Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Stories of a Full Stomach: New York, Day 1

Somehow "Brooklyn" and "Sweet" don't seem like a natural association.  But its not really untrue - especially if you visit Jaques Torres.

A month and a half ago I decided to go to New York (the city - the rest of the state will have to wait to see me again).  I must say I was ecstatic.  It has been a very very loooooong three years since I have been out there.  I immediately began to plan my food visits and kept a log in my gmail account.  It got - well, lengthy.  I was only out there for four days and my stupid human stomach with limits did not allow me to eat at all these places.  Also, my inability to stop time while I traveled inhibited my ability to make it everywhere.  

But my friends, as much as I failed myself, I did not fully fail you.  And I have at least one more trip out there in November for the New York marathon.  And potentially one more lengthy visit - which I'll let you in on once I make an important life decision : ).

My husband and I caught the red eye out on a Thursday night.  I was looking to have as much time as possible when I booked it - it also didn't hurt that I could use only 25K miles instead of 40K or 50K.  Of course, once I went to catch it I realized - I am not as young as I once was.  And I am not as scrappy either - I'm kind of a lover of luxe things.  Where's my first class dangit!?

We arrived early Friday morning.  I was lazy enough to have booked a town car (cheaper than a taxi) so that was at least one thing I didn't have to be awake for.  I may or may not have taken an Ambien in hopes I would sleep on the plane.  I slept an hour.  Whoop dee doo. 

We checked into our hotel (which I loved!).  My only real sadness was that they no longer put brownies on your pillow. 

Fat Witch Brownies, How Cute Are They?
You can judge me, but I was really looking forward to them.  Chris promptly passed out while I had the good fortune to shower, dress, and hoof it up to Chelsea.  I am not familiar with the Financial District and must've looked a bit lost for a moment.  Fortunately, three adorable old New Yorkers stopped and asked if I needed help (and they called me "Sweety,"  I loved every second of it).  I requested directions to the Chamber St Metro stop and they proceeded to argue for a minute over the best route. 

I found the station alright but felt positively naked while strutting towards the station.  Apparently, men in the Financial District don't see women very often - or at least not ones with legs like mine. 

Anyway, back to what you care about.  Food.  I'm telling you, there was not enough time!  I'm working to remedy that.  Also, it is a really good thing you have to walk so much in the City.  Or, I would have come back 50 L'B's heavier. 

After my meeting we headed over the Brooklyn Bridge.  I had to resist shoving annoying tourists out of the way multiple times.  I swear, no one knows crowd etiquette.  We walked up to Grimaldi's after taking a detour around a filming crew, just to stand in line.  Fortunately, not a terribly long one and relatively fast moving.  Twenty minutes later we were ordering this.

The cool thing about this place is that you can watch them work and its amazing.  They churn out pizza like I watch TV.  Or eat.  Well, I guess even I have my limits on both of those.  Either way, they tossed dough, slathered ingredients, and rotated pizza in and out of the coal oven like it was nobody's business.  I have no idea how those guys do it.  That oven was HOT!  And my one real complaint is that I smelled a bit like charcoal for the rest of the day. 

We ordered sausage.  Of course, there was also fresh mozzarella (not that crap shredded stuff from a bag) and basil.  Grimaldi's also ladles their sauce on after they place the sliced mozzarella di bufala.  It was good.

I'm a bit critical of pizza so here's what I think.  The sauce was fresh tasting but lacking.  The texture of the crust was good - the coal oven definitely adds a nice touch - but the actual flavor left me wanting.  I did not feel passionate about eating the crust ends - and I am not one of those people - the crust leaver-behinders.  The sausage was good.  It could have used a little more zing but not bad overall.  We debated over which size to order and ended up with the "Small" 16".  It was a good decision.  We wiped the pan clean but could not have packed more in.  I guess I should add, thinking back on it.  I thoroughly enjoyed the pizza at the time.  I tend to be critical when in New York, but then when I head back home, I long for good pizza again and appreciate what does not really exist outside of New York. 

We then headed uptown (and back over to Manhattan) to Grand Central Station.  I always have to stop here if I have time.  Not only do I love sitting and watching all the people go by in a whiz but I also love to stare at the beautiful constellations on the ceiling and overall structure.  Oh, and did I mention, if you walk down a level, there are many food options?  I've spent decent time at Grand Central waiting for a train after missing the previous one by seconds.  So, I grew an appreciation for the delights downstairs.  When Donald Trump was doing one of "The Apprentice" shows, the challenge was to create a new flavor of gelato for Ciao Bella.  One group added Dunkin' Donuts to the gelato.  IT WAS FAB.  And they sold the flavor at Grand Central.  Oh, I miss being a New Yorker.  They are so spoiled by food choices!

Anyways, I am beyond waxing on.  The point of this story is that I fell in love with Two Boots Pizzeria.  It was my comfort food.  One slice in particular made its own little cubby in my heart.  The Newman.  It has Soppresetta and Sweet Italian Sausage on a White Pie.  And it is heaven.  It makes me feel calmer and happier every time I take a bite.  And, even though I'm still unsure about their expanding (I appreciate more availability but am anti-franchise) I am still sure I love it.

How could you not love this pizza?  It is sooooo good.  I'm salivating just looking at it. 

Finally, my night ended at Shake Shack.  New York Institution.  And I don't mean the kind for the crazies - although there were a few around.  We headed to the Madison Square Garden location.  Waiting in line for thirty minutes?  I don't remember - I was cold and attempting not to punch the girls behind me who needed to stop oversharing their life details loudly to the crowd.

This is what entertained me in the meantime:

I couldn't help but laugh.  I mean, I grew up surrounded by 'shrooms.  Oregonians - I know you'll appreciate this.  Also, I was a little sad that we were here on a Friday and not a Saturday.  Take a gander and you'll see why.  Curiosity more than truly believing it could be greatness.  But still, you can't judge 'till you try. 

I ordered the Shack Burger (double), Cheese Fries (crinkle cut with cheddar and American cheese), a Shack Attack concrete, and a lemonade.  Yummy.  The Shack Attack consisted of chocolate custard, hot fudge, chocolate truffle cookie dough and Valrhona chocolate chunks, topped with chocolate sprinkles.  They are not messing around.  I decided it lacked something - so I had them add peanut butter syrup.  Here's the result.

The burgers were mighty tasty.  The buns were a delicate softness and the meat was meaty.  Really. Delicious.  And, they use the good lettuce.  It was a win.  The beef patties were moist and juicy and the cheese was melty.  The real surprise to me was how much I loved the fries.  The cheese looked like the cheese you'd find on mac' and cheese.  I've eaten Velveeta on fries before but that wasn't this.  The fries were crisp and delicious.  They had a lovely bite on the outside without being too dried out on the inside.  And the cheese sauce literally warmed my soul.  Which was necessary because I was freezing!  I scraped every last bit off the wax paper.

The Shack Attack?  I'd alter it next time.  I don't want to say there's such thing as TOO much chocolate - because that doesn't sound kosher.  But, I found the sprinkles unpleasingly and crunchily unnecessary.  And the Valrhona chocolate chunks?  Overkill.  It was still good - but a bit much.  I'll subtract those out next time and come out with perfection.  Either way you can't go wrong at the Shake Shack.  Which is why its a New York Institution.

Okay, I've eaten up enough of your work time for the day.  You'll just have to stay tuned for the next addition of my April in New York food trip.  I will leave you with my view as I ate dinner (including the homeless lady picking through the trash in desperation for yummy Shake Shack leftovers - I mean - if you had to pick a place to root through - wouldn't you pick something good too?)

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