Eating the Big Apple

I’m going to start by apologising that while this is a post about food, there aren’t that many photos of the food I ate, mostly because I was far too caught up in the moment to stop and snap.

And while I thoroughly enjoy eating I’m not really a ‘foodie’ so this isn’t much of a restaurant review so much as more of an overview of where we went and what I thought of what I ate.

As you may have worked out, I quite fancy making lists; the bucket list, the summer manifesto list, the what to see/do in New York list (Chelsea High Line, rooftop bars, Yankees game,
cycle around Central Park and have breakfast at Tiffany’s etc).

So it should come as no surprise that I had a food list for NYC.It wasn’t a long one and was mostly developed through tips from friends and references in TV shows and movies:

The List
Grimaldi’s Pizza (see below)
Serendipity
Magnolia’s Bakery (did it … twice)
Chelsea Food Market (did it … also twice!)
Katz Deli
Gray’s Papaya hotdogs (did it … and wouldn’t recommend it)

I also had the chance to eat at a collection of amazing restaurants.

I mentioned the dinner and drinks we had at Tao in my last post but here are some of my other gastronomical highlights (and misfires).

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria
On their website, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria claim to serve up the pizza that made Brooklyn Bridge famous as well as offering “THE best coal-fired brick oven, New York-style thin crust pizza in the world”.

They were also the most recommended place to eat when friends found out I was headed for NYC.

Tucked in the shadow of Brooklyn Bridge and just a stones throw from the East River, they have an enviable location as well as more than 100 years’ experience.

So it was with high expectations that Ross and I jumped on the subway over to Brooklyn and waited in line for a table, the delicious scent of freshly baked pizzas wafting out the door to tease us.

Once seated we ordered an antipasto platter which was pretty basic and a regular sized pizza (6 slices) with pepperoni, sweet peppers (capsicum for the Aussies), onion and of course, lots of cheese.

Although I initially protested that we didn’t go the larger size (8 slices), in the end I was happy we’d gone the smaller pan size because I was done after a slice and a half … Pretty embarrassing after all my bragging that I can usually eat almost a whole pizza myself!

The pizza was okay; definitely not the best pizza I’ve eaten and I don’t think it was worth the hype but I’ve also had worse. But the location made it worth the trip because after dinner we walked down to the river, which had almost unrivalled views of the city and the Statue of Liberty, before walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

As one of the oldest suspension bridges in the USA, Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn and you can walk it, ride it, drive it or just admire it. With a main span of 486.3m it was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its opening until 1903 and the first steel-wire suspension bridge.

Shake Shack

Our ‘All American’ night of burgers and bowling at Lucky Strike started with a trip to Shake Shack burger joint. (While writing this post I was watching/listening to the rom-com Something Borrowed and Shake Shack in Madison Square Park makes multiple appearances!)

As well as serving up some tasty burgers and fries, Shake Shack also has hot dogs, frozen custard and shakes and they are licensed to sell alcohol which means there is also beer and wine on the menu!

Shake Shack sprouted from a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park which was created to support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation. Shack fans lined up daily for three summers before the first permanent Shack was opened in the park in 2004.

We made two visits to Shake Shack on 8th Ave in the Theatre District (open daily until midnight for a post-show fix); the first for burgers and fries before our bowl-off which I’ll begrudgingly admit to losing 2-1 (and not so graciously) and the second time we dropped in so I could try one of their famed chocolate Frozen Custards which was super smooth and creamy.

Momofuku ssäm bar

I’ve eaten in some beautiful restaurants in my time but I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at any that have been internationally recognised for their outstanding fare … And now I have had the pleasure of eating in two such restaurants.

The first, Momofuku ssäm bar, is currently ranked #37 on the San Pellegrino world’s 50 best restaurants list.

Pics from NYmag.com and newyork.seriouseats.com

Momofuku (which means lucky peach) is a walk-in only restaurant with reservations only accepted for the bo ssäm pork shoulder (serves 6-10 people) and the whole-rotisserie duck ssäm (serves 3-6 people).

