Friday, January 27, 2012

Food Highlights from New York City!

Kyla, my oldest child at just-turned 6 1/2, and I were so excited to get to take our first trip to New York City last week.  We had an amazing time, and ate some really yummy food, and some really interesting things that we don't see here in Arkansas normally, so I thought I'd share some of our favorite food finds from the city today.  So pour a cup of tea, and join our advenutre.  It's a bit longer than my normal posts, and I've included lots of links if you want more information (designated by the underlined words), so I hope you enjoy it!

 Don't worry, I have several great new recipes to share next week, including a couple 'modern' slow cooker ones that I'm really excited about!

We spent one morning at Chelsea Market, which you may recognize as the home of Food Network.  Many of their studios, kitchens, and offices are on the second floor of this former Nabisco Cookie factory building that has been amazingly restored, while keeping much of the 'old' charm of the building.  Unfortunately you can't tour or visit any of the Food Network locations, but there is still plenty to see downstairs!

Our first stop to taste was Ruthy's Bakery, where we shared a French Macarron.  I really wish we had tried one of the Rugelach, which is a Jewish pastry sort of like a croissant with a variety of fillings rolled inside of it, but we had lots of other places to try also, and Kyla chose a hot pink French Macaroon that was really, really good.  It was strawberry flavored, and really rich, almost like a candy; she has a big sweet tooth, and even with me tasting it too, we had to wrap some of it up for later!  They had amazing wedding cakes on display in here also, and bakeries right on side we sat & watched while we ate.

Our next stop was Ronnybrook Dairy, where they have their own cows that they say they treat like family, and, among other things, give them homeopathic remedies when possible instead of traditional medicine (antibiotics).  They're basically a model organic farm, package it in glass bottles, the whole nine yards.  They literally sold only dairy products, and we shared a blueberry yogurt smoothie that was really good.  It didn't have sugar added, so Kyla said it wasn't her absolute favorite, but she definitely drank her share!  We sat at the bar there, and talked to a nice young guy that had come to NY from CA on the Amtrak (64 straight hours!!) a few months back.  So that was interesting.

Lots of choices at Chelsea Market!  Most were specialty shops that just sold one or two things.  We went into almost all of them.  Kyla enjoyed asking the butcher a few questions and watching them work, and I loved the massive kitchen supply store and Anthropologie.  But hardly spent any money, since we had a long day ahead of us, and anything I purchased I had to carry for 12 more hours, which was probably a good budget saver, ha!  The exposed brick and building was just so neat too!

We visited Juniors actually not once, but twice!  This time we were at Grand Central & needed a quick bite to eat for lunch.   I had actually read a non-fiction, documentary style, cookbook about Juniors and the family that owns and operates the restaurant (although there are 3 locations in NY now) several years ago and enjoyed it, so I was excited to try it.  We had corned beef & pastrami on onion rolls that was really good!  The corned beef was a bit fatty for me, but Samuel says I'm really particular about that, I don't want a single bit on my meat, so it was probably supposed to be that way.  The sandwich was really good though!  Everything was served with these beets & pickles that were dill, but didn't taste like ordinary dill pickles. 

So this definitely isn't New York specific, but it is something we don't have in Arkansas, and I love this picture!  We stopped in Au Bon Pain a couple of times to get yummy cookies, and to use the restroom, as a good one was a bit of a challenge to find at times.  Aunt Sue had a Thai soup that looked really yummy there too!

We were really excited to get to eat at American Girl in New York City also.  It's right on 5th avenue with all the big name shopping places, and was such a fun experience for the girls.  They have special chairs that hook onto the table for your doll, and bring them their own little teacup & plate.  The napkin rings on our white cloth napkins were bow ponytail holders for the girls to keep too.  The dinner is a set price, and you get to choose from a nice selections of drinks, including hot cocoa, pink lemade, tea, sodas, etc.  The meal is served in four course, which really impressed the little girls, so they brought mini cinnamon rolls out first that were super gooey and yummy!   Next was the appetizer plate that had baby carrots, little vegetable and cheese kabobs, ranch dip, puff pastry with tuna salad, breads with warm spinach & arthichoke dip for them, and grapes.

