Archive for June, 2010

Foodie Saturday – Part Two

June 19, 2010

Picking up where we left off….

I completed my walking food tour of Greenwich Village about 1:00 in the afternoon. I had tried one of the most lauded cupcakes in the cupcakery world – a vanilla/vanilla offering from Magnolia Bakery. [YAWN] It was OK, and it didn’t make me sick. I won’t make the trek back over there to get another, however.

Onward!

From Greenwich Village, I walked the short distance to Chelsea Market. That was a fun interlude, but man! Was it crowded! Lots of nifty food purveyors. An amazing grocer. And a food equipment store where I could have spent hundreds upon hundreds of dollars. I restrained myself, knowing that I had zero room in my luggage…that, and the fact that I really don’t NEED any new kitchen goodies. Since when have I let THAT stop me? But, I was a woman on a mission. I had things to do.

First stop – Billy’s Bakery. It was a cute little shop, but it was full of other cupcake fans, so my only option was to take my cupcake out onto one of the benches in front…where I managed to drop my iced coffee, MUCh to my dismay (it was really getting hot by this point). With nothing left to wash down my somewhat dry cupcake, I didn’t finish the thing. Plus, it had that same listless icing on it that Magnolia Bakery had. No thanks. Magnolia’s cake part was much better, however.

Next was a slight detour. I’ve been fascinated by French Macarons lately. I’ve actually had some success baking them, and let me tell you…they are difficult! I’ll be blogging about my adventures in Macaronland soon. But, during my trip I was still exploring the possibilities. So, I stopped at Madeleine Patisserie and sampled two – a raspberry/white chocolate confection and a salted caramel piece of heaven. Salted caramel is my current biggest weakness, and this macaron was perfection. I must pursue a comparable recipe!

After Madeleine’s, I found myself at my most anticipated stop – Cupcake Cafe. I had used their buttercream recipe a few years ago and made some memorable cupcakes with it. I was really looking forward to trying the “real thing.” Unfortunately, these were the worst cupcakes of the trip. By far. But aren’t they pretty?

These cupcakes were abominations! First of all, I think it is a CRIME to refrigerate pastries of any kind – especially cakes…with frosting. It just ruins the whole thing, IMHO. The frosting was somewhat stingy on these two cupcakes, but that really didn’t matter, because they tasted very strongly like a refrigerator! You know the taste…like they had been sitting in there for a week or so. Whether they were or weren’t old didn’t matter – they tasted of refrigerator, and I simply couldn’t eat them. Bah! Patoooie!

Undaunted, I pushed on.

Next and last stop of the day was Butterlane. They take a unique approach. They offer cupcakes in a few basic flavors…and quite a few frostings. You pick your cupcake…and then your frosting. It’s a great idea. Unfortunately, by late afternoon when I was there, my chocolate cupcake had become a little crusty around the rim. But…the rest of the cake was just fine. Tender, moist and nicely chocolatey. I ordered my cupcake with salted caramel frosting. Surprise! It came out with a few kernels of popcorn on top! What a fun little package that was!

This was (finally) a cupcake to write home about. A cupcake to return to. I don’t dream about it, but maybe if I had bought it when they first opened, I would. I’m going to give it another whirl on my next trip to the city.

Although I had tasted treats all over Greenwich Village, Chelsea and the East Village, my sugary day wasn’t done. Saturday night was my night to provide dessert for our group. I chose Veniero’s Italian Bakery on 11th St., just a block from our borrowed apartment. These little morsels tasted every bit as good as they looked!

So, that was how my Foodie Saturday went. Not a bad day at all! I look forward to doing something similar at the very next opportunity.

Foodie Saturday – Part One

June 13, 2010

To continue the report on my recent trip to New York…I give you Foodie Saturday. Looking back, I always realize I should have taken way more photos. This day was no exception. I really wish I had been more focused – so to speak.

It started mid-morning with a walking tour of Greenwich Village with stops at five food purveyors. Bruce Scher of Walking Tours Manhattan introduced the tasty tidbits during the two-hour tour. We got a range of typical New York experiences with stops at three bakeries, a pizza place and an Indian restaurant. That list may seem a little heavy on the baked goods, but for me it was fine, carb nut that I am. The bakeries included a bagel baker, a cupcake place and an Italian pastry shop.

The first stop was Magnolia Bakery, made famous by Sex and the City. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this cupcake would turn out to be the second best one of the day. I had lots of cupcakes that day. Thinking they would all live up to their reputations (HAH!), I was somewhat disappointed in this first one of the bunch.

The cake was soft and tender. I had no idea that would be a rare trait in New York cupcakes! The icing was on the slimey side -with little body and too much butter…or, honestly…maybe a butter substitute. It was kind of weird. But things got more and more weird on the cupcake front. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, we stopped for bagels and cream cheese at Hudson Bagels…on Hudson Street, natch! (They apparently have no website.)

The bagel was OK, but frankly, I like Einstein Brothers better. It wasn’t very brown, and the outer crust was not very “toothy.” But, maybe that’s the way New Yorkers like it. The cream cheese was different. At first I thought it was amazing, but as I continued, I realized it had a strong undertaste that I didn’t particularly like.

