New York Meals: Momofuku Ssäm Bar

The sixth in a series of posts about the exceptional food I ate in 2.5 days in New York.

I’m not going to lie: Momofuku Ssäm Bar let me down. Maybe it was that I had walked 30 blocks from my midtown adventures with Mr Pickle and was famished.

Peacock Pickle

Maybe it was the rave reviews from my friends. Or David Chang’s reputation. Or the delicious pork buns at Tomukun that couldn’t possibly be as good. Or the fact that there are blogs dedicated to cooking through the Momofuku cookbook.

Momofuku Ssäm Bar Lunch

Whatever it was, well, I didn’t have the magical experience I was hoping for. The pork was flavorful, but the famous steamed buns were soggy – verging on wet. I did enjoy the wee jar of pickles, though, and sampled all of the unidentified condiments on various parts of my meal.

Condiments

Hoping to redeem my experience, I popped across the street after lunch to Momofuku Milk Bar, the famous spin-off bakery that serves such insane things as crack pie, cereal milk, and compost cookies.

Crack pie at Momofuku Milk Bar
Photo by @superamit

I’d tell you all about what I ate, but I was so bowled over by the insanely heady aroma of baked goods that I couldn’t bring myself to indulge. And THAT is saying something.

Momofuku: eh. I’d give it another try if traveling companions wanted to do so, but I certainly wouldn’t make another epic trek across Manhattan for it.


If you go:
Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 2nd Ave (between 12th St & 13th St)
New York, NY 10003

My friend Jenny raves about their prix fixe lunch. Momofuku Milk Bar is just across the street for dessert.

New York Meals: The Breslin

The fifth in a series of posts about the exceptional food I ate in 2.5 days in New York.

Oh how I wish I’d taken photos of the dinner I shared with Dan at The Breslin.

The Breslin
Photo by karigee

The Breslin came highly recommended by my friend Shana – in fact, she gave a blanket recommendation to the entirety of the Ace Hotel complex: The Breslin, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and No. 7 Sub. As soon as I walked into the lobby, I could understand why Shana loves it: the space is dark, intimate, and hip, with a variety of seating, working, and drinking options. Mr Pickle and I chilled out in the AC while we waited for Dan – coincidentally in town from Chicago for work – to arrive for dinner.

Mr Pickle at the Ace Hotel

I would say – and I do – that I regret not keeping the camera out throughout our meal – but Dan and I were so busy catching up and devouring delicious things to take the time for pictures. I enjoyed the miticrema bruschetta with grilled greens and speck – thick slices of rustic bread, a smooth sweet cheese, savory greens, and thinly shaved flavorful pork – and Dan had the PEI mussels with chorizo and garlic toast.

Both of these were overshadowed by the absolutely wonderful sweetbreads, which we split because we both wanted it, but could neither commit to it exclusively nor accept the idea that we would only get to try one thing from the menu. And OMG, was this a good decision. The sweetbreads were among the best fried things I’ve ever had, and the mashed up peas provided a fresh counterpoint. Both were fantastic in flavor and texture. I would like to go back and eat five more plates.

the breslin
Photo by karigee

In the time it took us to commit to our drinks and dinner, the ladies at the next table received a very intriguing plate of – something, we weren’t sure what. Dumplings? When the second plate arrived, we decided that we should probably get some as well, especially once it was revealed that they were donuts. Brioche donuts. Brioche donuts with a trio of sauces: apple cinnamon something, chocolate, and salted caramel. I am not ashamed to admit that we ate the caramel with our spoons – and with the donuts, of course.

When I asked for New York dining recommendations, this was exactly what I had in mind: decadent but not overwhelmingly so, an emphasis on quality over quantity, the sort of food that you want to share because it’s too good to keep to yourself. I’m so glad that I tried The Breslin – and glad that I had a fellow pork, fried food, and bourbon aficionado along for the meal.


If you go:
The Breslin Bar & Dining Room
Ace Hotel
20 W 29th St
New York, NY 10001

Even if you can’t or don’t want to swing dinner, get a coffee or cocktail and a small plate at the bar. You’ll be glad you did.

New York Meals: Le Gamin

The fourth in a series of posts about the exceptional food I ate in 2.5 days in New York.

Oeuf Gamin - Le Gamin Cafe

Brunch in the garden at Le Gamin on my second morning in New York: a perfectly poached egg atop a wedge of chevre-potato cake, surrounded by ratatouille. Café au lait served in a bowl. Sunshine and a cool breeze. Benignly negligent service balanced by excellent people watching. Good company. A lovely way to start the day.


If you go:
Le Gamin Cafe – several locations, but we went to the one in Prospect Heights
556 Vanderbilt Ave (between Atlantic Ave & Pacific St)
(718) 789-5171

New York Meals: James

The third in a series of posts about the exceptional food I ate in 2.5 days in New York.

A few weeks before my trip, I posted a request for restaurant recommendations on Twitter and Facebook. I ate well on previous trips to New York, but have gotten significantly more into food since my last visit in 2008. I’ve also made a few friends who are very into both food and New York. I was also thinking of this trip as my reward for making it through my first semester of teaching – so I was willing to swing a slightly higher food budget than I would’ve normally planned for a solo trip.

Project 365: Day 155
Photo by Joe Schulz

On my first actual evening in New York, Carrie and I grabbed dinner at a sweet restaurant in her neighborhood that she’d often walked by but hadn’t had the excuse to try. James was both upscale and welcoming, a small space packed full of people yet still surprisingly intimate. A family of three was seated at the table next to us, the small child playing with toys and eating bites from his parents’ plates throughout the meal. The next table over was a birthday party. There were couples out for a private meal – and then the two of us, hungry and tired after long days.