After a short wait at the restaurant’s bar located next door, which I wasn’t a fan of after the waiter looked disgusted at my order of a vodka and lemonade … and even more appalled when, after he said they didn’t have lemonade, he told me they make their own apple juice (with coriander … what the!) and I asked if I could just have that … with vodka.

That aside, the staff at Momofuku were attentive and helpful with suggestions on how many share plates to start with and we set about choosing our dishes. The menu had me stumped with almost every dish featuring at least one ingredient I didn’t know.

We settled on Steamed buns with pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions (recommended by our waitress); Benton’s smoky mountain ham (madisonville, tn); Honeycrisp apple kimchi with maple labne, jowl bacon, arugula; Roasted lamb loin & belly with bulgur, lima beans, egg yolk and Spicy pork sausage & rice cakes with chinese broccoli, sichuan peppercorn

The steamed buns were delicious (but almost anything served with hoisin wins me over) and the rest of the meal was nice too although the spicy sausage was way too spicy for me!

Public
Public was the second restaurant we ventured to which had been internationally recognised, having been awarded a coveted Michelin Star for the 2012 New York City Red Guide on the day we visited.

Part-owned by a design and concept firm, Public offers a ‘free spirited fusion’ menu designed by head chef Brad Farmerie, who has previously cooked in London at the Providores, Sugar Club, Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons, Coast and Chez Nico.

For entrée I had the Grilled scallops with sweet chili sauce, crème fraiche and green plantain crisps and Ross had the Cured wild boar, Garrotxa cheese, marinated olives, caper berries and crostini.

For mains, I had the vegetarian Ricotta cavatelli with carrot Bolognese, Thai basil and cashew pesto while Ross had the Grilled New Zealand venison loin, Cabrales dumplings, oyster mushrooms and salsa verde.

The restaurant has a great vibe, with lots of with soft lighting and a variety of different areas making up the main dining room. There’s also areas which can be closed off with semi-sheer curtains for private parties.

La Esquina
When it comes to choosing my favourite restaurant from the trip, LaEsquina wins hands down. Forget Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, this will be the restaurant I recommend to my friends, along with Tao.

From the outside La Esquina looks like your typical NYC taco takeaway but behind its old-school facade are three distinct eateries—a cafe, taqueria and brassiere.

According to New York magazine, “It takes knowing someone in the industry, smooth talking, or (velvet-rope flashback) looking good and confident at the door, to waltz in at prime time”.

So it was with great delight that we not only got in for dinner after 8pm on a Sunday night, without a reservation, but that we made it to the much coveted subterranean brassiere.

“This haute Mexican eatery is harder to get into than Harvard”
-People magazine-

My sense of anticipation grew with each step I descended and walking through the kitchen to get to the brassiere was definitely a new—and brag-worthy—experience.

The only challenge at La Esquina was deciding what to have because it all looked, and sounded, so delicious.

In the end we settled for a mix of taquitos (tacos served on 4” soft corn tortillas with homemade salsa) and tostadas (crisp tortillas) as well as a share plate of marinated shrimp skewers which were delicious.

Taquitos
Conchita Pibil—slow-cooked pulled pork, pickled onions, habanero
Bistec—grilled and marinated steak, charred onions, salsa roja
Tostadas
Tinga de Pollo—slow-cooked chicken, avocado, chipotle

The food was amazing, the drinks were delicious (and although I didn’t try them, the margaritas were very popular) and what capped it all off was the soundtrack which featured old-school hits like Jackson Five’s I Want You Back but in Spanish.

As a bonus, a tiny piece of home also made the playlist—Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know (obviously, not in Spanish!).

Sushi Shop
For those lovers of sushi visiting New York, I can HIGHLY recommend Sushi Shop on Madison Ave. I liked it so much I went there three times during my two-week visit.

At the moment they are offering a number of dishes created by Michelin-starred chef Jean-François Piège. I tried his Tuna Cucumber Spring Roll and the vegetarian Maki ‘Comme un Taboulé and they were great but I loved the Mango Tango roll and the Crispy Rice Tuna sushi.

Le Pain Quotient
With exposed brick walls, reclaimed and recycled wooden furniture including communal tables, Le Pain Quotient is the ideal spot to drop in for breakfast, lunch or a snack in between—especially if you have a weakness for sweet treats.

