Let Me Feed You New York, Part II

August 2, 2012

SoHo

Peasant

194 Elizabeth St
(Technically in Nolita, but I’m grouping it under SoHo)
Went here for dinner with some family friends one evening – annoyingly they don’t let you to your table until the entire party has arrived, but once seated the service is friendly and enthusiastic. The table bread arrives as huge hunks of meaty sourdough and is served with fresh ricotta. With a rustic fit-out that suits its rustic but considered Italian fare, Peasant is unsurprisingly popular and both the restaurant and the underground cheese & wine bar were buzzing mid-week.

To begin we shared a few small dishes. Burrata with wood roasted tomatoes – not as creamy as the burrata from The Spotted Pig (see below) but still delicious with a classic pairing of tomato and basil.

As is often the case with me, we ordered far too many entrees for six people…. pizza margherita DOC and pizza bianca with fresh ricotta and broadbeans. Both were good, though I especially loved the white pizza. We also got a pizza with salami but it was so unbearably hot we didn’t finish it – poor S was crying from the chili!

As soon as I read the word ‘bottarga’ on this description of this dish, I knew I had to have it. Bottarga is cured mullet roe, and here it came shaved over some baked asparagus and egg. There wasn’t a hugely fishy taste to the dish overall, but I did enjoy the little spikes of saltiness from the bottarga.

One thing I really enjoyed about being in the States was trying out various foods that aren’t available here. Here is my whole roasted sea bass with rosemary – spectacular. It had a great woody aroma to it, and was served with a garlicky vinaigrette, although I just enjoyed eating the delicate fish by itself.

Also ordered around the table were dishes of gnocchi, roast lamb, and risotto. All were reported on favourably. In all, an excellent, high class meal at Peasant – worthwhile if you’re in the area!

Tacombi @ Fonda Nolita

267 Elizabeth St

(Again, not technically SoHo)

I came across this place by accident one day, having wandered over from the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side (one of my favourites in NYC, worth a visit). Due to a heat wave that had come across from the Mid-West, it was yet another stiflingly hot day, so I enjoyed sitting in the cool air and people-watching at this hip and casual Mexian joint.

The main kitchen is at the back of the restaurant, but all the tacos are made by two guys in a converted combi van! They call it a ‘Tacombi’. What genius.

The Mexican food in the United States puts Melbourne’s Mexican food to shame, both in terms of accessibility and quality (though I do recognise and appreciate the recent explosion of Mexican restaurants in Melbourne).

I had the Al Pastor de Puerco – pork, pineapple and salsa verde, and the Crispy Ensenada Fish – red cabbage and mayo. Both around the $4 mark. Both mouth-wateringly delicious. I loved how my lips were tingling from the spices afterwards.

Beer and tacos – is there anything better?

 

Ground Support

399 W Broadway

Really good coffee, and a pleasant selection of salads and other lunchy things. Hungry? Perhaps a chewy sandwich with prosciutto, taleggio, strawberry-rhubarb jam, arugula and basil will appease your hunger. I have a feeling it’s run by Aussies (which would explain the good coffee), but that’s just a hunch.

 

Greenwich Village

August

359 Bleecker St
Blood orange mimosa at 11am – what has become of me? Brunch, that’s what’s become of me and my life. (Also, let it be known that I took no small amount of pleasure in reading ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ in Central Park a few days later, imagining Oskar Schell walking around with his metal detector).

Brunch in America is a funny thing. While we use the word to denote a lazily late breakfast, ‘brunch’ in the States refers to a meal from 10-ish in the morning till mid-afternoon on WEEKENDS only. It also involves a menu that is different to both the breakfast and the lunch menus and encompasses a broad range of dishes from museli to steak. It also usually involves alcohol, and prices that are higher than normal breakfast menus.

Thinking on this social phenomenon, I’m drawn to the conclusion that this is a marketing tool aimed at getting people out of the house and into cafes and restaurants early on weekends, which has a strong commercial incentive behind it. It may also be a cultural/behavioural institution that is evidence of the boozy nature of New Yorkers on Friday and Saturday nights, and the belief that more alcohol in the morning will help ease any hangovers.

