Posts Tagged ‘travel’

A Quick Trip to NYC

I hadn’t been to New York since January, 2002. My husband needed to attend  a week-long CIO (Chief Information Officer) conference there in September, and he offered to fly me in for a four-day weekend to celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary.

We stayed in Midtown at Flatotel, a nice boutique property with large (for NYC)  comfortable rooms.  The location was ideal…just blocks from Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Carnegie Hall and MOMA.

New York is among my favorite food cities (along with Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco and  Las Vegas. My only complaint when visiting these cities is, “So many restaurants, so little time!” Like any chef (or foodie, for that matter), planning was key. I began my research a couple months before the trip and narrowed down my restaurant choices from hundreds to less than fifty.

The only disappointment was being unable to get reservations at Mario Batali’s Babbo on any of the nights we were there. But, we managed to have enjoyable meals and snacks over the four-day sojourn.

We covered a lot of ethnic dining territory on this trip…..Greek, Spanish, Chinese, Jamaican, Jewish and of course, Italian.

New York’s street food is legendary…cheap, high-quality, and quick. Alas, wearing Invisalign braces put the kibosh on the street food for me, with the exception of a Jamaican street cart around the corner from our hotel. Called the Jamaican Dutchy, it served rice and peas, Ting and meat patties, with akee and saltfish for breakfast. The meat patty was average, but it brought back great memories of our various trips to Jamaica.

Any trip to New York means two essential stops: Katz’s Deli and John’s Pizza. Katz’s is frozen in time, no different from my first experience there in 1982, and subsequent trips in the 1990s and 2000. The corned beef on rye with brown mustard was everything a corned beef sandwich should be…..somewhat fatty, rich with flavor, served with garlic pickles and attitude.

We walked off lunch by strolling through Little Italy, where vendors were setting up the food booths along Mulberry Street for the annual Feast of San Gennaro. Again, those damn Invisalign braces thwarted any attempt at sampling the street food. Jay, however,  found a booth selling deep-fried Twinkies.  He had always wanted to try one, and he did. It was simply a Twinkie on a stick, dipped into pancake batter and deep-fried. He enjoyed it but won’t repeat the experience. I tried not to gag.

John’s, with locations in the Village, Times Square and the Upper East Side, is my favorite NYC pizza haunt. This time  we visited the Upper East Side location after walking across the width of Central Park on a cool, sunny Saturday afternoon. We were delayed crossing Fifth Avenue for almost 45 minutes by a German-American parade. But we managed to get to John’s for a mid-afternoon proscuitto pizza and a couple beers. Crisp crust from the wood-burning brick oven and the perfect balance of cheese, sauce and proscuitto. My idea of NY pizza heaven.

Spanish was tapas and paella at Sangria 46 near Times Square. A charming restaurant with a lovely back patio decorated in bright colors. The staff was efficient and friendly. The paella was good, not great, but the mussels in the paella were outstanding.

Greek was Avra Estiatorio on East 48th Street. It was a last-minute selection for the one night we hadn’t made dinner reservations. The food was fine, but having been spoiled by all the great Greek restaurants in Chicago, I was not very impressed. We started with fried calamari served with  tzasiki, and an order of grilled sardines, followed by black sea bass and grilled lamb chops. For dessert, a respectable baklava and a bowl of sweetened Greek yogurt. Again, everything was cooked properly and delicious, but certainly not outstanding or memorable.

There was a trip down to Chinatown for dim sum. Dim Sum Go Go on East Broadway was highly rated, so we ventured downtown on the subway, only to get lost by my confusing Broadway with East Broadway. A mile-long hike later, we found the small place, waited 10 minutes for a table, walked upstairs to our tiny table and started ordering. With no cart service, everything comes piping hot from the kitchen when it’s ready. The dim sum was very good…fresh, hot, well-prepared. It didn’t rise to the level of Yank Sing, my favorite dim sum house in San Francisco, but it certainly hit the spot. Afterwards, we wandered around and stopped at a Chinese bakery for winter melon cakes.

The highlight of the trip was dinner at Convivio, a southern Italian restaurant with a kitchen run by Chef Michael White. The dining room was gorgeous and the service excellent. Our starters were cannelini beans with fatback in a tomato broth, and a caprese salad with fresh mozzarella made on premised, micr-basil and heirloom tomatoes. Both were light but loaded with flavor.

We split a bowl of mind-blowing pasta…a fusilli with carravaccio fonduta poured over the top. Rich and unctous, with the fusilli done perfectly al dente and the fonduta as smooth as silk.

My entree was a mixed grill of sweet fennel sausage (house-made), pork belly, roasted zucchini and heirloom tomatoes. I’ve learned through the years to not only appreciate, but also enjoy fatty meats, and pork belly is one of the most flavorful and texturally pleasing of the bunch. The outside was crisy and caramlized while the inside was full of flavor.

Jay enjoyed the braised shortribs in tomato ragu with broccolini. The meat was full of flavor and fall-off-the-bone tender.

Desserts were memorable. I enjoyed a Sicilian chocolate and ricotta layer cake while Jay had the mascarpone with figs, paied with a cordial called Amaro.

We were hoping for a Nathan’s hot dog at LaGuardia, but apparently they closed down the hot dog stand there. Not a great loss, as Chicago is one of the great hot dog cities of the world.

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