Saturday, 6 April 2013

New York City - restaurants, cafes and eating in

I don't think I've ever wrote about any of the places I've visited or eaten in unless I've had a cooking lesson there. Over Easter I visited my friends in New York City and whilst this wasn't exactly a food focused holiday me being me meant that a few interesting places were visited. I'm fortunate enough to have been to the city quite a few times, either through work or on holiday, and so know it reasonably well. I always said that I didn't like to go back to the same place on holiday even if I'd had a really good time, largely as there are so many places to visit and my list seems to get longer every time I read a travel magazine or talk to someone who has been away. Also, I sometimes find its risky to try and recreate something like an amazing holiday as often it won't live up to expectation. In recent years though, I've had to eat my words, well some of them! I've actually found it quite liberating to visit somewhere I have been several times, IF (and this is the critical part,) it's a city. I don't think it'd work the same way with somewhere with less of a focus on site-seeing. For me I quite like going to a city I've been before and have 'done' the key sites as the pressure is off and I can just enjoy the city for what it is and maybe act a little more like a local which results in a different experience.

I was lucky enough to be staying with some close friends who live in Midtown, Manhattan not far from central park. You couldn't really get more central if you tried!

One of the first things I did on arrival was to go and stock up on some food for the week so that I could stick to my clean eating (most of the time). They live a stones throw from a Whole Food Market which is always a treat for me. I love going to supermarkets in other countries to see what sort of foods they have, even in the US which in many ways eat a similar sort of food to the UK I find this interesting. I spent a good while exclaiming over how large some of the potions/packs were. How big are US chickens?! Judging on the size of the chicken breasts on sale I'd say about as large as a turkey! On my next visit I said I wanted to go to a chicken farm and I was only half joking.

One of the first places my friend took me to was Chelsea Market for lunch. I'd been meaning to visit it the last time I was in NYC but ran out of time. It's an indoor food 'market' although most of the places are cafes/restaurants rather than market stalls. In some ways it reminded me of a cross between Maltby Market and Brixton Market in London, but slightly more formal and polished. There were plenty of places to try and most looked fantastic. As it wasn't my treat meal I wanted to eat as cleanly as possible so decided to eat in Dickson's Farmstead and went for the half roast chicken with brussel sprouts and lardons. The chicken was well roasted and deliciously moist but was probably the fattiest chicken I have ever eaten! The Sarabeth bakery looked amazing and One Lucky Duck must be a vegan's dream

In the evening I went to a friends for dinner and she cooked Tessa Kiros' moussaka and as I've mentioned before Tessa is one of my favourite food writers so this was a real treat for me. We took around cupcakes from Crumbs which were traditional American flavours. They looked good but I didn't try one so couldn't comment on the taste.

The following morning I got up early for a run in Central Park and afterward breakfast I went to Alice's Tea Cup. I was recommended Alice's by a friend one of the first times I went to NYC. It's a wonderful tea shop which is Alice in Wonderland themed. They even sprinkle children with magic dust (glitter) and get them to make a wish when they enter, just wonderful! As I'd eaten I only had a cup of tea but it was a lovely start to the day.

I was meeting a friend I used to work with for lunch and she suggested we went to a cute little place by her work called Mangia. They have quite a few places like this around the city. You could describe them as a canteen or buffet or food hall and this was a reasonably upmarket version. They basically have different stations which might serve salads, sandwiches, hot food, baked goods, smoothies, coffees and so forth and then in the centre there was a cold salad buffet which was sold by weight. The quality was excellent and it was pretty good value as well. Great for a quick lunch hour bite to eat.

In the evening a group of us went to Harlem to try out Sylvia's This is a soul food restaurant and Sylvia is dubbed the Queen of Soul Food. To be honest I wasn't that impressed. The service was terrible - we waited the best part of an hour for our table despite the fact we'd booked and although the food was ok I didn't think it was anything special. Maybe it wasn't my kind of thing though. Despite that we had a great evening and ended the night in a Dive bar close to where some of my friends live.

My dinner was roast chicken with green beans and okra gumbo.

This was the signature fried southern chicken and rib combo with mash and mac and cheese. The macaroni had quite a lot of egg in it and reminded me of an egg custard.

The next morning was a beautiful day and we decided to head to Coney Island.

I expected a terrible choice of food but as it turned out we found Tom's Coney Island. This was effectively the equivalent of a greasy spoon in the UK but really well run. I chose am omelette and my friends had a burger and pancakes. The choices were basic but well cooked and good value and the service was fantastic.

On the way back we decided to have a walk through Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Brooklyn has a feel of East London to it and we stopped for a coffee in the Black Brick coffee shop. It was cosy and really looked the part but sadly was the classic case of style over substance as coffee was ok but not brilliant. They need Monmouth!

For dinner my friend fancied a crepe so she took us to a little place called The Crooked Tree. It was very small and had a lovely atmosphere. The service was good and the food was reasonable value and very tasty. I had a chicken, cheese and sundried tomato buckwheat crepe.

It was great to see I cold stay pretty much on track with my fit lifestyle even when on holiday. I pretty much stayed on plan with my clean eating and two treat meals, walked loads and worked out all but one day. I then really enjoyed my treat meals, guilt free.

For the first of my two treat meals in the week I was there I wanted to go for brunch. My normal brunch spot in NYC is Cafeteria, famous for being used to film some of the brunch scenes in Sex and the City. They have the most wonderful lemon ricotta pancakes with berries. However I felt like trying somewhere new and after a bit of research we decided to try Kitchenette. It hadn't occurred to us to book but we really needed to. Fortunately they managed to squeeze us in. I went for a fruit cup and freshly squeezed orange juice to start followed by baked cinnamon French roast with maple syrup. It was very similar to a bread and butter pudding and very good. They also made their own strawberry flavoured butter which you can see in the shot.

My final treat was somewhere I have been looking forwards to for a long time. We had to wait rather a long time for a table at the wonderful Spotted Pig but it was well worth the wait! The burger and fries was tasty, particular the rosemary and garlic string fries but the real show stopped were the ricotta gnudi. They were little balls of cheese heaven enveloped in more cheese heaven and drizzled with wonderfully nutty brown butter and scattered with crispy sage leaves and Parmesan. To die for!

What a great way to end a fantastic holiday! I'll be back for more gnudi on my next trip without a doubt.

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