Food is such a big part of discovering and enjoying a new country. Seeking out the local delicacies that you have read about in books or magazines, comparing if the ‘new country’ or the ‘old country’ does it better, and understanding a bit of background about a dish all help to understand the culture. Of course, there is also just enjoying food for the taste, view from the table, or fun of it.
As I am preparing to depart New York City this coming week, here are my most memorable meals (across two visits to this city) — from the simple to the fancy. Many have been eaten in the company of friends; some while alone. I’m sure I’ll be back to read a Big Apple menu again, and add to this list.
Maine-style lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound at ‘Smorgasburg‘, Williamsburg: Sitting on the grass, buttery toasted-roll, filled with bright red lobster and dressing, looking back to Manhattan skyline. The way to enjoy a New York summer.
Quick Turkish breakfast at Gulluoglu Baklava Cafe, Midtown: On 2nd Avenue, just one block down from the apartment I am staying in, is Gulluoglu — an authentic Turkish cafe. It is usually filled with Turkish voices behind the counter, Turkish businessmen having breakfast meetings, locals familiar with staff, and excited/exhausted tourists examining street maps, seated at the tables. I loved this place for my favourite quick breakfast: a cheese boregi, Turkish coffee, and cheeky pistachio baklava seated at the street-window, watching New York go by.
‘My’ vegetarian pizza, Angelo’s Pizza on 2nd Avenue: One night I had a craving for vegetarian pizza, so wandered down the street to Angelo’s. My chosen toppings were to be broccoli, olives and mushrooms, on the standard tomato, ricotta and mozzarella base. It hit the spot. I’ve been back more than once to satisfy cravings.
Fried Green Tomatoes, Tipsy Parson, Chelsea: In July, I wrote about Tipsy Parson being one of my favourite things in Chelsea. If it is one of my favourite ‘things’ in Chelsea, the Fried Green Tomatoes here were one of my favourite meals in the city. Tipsy was the first place I’d ever eaten this little soul food dish, and in cosy surrounds, it was a winner.
Coca-Cola Float, Lexington Candy Shop, Upper East Side: I discovered this pre-war luncheonette thanks to my ‘How to Find Old New York’ map from Herb Lester. It really was like a living-museum, from the old-school menu and service, to the antique, green-enamel milkshake maker still used today. Sitting at the counter with a ‘float’ (or ‘Spider’ as we Australians would say) made the visit feel like an extra-special step back in time.
Truffle Burger at Umami Burger, West Village: My friend was visiting the city and when we arranged to meet up, she said she’d heard good things about Umami, so we went to see if the hype was warranted. It was — especially for the Truffle Burger (with a side of sweet potato fries). I think biting in to this was the only time our chatter and conversation fell a bit silent that afternoon.
Lamb chops at Eataly’s Birrera, Flatiron District: I’d been to Eataly many times before I’d eaten at their rooftop restaurant Birrera — but mainly for coffee, gelato and takeaway pizza — and I was pretty impressed with those delights. However, the lamb chops were really something — perfectly cooked (medium rare, thanks), with roast artichokes, and a delicious pesto sauce. It was simple and perfect in the summer sun with friends.
Breakfast at home, with McCann’s Madagascar vanilla bean with honey oats: I was never good at eating breakfast as a youngin’, but porridge helped me get better at it in my adult years, and I continue to start the day with oats when I can. I came across these ‘artisan’ oats at Chelsea Market, and they, topped with fresh blueberries, and maybe a drizzle of honey, were the taste (and aroma) of my New York summer mornings.
Dumplings; and ricotta gelato at The Beatrice Inn, West Village: The dumplings weren’t the Chinese variety the four of us expected when we ordered a plate to share at this swanky place with the old-world charm; they were better. The softest gnocchi pillows I’d ever tasted — buttery, cheesy, with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan, and crushed, crunchy prosciutto to finish off. Later, my dessert choice was ricotta gelato on a honey-walnut toffee, and drizzled with honey sauce. A dead heat for the delicious prize.
Moroccan Scramble at Five Leaves, Greenpoint: If you have to queue for half an hour for somewhere popular, in a crowd of people wearing tuxedos, beanies, and tied to pet dogs, knowing that Moroccan Scramble awaits you for brunch, is a pretty good incentive. The thick toast covered in a generous serve of avocado, topped with scrambled egg, merguez sausage, chickpeas with Moroccan spices, and fresh coriander (cilantro) looked great, and tasted even better. This was the last brunch I’d have with a new Australian-expat-in-New-York friend, and it was a fitting farewell.
Takeaway coffee next to Conservatory Water, Central Park: After a regular ‘power-walk’ to, and into, the park, I’d usually head to the cafe at Kerbs Memorial Boathouse to order a $4 takeaway latte, as part of a halfway pit-stop before the return journey. The coffee wasn’t necessarily awesome, but buying one, and sitting under the trees and watching life in the park was one of my favourite rituals.