Scrumptious Snapshots from New York, Part I

Eating my way through New York, including this pasta at Eataly.

NEW YORK, NY — Yes, the hubby (aka Meat Boy) and I sneaked off to New York last week for one of the first real vacations we’ve had in a long time.

By that, I mean it was a trip that didn’t solely revolve around my work as a food writer. Instead, it was merely for relaxation and enjoyment — plus lots of good eats, of course. To make sure I actually did take time off, I wasn’t allowed to lug around my usual heavy camera, but only a tiny point-and-shoot. I had to ration my shots, too. After all, it’s not really a vacation if it’s viewed only through the lens of a camera and not the full spectrum of your own eyes.

Hope you enjoy the highlights:

When in New York, you've gotta have a bagel. Or two. Or...

Barney Greengrass

After taking the red-eye from San Jose to New York, we caught a couple of hours of shut-eye at our hotel before venturing to this 100-year-old institution. If you’re in New York, you’ve got to have a bagel or two, right? And what better place than at Barney Greengrass, famed for its smoked sturgeon.

Grab a table where you can at this tightly packed store flanked by deli cases.

My famished husband tore into a plate of smoked sturgeon scrambled with eggs and onions ($18.50), plus a bagel on the side, while I noshed on a sesame bagel stuffed with cream cheese, capers, onion, tomato, smoked sturgeon and Nova Scotia salmon ($20.75). Hello, New York!

BaoHaus

Chinese steamed buns filled with all manner of inventive fillings is the bill of fare at the shoebox-size BaoHaus started by the irreverent, lawyer-turned-street food-restaurateur Eddie Huang and his brother, Evan.

The zany artwork at BaoHaus.

Steamed buns filled with fried chicken (back) and pork belly (front).

The “Chairman Bao” ($2.99) is a fluffy white bun caressing juicy braised pork belly, cilantro, crushed peanuts and a hit of Taiwanese red sugar.

The “Birdhaus’ bao” ($2.99) is even better because the crunchy chicken skin adds a wonderful contrast to the pillowy bun.

The Cannibal

It’s a speakeasy for carnivores. Dimly lit, the Cannibal specializes in small plates and unusual craft beers. It’s also part-meat market, where you can pick up aged rib-eye or sausages to take home to cook.

The food is lusty, but can add up in price quickly if you order a lot of dishes, especially because many are on the skimpy size.

The lamb neck terrine with Szechuan peppercorns and cumin was outstanding, but at $11, it amounted to one thin slice. It’s so good, you can’t help but want more, too.

The signature “Cannibal Dogs” brings two hot dogs ($14), dressed with beef heart, beef chili, onion and mustard. The dogs have great snap and deep flavor.

A serving of Pecorino Foglie Di Noce raw sheep’s milk cheese from Italy is more like a sliver. And it’s $7.

Mad. Sq. Eats

May 4 through June 1, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Madison Square Park is the place to be to sample all manner of food stands in one spot.

Some of Manhattan’s and Brooklyn’s best-known artisan purveyors set up shop in the park at Mad. Sq. Eats, dishing up everything from Hong Kong Street Cart dumplings to Calexico tacos to Bar Suzette crepes.

Madison Square Park is the gathering for all manner of food carts.

It’s such a civilized scene, too, with colorful Marimekko tablecloths and umbrellas set up for dining.

Montreal-style brisket sandwich.

A picnic of lobster salad.

Meat Boy enjoyed — what else — a Montreal-style smoked brisket sandwich ($12) from Brooklyn’s Mile End deli stand.

Yours truly indulged in a lobster Nicoise salad ($18) from Red Hook Lobster Pound, which had quite a generous amount of lobster meat.

Brasserie Les Halles

No, we didn’t spot Anthony Bourdain at the classic French bistro, where he rose to fame while writing, “Kitchen Confidential.”

The one and only Les Halles.

Salad Nicoise at Les Halles.

But we much enjoyed a fine lunch at Brasserie Les Halles of a classic salad Nicoise ($16) and fried fish sandwich tucked between a toasted roll smeared with caper mayonnaise ($16).

Maialino

You know you’re in good hands when you’re at a Danny Meyer’s restaurant. And you know it has to be good when you spy the chefs from Minetta Tavern dining there, too.

Maialino specializes in Roman-style cooking.

The pastas will leave you swooning, particularly the “Malfatti al Maialino” ($23), torn pieces of thin, tender pasta tossed with slivers of sucking pig and fresh baby arugula.

