Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New York, New York: Where in the World Wednesday!

This week brings an extra special Where in the World Wednesday!  Quite a few of my friends live or have lived in New York City -- so I decided to do a mega edition of Where in the World Wednesday with four (plus more!) tour guides to give us a tour of the delicious eats of NYC.  I was curious to see how they would agree (or not agree) on their answers... Plus, NYC is filled with so many delectable bites, we probably need more than just one guide anyways.

So let's meet the guides:

Julie and I met in grad school and I've been sad since she has left DC!  Jul is a true New Yorker, having been born in Manhattan, raised on Long Island, and she's lived in Union Square (2 summers), West Village (1 summer), Murray Hill (2 years), and the Upper East Side (2 years).  I still remember some of our food outings together when I've visited her.  Her top five food cities around the world (other than NYC of course) are Tel Aviv, Santorini, DC, and Cabo San Lucas.

Elaine and I have known each other since high school and have been best friends-fellow foodies ever since!  Elaine now lives in London (check out her London Where in the World Wednesday here!) but went to NYU for college.  She lived in Union Square, the Financial District, and the East Village during her time there.  Her top food cities are New York, London, Paris, Rome, and Hong Kong.

Steph and I met our freshman year of college in our Introduction to Fiction and Poetry class and have continually bonded over food ever since!  (check out her Japan Where in the World Wednesday here!)  Steph has lived in NYC for five and a half years, 2 years on the Upper West Side and since then in the East Village.  Her top five food cities are NYC, Kobe, Paris, Bangkok, and Barcelona.

Aaron and I also met our freshman  year of college and as a fellow foodie, thought would be a great male perspective!   Aaron has lived in NYC for five years, in Midtown West near Columbus Circle and now in Union Square.  His top five food cities are New York, Pittsburgh, Barcelona, Los Angeles, and Tokyo.

Now on with our foodie tour of NEW YORK CITY! 
(1) How would you describe food in NYC in 10 words or less?

Julie: Many options for all palates -- gourmet and picky.
Elaine Whatever you want whenever you want it.
Steph Diverse, creative, innovative, global, comforting
Aaron: Anything and everything... just ask!

(2) If you were putting together a food gift basket representative of NYC for a visiting friend, what would you include in it? (Feel free to include perishable items!)

Julie: Soft pretzel from a street cart, pizza, black and white cookie, Tasti DLite, rainbow cookie, bagel.

Elaine Shack Burger and Cheese Fries from Shake Shack, Bagels, favorite candies from Dylan's Candy Bar, Pizza from Grimaldi's, Frrrozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity 3, Raspberry Cheese Blintzes and Chicken Noodle Soup from Veselka

Steph: If I was putting together a food basket, I would probably include H&H bagels with lox from Zabars, also delicious smoked salmon and herring from Russ & Daughters in the LES, and donuts from Doughnut Plant.

Aaron Cheese and mac from S'Mac.  Bacon hot dog from Crif Dog.  Stinky bleu from Picholine.  halal street meat.  mussels from flex mussels.  some over-the-top nonsense peruvian/japanese fusion plate with obnoxious ginger garnish.  all blended together?

(3) Which ethnicities / religions have mainly influenced the food in NYC?

Julie: There are so many different neighborhoods -- Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Italy ... all have influenced NY in their own way!

Elaine There are too many to list! If you don't believe me, check out here!

Steph: Which ethnicities/religions haven't influenced the food here?  I live in the East Village where I can walk down my block and get Italian, Thai, Moroccan, Chinese, turn around the corner and get Japanese ramen, burgers, tacos, and falafel.  I love it!

Aaron: Don't know NYC genealogy very well but would have to say people of Jewish or Italian descent.  But I know Manhattan best and it's not the most representative of vintage New York boroughs...most restaurants here are financed and catered to whatever can be called unique and popular with the incipient trends.  Increasingly a business that has less and less a component of heritage (not a bad thing.)  I've noticed that NYC hasn't caught on to it's fair share of Chinese, African or North/Eastern European tastes....but it has most of everything else well covered.

