the flavors so delicate – it just melted in your mouth. Afterward, we sipped tea and talked about the flakiness of the shredded crab, the creaminess of the uni, the perfection of the rice.

Cocoron

Our friends Nat and Erin introduced us to this place – it was insanely awesome! It’s a teeny tiny place (like so many places in NY). We started with home made silky tofu topped with scallions, ginger, and nori, plus pork croquettes. The main thing here is the soba – we all opted for warm soba with hot dipping sauce. The noodles come perfectly cooked, ready to dip into the bowl of simmering dipping broth. My chicken and burdock root sauce was like crack – sooooo delicious. Justin opted for pork kimchee broth, spicy and meaty. Once you’ve finished your noodles, you’re bound to have a bit of dipping broth left – so they give you a tiny kettle of hot water to add to the broth, which makes it into a delectable soup that you can then slurp. Someone in Austin, please make this dish!!

Tofu Vendor in Chinatown

Nat had to stop at this little shop selling hot sweet tofu. We ended up with a tub of warm, silky tofu, and a tiny bowl of sugar syrup to pour over the top. It was like a silky pudding, and it was nicely warming on a cold day.

John Dory Oyster Bar

We stopped at this spot underneath our hotel for a snack before our late dinner at Prune. We shared half a dozen oysters, plus deliciously chewy whelks dipped in parsley-garlic butter. The castelvetrano olives with spices and tomato were too salty, and the parsley and anchovy toast did nothing for us except get parsley stuck in our teeth. But it was worth it for the whelks, the glass of bubbly, and sitting next to Kate, who is a restaurateur and music expert, who is hilarious and witty, who knows Jay-Z and Robert DeNiro, who offered to get us in without a wait at Spotted Pig, who is semi-retired at the age of 35, who told us about the jewelry shop across the street that advertised their wares in one-word sentences (“Bracelet.” “Earring.” “Necklace.”), who provided a Russian voice for the crazy man outside the window who was standing in the street in an expensive trench coat (“Ver is my driver? Ver is he?”), and who was just all-around lovely.

PKNY

This tiny tiki bar is one of the coziest spots we found. The entrance isn’t easy to spot, but once you’re inside, you’re surrounded by all things tiki. The drinks are serious here – both very strong and very authentic. Valentin and Natalie were behind the bar, whipping up all kinds of glorious things. I had a piña colada – which was made with fresh pineapple juice and house-made cream of coconut, blended and poured into a hollowed-out pineapple and topped with so many garnishes it was crazy. Justin had the Jet Pilot, made with lime and grapefruit juices, rum, cinnamon syrup, and other goodies. We chatted with Valentin for a bit, and he said we should come back after dinner, and he’d make sure we’d get in (the line is often out the door), and he’d buy us our first round. Of course we came back after dinner.

When we returned, the bouncer with a froggy voice asked us how our dinner was and ushered us right in – we sat at the bar and Valentin made us a Missionary’s Downfall (minty-pineapple goodness) and a Cuban Anole (rum and cinnamon and orgeat, oh my). We chatted some more, and he made us two drinks he’s been working on – for me, a mix between a piña colada and a mai tai, for Justin, a tequila-mezcal drink with cholula and sriracha. Insanely good. There was a group next to us sipping from a ginormous punch bowl with a dozen straws. Oddly enough, you can get most of the recipes for their drinks here.

Prune

After reading Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, I dreamed of eating at her restaurant, Prune. Needless to say, this was the first reservation I made when I knew we were headed to NYC.

Prune is tiny. It’s cute and lovely and lively and somehow feminine. The seating is so tight that the hostess had to pull out our table so that Justin could slip in. We were inches away from the tables next to us, which means we got the full argument of the couple next to us (she wants more from him, he doesn’t want to commit), but somehow it was still great.

And the food! Oh, the food. It’s as if Chef Hamilton is saying, “Here is this great ingredient. Taste it. There is no foam or aioli or topping or sauce that will make this any better than it already is. Just taste it.”

We shared the bone marrow with parsley salad and sea salt. Justin swears this was the best bone marrow he’s ever had – and I agree, it was divine. But my heart goes to the Trippa Milanese. It was tender, chewy strips of tripe, cooked with carrots and potatoes. I could have eaten a gallon of this. The flavor starts out like my mom’s chicken soup – simple but perfectly seasoned, with tender potatoes and carrots – but then ends with the chewiness and meatiness of the tripe. Oh, this dish. [sigh]

Justin had the grouper next, with a ginger-chili-cilantro broth, plus cabbage and potatoes. So perfect. I had the braised rabbit legs in vinegar sauce – the “sauce” was more of a broth, with thin slices of cornichon. The rabbit was juicy and tender and delicious.