Regardless, I am convinced that the idea of brunch in America is an excuse to drink cocktails and eat burgers and fries before noon.

I couldn’t bring myself to eat a burger at 11am, so had the friendlier option of eggs instead. Wood oven baked eggs en cocotte with tomato and mozzarella, to be precise. An excellent start to my Sunday – being cooked in a wood fired oven gave the dish a beautiful smokey flavour reminiscent of good pizza, and the eggs had the perfect degree of runniness.

The Spotted Pig

314 W 11th St
How freaking cute is this little guy? I mean, really. He was all dressed up for the Gay Day parade going on with a mask and sockets to complete the look.

The other brunch that I ate out was also in Greenwich Village – this time a soothing, creamy heap of burrata on toast with marinated peppers and fresh rocket. Scrumptious.

You know you’re in for something good when there’s a queue at opening time – clearly the Spotted Pig is a local favourite. At night it acts a a gastropub, but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to come back in the evening. Did notice a good range of beers though.

Magnolia Bakery

401 Bleecker St
Bit of a no-brainer really; one of New York’s more famous foodie locales. I could feel a sugar headache coming on just being in the shop – the sight and smell of all those cakes and all that icing does your head in!

As I mentioned above, it turned out I had stumbled upon the Gay Day parade – lots of interesting sights to be seen, including these cheerful cupcakes!

Obviously I got a red velvet. The verdict? Fluffy cake, ridiculously light but very sugary icing. Chances of getting icing smeared on your face? Almost certain. Wonder whether the cupcake industry in New York bears any similarities to Melbourne, #economicsofcupcakes.

Victory Garden

31 Carmine St
Victory Garden, to me, is one of those ‘only in New York’ places. Why, you ask? Six words: salted caramel goats milk frozen yoghurt. Each of these pairs of words screams NYC, to me. I was actually quite thrilled to hear of this place, since I like frozen yoghurt, I love salted caramel, and I’m not particularly skillful at digesting cows milk.

Here’s why goats milk is so great. It’s lower in fat than cows milk, but maintains high levels of calcium, iron, protein and potassium. It’s lactose friendly, which is good for many people who are lactose intolerant. Finally, by chemical composition it’s also the most similar to human milk, which is one of the reasons why it’s easy to digest. All the goats milk used here comes from a local farm in Connecticut.

Salted caramel goats milk frozen yogurt – only in New York.

Chelsea

Chelsea market

Chelsea market is really more of a gourmet indoor food centre than a market, with various purveyors selling produce. The place was a bit of a Mecca for me; as you can imagine I LOVED strolling around and sampling things and marvelling at various gourmet foodstuffs. By far the place that thrilled me the most was The Lobster Place, abuzz with people chowing down on yummy seafood.

Oysters, shucked freshly on demand.

Just look at all this incredible sushi! It makes my mouth water…

The High Line Roll – a nod to the new park that runs through Chelsea, developed on what used to be a disused railway line. It was one of my highlights of NYC.

BUT, all thoughts of oysters and sushi flew out the window at the sight of the shop’s namesake.

This baby only cost me $17, and he was freshly steamed before being halved and served up with lemon and melted butter. Then I ate him all. By. Myself.

Mine! All mine! *Cue manic laughter in manner of villan*

My precious…

After my lobster binge, I checked out a salt emporium and tried some truffle salt (very strong) and bacon salt (amazing).

People’s pops

Also stopped by the People’s Pops stand on my way out and bought an organic strawberry and rhubarb pop. Delicious tasting icypop but, being made completely from whole fruit, had the unfortunate consequence of having strands of rhubarb that got stuck in my teeth.

Billy’s Bakery

184 9th Ave
Finally, stumbled across a Billy’s Bakery one day, the apparent arch rival of Magnolia. Clearly Magnolia is winning from the branding perspective, but I thought I’d give Billy’s cupcakes a try anyway. You know, for the sake of research.

Billy’s red velvet cupcake was also really good – if I had to compare it with Magnolia’s I’d say I preferred the cake from Magnolia but the icing from Billy’s; it had more of a tangy cream cheese taste to it that I liked.

 

Filed under: New York, United States

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