Save room for dessert. Bomboloni ($10) come six to an order, all crisp, golden and hot out of the fryer with warm cider syrup for dipping. You tell yourself you can’t possibly eat all six, even with help from your husband. But after you bite into the first one, as airy and ethereal as the interior of a cream puff, you’re done for. You are finishing the plate. No question about it.

Eataly

This food emporium is smaller than I expected, but large by New York standards. Eataly is essentially a gourmet Italian market with restaurants interspersed within it.

You’ll go green with envy looking at the dried pasta and fresh meat selections, wanting to somehow tote it all home with you in your suitcase.

After a half hour wait, we snagged a table at the bustling La Pizza & Pasta. You can order pizza and/or pasta, but they are prepared in separate kitchens, so both may show up at once on your table, the server warned.

Pizza at Eataly.

Capping the night off with gelato.

We shared a short rib ragu over house-made pasta ($18), a fantastic dish imbued with hearty, developed flavors.

The “Ventura” Neopolitan pizza ($19) came out blistered on the edges and topped with mozzarella, Parma ham, arugula and Parmigiano Reggiano. We found the crust more bread-like than expected and not quite as thin and crisp as we would have liked.

Afterward, we walked over to the Gelateria to end the night on a scoop of pistachio and another of almond-ricotta.

Russ and Daughters

In business since 1914, Russ and Daughters is a smoked fish lover’s dream.

Run by the Russ family for nearly a century, it’s a New York experience that shouldn’t be missed.

A sandwich to remember.

You’ll find more types of smoked fish than you ever knew existed. Order a bagel or bialy sandwich as I did, and choose from more than half a dozen cream cheeses to spread on it, including tofu cream cheese, goat cream cheese and horseradish cream cheese.

I’m still dreaming of the “Daughter’s Delight” ($15.75) that I enjoyed: a bialy sandwiching Gaspe Nova salmon, wild Alaskan salmon roe and scallion cream cheese.

Hill Country Chicken

Got a hankering for fried chicken? You’d do well to make a beeline to the fast-casual Hill Country Chicken. My husband did — twice. That’s how tasty the fried chicken is here, which you can order by the piece ($1.50 to $5.50).

Don’t forget to get a buttermilk biscuit ($1), a drop version that tastes oh-so buttery.

Katz’s Deli

You know it as the setting for a particularly immortal scene between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal from “When Sally Met Harry.”

And for being the house of pastrami.

Remember this movie scene?

A deli that doesn't get more old-school.

Photos and tchotchkes line the walls.

When you order your sandwich ($15.75) at the counter at Katz’s, the guy making it will slice off a sliver of pastrami to let you try it first to make sure it’s to your liking. How could it not be? Thickly cut, tender and bursting with juice, it’s a rarity today — a hand-cut pastrami sandwich made to your specifications.

Pastrami doesn't get better than this.

It comes with a plate of big, fat pickles you won’t be able to keep your hands off of.

Empellon Cocina

How does a former pastry chef for Wd-50 in Manhattan and Alinea in Chicago wind up making Mexican food?

Alex Stupak has done just that at Empellon Cocina in the East Village — and exceedingly well.

We’re talking made-to-order guacamole with the inspired touch of pistachios. Served with house-made masa crisps, it will spoil you for any other guac ever again.

Don’t pass up the juicy rabbit with shiitake-poblano stuffing, either.

Le Bernardin

Our one big splurge meal.

For my (early) birthday celebration.

A magical evening.

Le Bernardin’s chef’s tasting menu ($190 per person) is all that you imagine and more. Highlights included the most exquisite, tender octopus I’ve ever eaten; plus Wagyu tartare crowned with Osetra caviar; and a riff on Japanese chawanmushi with quivering yuzu custard, more seafood and a smoked bonito broth I wanted to splurp up even while dressed in a form-fitting black cocktail dress.

The hubby put the kibosh on photos, telling me to just to sit back and enjoy.

I did, too, particularly when the dashing Chef Eric Ripert came by the table to chat.

What more could a gal want for her birthday than that?

More: Scrumptious Snapshots from New York, Part II

Plus: My Q&A with Eric Ripert

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Date: Tuesday, 15. May 2012 5:26
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Bakeries, Chefs, General, Great Finds, Meat, Pizza, Restaurants, Travel Adventures

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21 comments

  1. 1

    Loved reading about all the New York spots you enjoyed eating out. I just returned from a 3 night stay in NYC…my FIRST time! I was in AWE, and will definitely be back. I told my 3 girls (Disney lovers as we live in FL) that NYC is like Disney for grown ups!! :)

    Glad you had a great time!! Now…to get my hubby up there with me for a getaway would be AMAZING!!!