There were several main courses to choose from; I had the salmon, served with steamed veggies and mashed potatoes.  I let Kyla order whatever she wanted, and she got the mini hot dog & mini hamburger mostly because it was just that - mini, and she thought it would be cute.  It was, but she honestly ate very little of it, since we had 2 courses before this, and she knew dessert was still coming.  Dessert was an adorable chocolate mousse in a glass flowerpot with a little flower in it, white cake cut into a flower shape, and a little fresh fruit kabob.  All good again.  The food was actually quite a bit better than I expected, I would highly recommend it.

We visited Chinatown also.  There were open air shops on one side of the sidewalk, and then tables with vendors selling everything from sunglasses to belts, scarves, belts, mittens, and produce.  The prices were so amazing too, I wished I could pack my suitcase full of it and bring it back to Arkansas!  The cherries were amazing, and 3 pounds for $5!  Raspberries were just $1!  Seriously great prices, and we did buy enough to eat that day & it was really tasty too.  I love the way the dragonfruit look too, they're the hot pink & green fruit on the middle right side of this photo.  Top left is dried mushrooms; many of the signs were in Chinese characters only.
We got the girls these cute bamboo & cloth painted umbrellas they carried around from a street vendor too.  Look at the seafood prices also!  $6.00 a dozen on the crabs!  We're definitely not in Arkansas anymore!  And yes, lots of it was live; crawling lobsters, swimming fish, etc. all sold by the pound so you could have a REALLY fresh dinner.
Pearl River Mart was our next stop in Chinatown (although it's technically in SOHO :) and it was one of my favorite places we went in NYC.  A bonus was that they offer shipping, and don't charge sales tax, for out of state packages.  I was able to stock up on several Asian food things we like and the package arrived a day or two after we got home!  I love the colorful tea tins, top left, and I actually think these dried whole anchovies taste good, if you can get past the 'it has an eye and is a whole tiny fish staring at me' thing, ha!  We chose some candies & teas to bring back for souvenirs.  The store really was a huge department store that carried everything from book to housewares, clothing, and even fabric by the yard, toys, etc.  Samuel was disappointed I didn't bring him a Pocari Sweat or Calpis drink.  They sure know how to to name them, huh!!  They actually taste really good, we enjoyed lots of them when we've visited Japan and then Hawaii, but they would have cost too much to ship.  I was excited to find that the store does have a website you can order from, although it isn't super easy to navigate, I'm hoping that since I've been in the store now I will be able to figure it out, since my former favorite Asian Grocer online is only selling in brick & mortar stores in California now.  I did get 8 jars of our favorite furikake to make Onigiri, one of my absolute favorite Asian foods that I haven't been able to make for several months.  Yay!  The kids were really excited too!
One of Kyla's highlights was getting to eat a real New York hotdog from a real New York City hotdog stand!  She had read about them in the books, so we got one for a snack in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art & Central Park before visiting there.  I tasted it & it did taste like a hot dog :)
We stopped in an Asian Bakery to let Kyla sample a pastry with Red Bean Paste inside.  Which is basically cooked, smashed azuki beans (sort of a cross between a small kidney & pinto bean) that have been sweetned a little bit with sugar or honey.  This pastry was quite a bit sweeter than others I've eaten.  I know it sounds a bit strange perhaps, pastries with beans, but it actually is quite good.  I'd definitely love to be eating one right now!  Same thing with the "Bubble Tea", which is made with large black tapioca pearls inside.  The texture of them is kind of similiar to a gummy candy.  Kyla was, naturally, a bit skeptical of the black things floating in her mango smoothie, but after she tasted it loved it, and made it a game to see how many she could get slurped up into the giant straw at a time.  Three was her record :)
Kyla in front of a unusually calm section of Chinatown, this was pretty early in the morning before it really started buzzing!
