It had been a few years since I had been to NYC and I was excited to revisit the Union Square Green Market (separate post to follow), see the High Line (really cool) and explore some different neighborhoods. I was very lucky to have a native New Yorker and fellow food lover as my guide and I am amazed to look back on how much we saw, how far we walked and how much we ate. Most of the feasting was of a visual nature as you can see from my photos.
New York City is a food lovers paradise with all manner of exotic and eclectic food treats to discover. It can also be overwhelming as there is SO much to choose from. The size of NYC means that it can support all sorts of niche businesses and one example of this is Rice to Riches, a store that only sells rice pudding. It’s success may be in part that it has featured in some movies and TV shows but it was packed when we went to check it out.
The most popular niche food is frozen yogurt and I was amazed by how many frozen yogurt places there were. There are lots of competing brands (Pinkberry, Tasti D-lite, Red Mango, Yolato and all sorts of knock-offs) with a surprising tendency to cluster together. Good news for Columbusites is that Red Mango have a store ‘coming soon’ to Columbus. It will be on High Street near the Wexner Center.
We explored Chelsea Market, Greenwich Village, Little Italy, China Town, street fairs, the India Day Festival and a host of other neighborhoods. If I wrote about all of the interesting food shops and restaurants I saw this post would be interminable and so (in no particular order) I am going to pick the top 6 delicious things I ate and drank.
A pretzel bagel from The City Bakery (3 West 18th Street), still warm from the oven. Flaky, light exterior with a steamy soft center – a perfect croissant texture with an unmistakable bagel flavor and saltiness. Yum.
Continuing on a breakfast theme: a hot fresh bagel from H&H bagels (639 West 46th Street). I hadn’t enjoyed a bagel this much since I was in Montreal. H&H bagels are a little larger and softer than the Montreal variety and although St Viateur had more character and charm, the H&H bagels are hard to beat.
We passed on the frozen yogurt and a number of very tempted gelato places and on Suz’s recommendation I had black sesame ice cream at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (65 Bayard Street). There was a huge array of intriguing flavors with all kinds of exotic fruits and spices but sadly you are only allowed two samples. While the service left something to be desired, the black sesame did not disappoint. An interesting mix of sweet and savory with a very distinct and unusual flavor.
I loved walking around in Chinatown looking at all the exotic fruit stalls, green grocers and restaurants. We also ate dinner in Chinatown at Dim Sum Go Go (5 E Broadway). We had a selection of vegetarian Dim Sum, of which some was very good and some were just ok, but the real winner was a plate of stir fried chinese celery, chinese chives and caramelized walnuts. The flavor was subtle but it was so fresh tasting and the crunchy vegetables and nuts were a great accompaniment to the soft dumplings.
Dinner the following night was at Blockheads burritos. This is a small chain with 6 branches in NYC serving San Francisco style burritos. I had a special grilled vegetable burrito wrapped in a curry flavor tortilla which was tasty and filling. The real highlight though was one of their speciality drinks – The black flower, a combination of frozen margarita and sangria that while it might disturb purists was the perfect thing after walking around on a hot day in the city. Their frozen margarita was the best I have ever had and at $3 for a small one, you can’t beat the value.
My favorite dinner was some sidewalk dining at Taïm Falafel and Smoothie Bar (222 Waverly Place in the West Village). It is a tiny place, hence the sidewalk dining, but with fantastic food and drinks. I am besotted by their ginger, mint lemonade, so much so that I had to go back for a second. They have three different flavors of falafel, great side dishes and best of all the fried eggplant which was my second all-time favorite eggplant dish after Roka.
Some Lessons learned from my trip to NYC and some advice:
- It is possible to eat very well on a modest budget, with the help of some local knowledge or some internet research.
- Wear comfortable shoes and walk a lot, you never know what you will find and there are innumerable small neighborhood food shops and restaurants.
- The Staten Island Ferry is free and a good way to cool off and take a break from walking.
- You can find exotic fruits in Chinatown that are very hard to find anywhere else (rambutans, dragon fruit, longons etc).
- An iphone is a wonderful asset for working out where you are, where the nearest subway stop is,ferry times, routes and restaurant reviews and hours.
- There is a bar on the roof of the MET with wonderful views of Central Park and the city.
- Chelsea Market is a good choice for foodies on a cold or wet day and has some fun places to eat and shop.
- A picnic on the Great Lawn in Central Park with friends and treats from the Green Market is a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.
- Slow Food NYC has a Snail of Approval directory which is a useful resource for food retailers and restaurants.