A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of escaping to New York City for the weekend. While trying to upload my pictures to my email, I crashed my mailbox (what, who of you don't have 13,783 emails in your inbox?) and thought I lost the bunch. But they're back! So now I can tell you AND show you some tasty East Coast adventures.
Being foodiphiles, we are the planners, are we not? Don't you find yourself planning your trips around your dining destinations and reservation opportunities? Well, let's just say that for the first time in my life, I decided to throw chance a glance and see what happened. I had no reservations. Being that I was meeting up with my bestie Dr. Pepper (really, she's a doc, I swear) from Portlandia and her sister, a Queens local and NYU alumnus, it wasn't supposed to be a food-centric trip anyway. OK, so it mildly ends up being that no matter what, but I tried to let go.
With full disclosure, I did dial up Zimmern in the cab from JFK just to see if he had any super secret spots that were off the radar or good duck-in joints. He did not disappoint.
We started our first day with a lunch at Eataly. Yes, it's as splendiferous as everyone says it is. There are cases and cases of gorgeous cheese, salumi/salami as far as the eye can see, and an absolute crush of people. We ended up scoring the last two seats at the Manzo bar and got to ordering: carpaccio with Parmigianino and lardo, soft and lovely alongside a salad of wild arugula and artichokes. Plus some agnolotti filled with veal for the win. As we were leaving, we noticed a vegetable butcher. Genius. You buy your veg from the market, bring it over to him, and he'll wash and chop it to your standards for free, "Might you brunoise this carrot?"
While I would have been happy eating again at the nearby Shake Shack, we ended up on the roof deck of 230 Fifth with a sick view of the Empire State Building. It was windy and cold, but they provided fleece blankets on every seat, and even red plush robes at the door. Posh. Later, after some freaky experimental theater, we found ourselves in Chelsea where we tucked into The Red Cat. They said the wait would be 30 minutes, but it ended up being 10. The charming little bistro was buzzing and we decided to nearly clear the appetizer section and just pass plates. Tops included an oyster pan roast with a creamy fennel broth and scallops with mushrooms hash and green garlic puree. Both were just the right, classy hits of spring. If the wait had been longer, we might have ended up a few doors down at tapas haunt Tia Pol, still on my list.
The following morning found us at the end of the line for the 7 train in Flushing, where they happen to have the second largest Chinatown in New York. Good morning steamed chicken buns and dried pork with leeks wrap. I could have noodled all day there, it seemed like there were a jillion options with smiling people and bubble tea, but we were heading for a shuttle for the Spa Castle. Must. Have. Spa Castle.
Scrubbed and rubbed, we headed to Soho for dinner. Prime time with no booked table, we decided to bar hop. AZ recommended
Michael White's Osteria Morini, and the place was jammed, even the bar. Luckily there was a table scootched right up against the host stand that was open for 45 minutes, all we wanted was our first round of snacks and beers so that fit the bill. The little skewered street food spiedini meat snacks were tasty, but the mortadella and prosciutto meatballs were so soft and luscious I couldn't believe it. I wanted more than half the menu; it all sounded so warm and inviting.
But we were off to Balthazar. I know, an old standby. I remember taking my daughter to brunch there during her first visit to Gotham. Well, it was elbow to elbow and I asked the barman if he thought any seats would loosen up on the rail any time soon. He said not a bon chance. Back at the door, the good Doc Pepper found a small table open. You guessed it, right near the host stand and the door. We snatched it and called for a round of Sazeracs, escargot, frites, and French cheese. What door?
Quick sum up of the last day: Search for a good latte in Grand Central, cart pretzel while shopping the rain, Chelsea Market, and lunch at The Green Table for a flaky, earthy mushroom pot pie. Two things struck me about the market: One, it was brimming with foreign tourists, and two, Jacques Torres took the time to cover cheerios with the most ridiculous chocolate. Nice guy.
Dinner started out in the East Village at a cute little hole in the wall called La Paella that the NYU alum remembered fondly. Sadly the food was less than memorable, but the sangria was drinkable. After a few plates we realized that we weren't that far from Corner Bistro and the legendary burger. We hoofed it and got there by midnight to score the last open table, yes, right by the door. A Brooklyn Lager and a fat, juicy, cheesy pink monster later my round of eating in NYC was complete, with quick exits guaranteed.