We were excited to get to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island via ferry.  The girls were enjoying the exhibits on many different immigrant groups so much that we ended up eating lunch there.  The food was rather ordinary, but the dining room was an exact replica, down to the long tables and chairs, art on the wall, and everything, and obviously in the same location, as where they used to serve the people awaiting the proper documentation to be admitted into the United States.  They had markers on each table showing photographs of the dining hall during this era. 
We visited FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue that sold pretty much any toy you could imagine.  The candy shop inside sold mega boxes and packages of all of your favorite candies.  See the boxes of nerds & rolls of giant sweethearts behind Kyla in the top right photo?  And the massive Reese's peanut butter cups behind her in the bottom right photo?  I have no idea how you would begin to eat the candy inside, it was really that large also, or who would want to spend $30 on something like that, but the kids thought it was really neat to look at.
We happened up on this place to eat after a full day, when we were all really, really hungry.  It only had about 12 seats in the whole place, as many small places in New York did.  I figured out on this trip that I much prefer New York Style Pizza to Chicago Style Pizza.  This used a very thin, homemade mozzarella cheese, and the crust is thin and crunchy, more cracker than doughy.  And yes, Kyla ate the whole huge slice!
The rest of us had pasta, although if I had known how great Kyla's pizza was, I might have gotten that!  The pastas were great too.  Thanks to Aunt Sue for sharing some of her salad with me.  I also tried my first stuffed grape leaf, bottom right.  It was good.  I'm not 100% sure what was inside, although I believe it was some sort of rice, ground meat, likely lamb, and seasonings.  I just looked it up, and that is actually probably pretty close according to wikipedia.
So Sunday night about 9 pm, while we were in the "City that Never Sleeps" I told Jamie & Rachel I'd treat for dessert if they could find somewhere that deliver.  And, what do you know, they did!  The other desserts were good (cannoli, cheesecake, & chocolate lava cake), but the Nutella Pizza was the huge surprise - it was the best tasting dessert of them all!  I don't even just love nutella, but on a thin, crispy crust with chocolate sauce, pistachios, bananas, strawberries, and powdered sugar, it was amazing!
After we'd had a big, really late lunch, Kyla & I got Jamba Juice smoothies for dinner, and then I let her choose a donut also.  She'd been eyeing them every single day at the food truck, but I wouldn't let her have one for breakfast, so an after dinner snack was somehow better in my eyes, ha!  Plus, I knew she was so ready for bed by the time we got back that she would have no trouble going to sleep! 
Our last morning there, we went to Ellen's Stardust Diner just off of Broadway, near Times Square, for breakfast.  It's best known for it's 'struggling actors & actresses' swinging waitstaff.  Thanks to Rachel for recommending it!  I guess it cna be crazy busy, but the Tuesday morning after a holiday was the perfect time to go, we were 2 of only 8 people dining at the time!  Which meant that all of the singers kept "singing to" Kyla, which actually kind of embarassed her a bit, which is hard to do!  She loved it though; it's a old-timey diner type atmosphere, but with tons of lights, bright colors, etc.  Plus the wait staff singing.  Lots going on!   I decided to try a "New York Style Egg Cream" since we had seem them on lots of menus but not tried them yet.  Sounds good, right?  It actually wasn't so good.  Kyla drank it all, but I could hardly stand it.  She likes 'bubbly water' plain though it contains no eggs, cream, or ice cream, and they haven't been able to successfully bottle it; they actually mix it right at your table, she had me stir as she poured in the seltzer (bubbly) water.  It is a New York original (Brooklyn actually), and has chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer water.  Definitely a 'try one time' thing for me.
Our food, however, was really good!  We shared this huge smoked salmon omelette that was really great, skillet potatoes, and rye toast.
We did make it back to Juniors to get some of their "most fabulous cheesecake" and, I must admit, it truly was fabulous.  Like nearly beyond words, definitely the best cheesecake I've ever had in my entire life, amazing.
Kyla actually said that it made her feel "dreamy" and I thought that was pretty accurate!

