Well, my goal of posting each day while I was on the East Coast didn’t materialize. Surprisingly, for one of the most wired cities on the planet, my internet access was spotty. Then, when I finally arrived home, I realized the monumental task of editing and labeling the photos I took. So, yeah. I went a little shutterbug crazy. But the results, I’d like to think, are worth the wait.
Admittedly, I did get a little artsy with some of the photography. These iPhone camera apps are great.
Not all my photos will be of food. I’ll be adding a little scenery, too. Why the hell not.
On our first full day, Sister Haneen took Husband Steve & I up to the Hudson Valley to the FDR Library & Museum. We’d never been that far upstate so we were looking forward to it. It didn’t disappoint. It was a lovely, warm day.
Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside Springwood. Too bad, really. It’s quite lovely inside. It’s pretty much just stuck in the 1940’s.
But, as was typical of large homes built in the 19th century, the kitchen was separate from the rest of the house. We couldn’t go inside, but I could at least get a picture:
For those of you who are history buffs, like me, here’s FDR’s globe:
It was neat looking at a globe with countries that no longer exist.
After we were finished there, we got directions to the Eveready Diner. Apparently Guy Fieri filmed his show there once. I tried not to hold that against them.
I had the French Dip. It wasn’t the best I’d ever had. But, the food was good enough and the atmosphere was fairly quiet (but then, it was almost 3 in the afternoon). They’re apparently known for their pastries and desserts that they make in-house.
On our first foray into Manhattan, Husband & I enjoyed a lovely lunch at Eataly in the Flatiron District.
Admittedly, we indulged. Our appetizer (or, antipasti) was a ball of fresh mozzarella with fleur de sel, very fruity olive oil, and fresh basil.
Husband Steve had a lovely sea scallop with the coral broiled with orange-fennel butter.
My lunch was fresh sea urchin with a lemon vinaigrette.
We finished with the insalada tricolore. It was wonderful.
Eataly is a sensory delight. Even if Italian food isn’t your favorite. The fresh food counters, the packaged foods, the hundreds of different dried pastas, and all the restaurants make a trip to the grocery a pleasant experience again. That is, of you go before or between the lunch and dinner rushes.
The next day, we took a trip to the Seventh Level of Hell. Otherwise known as Times Square.
We headed to the Edison Cafe for lunch. It’s in the Edison Hotel right off of Times Square near the Theater District.
Husband Steve had the Reuben:
I had my usual whenever I go to a deli, a Corned Beef on Rye. Their corned beef was dry, but the flavor was good.
Now to share a little culture. Husband Steve & I took a long afternoon and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). I was excited because the museum just re-opened it’s Islamic Art wing as well as re-designed and refurbished its American Art wing. Can’t go wrong there.
On our way to Penn Station to catch the train back to New Jersey, we came across Cupcakes by Melissa
These were delicious little literally bite-sized cupcakes that come in 11 regular flavors and one “special flavor of the month”. We picked up a dozen to take back to share with Sister Haneen & Brother-in-Law Mark.
If you’re like me, you’ll be able to eat these in one bite. If you’re dainty like my Mom, two bites.
The next day, strolling through Chinatown, as always, I found some fun and interesting foods
The next day, a little more culture. MoMA
After MoMA, Steve & I went with our friend Rorie (who graciously came down from Boston for the day) to a place I’ve been wanting to try for years: Sake Bar Hagi.
They’re a late night place. Open at 5:30 pm until 3 am. You go down a stairwell to essentially an underground lair. We discovered the day before (during a bar crawl with Haneen & Mark) that if you don’t get there essentially when they open, count on at least a 45-minute wait. Minimum. So, we were there promptly at 5:30 and were the first table seated for the night. The place was packed within 20 minutes of our arrival.
When we left, about 90 minutes later, the line was up the stairs and out the door.
If you get an opportunity to go to Hagi, do it. The food’s great, the beer’s cold, and the service is, if not always attentive, it’s at least efficient.
Our next big food experience happened on a trip into Newark. Haneen said there was a restaurant in the Portuguese section of the city that she really liked. She made a great decision:
We each ordered our own entree. However, we had no idea how huge the plates were. The food was served on plates that were essentially meant to be passed around family style. There was enough food on each plate for two people. We each ate our fair share, though.
On Steve’s last evening in the City, we went to Central Park West & the Upper West Side. We were meeting a lady of whom I’m a huge fan, comedienne Maysoon Zayid. We were early, so we wandered around Central Park for a bit.
We went to Josie’s on Amsterdam & West 74th. I was told when it first opened in 1994, it was supposedly The Place To Go Restaurant for fresh ingredient foods. It was good, but nothing was a revelation for me. In fact, Maysoon had to send back her shrimp because it was bad. She did like the beet salad they substituted for her. And she also liked my pasta with pomodoro.
I was so engaged in conversation that I forgot to take pictures of the food.
A photo of us. The lighting doesn’t do Maysoon justice. She’s a beautiful woman.
