In a nod to our experience at the Letterman show, here is my Top Ten list (eating version) for New York.
10. Chelsea Market
It was about to close, and we had only ten minutes to take a peek before our Colicchio and Sons reservation across the street. But who can resist a funky restored warehouse with gourmet food shops, and anchored by a bookstore and my favourite clothing store of all time, Anthropologie? Not me.
9. Chorizo tacos and medium guacamole at Cascabel Taqueiria on the Upper East Side.
This was a long cab ride, but worth every penny – in a Seinfeld-like neighbourhood, off the beaten tourist track. The service was sweet, and so was the food – as authentic Mexican as I’ve ever had, and I’ve even been to Mexico a few times.
We heard tales of being thrown out for not ordering fast enough, so we went early and ordered with confidence. Ordered cheeseburgers, medium (those crazy Americans and their lack of paranoia about mad cow disease) and the burgers were very messy and reminded me of the ones my mom used to make in Sherwood Park. (Yes, that’s a good thing).
7. Artichoke bennies at Norma’s
We stayed at Parker Meridien our first four nights. It was a fine business hotel (filled with an investment banker convention, by the looks of things), with perfunctory staff, and a dark narrow little bar called Knave (that served a wicked Cuba Libre).
I snagged a reservation for Sunday brunch at their Norma’s restaurant, which was especially memorable for three reasons:
1. The artichoke benny was superb – two lovingly poached eggs perched on hashbrowns and greens accompanied by two generous artichoke hearts.
2. The clientele were all very posh, and oddly not one table was reading the paper during brunch. However, every second table was furiously checking their mobile devices, which made me frightened for the death of the paper newspaper. I mean people! You have the Sunday New York Times at your fingertips!
3. The total bill was over $100. For breakfast. No booze. A new record. $18 for two glasses of orange juice (a bit automatically poured, before we could stop them) pushed it over the top.
6. Papparadelle with lamb ragu, Union Square Cafe.
I ate here alone on the very last night and paid close attention to my food. Asparagus soup with generous dollops of goat cheese, and papparadelle with rich lamb ragu with a side of spinach. The servers here are professional and know their stuff, and this is where the rich and fancy come to eat in Union Square. Well, and me. If this is good enough for Ina Garten, it is good enough for me.
5. Lychee martini at W Hotel, Union Square
This was a liquid, yes, but I did consume the lychee on the bottom. The little bar in our last hotel – a hotel I absolutely adored – was screamingly hip, but they still let us in. Kudos to the W customer service, which was gracious and welcoming at all times.
4. Pastrami sandwich at Katz Deli
Want to eat a week’s worth of meat in one sitting? Katz is your place. Not to mention a very famous place. And not to mention somewhere where you don’t mess around humming and hawing about your order at the counter. But the pastrami was oozy and fatty, just like it should be, and the pickles were plentiful.
3. Lunch at Red Rooster in Harlem
Ok, here’s a fabulous way to travel. Book a restaurant reservation in a new neighbourhood, where travelling there is part of the experience. Red Rooster is smack in the midst of Harlem, on Malcolm X Boulevard. We took the long subway there, and wandered the historic streets waiting for our table. Harlem and the rest of Manhattan could not be more different, and we got to experience the neighbourhood on foot – not like those folks on the top of the double decker sightseeing buses. I was happy to go, and my lord, we ate so much food for lunch, I’m surprised we didn’t doze off on the subway back. They call it comfort food, but it is really sophisticated Southern food. Crab and spinach soup, moist corn bread, mac ‘n greens – all generous servings and lovely service, surrounded by the high rolling business lunch crowd.
2 . Foods of New York Food Tour (Barri was our awesome guide)
Well, this three hour experience deserves its own blog post. Watch for that soon. A perfect way to spend a hot Saturday afternoon in Greenwich Village and Soho. Yes, you feel like a dork cluttering the streets on a walking tour, but it is ok. Everybody knows you are a tourist – you don’t look like you can afford a $7 million townhouse in the Village anyhow.
And #1 is…
1. Everything at Colicchio and Sons
Strangely, the one reservation I wasn’t sure about (the celebrity chef thing) but the one restaurant that blew the others out of the water. Sleek, but not slick – all exposed bricks and metal right near the Chelsea piers. Service was precise but affable, and the food hit it out of the park. Crispy and fatty pork belly, short ribs, duck with gingerbread polenta – these guys know and respect the meat. Ended with warm hazelnut filled churros, and true amazement at this most memorable meal. Bravo.
Next? My ‘didn’t make the Top Ten list, but memorable nonetheless’ post. And more about Barri, our food tour guide.