She ordered hot chocolate too, which we ended up sharing.  I love that she asked for her camera to take a picture of the great mound of whipped cream on top!
A few of the huge variety of colors at M&M's World which is actually New York City's biggest candy store.  It's 3 stories tall, in Times Square, and had M&Ms printed on pretty much anything you can imagine.  Plus, lots of the real deal for sale too!
These are actually more of Chinatown.  It got quite chilly the morning we visited, so we stopped at a little noodle shop to warm up & get a big bowl of noodles for lunch.  It was crowded, we were seated at a table for 6, along with 3 other single people (none of them with each other).  The man next to us actually had to call out to the waiter twice in Chinese and point at us to get them to come take our order, but once we got that take care of it was great.  I didn't see any utensils other than chopsticks in the place, and they were the slippery hard plastic ones without any texture or lines to help grip the food at all, but that didn't really deter Kyla at all, I thought she did a great job!  She got her favorite wonton soup, although, of course, it was quite a bit different from her favorite local Thai place here.  She still liked it!  I got beef, top right, and enjoyed it also.  Again though, the meat was wonderfully tender, but had some fat attached to it, which I really don't like, and with just chopsticks there really isn't a great way to get it off, so that wasn't my favorite.  I know, I know, picky American, ha!  The flavors of the broth were amazing though.  I actually tried to replicate the big bowl of noodles with some success since we've been back, I didn't tell the Kyla what I was going for, and she immediately said that it reminded her of the noodle shop in Chinatown, so I'll have to post that recipe sometime.....after I make it again & actually measure the ingredients out, ha!  She also loved that the Chinese man next to us was slurping his noodles, which she knew was culturally appropriate, and loved actually seeing.  It's the little things, right?
Yes, those are whole pigs he is delivering from the back of that truck!  Lots of whole animals being sold everywhere, both cooked and uncooked.  Which again, isn't my absolute favorite, but I realize is pretty much typical for everywhere in the world except the good ole U. S. of A :)
Top photo, another Asian pretty!  Bottom right, I thought it was hilarious, besides the McDonalds & a Starbucks of course, the only other chains we saw for blocks & blocks near Chinatown were 2 Popeyes!  Yes, the "Louisiana Kitchen" and home of chicken & biscuits, everything southern deep fried Popeyes.  It's too "southern" for me to prefer even; I thought it was funny there were 2 in Chinatown in New York City though :)  Bottom left photo is 97 Orchard Street on the Lower Eastside, famous for being the home of a large and varied immigrant population; the dark, crazy crowded apartments you've likely read about.  It has actually been turned into a museum.  Long story that involves me tripping & falling on the sidewalk (!) and sold out walking tour tickets, but we didn't actually get to go inside.  Next time :)  I do have the book on my tall stack of ones to read this year, I think it should be really interesting.
After we'd been at "The Met" (Metropolitan Museum of Art) long past dinnertime & needed somewhere warm to sit down and eat a nice dinner at, but that we could afford (NYC is expensive!!), we consulted my trusty 2012 NYC tour guide and walked just a few blocks to Amity Restaurant and it was perfect.  A smallish place, maybe 12 tables, with wood paneling, little booths with hooks to hang our coats on, a small bar, and they pushed tables together so all 8 of us could even sit together!  It kind of reminded me of a tiny, calm, warm, Cheers or something?  The kind of neighborhod place where 'everyone knows your name'.  The waiter was nice, and the menu was quite varied.  I had Greek style lamb gyros that were really good!  Kyla ate a couple slices of the ground lamb & loved it too.  She chose her food all by herself, and got Cheese Blintzes with applesauce top top them with.  She thought that they were 'fine' and ate them, but said they weren't her favorite, that they tasted a bit "plain" by themselves.  I was proud of her for choosing something totally unfamiliar off of the menu, and then eating it though!  My kind of girl :)  Bob ordered a cup of clam chowder with his meal, and I was shocked when it came that it wasn't the white creamy stuff I'm used to seeing.  He told me there are actually two kinds of clam chowders, the white one I'm used to seeing is "New England Style" and that the red, broth & tomato based one that they offered at the restaurant was appropriately titled "Manhattan Style."  Of course, I couldn't visit Manhattan without trying Manhattan clam chowder for the first time, so I ordered a cup also.  I thought it was good, fine, but definitely much prefer the New England style.  The Manhattan style tasted to me like they were making vegetable beef soup, and accidentally replaced the beef with clams.  A bit funny.  Not terrible, just not quite "right" to my tastes.
This was one of my favorite food things in New York!  Big thanks to Rachel for introducing us to the breakfast food truck!  We actually visited 3 mornings in a row, it was that great!  For $2 they fix you this huge roll they warm on the griddle with 2 large eggs they cook on their hot griddle right there after you order, and add either ham, bacon, or sausage, also cooked on the griddle.  We tried all three, and the ham was my favorite, with sausage a close second although, of course, the bacon was amazing also!  They add cheese, put it all together, wrap it in foil & put it in a paper bag with a napkin (torn into half, I'm assuming to be frugal?) and off you go!  Seriously the best $2 I've ever spent.  If they were on our street I'd budget for it and be there every morning buying sandwiches for the family! 

