15 July 2009

Winter in New York (New York Part 1)

Park near New York University
As usual, just click on any photo go to to the Flickr page, where you can view it full-size.
Welcome to the first of my 2-part feature on New York, the last stop of my "tour" of the US from last Winter (second part comes next month). Actually, I have a few pictures from New Jersey, but it's kind of pathetic because I only managed to take pictures of the food in one restaurant, and not much of anything else (though it's obviously not representative of the number of good places you can eat in New Jersey, as you'll find in Off The Broiler). Anyway, I found the sheer number of pictures I took in New York daunting to process, and that's even as I skillfully evaded places like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Even Rockefeller Plaza, and I am a big fan of NBC programming and ice skating. BUT I did get to meet three bloggers, and up there is a picture of the park where Marc and I ate Australian ice cream while talking about the job market.
So, instead of my usual here's-some-sights-now-here's-the-food, we'll get right down to the meat, so to speak. Marc gave me a choice of where to eat, and somehow we ended up in Ippudo. A great stop during a blustery winter's day, because it is home to the best pork ramen I've ever tasted.
Ippudo ramen and buns
It's actually not a good thing because my cheap instant ramen now makes me sad. There were three degrees of heat for the soup, and I chose a moderate one to avoid being given a soup that wasn't enjoyable. However, Marc says their hottest is still not that hot to him, even though I found "moderate" kind of impressive. Marc is a mutant, that's why. Looking at the nearly open kitchen you can see giant vats of steaming broth prepared daily from pork bones. We also had some lovely barbecued pork buns. Fantastic meal I'll have to come back to (hopefully my turn to impress someone else with it).
Strand bookstore cooking section
I also got to meet the gorgeous and funny Claire a few days before Marc (and a few days before the two of them would meet). We met up at Strand Bookstore, one of the most insanely stocked used/new bookstores I've ever seen. The picture above isn't even all of the cooking section; it's maybe a third or a fourth of it. Still, I only bought Grand Finales: The Art of the Plated Dessert; next time I'll have to have a really long list of the books I've always wanted to have (actually good I limited myself, as I had so many cookbooks I had to leave some behind in New Jersey as my luggage couldn't take any more). We also went to Whole Foods and I can't remember if we salivated at the pastries or laughed at them.
Cafe d'Alsace inside
We met up with the dashing and hilarious Zen Chef (uh, should I still be using your nom de guerre?) at Cafe d'Alsace. I got to see the Colloquial Cook in action as she laid the smackdown on some poor American waiter for claiming that (some dish I forgot) was a "classic Alsatian dish..." when it was not. The educator was in action, schooling his ass, now trembling in his boots. Of course, when Zen Chef came, she had to relate the hilarity in rapid-fire French. It was too dark to take food pics, but we had the Tarte Flambée (OMG), I had the Choucroute Garnie, and finished a glass of my new favorite white, Gewurztraminer (sweet and fruity, what's not to like?).
Restaurant supply in Bowery
For some reason I wanted to go to Sur La Table, but on the way I walked on Bowery Street, which has an insane array of restaurant and kitchen supply stores. I don't think the stock can be beaten, except maybe when it comes to pastry supplies in France. Unfortunately, the prices were not very competitive. I think they get replenished when a restaurant goes under because of the recession.
Gray's Papaya
Speaking of recession, Gray's Papaya, reputed to be one of New York's best hotdogs, had a recession special of 2 hot dogs and orange juice for $5 (I think). I very poorly estimated the size of the hot dogs and thought two would be excessive, so I ordered one. Tiny! Still, I soldiered on the afternoon eating only this, but I still had no problem gaining weight.
New York Public Library Reading Room
I got a borrower's card at the New York Public Library, for cookbook-related research. Ah, a reviewer's job is never done...
Patisserie Claude
I had heard a lot of good things about Patisserie Claude, but I wasn't very impressed with it. It just seemed so sad! Claude had already retired but his staff was still there. I got a very cold slice of tarte tatin.
Bonchon inside
Bonchon Chicken and fries
Bonchon Chicken had been getting a lot of buzz as THE Korean fried chicken you must try. My friend Genie and I split a medium order of hot and spicy wings and legs, but we were so stuffed so we left one behind. I still dream of that remaining piece, sigh. It's also the other place Marc suggested. It's located on the second floor of the building, so don't get discouraged looking for it-- just look up.
My search for new and unfamiliar eats brought me to Brooklyn, though only for a little while. The tranquility was very jarring, having been in Manhattan for most of the day! But I love the place. I was hoping to see Ann, but she was probably a bit busy.
Polish Slavic Center, Brooklyn
I arrived at the cafeteria of the Polish & Slavic Center on Kent St. in Brooklyn for my first taste of authentic Polish food. I had the Wieprzowina zapiekana w sosie czosnkowym (pork with garlic gravy), with beets, red cabbage (three things I've never had before), mashed potatoes and a glass of kompot for a very reasonable price. A very tall, beautiful and well-dressed woman helped little old me order the things, because the nice woman behind the counter could not understand me at all. The pork was extremely tender and lovely, but I was shocked when I tasted the gravy-- the garlic in it was completely raw! Quite a heavy flavor, but no less delicious. It must have been quite a sight for the staff to see a young Asian man in the place, instead of the burly/statuesque/blond clientele they usually get!
Financier Patisserie, inside
Financier Patisserie display
Financier Patisserie is rated to be one of New York's best, perhaps under Payard (which is coming up on my next feature on New York!). It certainly is a very lively place in the middle of Manhattan's financial district (check out the slick businessmen and the one emo kid!).
Financier Patisserie desserts
I ate here with Genie, and we shared an Alhambra (classic gateau of hazelnut-chocolate cake and ganache) and Caramel Brownie. The desserts were quite decadent, though I wish the Alhambra could have been kept at a slightly higher temperature (or maybe we should have waited to dig in?).
I've heard a little bit about The Petrossian Boutique which specializes in fine food (notably caviar), but it was kind of opulently sad? I don't know. There were two strangers having a friendly chat about the government, though, while they were seated in two adjacent tables. I had an orange curd tart with a chocolate shell.
Amy's bread and gingerbread
Amy's Bread (inside)
I was excited to eat at Amy's Bread in the West Village, especially since I'm always excited to eat in a place with a book out (The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread)-- it has a promise of home replication. The place was cozy, the manager was friendly, and all the treats looked tempting. The chicken soup hit the spot on a cold pre-Spring day. Since I'd just returned from San Francisco, I was still craving Miette's gingerbread, but unfortunately this one came out a bit dry. It really needs a syrup soak to achieve superior moistness. I should've gone for a slice of their sky-high cakes!
Zabar coffee
Our last stop for this week's tour is Zabar's on Broadway. The tagline on the site says "Zabar's is New York, New York is Zabar's." If by that, they mean both are cacophonous orgies of gastronomic treats, then I guess it's accurate. Above is a picture of one of the staff dispensing coffee beans.
Zabar cookware
On the second floor you'll find nothing but more and more kitchen stuff. Orgasm. Unfortunately again, the prices were not competitive. What can I say, I'm a real bargain hunter.
Zabar cheese
You think that's a lot of cheese?
Zabar cheese massive
No, this is a lot of cheese. Way to go Zabar's. I wish I had loaded up on varieties which are expensive here AHEMREBLOCHONAHEM, but then again it would be illegal to bring them back.

Whew! Part 2 coming soon. I hope you've enjoyed the trip so far.

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