On we went! Next was a vegetable roll at Surya, an Indian restaurant on Bleeker Street. This was the best item on the tour! I’m not much for Indian food, but this was really good. It was similar to a spring roll, but filled with a curried mix of veggies, including potatoes. Yum! Following that was pizza. Hmmmmmm…

Pizza was less than impressive. We stopped at Joe’s Pizza, (Bleeker and Carmine Streets) where quite a crowd had gathered. I had high hopes! It was thin crust, but in place of a crispy texture, it was soft and floppy….almost as if it was underdone. I know New Yorkers like to fold their slices, and these were definitely foldable. So, maybe that was the goal. But, that’s not all. It was largely flavorless. I expect Italian food to be heavy with garlic and herbs like oregano and basil. If there were herbs on this pizza, they were few and far between. On the plus side, the sauce was light and seemed to have been made from fresh tomatoes. But all in all…kinda boring. There are no photos from Joe’s (and several other places) because I couldn’t juggle my camera, food, purse, water and beat off the crowd at the same time. Eating while standing on a street corner doesn’t leave much opportunity to do anything else!

Finally, we made our way back to Bleeker Street, where we stopped for canolli at Rocco’s. Their website is under construction, but they have an active Facebook page. There was a bit of a wait here, but the canolli was lovely. It was a great wrap-up for our little food adventure.

On the way out of Greenwich Village, we stopped to people watch and listen to music at Washington Square park. The temperature was climbing, and I began to envy this guy!

I know I haven’t had a lot of positive things to say about the food we experienced on our tour, but it was great fun! Just having a chance to experience a variety of typical New York fare in the heart of one of its most famous neighborhoods was well worth the modest price!

After our group parted ways, I went on to explore Chelsea on my own and ended up walking all the way back to our borrowed apartment in the East Village! It was my own version of the Cupcake Crawl…and there will be more on that experience in the next installment.

Galavanting

June 6, 2010

purse remnants from my NYC trip

Guess where I’ve been! It’s not much of a mystery, obviously. But, it’s been a long time since I’ve done ANYTHING at all…and suddenly I’m feeling alive and involved once again. I didn’t realize the long-term impact of my sister’s death until I looked back and recognized that I’ve been in a cave since late February. I will always miss her, but I can now feel everything sort of shifting into place, and life going on – the way it is supposed to.

My little sister, Bunnie, had invited me to join her, some long-time friends and most of her family in the city for the Memorial Day weekend. My daughter’s recent employment with an airline has given me access to really, really cheap airfares. I hadn’t tried to use my flight privileges before…but I figured there was no time like the present. So…I went! It was easy. And pleasant. Enough so that I followed up with a trip the following week, but that’s another story!

I’d been to NYC a few times and didn’t have a lot on my “to do” list. So, I made a NEW list – this one focusing on food. Oh, my! Some of it was memorable. A lot of it turned out to be totally forgettable. But, the quest was the fun part…and I DID have a quest. This is going to take a few posts. I’ll start with our first night in the city – Thursday.

I landed in Newark and took NJ Transit to Penn Station. I really don’t like taking cabs and buses, so this is my favorite way into the city. Flying into Laguardia just doesn’t seem as handy. And let’s just not even discuss Kennedy. Ugh!

When I got to Penn Station, I realized I was hungry. I almost NEVER eat a hot dog. But, when in New York…how can you NOT? I stopped at Nathan’s before hitting the street. There’s no snap like the one you get from that first bite into a Nathan’s dog. Just onions, mustard and relish complete the treat. YUM!

Not being familiar with the apartment we were borrowing for the weekend, I opted for the dreaded cab ride to the East Village. It wasn’t too bad, but it was my only cab ride of the trip. I’m a subway girl…when I’m not hoofing it. More about that later….

Once we had all arrived and settled a bit, it was time to think about dinner. The consensus was that we were hungry for Italian, and since we were a bit weary, we chose a place nearby – Piola on 12th st. It’s a chain, but I didn’t realize it at the time. It didn’t feel like one, and I like the art displayed on the walls.

They claim to be famous for pizza, but we all chose something else. My niece said they had the best gnocci she had ever tasted, and I have to admit, they were pretty good. But, gnocci ain’t my thang. I had the Pollo Piola, described as a chicken breast roll filled with spinach and ricotta cheese, sauteed in a creamy mushroom sauce, served with peperonata. It was OK…but not an eye-roller. The mushrooms were pretty scarce, and the chicken was dry. It needed more sauce to offset the dryness of the chicken…but what was there was pretty tasty. They were generous with the bread and olive oil, and that goes a long way with me!

Afterward…the evening turned out to be all about dessert. We walked a block or so to Stand 4 I stumbled upon this place in my search for the hamburger to end all hamburgers (I didn’t find it on this trip, BTW.) The burger search led to raves about Stand 4’s toasted marshmallow shakes.

Oh…my! I now have a “must have” for subsequent trips to NYC. The larger one is $7, and I was wishing they’d had an even bigger one! These things are to die for! Other members of our group tried other flavors and had good things to say about their choices as well. But for me…it’s Toasted Marshmallow Gelato Shake. Unforgettable!

We waddled back to 11th street and crawled into bed to rest up for our first full day in the city, which included brunch at Norma’s, a trip to Rockefeller Center and walking the entire length of Central Park. We engaged in a little general rubber-necking. And food and drink, of course.

Much more to come!