Sunday, June 13, 2010

Exciting New Ventures and Some Food Along The Way

I have been so lax in my blogging lately.  I do so apologize.  Life has been a little crazy - because I'm sure that I'm the ONLY one who can lay claim to that sucker.  Yeah, right.

So, the primary reason I visited New York in April was the desire to combine my two greatest loves - my husband and New York!  I realize you probably were thinking of food or shopping as some other possibilities - but that is precisely why New York is one of my top loves.  It has some of the greatest eating and shopping in the world.  It's probably my favorite of all cosmopolitan cities potentially because I am so comfortable there but I think also for the sheer diversity of offering.


The second reason I visited New York was to interview with the awesome peeps at Serious Eats for an MBA Marketing internship.  When they posted that they were looking I decided to send them an email - an email which I assumed would find its way into the black hole of dreaming.  My schedule would not permit me to do an entire summer nor do I currently live in New York.  Instead I live in Utah and have both a husband and mortgage - minor complications.  Imagine my surprise when my goofy, sleep deprived email was responded to with an interview request.  Short end of this looong intro is that I have the privilege of working at Serious Eats this summer.   Their bright, creative, friendly office is located in Chelsea and I will be living by Gramercy Park.  I am very excited on all fronts.  How could you not be excited to eat for a living?

With that bit o' news I'll continue my long overdue postings of my next set of restaurants I frequented on my trip.

This particular day started waaaay too early.  Lack of sleep was already an issue since the previous day we had arrived on the red-eye and while C immediately passed out in the hotel, I had to continue on to my interview.  This lack of sleep was compounded by C's desire to get up before the butt crack of dawn to stand in line for Saturday Night Live tickets.  Days:  2, Hours of Sleep:  5.  It was cold and I was cranky.  This helped alleviate that crankiness.

If you've paid any attention, you'll see that my blog header involves a pain au chocolat which is indeed one of man's (well, the French's ) greatest creations.  Instant prozac.  Calms my soul and warms my heart.  Thanks Dean & Deluca - you're pretty much always there when I need you (at least when I'm in NYC).

Fortunately, for my sanity (and for his), C and I went back to the hotel and crashed for a couple of much needed hours.  After sleeping and showering and remembering what it was like to be human again we continued on.  Erin Adamo, from Serious Eats, told me I HAD to go to Crif Dog, on the Lower East Side.  That worked perfectly with my plan to visit a few other spots.  It really is hard to choose what will take stomach space when you have limited time (and stomach space).

We took the subway to Astor Place and walked along the beautiful streets to the  Dumpling Man.  I've been eating with chopsticks for longer than I can remember which should indicate to you that I love Asian food.

How could you not love me?  I'm adorable!
C and I ordered four dumplings (you have to remember, we were "pacing" ourselves - especially since Crif Dogs was literally across the street).  Dumpling Man offers different fillings - pork, chicken, veggie, shrimp, and surprise.  I did not feel like a surprise on this occasion.  So boring.  Instead I purchased two pork and two chicken - one steamed and one seared of each flavor.  While watching our dumplings be filled, pinched, and cooked, we more genuinely entertained ourselves with watching the new counter guy get grilled and instructed by the owner.  I must say it was amusing to watch a 50 something year old man instruct a 20 something year old boy on how to use a remote control.

Seared on left, Steamed on right

Yum.  This blog post was inspired by and motivated by perusing my food pictures.  I look at this and wish I was closer to this foodie haven.  You can see the love in the hand pinched dumplings.  I can't say that I ended up with a preference between the seared or steamed - that all just depends on my mood.  Steamed are soft and allow you to feel "healthy"  (I believe in excusing my food choices through such rationale) and the seared have a delightful crispness to the bottom and have a slight caramelization which lends to a deeper flavor of sorts (but harder to rationalize - don't worry - it's still totally possible).  I did think the pork was better of the two meats.  However, both were juicy, salty, and made me feel like I was home.

We then embarked on an incredibly long journey across the street to Crif Dogs.

This neighborhood was just so quaint.  I miss being able to walk the streets while admiring the buildings and picking out all the places I would happily live.  Crif Dogs is in a small and dark space.  Very little space and very busy.  They have a lot of fun options to order but since we once again had limited stomach space (darn stomachs!) we ordered one dog each.  I ordered the Tsunami - "a house dog, bacon wrapped, with teriyaki, pineapple, and green onions" (minus the green onions) while C ordered the Chihuahua - "a bacon wrapped dog covered with avocados and sour cream."  Healthy choices indeed.


Go to Crif Dogs.  Not only do you get to experience a super tasty dog at a super cool location, but you also get to give your order to a sassy lady at the register.  I love that everybody is so friendly in NYC.  I miss that when I'm elsewhere.  Getting back to the food?  Crif Dogs is number one for a reason.  Bacon wrapped.  Can it get better?  I think not.  The textural differences of the plush bun, crisp bacon wrapped dog with delightful snap (snap is uber important in hot dogs), and sweetness of the teriyaki and pineapple marrying happily together - perfection.  C's was good as well but I prefer mine (no bias since I ordered it).  His also had the delightful bacon snap and creaminess provided by avocado and sour cream.  I liked the more savory and biting flavors of the Tsunami.  Of course, all the dogs have fun names.

