Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New York State of Mind

My friend Kara and I planned our 3rd Annual trip to New York City with a theme in mind: Food Tour 2009! We put all of our efforts into finding new restaurants, local favorites and trained our stomachs to get ready for way too much food.

We passed back and forth blog postings, New York Times articles and reviews and even set up a shared spreadsheet on Google Docs to plan out our 4-day trip which took place last December.

Right after checking into the hotel on Thursday afternoon, we headed to
Serendipity 3 before our dinner reservations. Yes, we were planning on having our dessert before dinner! You may have heard of Serendipity from the movie. . .Serendipity. While there was no John Cusack sighting and no one cared if I wrote my phone number in a book, we were witness to their famous Frozen Hot Chocolate and some monster sized desserts!

The wait was to be expected, chalk it up to its tourist trap perception and us visiting NYC right before the holidays. It was 6pm on a Thursday and we waited about 30 minutes. Although the bright colors and whimsical decorations grab your attention, the interior was extremely tight as the restaurant resides in a renovated Manhattan townhouse. Leave the strollers at home!

My hot chocolate had so much delish whipped cream that at first I wasn't sure if there was any hot chocolate in my hot chocolate. But soon enough I made it through the frills and got to the good stuff! We also split a beautiful piece of "Creme de la Creme Cream Cheese Cake."

Our dinner reservations were for Casa Lever. A fairly new establishment that I found on a Google search kick, Casa Lever is housed alongside the Lever House on Park Avenue and boasts a Milanese menu. What sold me on this place, besides the actually reasonable dinner prices, was the decor. Love the pop art on the walls, love the open space of the entryway leading into the bar leading into cocktail tables leading into the dining room, love the wine bottle dividers between booths. 
My meal choice was the "Pappardelle" made with homemade pappardelle pasta, wild boar ragout and fresh porcini. It definitely tasted wild and earthy, a little heavy, but new tastes for me that hit the spot. (By the way, in case you can't tell, I'm no food critic - coming up with adjectives is taking a lot out of me, but I'm trying to avoid just saying "it was good!")

We had begun the meal with the "San Daniele" antipasti: prosciutto and mozzarella di bufala. Interestingly enough, we would learn more about our mozzerella di bufala the next morning. . .

After some debating, we decided to sign up for a walking tour. I go back and forth on tours: I do not want to find myself on every trip continuously walkng with a large group of people, obvious tourists. I have had some good tour experiences on my Europe trips though - the salt mines in Poland and the Sound of Music Tour in Switzerland, for example. The right tour can really make your trip special and you can get insider info rather than just wandering around aimlessly. I never knew I could learn so much about salt! So this was how we chose
Scott's Pizza Tours as our tour of choice. This was also a Google search find, and I was extremely impressed with the high ratings he had received on TripAdvisor (even being named a Top 10 Tour) and the positive comments written up on the site. The walking tour was $30 each but included pizza at 3 locations. Scott also offers a longer bus tour on Sundays. The 3 hour walking tour's starting point seemed to be a nondescript bar in Greenwich Village, but as our tour group of 12 assembled and Scott gathered us together we found out it was actually the site of the very first pizzeria. I was already learning, and on vacation no less

We walked to a Mozzarella shop that supplied many of the best pizzerias and tasted some fresh Bufala that had just been served up not 20 minutes earlier. Unlike the salty stuff you get at the store, this mozz had nothing added, unadulterated. So fresh. As a cheese lover - it's not just a stereotype, us Wisconsin girls love their cheese - this place was like heaven.

Scott walked us to three pizzerias, including the current location of the original pizza place which served up a Neopolitan pie in a century old coal-burning oven. 
It was standing room only for the next two locations, including the famous Joe's "by the slice" shop where not more than 10 people should be inside at once but somehow 50 people are.
The walking tour had been a great way to spend the morning and early afternoon. Since we were walking through Little Italy and Greenwich Village we also heard some great stories about some of the noteworthy buildings we were passing. Definitely a recommendation!

After all that pizza, we couldn't handle any more food for awhile. So it worked out that our next 2 hours were to be spent in line at the
TKTS booth in Times Square waiting to buy discount tickets to In the Heights (so worth it!).

The next day took us to Bouchon Bakery and Cafe in the Time Warner Center. Its basically located in an open area, on the mezzanine level of a classy mall. So yes, we will take this opportunity to go to J.Crew and Williams Sonoma while we are here. We got in right as they were opening so luckily there was not a long wait for a table. Any later and we would be toast (pun intended), as we had been when we tried to come the evening before without reservations. Kara had found a lot of great restaurant options on the blog Too bad we couldn't hit all of them. . .in the meantime we would "settle" for grilled cheese and tomato soup for her and the Quiche du Jour for me. (source note: the grilled cheese pic is actually from this blog: I didn't have a pic but had to share the goods!) 
Saturday night dinner was brought to us courtesy of a New York Times article we had found a few months earlier. Going to a famous chef's restaurant without paying a month's rent to do so? We were in. Daniel Boulud's eponymous restaurant is one I've read about for years and would have loved to check out if money was not an option, so we were excited to read about his new venture, DBGB Kitchen & Bar, just down the street from the location of the old punk rock club CBGB. With a full menu of international beers and sausages, we could head in without a reservation and wait it out for a table in the bar area. 
Heavy German beers meant I didn't need more than two. Kara ended up being the adventurous one of our twosome: she ordered the Bone Marrow, which is exactly what it sounds like. (source note: this bone marrow pic is from this blog, not our own picture.) Would she have ordered it again? I believe the answer was "no" but I was proud of her for trying!
Our culinary journey was coming to a close and we realized just how many places we still had to get to (yes, we are on Year 3 and still have not hit up Magnolia Bakery!). I guess we'll just have to keep going back!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah! I just saw this. I think it is a great re-cap...I can't think of anything of import that you forgot. And you are right, I would not order bone marrow again. :)