(4) What makes NYC unique – foodwise?

Julie: Diners! Expansive menu, 24 hours a day.  24 hour delivery! You can get whatever you want, whenever you want.  Legit bagels -- forever tainted my ability to eat bagels anywhere else.

Elaine: You can find amazing food of any cuisine no matter what your budget is.

Steph: NY is unique in that you can find anything here, food-wise.  All the big chefs, the experimental restaurants, the cuisines from countries you didn't even know existed, can all be found here.  As for me, I miss Japanese food and love that i can get quality Japanese food here in NY.

Aaron: Some 19,000 restaurants...100 closures and new restaurants a week.

(5) If I were to visit you, what are three food related places that we definitely would have to go to?

Julie: Da Nico (best place in Little Italy w/ an outdoor private garden), Gotham Bar & Grill (consistent upscale deliciousness), Ess a Bagel (best bagels in the whole world), Stanton Social (small plates -- best French Onion Soup dumplings) (Me: OMG, French onion soup dumplings?  Um, that sounds amazing...)

Elaine: Shake Shack, Per Se, Babbo

Steph: If you were visiting me, I would take you to Stanton Social for brunch (it's a restaurant in the LES where they have tapas-styled brunch, so it's great to go in a group and share small dishes, eliminating my usual savory vs. sweet debate), if the weather is nice we can go to Shake Shack for a burger and if not we can go to Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridien too, as for dinner, one of my favorite restaurants is Alta (mediterranean tapas-style, I guess I like sharing) so we'll have to go there!

Aaron Standing exception to #3....Katz's Deli.  Also, Little Owl and Spotted Pig

(6) You know the saying, NYC is the city that never sleeps… where would we go for late night eats?

Julie: Any diner (truly they are all pretty good) -- my friend always orders pound cake and vanilla ice cream, I always go for omelettes.  Also, Pizza 33 -- brick-oven pizza that is packed til the wee hours. (Random factoid -- during the big blackout, it was one of the only places where you could get hot food, because of the brick oven!)

Elaine Veselka - 24 hour diner
San Loco - unpretentious Tex Mex open til 4am or 5am
French Roast - 24 hour Parisian bistro

Steph: There's always a slice or falafel available at every corner... also used to go to Crif Dogs (hot dog joint) in St. Marks where they have a lot of different toppings along with tater tots...

Aaron: Fatty Crab.  grungy music and crab...the best.  Veselka for pierogis and borscht...and I saw Scarlet Johannsson there last time.

(7) Given the current economic times, where would you go for a meal plus drink for $15 or less?

Julie: Well, drinks in NYC are rarely less than $10. So perhaps a margarita at Rio Grande and split a massive quesadilla with a friend?

Elaine: There are so many places but here are some of my favorites:
Zen Restaurant: $5 sushi rolls!
Chickpea: Shawafel Pocket (shawarma and falafel) - $6.96
Shake Shack: Double ShackBurger, Cheese Fries, and The Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half ice tea) - $13.25

Steph: there's always dim sum in chinatown, or a lot of vietnamese sandwich (banh mi) places have opened up recently in the east village/LES so that plus a drink would definitely still be under $15!

Aaron:   Morning food carts...those guys make for great conversation.  You get free donuts from time to time.

(8) As we're in the holiday season, what are some of your favorite food related holiday traditions in NYC?

Julie: Hanukkah gelt (chocolate money), hot chocolate (City Bakery has THE best cup w/ homemade marshmallows)

Elaine Drinking hot chocolate while walking around the city, stocking up on candy at Dylan's Candy Bar, having dim sum with family and friends

Steph: Not necessarily traditions, but I feel like eating heartier food near the holidays - I like Friend of a Farmer (near Union Square, has great brunch too) or Sylvia's in Harlem (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, etc).  and hot chocolate!  NY has a ton of great hot chocolate spots, such as Chocolate Bar, Vosges, etc.

Aaron: Tradition?  nah

(9) What is your most memorable food experience in NYC?

Julie: Hard to narrow this down ...(!)

