Landing in a city I’m unfamiliar with always feels like a food-oriented scavenger hunt to me. The challenge is how many clues can I glean from Facebook, Twitter, trusted friends and restaurant reviews, to unearth the gems that will give us special memories. Our recent trip to NYC yielded a few finds I want to share with you:
- The Fat Radish – living on the West coast, where so many of the buildings are new, relatively speaking, it’s easy to forget that buildings which are 150+ years old, bring their own charm and personality to the table. The Fat Radish is one of those fabulous New York dining experiences – painted white brick walls, rather long and narrow, with great art on the walls and a dimly lit interior, you immediately know you’re in for a unique experience. The meal starts with a fat radish, natch, and the menu is punctuated by locally-sourced produce prepared in an often unexpected way. Take for instance the monkfish green curry ($27) or the beet root crumble ($16). The banoffee pie for dessert was a blast from the past, although not made quite as I recall ($9). Back in the day, I spent many a long Sunday boiling an unopened can of condensed milk for hours, hoping it didn’t explode and longing for the rich dulce de leche to be revealed at the end of the day. I digress. Check out Fat Radish next time you’re in town.
Empellón Taqueria – an upmarket take on Mexican cuisine, Taqueria satisfied everyone at our table with its fresh spin on old favorites. Salsas were reinvented and updated to include a smoky cashew salsa which was so good we asked our waiter how we could make it at home. Cauliflower came with almonds and an almendrado dressing ($9). The sopes ($9) – open bite-sized dumplings made from corn with various fillings were satisfying – we liked the meat ones best. And the tacos, which range from $12-39 for 2-3, depending on the filling, couldn’t be a further cry from the sad little splats by the same name at Taco Bell. From Brussel sprouts with burnt jalapeño hummus, to chicken with black kale, crema and salsa, every single one was delish and gone in the blink of an eye. Highly recommended. Get thee down to the West Village stat.
- City Kitchen – finding “real” food fast – vs. crappy fast food – when you’re being a tourista and find yourself hungry on the hoof, is never an easy thing. Especially not in a trap like Times Square. But I am always willing to be proven wrong, and City Kitchen does just that. A new food hall – much like De Foodhallen which we loved in Amsterdam – it brings together different tastes from New York under one roof. Rather like permanent food trucks, there’s something for everyone from Dough’s inventive doughnuts to Box’s Mediterranean lunches which come either as a sandwich or a salad – think falafel loaded up with tahini sauce and tons of lettuce. A tad heavy, but yummy all the same. Sushi, burgers, tacos and lobster rolls can all be found here too.
- Dean and Deluca – in a time long-gone, i.e. 1977, before the word ‘foodie’ had been invented or people paid the same for top-notch olive oil as they would for a Tiffany bracelet, the founders of Dean and Deluca were prescient enough to realize that if you build it, they will come. They imported balsamic vinegars, preserves from Italy, fine cheeses – all displayed in an ‘assault on the senses’ emporium in Soho. And come they did. I adore this place. If you need anything unusual for a recipe, they usually have it, plus if you’re hungry there’s a great deli and coffee bar. You can now find their cafes around NYC too.
- Beecher’s New York – think you can find handmade cheese in the Big Apple? Of course. You can find anything you want in this city. Think you can find cheese being handmade in the heart of Manhattan? No? I didn’t either, until I stumbled across Beecher’s in the FlatIron District. Just as I love to watch the cheese-makers at work at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, here too I could peer through the glass to watch curds and whey being magically turned into heavenly rounds of sharp cheddar. With a wine cellar downstairs and lots of yummy sandwiches and of course, heaps of cheese, this is a great find.
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