We came, we saw, we bought the T-shirt(s)

Friday, October 14, 2011

New York! New York! What is there to say about this amazing city that hasn’t already been said? It’s a city that you already “know” even before you get there, a city famous for its cameos in books and movies and TV. When we landed, it felt like a totally different world from us, yet somehow slightly familiar all at once. And it is definitely a city that gets under your skin, we’ve been back home almost three weeks and I never thought I’d say this, but I miss NYC already!

We miss your incredible, humungous museums.

We miss seeing squirrels everywhere.

We miss yellow taxi cabs.

We miss street carts on almost every corner.

And as strange as it may sound, we even miss the subway, with the funky buskers and the   sometimes quirky works of art.

But this being a food blog, you’ll no doubt want to hear about the victuals eh? Because we were travelling with the kiddies in tow, the very top end of town was not really on the cards, so no Daniel unfortunately :(. (We did get babysitting one night and headed out somewhere special but we weren’t all that impressed with the restaurant so we won’t be mentioning it).

Still, we had some pretty memorable meals. Our two most favourite, absolute stand-out meals were at Roberta’s Pizza and   El Amacen, both in Brooklyn. (We stayed on the Upper West side for a few days, then in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the rest of our trip).

Roberta’s was a little hard to find at first because the exterior blended in so well with the surroundings. Inside, it’s a little bit grunge meets garden shed, meets sharehouse, complete with Tiki Bar! I loved it. And the food was just sensational. Produce driven, seasonal, exciting and just a little bit mad. Think black garlic, octopus and watermelon. Or how about strawberry and watercress gelato? Or nasturtium granita, frozen grapes, and white chocolate mousse? Stunning food without any hint of pretentiousness. Oh and they do wood-fired pizzas too. Worth the trek and the hunt to find it. ( This article does a better descriptive job than I can. Thanks for the recommendation Molly!).

(It was too dark to take photos of the food in Roberta's, but I tried. Here's one of scallops (amazingly well cooked), lardo, plum and long bean).

El Amacen is a cute little Argentinian restaurant which was recommended by our hosts who we rented the apartment from. The food is fresh, zingy and authentic (according to Mr. Kitchen Hand who is apparently an authority on these things since he’s been to BA twice ;P). It is a meat-eater’s kind of place so don’t go if you are vegetarian, but my goodness the meat is  seared to perfection! Then it’s served with some incredible salads, and truffled fries. And for dessert, who can say no to churros and flan? Flan with strawberry pico de gallo!

Other memorable meals included: Momofuku Ssam Bar where we dug the pork buns, but the stand-out dish on the day was the roast duck and rice. It may sound simple but it was anything but. So full of flavour, it may almost be one of the best duck meals I’ve eaten in a while.

Mr. Kitchen Hand was also on a bit of a  barbecue quest (thanks to his visit to Salt Lick last year), and one of the most memorable barbecue meals we had was at Fette Sau. I loved the industrial warehouse feel of the place, and the decorative touches. There were old gramophone cones for lampshades, and the handles of the beer taps were made from rustic looking knives and barbecue implements. It was a loud, boisterous and fun set-up, were the food comes on paper plates set on waxed paper on a large metal tray, and there is a roll of kitchen paper at your elbow at the communal tables. Obviously eating ribs with your fingers is encouraged and the MCs absolutely felt at home.

However, the most kid-friendly and parent-friendly barbecue experience we had was at Blue Smoke. This is a more genteel eating establishment compared to Fette Sau, but still fun. After taking our orders, our lovely waiter brought out two raw cookie dough cut-outs (of little piggies) for the MCs to decorate with sprinkles. These were then whisked away to be baked and reappeared at the end of the meal for them to have for dessert. Very nice touch.

Actually, we noticed how welcoming everyone seemed to be when we ate out. No one seemed to bat an eye when we walked in with the MCs in tow. Not even at places like this:

Strawberry and rhubarb tart with fromage blanc ice-cream at Balthazar. We literally fought for bites of this dessert. I lost out on the ice-cream, but managed to at least snare a bit of the tart - divine.