Elaine: Both meals I had at Per Se - the food was so exquisite that I can still remember how some of the dishes taste!

Steph Too much here to remember, but great dinners have been had at WD-50 (an experimental restaurant where you can be excited/nervous about what you're about to eat), at great tapas restaurants like Casa Mono (Mario Batali's restaurant) etc.  OH but I can't forget, my dinner at Sammy's Roumanian steakhouse in the LES.  It was one Saturday night when I was dressed up for dinner but the wait for a table was way too long at the restaurant we had planned to eat.  So my friends told me of a great steakhouse nearby, which was this restaurant - it's a divey kitschy Jewish Romanian joint that would be fine just as a general cultural experience - but I wasn't prepared for it!  There was a man in his 70s that was the DJ, spinning the same few songs over and over, my table had a long black hair lying on top of it, there were jugs of melted butter smack in the middle of the table, and old foreign ladies wearing short skirts that were dancing and singing, drunk off their minds, and lifting their legs a little too high in front of my face.  The steak itself was fine, although expensive for the lack of ambiance, and to top it off there was an older group behind us, maybe late 40s early 50s, and a wife was leaning on her husband sitting next to her.  Suddenly she put her head in his lap and threw up all over him - and this was right behind me, halfway through my steak.  People seem to love this place, but once was enough for me!!

Aaron: wd-50.  the chefs are clearly on drugs.

(10) As a special edition to Where in the World Wednesday, let's pick your brains to see where your go-to places are for the following...

Julie: I don't eat sushi, but everyone loves Haru.
Elaine Zen Restaurant on St. Marks Place
Steph Ushiwakamaru
Aaron Sushi Yasuda, Bond St.

Julie: Pizza 33. The Italian restaurant Gonzo has fantastic gourmet pizza.
Elaine: Lombardi's (Manhattan) or Grimaldi's (Brooklyn)
Steph There's a ton of places of course, but i love the truffle oil pizza at L'Asso.  Artichoke pizza is good too, but huge!
Aaron PIE (because it's next door)

Julie: Spotted Pig (roquefort cheese...); Shake Shack (in the summer, requires patience bec of the long line)
Elaine: Shake Shack
Steph Shake Shack.  Zeitzeff, burger joint at le parker meridien
Aaron Resto, burger joint (parker meridien hotel) or shake shack (at citi field bc the other one takes too long)

Julie: Sarabeth's Central Park South location (good people watching, serves porridge!)
Elaine: Bubby's
Steph Clinton St Bakery, Stanton Social, Friend of a Farmer
Aaron Blue Ribbon bakery

Julie: Da Nico (free zeppoli!)
Elaine Babbo or Lupa
Steph Supper, Max, Lavagna (interestingly, these restaurants are all within 2 blocks from my apt)
Aaron: Campagnola or Scarpetta.  Sorry Babbo...

Julie: Magnolia
Elaine Magnolia Bakery
Julie: Bryant & Cooper (on Long Island); Peter Luger's
Elaine: Primehouse
Steph peter luger's (I actually haven't really been to much steakhouses here, but I know there's plenty of good steak to be had)
Aaron Strip House, Quality Meats

Special Occasion
Elaine Per Se
Steph Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill
Aaron Daniel, Gramercy Tavern

Taking Out of Town Guests
Julie: Morandi's. But generally anywhere you can sit outside in the summer. Many good people watching spots.
Elaine Any of the above depending on the mood of the guests!
Steph: Same as special occasion + Dressler, Alta, Ippudo (great ramen), Soba-koh (favorite soba place in the city)
Aaron: Back-Forty

Thanks so much to Jul, Lanie, Steph, and Aaron for taking part in this week's mega version of Where in the World Wednesday!  Not only am I drooling all over my keyboard, but I found it especially interesting to see where you all overlapped (and where you diverged).   

1 comment:

Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home said...

This is what I do...I read stuff about nyc every time i'm away from it and missing it immensely. Your blog is cool. I really enjoyed reading this post. Especially this >> "Legit bagels -- forever tainted my ability to eat bagels anywhere else."
I totally feel the same. Happy New Year :)