What's a foodie? It's a question I get asked a lot. While you'd think I'd have a great answer, I don't.
Generally, I say foodies appreciate the food they eat and take care to eat great tasting things whenever possible. But examples often work much better. Such as, when a foodie travels they plan where to eat throughout their entire trip.
Now, I know some of you are nodding your heads -- you've been there and perhaps you've even let the dining location choices dictate other activities on a given day. But some people who I say this to look at me like I am crazy. Does it really sound that outlandish to pick out where to eat so you can savor as many amazing bites as possible? I don't think so and on a recent trip to New York City I did just that…
Given the extra calories I was likely to consume I limited breakfast to fruit and coffee on most days and had a great time running the trails in Central Park and the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. And given the sheer number of restaurant choices in New York City I decided to focus on the restaurants of chef's whose cookbooks I frequently cook from. I also used Mike Colameco's Food Lover's Guide to New York City to help me decide where to eat.
Sarah Jenkin's Olives & Oranges cookbook rivals only Andrew Carmellini's Urban Italian on my list of top cookbooks that I frequently turn to. Clearly, I had to visit both chef's venues.
Sarah Jenkin's Porchetta is a very small restaurant that focuses on porchetta sandwiches. Very small is really an understatement. It has a counter inside and two benches outside; otherwise it is purely take out. The menu is equally sparse but that's fine since the star attraction is the Porchetta sandwich. One bite and you know you are indulging in something special. Nestled within a hearty roll is roasted pork with a special combination of seasonings including wild fennel pollen and really crispy skin. Words alone cannot describe it so I urge you to try it out yourself…
Andrew Carmellini has two great cookbooks (Urban Italian and American Flavor) and two New York City Restaurants (Locanda Verde and The Dutch). I went to both. This was my second visit to Locanda Verde (yes in a city with this many restaurants it was so good the first time that I had to come back). I must admit I returned as much for pastry chef Karen DeMasco's desserts as I did for the savories. Choosing what to eat here is very difficult. Everything I've had is wonderful -- the Sheep's milk ricotta; the Burrata with eggplant calabrese, dandelion greens and fried rosemary; the Locanda Salad of bitter greens, dried cherries, hazelnuts and smoked speck; Pappardelle with lamb bolognese, ricotta and mint; the Shaved Porchetta Sandwich with grilled onions and provolone and more. But the critical thing is to save room for dessert. I particularly like chef DeMasco's use of frozen granita to accent flavors such as the carrot granita on the carrot cake.
The Dutch has a more American feel in contrast to the Italian focus of Locanda Verde. I admit that originally I wasn't sure I wanted to deviate from the Italian food I so fondly know chef Carmellini for, but I am very glad I did. The burrata with organic broccoli had pure clean balsamic vinegar and a few pickled items (onions I think) that made it stand out. My absolute favorite dish of my entire visit was the Korean Style Hanger Steak with Kimchi fried rice and egg. While I tend to stay clear of hanger steak because it can be a tough cut this was prepared perfectly and not at all tough. The Kimchi fried rice stole the show: spicy, crunchy, and addictive. I may well have stumbled upon something I will crave again and again. Dessert was also wonderful. I'm not sure what magic Andrew Carmellini uses in obtaining pastry chef's but his selection of pastry chef Kierin Baldwin was an outstanding one.
Jim Lahey is probably best known for his no-knead bread and Sullivan Street Bakery, but his latest cookbook, My Pizza, is what got him on my list of restaurants to try. Co. is a pizza focused restaurant that just so happened to be around the corner from where I was staying. Since I've made several of the pizza's in My Pizza that are also on the menu of Co. I knew that I not only had to try the restaurant but already had favorites to try. The thin crust dough is amazing. I was pleasantly surprised that what I make at home is very similar. The pizza's were good too, but since I've made them and customized them to my tastes my expectations were high and I was slightly disappointed in the result. That's not to say it isn't a great pizza place, but it is pretty hard to compete with something individually tuned to your own palate.
Momofuko's pork buns were a must have that I enjoyed on my first day in the city at David Chang's ssäm bar. I've heard lots of people say how good they are and we even have a recipe of them available here on Project Foodie from the Momofuko Cookbook. Typically such expectations result in disappointment but not in this case. I found the pork buns as wonderful as everyone said they would be. The bun is light, the sauce melds perfectly, the house made pickles have just the right crunch and the pork belly was luscious and over the top as I expected. The surprise was the accompanying Sriracha sauce which I found very addictive. If I'd had another open lunch spot I would have been back here (and again). And next time I'd like to visit one of his restaurants for dinner.
Within eyesight of ssäm bar is Milk Bar and pastry chef Christina Tosi's famous Crack Pie. While I did indulge at the Milk Bar, it was with the Candy Bar Pie: sweet, intense and original with more peanut that I'd expected. I also had a taste of the Espresso Milk Shake which was exactly like you'd imagine and, of course, delicious.
My last choice was more traditional with no accompanying cookbook (that I know of at least). Katz's Delicatessen is a New York City icon that has existed for over 125 years but remains packed at lunchtime with lines both to enter and order your food once you get inside. They have the system down; everyone gets a ticket when they enter and as you pick items your ticket gets updated so that when you leave they know how much to charge you. No one gets out the door without showing their ticket. Despite the crowd and somewhat rushed atmosphere the Pastrami was well worth the visit.
Wow! -- what a few days of savoring food from some of my favorite chefs. Good thing I got in some exercise, including checking out the elevated park The Highline that transformed a former elevated railroad line and urban blight into a beautiful green area in the city. And helping even more to burn some calories were the many miles of runs as I continue to train for my next half marathon!
Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.