By the time we got on the subway the sandwiches (see how huge they are!!) had cooled enough to eat, although they were still piping hot.  The cheese melted, my mouth is literally watering thinking about the sandwiches.  They were that good, and I'm not even a huge egg or breakfast person normally.
Kyla & I were in the city alone one afternoon & needed a late lunch, so we stopped at a Greek Restaurant.  I've eaten, and enjoy, a few gyros in my life, and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is one of the few movies I've watched more than once & enjoy, but that's about the extent of my Greek food knowledge.  And this was the real deal.  Blue & white everywhere, Greek people cooking, waiting tables, Greek salt on the table even, everything, ha!  Because it was so late, about 2:30, they were not busy at all, and the waitresses were super nice to Kyla.  I ordered the one thing that I had heard of off of the menu, Moussaka.  Although I had no idea what it was, and my only knowledge of it was from the aforementioned movie.  We were really hungry, are both always up for trying something new, and I figured a dish that old & popular couldn't be too bad.  And bad it defintitely wasn't.  Moussaka wins the "biggest surprise" of the trip award on my book, it was super good!  It is eggplant & lamb on the bottom along with several other things, and then the topping is this super creamy, but light, sauce.  Kyla & I both loved it, and actually nearly all of it, and it was a big piece!  I'm not sure it's something I could duplicate at home, it seemed more like the sort of thing you're born knowing how to make because it's in your genes, ha!  Maybe I'll get brave and try someday.  The salad & flat bread was good too.
We actually didn't get to go into this shop, but it was a very fancy, very elegant Japanese Sweets shop, that sold different types of Wagashi.  These range anywhere from a dollar or two each, all the way up to 5-8 dollars each!  They also sold the fruit jelly things that are popular there.  Samuel wold have appreciated a treat from here, but we were literally leaving go to to the airport and had to take a subway and then taxi to get there, and I wasn't afraid I could get it home intact.  Again, next time :)
We were actually served drinks & light snacks on the long flight (2-3 hours), which I didn't expect, since last time we flew they only had food available for purchase, even drinks.  The Biscoff Cookies are so good, and I thought it was cute Delta has their emblem baked onto the cookies.  Too bad they would go so great with hot tea & they don't serve that....

I hope you enjoyed seeing the food highlights of our trip!  Becca


  1. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience at Chelsea Market. Really it is food network. May I know the opening hours of the market.

  2. Chelsea Market is open from 7 am to 9 pm Monday through Saturday, and 8 am to 7 pm on Sundays!