For Steve’s final meal in New York City, we met up with my dear friend, the wonderful Kelly Ann (with whom I’d be bunking for the next week), and headed to Katz’s Deli for lunch. It’s very close to her place in the East Village, so it was a logical choice.
It’s touristy and pricey, but if you enjoy excellent corned beef & pastrami, it’s still the place to go.
And, yes. I ordered the Corned Beef. The best I’ve ever tasted. And a Chocolate Egg Cream? A must-have.
After Steve handed me off to Kelly and took the train back to NJ to fly back home, Kelly & I decided to begin our food adventures. I suggested a place that I’d heard about on Anthony Bourdain’s show.
The guys who opened the shop started out in a truck. They became so popular, they were able to open a brick-and-mortar.
I wish I had gotten a photo of what we had: The Salty Pimp. A cone with vanilla soft serve, laced with Dulche de Leche, sprinkled with Fleur de Sel, and dipped in chocolate. We ate it too fast for me to take a picture.
They have custom cones (like the Bea Arthur: vanilla soft serve, Nilla Wafers, Dulch de Leche, and Fleur de Sel), ice cream sandwiches, and a make-your own selection.
I saw two gentlemen standing outside near us eating the sandwiches. I asked how they were. They said great and offered Kelly & I a bite. After some initial hesitation, I took him up on his offer. It was red velvet cookies with the soft serve. Wow.
After a lovely conversation about ice cream, food, and the South, we parted company. Amazing how ice cream brings people together.
Needless to say, Kelly & I went back to BGIC 2 more times. Hey, it’s in her neighborhood. And it’s always good to shop at local businesses.
The next day, Thursday, was a long day. Kelly & I started at 8am and didn’t finish our day until 1am Friday. Because it was IACP Tour & Event Day.
Kelly assigned me to help out with the walking tours for the West Village, East Village, and to escort a group to Chef Hiroko Shimbo’s home for a Kaiseki (formal Japanese) Dinner. Kelly helped me out with the first part of the West Village tour, then she had to leave to take care of her own tours (so, we didn’t meet up again until late in the evening at the end of Hiroko’s dinner).
I was left in the very competent hands of the amazing Liz Young. She does bus & walking tours in the City (www.lizyoungtors.com). If you get the opportunity to take a tour with her, do it. Liz is just wonderful. And she knows the places to go. You won’t be disappointed.
We started in the West Village & Greenwich. Our first stop was Pasticceria Rocco.
They’ve been open since 1974 and are apparently world-famous for their cannoli. We were given a small custard pastry and coffee for samples. While I’m sure they have plenty of wonderful pastries, I wasn’t impressed by what we were given.
But, the counters were pretty.
Our next stop was Florence Meat Market on Jones Street. One of the last of the old-school butchers in NYC:
Next was Fiacco Pork Store on Bleecker. Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures of the samples – parmesan rice balls. They were delicious:
By this point in the day, I was already full.
Next was Murray’s Cheese Shop, also on Bleeker. It was gorgeous.
Next came Raffetto’s. It’s been around since 1906. Once you try their fresh pasta, you’ll know why. It was so good, it literally brought tears to my eyes.
After a little hike, we ended up at Joe’s Dairy on Sullivan Street. The great Vincent came out and acted as guru of mozzarella.
The final stop on the West Village Tour was Amorino Gelato by NYU. I didn’t have any because I was already full from everything else. But it sure looked good. The people on the tour enjoyed it.
Next, after a 30-minute rest, Liz & I headed out for the East Village walking tour.
We started at Veselka, an Eastern European restaurant on Second Street. It was opened in 1954 by Ukrainian immigrant Wolodymyr Darmochwal. His daughter and son-in-law still run the restaurant.
Our next stop was Pomme Frites on 2nd Ave. It’s one of my friend Kelly Ann’s favorite places to go. One of these days I’ll have to try their poutine.
Off we then wandered to the underground wonderland that’s Jimmy’s No. 43. You literally go down a flight of stairs on E. 7th into a cozy spot where you can get some wonderful craft beers, locally made sausages with fabulous mustards, and your amiable host, Jimmy Carbone.
One street over on St. Marks (essentially 8th Street), on the edge of Alphabet City, was Dumpling Man. Hand made dumplings.
We got a live demonstration from their head dumpling master. He was amazing to watch. Flying fingers, this guy had:
The dumplings there were so good, Kelly Ann & I ordered them for dinner three nights later. Great dipping sauces, too, by the way.
At this point, I left the tour. I had to go back to Kelly’s apartment to get ready for the event I’d been looking forward to all day. A Kaiseki Dinner at Hiroko Shimbo’s.
I had to escort a group of 13 to the dinner at Hiroko’s in the West Village. In the end, 3 went ahead of time and 4 took a cab, so I escorted the other 6 on the F Train to 16th Street. We arrived to a beautiful table, Hiroko playing hostess, and some awesome smells coming from the kitchen.
Hiroko was short an assistant that night. I was recruited to help. So, for me anyway, I got the best of both worlds. I still got to sit and enjoy a wonderful dinner as well as help Hiroko and her lovely assistant, Anna, in the kitchen.