Okay, okay.  I'm wrapping it up.  You'll laugh when I tell you that immediately after leaving Crif Dogs I sought out my next food location.  What can I say?  Tompkins Square Park is surrounded by luscious food offerings.  S'MAC and Artichoke are among some of the well known and loved offerings also in the area.  I'll visit those when I'm living only a few blocks away during the summer (which I can already forecast will require much exercise to combat said convenience).  We were headed to Una Pizza Napoletana for a much needed delicious slice.  We had, after all, been in New York for an entire 30 hours.  We witnessed a bicyclist eat it hard in the intersection of 10th St. and Avenue A.  That guy was seriously hard core.  He misjudged his timing going around a corner and skidded across the pavement, losing a few belongings in the process.  I thought for sure we'd have to call an ambulance.  But I guess if you can sit on one of those ridiculously painful seats for hours you can handle pain, period.  He picked himself and all of his belonging back up and cycled off with his buddy.  I should have taken that as an omen.  Una Pizza Napoletana is no longer.  I walked past where it had been and tried to figure out if my memory was truly that bad.  Nope.  It's just gone.  The owner will be opening a new one, somewhere, sometime.   FAIL.

Instead, I was forced to go shopping.  Here...

and then visit here...

Ah, I love Union Square Park and The Met.  I had meant to stop by Two Little Red Hens to pick up a few scrumptious cupcakes and other baked goods.  I was deterred by my husband and our time quickly running out before The Met closed and our other plans collided.  Instead, after we finished at The Met we walked over to Il Vagabondo on 62nd.  I hadn't eaten here before but had seen it on The Food Network's show, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate."  Emeril Lagasse (my former boss' good friend) had recommended Il Vagabondo and their veal parmigiana.  It was a little chilly out and besides the fact that I had a list (literally, a printed list of my potential eats in New York) warm, comforting pasta sounded fantastic.

The Upper East Side can be a little on the quiet side for my taste albeit contains some gorgeous apartments and mansions.  Il Vagabondo fits in as a lovely little spot.  Notice, small spaces tend to be a theme here.  You may be a little confused if you've never been here before.  From the outside looking in, Il Vagabondo looks like it only has a bar.  You have to walk through the long and narrow space to get from the bar to the restaurant area.

We didn't even bother with the menu.  If Il Vagabondo was supposed to have spectacular veal parmigiana, then that's what we would order.  To add a little variance we ordered one veal parmigiana with penne and one chicken parmigiana with spaghetti.

The service was great and it was fun to watch a bunch of guys make fools of themselves while playing bocce ball (did I mention half of the narrow space is occupied by a bocce ball court?).  The veal parmigiana?  Eh.  Everything was made very quickly and tasted fresh.  But honestly?  Really?  The best thing I ever ate?  Hardly.  It's not that I'd turn my nose up at it but when in New York, with so many food options?  I'd go elsewhere in pursuit of something that truly deserves to be on my list of "the best thing I ever ate."

Finally, we continued back to Rockefeller Center with our stand by tickets for Saturday Night Live.  Apparently, everyone who had tickets from the lottery actually decided to use them because we did not get in.  Had we chosen to attend the dress rehearsal instead of the live taping we would have.  Double fail.

Irritated that our 4:00 am wake up call had been for naught, I had to make a quick stop before we headed south to our hotel.

Do I think Magnolia Bakery is the bomb?  No.  I'm a little miffed that they have chosen to sell out and have franchised.  They've lost the authenticity that they had in their Greenwich Village locale.  But I'll still eat their cupcakes.  I mean, I'm not THAT big of a snob.  It made my day better.

Chomp.  Sigh.  Butter, Chocolate, Sugar.  Somehow, it works every time.


  1. Point Break is announcing their special offers during all of the games of World Cup Soccer to all the soccer fans of NY.

    * Open for all the game
    * First Match on June 11th starts at 10 AM & all others at 7.30 AM
    * Serve breakfast for the early games.

    Special Offers:-

    $4 Bud Light/ Coors light.
    $4 margaritas and well drinks.
    $3 Natty light and keystone light cans.
    $8 24 oz Coors banquet.
    $10 domestic mini boot &
    $22 96oz Boots.

    Also showing:
    All the 2010 World Cup Soccer Games Live at Point Break Restaurant

    Lets cheer your team to create a new history!!!!

    Point Break NYC
    12 West 45th St
    New York, NY, 10036.
    T. 914-645-8820

  2. i just found your blog from serious eats!! you sure have hit some awesome new yorky places. the sweetie pie dumplings at dumpling man are my fave :-)
    also crif dogs! cool place. but i think i must have gone there on an off day because my dog had a stale bun and not too fresh toppings :-(
    and, yes, magnolia selling out is terribly annoying. i can't wait to see what other adventures you go on while you're here!