Or this:

Mango and pineapple sundae at Terrace 5, MOMA. Like summer in a glass!

The waiter at this lovely brasserie in Washington DC even gave the girls a hug when we left (a nice hug, not a weird "get-off-my-kids" hug). How sweet!

Grits, caramelised pork belly, poached farm fresh duck egg, jus - brunch dish at Brasserie Beck.

Oh yes, we ducked up to the capital for a day, and said hi to presidents both past and present.

Really, I could go on, and on about our trip, but I won’t. I’ll just show you a couple more photos of interesting bites. Like :

Crisp Potato Waffle with Chicken Apple Breakfast Sausage,
Chunky Apple Sauce and Sour Cream - brunch at Sarabeth's West Side.

Lime in the coconut candy bar by Liddabit sweets

Peanut and salted caramel tiramisu at Eataly

Thanks for staying with me this far, needless to say, I would love to return one day to try and fit in many more things we didn’t get a chance to fit in the first time around.

Ps - New York is definitely the kind of place that you need to research before heading there, and I found a lot of valuable tips on this post of Lemonpi’s. Plus of course, lovely blogger Lora from Diary of a Mad Hausfrau was invaluable with her recommendations and we even caught up at the New Amsterdam markets and bought chocolate together. (Thanks Lora!).

Our travel tip if you’re heading over with kids and want to eat at nicer restaurants/ cafes is to go for lunch instead of dinner, and to eat late. We’d feed the kids a snack meal at about 11.30/ 12 to keep them going while sightseeing, then head to our restaurant of choice around 2 or 2.30 after the lunch crush was over. This way,  we usually had more chance of getting in.

And if you’re looking for accommodation, airbnb is a great site for sub-letting apartments. More affordable than hotel rooms and more room to spread out.

I started with a pic of Baked, so it's only fitting I end with another one. My surreptitious fangirl pic of co-founder Renato Poliafito. I was way too shy to even say hello!

Have a great weekend!


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a glorious trip you had! It sounds like you made the most of every day there. NY is so magical isn't it :) And it's wonderful when they make you feel welcome everywhere!

Hungry Dog said...

I've been WAITING for you to post about NYC! Sounds like a fabulous trip for all of you. I love NY, need to get back there soon. You've significantly added to my list of places to eat...

Marcellina said...

How lucky are you to travel to NY with your children!! I love this post because you have written about what most of us want to know - travelling with kids! You sound like you had a fantastic time!

shaz said...

Lorraine - we did make the most of everyday, we were pretty exhausted when we got back :)

Hungry Dog - I can totally understand the love!

Marcellina - we are really very fortunate, and yes, we had such a blast.

chocolatesuze said...

bahahaha that is one massive pretzel!!!

Lora said...

Love the pix. Again, it was so great seeing you. I am so sorry you didn't like your one meal out without the kids :-( Scratching that one off my list too.

I have yet to use my chocolate but that sampling session at the market was one of the best in recent memory. Love to your family and come back soon!

grace said...

i do believe you took full advantage of your time in ny--thanks for sharing!

Fiona said...

Oh wow, now I'm totally jealous...how good does Roberta's sound?! I want to eat there soon! And I enjoyed seeing the pic of Balthazar, because my last meal there was on my honeymoon 12 years ago...I think I disgraced myself by falling asleep at the table after days of pavement pounding and sightseeing followed by a rich duck confit and wine!

Jamie said...

Ooooh I am hoping and praying to get to NYC end of March and I am writing down your recommendations! What a glorious trip! And your daughter is so adorable!

shaz said...

chocolatesuze - bigger than her head!

Lora - hi dear. The restaurant wasn't really bad, it just didn't feel like good value, that's all. Maybe our expectations were too high ? It was great fun and we would love to come back soon!

grace - not a minute wasted :)

Fiona - ha ha, I had duck confit too, and a pinot I think, but it was lunch time and with two rather chatty children, it was hard to fall asleep.

Jamie - hope you get to go, can't wait to hear all about it if you do.