Now, for the food. It was amazing. And, for me anyway, it was a revelation to have a Japanese dinner without tempura, yakatori, minimal sushi, and no beer.
It was a great reward for a very long day.
Kelly & I went back to the apartment and slept until almost noon the next day. We deserved it.
A few days later, on a very cold, drizzly day, Kelly & I took a trip to Chinatown. No trip to New York is complete until a walk through there. Plus, the food markets are a constant source of fascination for me.
We went to a restaurant I had on a list that I sent Kelly before my trip. (I always send a suggested list ahead of time. Kelly always has a list. They get merged into a list that’s always overambitious.)
The restaurant? Excellent Pork Chop. Other than the meal we got for free my last day, this was the least expensive meal of the trip.
They actually made us move to a different table because, as usual, we ordered way too much food.
My favorite thing about the restaurant? The shrine in the corner:
And, now, for the meal:
A little Chinatown culture:
Again, the markets are endlessly fascinating for me. The little dried vegetables, seafood, and meats; the preserved eggs, and the freshness of many of the ingredients are always a learning experience.
If you’ve been to NYC, then you know that Little Italy is not only next to Chinatown, but is essentially being swallowed up by it. There’s about 8 blocks of classic Little Italy left in Lower Manhattan. And I may be overestimating the size of the neighborhood.
But, even though the restaurants are almost all touristy – meaning sub-par and overpriced – there are at least still some shops that are clinging to the old ways.
And, of course, the shop windows are rather enticing. They make you want to eat again even though you’re full of Chinese Lunch.
The next day, Sunday, was our big goal day. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Kelly & I have done this before, but, at least for me, it’s still an exciting expedition.
But first, we were meeting our friends Cathy and Ray at Bottega Falai. A cute little pastry & sandwich shop in SoHo on Lafayette.
Off the subway and near the Brooklyn Bridge. Our ultimate goal? Grimaldi’s Pizza.
Touristy? Yeah. Delicious? Most definitely.
Our first stop in Brooklyn was at a restored carousel Kelly wanted to see.
Jane’s Carousel is a completely restored historic Carousel made in 1922. It’s a beautiful 3-row carousel near the East River between the Brooklyn & Manhattan Bridges (janescarousel.com)
Now, for a little public art:
After a bit more walking around, we finally ended up at our ultimate goal. Grimaldis.
The story of the queue. Yes, the line was long. It was also cold and damp. But, when you know you’re going to eat some damn good pizza, you’re willing to put up with a bit of discomfort.
After about 20 minutes in line, a manager from the restaurant started coming out and announcing numbers. Mostly 2. When Kelly & I were finally the first party of 2 in the queue, we got to go in ahead of most of the rest of the people. I couldn’t help but feel a little smug. And, we were grateful to get into a warm room.
We sat at a cozy little 4-top next to a lovely couple from Maryland.
After waiting for our waiter to stop flirting with two blondes at the bar, we finally got to put in our order.
By the way, we were really hungry. We had 4 pieces left. We took them back to Kelly’s. Of course.
The next day, Long Island City & Astoria in Queens. Because, why the hell not?
We went to a place under the El called 5 Pointz. It’s a group of buildings that have been set aside for graffiti artists. Some of their art is amazing. It’s a wonder what can be done with spray paint and some talent.
From Long Island City to Astoria:
Back in the East Village later that night, we went to what is considered to be one of the best Thai restaurants in the City, Zabb Elee, on 2nd Avenue. It was perfect after a very chilly day.
As our final outing for the evening, we went to Veniero’s on East 11th. One of the oldest Italian pastry shops in NYC. Open since 1894.
My final day in New York consisted of an excursion to Chelsea and the Meat Packing Districts. We went to Chelsea Market since I’ve never been before. It wasn’t what I expected.
It looked to me like offshoots of the restaurants in the area with a few gift shops thrown in for good measure. I wasn’t impressed. So, I didn’t feel the need to take any photos.
Kelly & I went to Pastis for a quick bite. A French Bistro that opened in the Meat Packing District in 1999. It’s a fairly large space that they claimed was half reserved for the evening and they weren’t setting anyone in that space. So, they were crowding everyone into the area around the bar. Then, of course, I saw them seating people in the roped off section. Either evening came early or we weren’t pretty enough to sit there.
Snark aside, when we finally did get our food (our waiter forgot to turn in our order), it was quite good. But then, it’s hard to mess up a ham & cheese croissant. And, Kelly missed out on her poached eggs. They ran out.
But, we did get our brunch for free. I’d like to give them another shot on another trip. Maybe lunch.
We then went, for my last excursion, to the Highline. It’s an old elevated railway that was converted into an elevated walkway and park. A wonderful example of urban renewal.
After a rather convoluted trip home that consisted of getting stuck in traffic and missing my flight from JFK, getting rerouted, having to spend the night at my parents, and getting home 14 hours later than I originally planned, I made it home to Austin.
As much as I enjoyed my trip, I was very happy to be home. But, if someone offered me a ticket to go back tomorrow, I’d take it.
I’ll have more pictures posted soon on my photo page.