And dessert! Oh, holy, the dessert. Candied pumpkin with sugared “hay” (which was sweetened, cardamom-scented crispy phyllo shreds), with a dollop of Greek yogurt and honey. Outstanding. This is the food I will miss the most. Simply but impeccably done.

Katz’s Deli

After the eleventy-four tiki drinks of the evening, we needed some food before our subway ride back to the hotel. Since it was sometime in the wee hours of the morning, we headed to Katz’s. Ned had told me I must order the pastrami on rye with extra Russian dressing and a Dr. Brown’s cherry soda. And so I did. At the counter, the deli guy gave us a slice of pastrami to taste – I honestly believe I had not tasted true pastrami until that moment. So tender! So rich!

The sandwich was perfect, the sour pickles perky, the soda sweet and refreshing. And it was equally fun to see people freak out when it was time to pay, and they had lost their meal ticket, and the big burly bouncers at the door would insist that they present a meal ticket before they could leave, and they would finally find it in some back pocket and all would be well.

Stumptown

We were incredibly lucky to have Stumptown at the bottom of our hotel. The line every morning was out the door, but the coffee was worth it. People, their mochas are insane. They add a huge spoonful of ganache made especially for them by Mast Brothers Chocolate, plus a sprinkling of cinnamon to the espresso and steamed milk. It tasted like a bittersweet chocolate bar doused in coffee. I’m going to try plopping a shard of dark chocolate into my coffee tomorrow and see how it goes.

Also of note is the Stumptown barista fashion – all of them wear hip hats, awesome shoes, suspenders, mustaches, black tights. I think Stumptown only hires beautiful people.

Old Yeah Shanghai Deluxe

Erin and Nat also introduced us to this corner spot in Chinatown, with its lazy-Susan tables and heaping baskets of dim sum. We came here specifically for soup dumplings, and they did not disappoint. How do they get soup inside a dumpling?! You pop the whole thing in your mouth and out bursts lovely soup. (Careful! They’re hot!) We also had pork dumplings and pea shoot dumplings and cuttlefish with salt and pepper and sweet red bean pancakes and tea… it was so cozy and warm in there, which was good, because it was about 24 degrees outside that day.

Grand Central Oyster Bar

We stopped here with Erin and Nat after walking a bit of the High Line. It feels like an old steak house, with paneled wood and a saloon. Justin and I shared a dozen oysters – unfortunately, a few of them were milky and quite disgusting, but at least the bubbly was good. We were also exhausted at this point, so we didn’t order anything else.

Whew! Next up, part 2!

New York.

Hello, internets! We are home from New York City. I can’t even begin to describe it… it was fantastic.

I saw, felt, tasted, experienced, heard, and was touched by so many things, I feel like I could write a book about these past five days. And so I’ve decided to put together a scrapbook of sorts, full of ephemera and photos and moments and things.

I was so captivated by the city – so busy experiencing it – that my camera never left its case. I did snap some shots with my iPhone, and I think we captured a few videos, but for the most part, all of the memories are tucked away in my mind.

How can I really show you the people tucked away on a sidewalk in Chinatown, fixing shoes, cutting soles from rubber, while a well-dressed young woman sat nearby on a crate with one boot on and one boot off? How can I describe the excitement of seeing fresh whelks on ice in a Chinatown market, then pulling them out of their shells and dunking them in parsley butter at an oyster bar uptown? How can I capture the lone trumpet player in the subway, playing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” while we waited for the train, hand in hand, tired and happy and inspired? Or the taste of a perfectly pulled espresso mixed with ganache made from Mast Brothers chocolate and cinnamon? Or the man behind the counter who handed me my bagel, wished me a Merry Christmas, and gave me a wink? Or the accent of the woman at the cash register… “Nexta, pliz! Nexta!” Or the group of Asian senior citizens atop a Christmas float, all dressed as Santas, dancing and singing to Christmas tunes? Or the biting cold of 24 degrees F, and the warmth of a steaming bowl of ramen?

Oh, internets, New York was lovely. I can’t wait to tell you more about it, to journal about it (and about what we ate!), to put together a scrapbook, to put all my ideas into place. Cranberry-popcorn garlands and paper snowflakes, toasted marshmallow ice cream and jalapeño mignonette, handmade books and Nina Simone on vinyl. I want to remember it all.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, too!

Day in my life

I loved this story in the Huffington Post that chronicled Sean Henry’s week. I decided to chronicle my day with a journal and my iPhone. Because I’m a nerd like that, and I love minutiae.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

8:45a – Force myself out of our warm, cozy bed. Shower, find clothing, do make up and hair. Justin has brewed coffee in the Chemex and washed the dishes. I eat a quick breakfast of coffee and toast. Out the door by 9:45.