From their buttery flaky croissants and fudgey chocolate brownies to chicken curry sandwiches with mango chutney and aged goat cheese and arugula salad.

Having already partaken in croissants, brownies and sandwiches early in my trip, I couldn’t resist trying their giant chocolate chip cookies.


I was also delighted to stumbled upon Le Pain Quotient in Santa Monica when searching for a breakfast location and treated myself to a ham, spinach and Gruyère frittata with fresh apple juice which was the perfect start to a great day.Breaklast Santa Monica

Mad. Sq. Eats
After two weeks of munching my way across the city, it was almost time to say goodbye.

So as the leaves in nearby Madison Square Park began to fall, Ross and I arrived at Worth Square on my last night in New York.

It seemed apt that in a city which is believed to boast more than 20,000 street food vendors, I found myself at an outdoor food market for my last supper.

But this wasn’t your average street food; Madison Square Eats is a biannual month-long outdoor food market with vendors including Roberta’s Pizza, Asiadog, Momofuku Milk Bar, ilili, Sigmund’s, Bar Suzette, Calexico, Nunu Chocolates and Baby Got Back Ribs to name a few.

After a mouth-watering lap of the markets, which feature gorgeous Marimekko umbrellas for shelter and the iconic Flatiron building as a backdrop, I settled on a marinated grilled chicken burrito from Calexico while Ross went for a lamb wrap and chips from ilili.

Both meals were delicious, although I was defeated by the burrito’s size and my overwhelming desire to finish off with a Belgian waffle from Wafels & Dinges.New York food trucks

As you may have guessed from their names Wafels & Dinges specialise in one thing—Belgian waffles.

From humble beginnings in 2007 when Thomas DeGeest sold his first waffle topped with Nutella, Wafels & Dinges has grown to be a New York institution and even has a catering arm!

They were named number one food truck in the city by The Learning Channel, featured in ‘Man Vs Food’ and ‘Eat Street’ and Jerry Seinfeld recommended them to Andersen Cooper. Wafels & Dinges also boast more than 13,000 Facebook ‘likes’, with daily updates on where their trucks can be found around the city.

According to their website ‘Dinges’ is the Belgian word for ‘stuff’, ‘whatchermacallit’ and ‘whatshisname’, so they use it to refer to ‘toppings’.

“All the world is a wafel and all of us merely dinges”
-Wafel & Dinges-

It was with great delight that we ordered our dessert; we both opted for the liège wafel (soft and chewy) and I had the real maple syrup as my ‘dinges’ while Ross had the Belgian chocolate fudge.

And I can tell you, they were amazing. I recommend that anyone taking a trip to NYC find Wafels & Dinges on Facebook, track them down and indulge in their heavenly waffles!

Mangiamo, Manhattan Beach CA
My final night in the US was spent in Manhattan Beach on the West Coast; think golden beaches covered in bronzed beach volleyball players and bars and a restaurants along the main street leading down to the pier.

As the sun set over the water, the bars and restaurants filled with locals but we scored a last-minute table at Mangiamo.

The staff were friendly and attentive and the food (well my meal at least) was outstanding. I opted for an entree of Fried Calamari followed by Fresh Grilled Scallops served on Corn Mashed Potatoes, finished with Champagne Saffron Cream and Sautéed Spinach.

The boys had entrées of Ahi Tuna Tartar layered with avocado, seasoned diced ahi and crispy shallots, finished with mustard soy vinaigrette served with wonton chips (Ross) and a Manhattan Seafood Chowder (Michael) which had a tomato base rather than the typical cream based chowder.

Michael followed his chowder with Braised Short Ribs that were slow braised with Port and beef stock and served with a medley of roasted root vegetables over baby crushed potatoes while Ross had the King Crab Linguine Fra Diavolo Marinara.

The food was great and being so close to the ocean, it was great to indulge in some more seafood. It was the perfect end to what had been an amazing three weeks in the United States.

We ate. We talked. And in the end we said goodbye, although it seems not for long … but more on that another time.

Manhattan Beach, CA.
Manhattan Beach, CA.

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