Saturday, June 19, 2010

HFF On The Road: New York, NY

I went to New York City with girlfriend Charlie last week for the first time and we ate and drank our way through the city. It rocked. Despite my skepticism, New York really is a city apart from the rest of the country in terms of culinary excess and diversity. The food is not necessarily any better than the best that the rest of the country has to offer, but the concentration of quality is unsurpassed.

We had the pleasure of staying at the Ace Hotel in midtown (a beautiful, quirky and reasonably priced hotel) and our first night we hit up the Breslin restaurant located in the hotel. Named after the historic hotel on the same site, the Breslin is an upscale gastropub from the same folks who brought NYC the Spotted Pig. The food was pretty damn good, though a few dishes were bordering on oppressively salty. The speck tart was very good, layered on puff pastry with crescenza cheese. The brandade with bread salad was one of those oppressively salty dishes I mentioned. The appetizer highlight was the "Scrumpets," essentially lamb fish sticks, served with mint vinegar. On the entree front, the lamb burger with feta was delicious.

This proved to be our only fancy pants dinner we did in New York, the rest of our trip being spent at street vendors and neighborhood joints.

We made a point of trying some New York classics. Pizza was tasty: the crust had a great texture though it lacked salt. Bagels were particularly amazing, with their moist chewy interior and light crisp exterior. The legendary Seinfeldian classic, the Black & White Cookie, was something of a revelation, more like a flattened cupcake than a cookie. It was very moist and not overly sweet, most of the sugar coming from the frosting. Good bagels were found at Izzy & Nat's in Battery Park and great pizza was found at Bleecker Street Pizza in the West Village.

Another highlight was arepas, a South American dish popular in Venezuela and Colombia, consisting of something like a fried corn pita stuffed with spicy seasoned meats and vegetables.

One of the best wine bars in the country, Terroir, has two locations in Manhattan: its original storefront location in the East Village and its new, expansive digs in TriBeCa. Great global wine list that doesn't pander to the world's major players. A well-publicized recent feud with the Village Voice food critic recently raised its profile amongst food and wine hipsterati.

In the end there was far too much to eat and drink in the city for just one long weekend, but it's definitely a food wonderland with unique, quality ingredients and fresh takes on regional standards.

As an aside, the binge drinking culture of New York is pretty epic too. I don't know if its the lack of cars, the ubiquity of subways, or the general miserableness of the weather year round, but New Yorkers drink until they pass out, wake up, and drink some more. It's kinda crazy.

New York's decidedly not a city you can experience food-wise in a week and will reward regular visits. Go New York.

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