French vanilla Silk creamer is the best.

10:00a - Meet with Kayo and Alex at Komé. Laugh about how I was just there for dinner last night. Talk about recipes, restaurant background, and Japanese culture. I decide to wait around for lunch service, so Kayo lends me a Japanese cooking magazine to peruse while I wait.

I wish I could read this.

11:00a – I enjoy the miso ramen and a lovely chat with my friend (and waiter) J. We agree that our favorite desserts are good old American desserts, and specifically Jodi’s desserts. We plot ways to get more of her desserts in our daily diet. Two elderly Japanese women sit at a table nearby, quietly giggling over hot tea and lunch.

Kayo says it’s okay to slurp!

11:30a – I receive a text letting me know that my noon meeting needs to be rescheduled, so I decide to run a few fun errands.

12:00p – Visit Half-Price books, looking for a specific book for a friend. Miraculously, I find it (!), plus a few books and old magazines for myself. I plan to peruse the magazines, then cut them up for my journal.

1:00p – Decide to visit Goodwill, since it’s right next door. Score two lovely plates and a coffee cup, all for under $2.50. Do a happy jig. The cashier randomly asks me if my husband smokes; when I say no, she says I am very lucky.

2:00p – Refuel at Starbucks. I got my usual iced tall soy mocha, but forgot to specify only one pump of chocolate, so it’s super-sweet. Don’t worry, I still drank it all.

2:10p – Stop at Central Market for ingredients for tonight’s soup, plus a few goodies for a faraway friend. Decide I really need a packet of Cyprus flake salt. You know, just in case.

3:00p – Home! I get to work contacting chefs and PR firms, organizing recipes and interviews, setting up new appointments, and other such book-work. I snack on Goldfish crackers, because my life is not complete without Goldfish crackers.

5:10p – Take a break from work to do some writing for a side project. I love writing. Most of the time.

5:30p – Justin gets home, and we talk about the day. He’s brought wine, gin, and elderflower liqueur. We ooh and aah over my thrift and book store finds as well as the day’s mail, which includes a new Comm Arts and a vintage book.

Lovely plates and the first of my pyrex mug collection.

5:55p – I start making dinner – hominy, chile and tomato soup. I toast cumin seeds and grind them in a mortar and pestle. Chop onions and garlic and chiles. Stir and simmer and cook. As the soup cooks, I make simple syrup for the fridge, then test a cocktail recipe for the book. It’s a bit sweet, but it’s still very tasty. It passes the test.

6:40p - Back to the computer and writing while the soup simmers. Justin snacks on an oatmeal-chocolate chip cookie. The kittehs roam around, bored. I check Facebook and Twitter. (Hi peeps!)

7:00p - Dinner! Discussions include: The difference between lunchtime basketball at the YMCA and high school basketball; people who are hard to read; the fact that we now use our toaster oven instead of our cast-iron skillet to heat up tortillas, and how sad our skillet must feel; random cute things that the kittehs have done recently; my realization that I need a cup of coffee in the morning and then again at lunch to stay alert, then later will need a cup of Sleepytime tea to get to sleep, and how maybe that means I have sleep issues.

Soup and lime and avocado and tortilla.

7:50p – Justin cleans up after dinner (I cook, he cleans). Then he and Roux play the smelling game. He brings random things to Roux, and Roux smells them. That’s it. (We are old and easily amused.) Tonight Roux is not interested in simple syrup or wooden tongs. He squenches his eyes at a lime wedge. When Justin lets him smell a cookie, he swipes at it, then stands on two legs to try to reach it. Roux loooooooves sweets. One time I left muffins cooling on the counter while we went out, and when we came back, there was one on the floor with the top eaten off it. Roux.

8:00p – Catch up on blogs and Pinterest. Highlights:

9:00p – Research/prep for tomorrow’s meetings.

9:30p – Crosswords, magazines, chat.

Jai alai – a clue that’s in sooooo many crosswords.

10:20p - Tea, magazine, and oatmeal chocolate-chip cookie. I let Justin smell/taste my Sleepytime Vanilla tea, and he says, “it smells like you, drinking tea while putting on vanilla lotion.” I’m not sure if I’ve ever really done this.

11:00p – Everyone is winding down, except Justin. He goes downstairs to work, because when creativity calls, he answers. I blog, then head to bed with my copy of Moby Dick, my phone (for playing Tap N’ Pop), two kittehs, and my journal.

No legs!

Good night, everyone!