Putting the Fork to the Pork in New York (by Nathan)
Did you hear that? Of course you didn’t, my stomach just grumbled. And my stomach always grumbles at the thought of New York City. If you have not eaten yet, then I suggest grabbing a snack because our recent trip to New York had the objective of FOOD. New York has it all: wonderful international restaurants, majestic sights and an accessible urban landscape; there is everything to satisfy any insatiable appetite.
All this walking around is hard work and all this eating takes some serious coordination. Our first trip to New York made a minor dent into a long list of places we wanted to try. This trip we needed progress, so Carmen got to work weeks ahead to make a map of all the restaurants. The days were planned to visit the sights nearest the places we wanted to eat, simple right? To make this trip successful we needed to create more meals, and thus, the addition of “pre” and “li” into our vocabulary. For example, preakfast=pre-breakfast and linner=late dinner.
As a repeat of our last trip we stayed with our good friends Taylor and Andrew in Brooklyn. Their apartment is perfectly placed between multiple subway lines and the Brooklyn Bridge is just a jog away. They are amazing hosts are an enticing reason for Carmen and I to Move to New York after the trip.
The classic New York Bagel is an essential start to any day. The bagels are pillowy and bulbous and the typical shop has an overwhelming number of spreads to choose from. We grabbed a few for preakfast on our early morning arrival. I am still of the opinion that Montreal has the best bagels that are baked over a fire and served to you crispy and hot. But to avoid a fist fight I held my lips tight.
The lower east-side of Manhattan contains a plethora, yes, a plethora of restaurants. We find ourselves in this area for meals and drinks throughout all hours of the day and night. For breakfast we hopped over to Doughnut Plant. We ordered up peanut butter glazed and boysenberry jam filled square monster and a few smaller delights. A few blocks away was BabyCakes, the unmatched delicious and vegan bakery. We had to visit it on a separate morning.
For lickfast (late-breakfast or lick-fest) a few cupcakes are essential. Time it right and a trip to Magnolia Bakery is smooth like frosting. Time it wrong and the packed counter is a scene of elbow-throwing cupcake-grabbing madness. Unscarred, we made it out with some treats to bring back to Brooklyn.
Walk to the east and there exists the best street in Manhattan! MacDougal between 3rd and Bleeker in Greenwich Village has everything and more so arrive hungry. We came here on our last trip because of a recommendation from our friend Manish. The food is so good that it was the first stop on the agenda when we arrived in New York. First off there is Mamoun’s Falafel dishing out pita falafel sandwiches for $2.50. A few doors down is a hopping NYC pizza joint named Artichoke; further on Kati Roll assembles phenomenal street wraps. Across the street Bao-B-Q puts together a sweet and spicy pork sandwich on a steamed bun. I am sure there other delicious restaurants within five steps in any direction, but we were excessively full and needed to waddle our way to another area of Manhattan.
Typically, we then walk of our large prunch from MacDougal St. at High Line Park. I say “typically” because I have successfully accomplished this twice. High Line Park is one of the perfect gems of New York City. The abandoned elevated rail line was converted into a meandering vibrant pathway for strolling, people watching and enjoying the fresh air. We walked through the flower gardens; we stopped to relax, talk and gaze out into New York’s colorful architecture.
One thing that I loved about China, and a reason why I am going back, is the food. The cuisines across China vary as much as those across Europe and Sichuan Chinese food is the cuisine that most tingles my tongue. The food is smoky and spicy and they use small peppercorns that physically numb the tongue and mouth. Since we were feeling snacking, our love of those flavors brought us to Szechuan Gourmet. We ordered two classics – dan dan noodles and home-style tofu. We left the restaurant with our mouths still sizzling and a deeper craving to travel to Asia.
An essential restaurant for every visit to New York is Momufuku. There are three different Momofukus, try them all, but do not escape without eating in at least one. The Korean fusion fare is succulent and bursting with flavors no matter what is ordered. This time we went to Ssam Bar. We ordered up an array of deliciously simple roasted pork belly buns and spicy noodles. The juices subtly squirt out with each bite and the indulgence is completed with a sucking of the fingertips.
We did see more than just restaurants. Alongside thousands of other tourists we boarded the Staten Island ferry. We said our “hellos” to the statue of liberty and grabbed a bus to get us into the interior part of the island. Walking through the historic neighborhoods we found the house where my mom was born. It is fun being in a place where my relatives played in the streets. I imagine my grandparents, whom I never met, and their little German community sixty years ago.
New York is hot in the summertime, ice cream is cold. And what is cool is a saucy man driving around in his big gay ice cream truck. We first heard about this truck while at a street food convention in San Francisco. The owner described how and why he started his business and when in New York we had to try some. He serves up basic soft serve with a twist. He creates his own toppings, such as salted caramel then dipped in chocolate or wasabi pea dust. We ordered a toasted curried coconut, a unique flavor combination with soft serve but it really worked.
We slipped into a bar for drinks and the final match of the Euro Cup. Hundreds of Spaniards and hispanophiles descended onto Washington Square to jump cheer and celebrate in the fountain.
For prinner we headed to a dumpling shop in Chinatown. At Prosperity Dumpling we ordered pork and chive pan-fried dumplings and veggie soup dumplings. We made the mistake thinking that the dumplings would be Shanghai style, with soup inside, but in fact they arrived to us in a soup broth. At $2 for 10, this restaurant turns out thousands of these delicious pot stickers.
Dinnertime: a few blocks away is a restaurant that we had to return to for a 2nd meal. Xi’an Famous Foods serves Muslim Chinese food. They hand-pull all their noodles and their cumin-rich lamb burger is exceptional.
Everything you can imagine exists in New York. Case in point: a restaurant that only makes rice pudding. There are twenty-five flavors, toppings and cheeky quotes that make up a fun atmosphere. Next time you are in New York try Rice to Riches and as stated on the wall “order the large, you are fat anyway!”
Next we strolled over to an institution that has perfected the pastrami sandwich. Yes, Katz’s Deli smokes and carves a meat that is really special and celebrated by the world. This trip we ordered it as a Reuben that adds Swiss cheese and sauerkraut to an already great thing. The sandwich is huge, bring a friend and split it.
Still hungry? Ramen is the perfect late night supper. Toto Ramen served up a spicy and rich broth that is some of the best we have ever had. The wait was well over an hour, but worth it.
One thing that every tourist can agree on in New York is that there is too much to do. There are many sights and neighborhoods to explore. A day can be filled wondering the streets and peeking around the brick and mortar buildings. Every block has something special to see and every building has character and history to its presence. New York is calling us, inviting us to live and explore more intimately, but now is a time for travel. Goodbye NYC until next time.
(Note: Ok, we didn’t actually consume all of these dishes in one day – it took about a week! But what an epic day that would be. Talk about food coma)