  2. 2

    Thanks you for basically doing reconnaissance for my trip in August – no need to do extra research, I will just print and go!

  3. 3

    Happy birthday! That looks like a fantastic trip of eats and I love your notion of carrying around a point and shoot vs. a full-sized camera to give yourself some time off. Given that point and shoot cameras have really improved in quality it’s a great way to still capture the important moments while still living in them. I’m always ashamed when I think about how much of a good moment I waste composing my shot, setting my ISO, etc.

  4. 4

    Denise: I LOVE that description of NY as a Disney for grown-ups. It is EXACTLY that. And every time you go, you STILL can’t get around to doing everything on the list. Ahh, but that makes for a great excuse to go back, doesn’t it?

    Andi: If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend “War Horse,” the Tony award-winning drama that’s at Lincoln Center. We were lucky to snag 40 percent off orchestra seats via the TKTS booth. Although the horses are life-size articulated puppets, it’s not long before you start believing they are real. People all around me were sobbing at various points. I, too, got teary. Yes, a puppet horse can actually get you that emotional. ;)

  5. 5

    Carolyn,

    What a wonderful trip. Does this mean you also will be back in NYC for June 3rd? Happy early Birthday! I’m so very glad that you and your hubby enjoyed yourselves. Food and photos are great. Someday, my daughter and I will have to make a trip East just for the food.

  6. 6

    Just one question…didn’t you have any desserts or pastries? For me a meal isn’t complete without dessert.

  7. 7

    What a wonderful trip! So glad you took a break from the pics and that pasta looked awesome. I remember my Katz sandwich being nearly twice as tall as yours, but that was over a decade ago.

  8. 8

    What an incredible food trip! I’m actually going to be in NY in early June and will definitely use your post as a guide!

  9. 9

    Oooooh, so jealous of your trip! Sounds like you ate your way around the Big Apple! I’m dying to try Eataly and that new Danny Myer place, and your dinner at Le Bernardin sounds like a great way to celebrate! (Happy birthday!) BTW, do you think that pork belly bun from Baohaus is better than Momofuku? When I first saw the picture, I thought, yay, she went back to Momofuku! But it wasn’t. If I go back to NYC, I’d definitely make a return trip for Momofuku’s pork belly bun.

  10. 10

    Ben: That’s a tough one. I would say the pork belly itself is quite succulent at both Momofuku and BaoHaus. The toppings differ: Momofuku has those wonderful pickled cucumbers while BaoHaus has sugar and chopped peanuts in the mix. Momofuku buns are a little easier to come by since there are a few locations you can get them, while BaoHaus has only the one locale. And BaoHaus has more filling variations, so if you want to get adventurous, that’s the one to go to.

  11. 11

    Wow Carolyn, great post and I love all the pictures…I so wish I could have a bite of every dish :)
    Thanks for sharing it and hope you are having a wonderful week!

  12. 12

    Oh please say you have a post dedicated solely to the Le Bernardin’s chef’s tasting menu. I want to see all of it.

  13. 13

    Before I forget, Happy Early Birthday! I know it was your vacation, but with the delicious food in front of you, you must feel itch to take pictures of it and it was hard to fully let go? :-) Having point and shoot make you feel a bit relaxed? Thanks for sharing all these eatery. I must visit NY one day. Looking forward to your Part II!

  14. 14

    Yes! Happy Birthday Carolyn! When traveling, half my excitement goes to the different food I get to try! I’ve never been to New York but I’m so desperate to make a trip there some day! The food does seem quite expensive though, especially the bagels!! I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised! haha.. Looks like you had a wonderful time!! :)

  15. 15

    I feel absurdly deprived that I LIVE in nyc and yet have been to so few of these! Need to get on that.

  16. 16

    i’m not sure there’s any better way to celebrate a birthday!

  17. 17

    Excuse me while I go tell my husband that we need to fly to New York as soon as possible! Drooling over here!

  18. 18

    Oh my goodness all of this food looks so delicious! Looks like you all are having such a wonderful time.The pictures are just great.

  19. 19

    Happy Birthday to you! Waw! New York! What a lovely trip for you! :) All of the deli’s, restaurants & food spots sound so amazing & tasty! thanks for this tasty post!

  20. 20

    Happy early birthday! I still think the chef’s tasting at Le Bernardin is one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. And the last time I was there for lunch ( just a couple months ago), I saw Eric Ripert for the first time!

    Thanks so much for this write up. I’m going to NYC in a week so I just may have to hit up some of these places! :)

  21. 21

    I can only imagine what a fantastic time you had. Happy early birthday, although that may not be the case. Thanks for sharing.

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