I wish I had photos of the food we shared, but the lighting was low and the food too delicious to wait. We shared three small plates: a fancied-up shrimp and grits – smooth and rich, with a spicy harissa jus – and the asparagus, grilled or roasted and served with an impossibly wonderful Taleggio cream. Oh, and herbed fries, because what meal isn’t even slightly improved by the addition of fries? All in all, a wonderful dinner, followed by Italian ices and a walk with a very cute dog through a very lovely park.

Charles!


If you go:
James
605 Carlton Ave (at St Mark’s Ave)
(718) 942-4255

New York Meals: Prospect Park Greenmarket

The second in a series of posts about the exceptional food I ate in 2.5 days in New York.

My trip to New York was a dream. Actually getting to New York, however, was a giant pain in the ass. Someone explain to me exactly how air travel has gotten LESS convenient and MORE miserable over time? Oh right, computers. Instead of leaving Detroit at 5:20 and arriving in Brooklyn in time for dinner, I subsisted on a Chicago dog and a terrible beer at the airport, finally getting out at 10pm and arriving on Carrie’s doorstep in a sorry state sometime around 1am. She had to teach in the morning, so we simultaneously said hello and goodnight, and I passed right on out.

I woke up completely and miraculously recharged, however, and headed out in search of cash, breakfast, and coffee in that order. And so I found myself at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket on a perfect June morning.

P1030717
Photo by benderbending

These photos are from other seasons, but let me tell you: this smelled like a summertime market: berries, herbs, and tomatoes all warm from the sun. Myriad options for baked goods and other treats. A long line for fresh fish. Summer produce is only just now starting to appear at the markets in Michigan, so I was delighted to see cucumbers, as was Mr. Pickle:

Cucumber Kin

My breakfast? A vegan spelt pocket containing mustard tofu and some sort of slaw – delicious fillings, but just an adequate wrapper – and a handful of fresh cherries that I ate on my walk to the subway, spitting the pits into the street. I headed into the city with sticky fingers, a happy belly, and the sense that summer had finally arrived.

Market Breakfast


If you go:
Greenmarket at Prospect Park
Grand Army Plaza
Saturdays year round, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

New York Meals: Eataly

The first in a series of posts about the exceptional food I ate in 2.5 days in New York.

We’re Mario Batali fans around here, so Eataly was at the top of my To Do list upon arriving in New York Friday night.  Opened in 2010 in partnership with Lidia Bastianich and others, Eataly is an insanely huge market where everything wonderful and delicious to do with Italian cuisine can be found, purchased, and devoured.

Eataly,NYC.
Photo by Carl MiKoy

And I mean insane. IN-sane. Eataly has been open since August, and while there are no longer lines around the block, we still encountered an overwhelming crush of people as we made our way back to Birreria. Piotr, Jess, and I had been walking around all morning, so we were famished. Fortunately, there were no shortage of food options. Unfortunately, we had to first choose one, and then stand in line to purchase it. Fortunately, we had reason to stick around – we were waiting for a table at Birreria.

Eataly Birreria

While the seating process was mysterious – something involving a promised text message and the instructions to check back in 45 minutes? – it all made sense once we were upstairs. The maître d’ acts kind of like a bouncer, keeping the crowds at bay, resulting in a lovely and genial environment upstairs. We were at a simultaneously shady and sunny table in the corner – no real view to speak of, but who cares when delicious food is in front of you?

Maitake con Pecorino Sardo - Eataly Birreria

Maitake con Pecorino Sardo: roasted Maitakes, creamy soft Pecorino, savory and crisp asparagus and peas. Enough for each of us to have a few perfect bites, every last morsel soaked up with crusty bread.

Portobello con Acciughe - Eataly Birreria

Portobello con Acciughe: perfectly grilled portobellos, funky anchovies, sweet roasted tomatoes, and stracciatella. Maybe not worth the $17, but totally pleasing on a hot summer’s afternoon.

IMG_6626

Around the table: chicken thighs pounded thin and served with olive-almond pesto, fennel-braised quail, rich pork sausage with kraut, and an intensely delicious pork shoulder. I can vouch for each of these dishes because everything was shared, every passed fork returned laden with a perfect bite of something else. If I could do it again, I’d take one of everything, and wash it all down with a Baladin Isaac.  Perfect.


If you go:
Eataly
200 5th Ave (between 23rd and 24th)
Manhattan, NY 10010
(212) 229-2560

Be prepared to wait and spend a lot and be delighted.

Briefly

It’s the last weekend in April, and things seem to be getting crazy busy.

We spent last weekend in New York, celebrating SB’s 28th birthday. Happy birthday, SB! We had a great time, saw lots of friends, and ate lots of things that are bad for us.

Thursday was the last day of metadata. I should be hard at work on my final project, but instead I just planted our balcony garden – herbs, lettuce, two kinds of tomatoes, strawberries, and maybe some onions.

I’ve been taking advantage of the nice weather to take 2-3 mile walks on my lunch, which this week resulted in my first sunburn of the season. It is very weird to already have so much color!

Tonight and tomorrow SB and I are going to see the CUBS vs the Nationals. I’ll be cheering for the former, SB for the latter. There’s a chance of rain, but that can’t dampen my enthusiasm.