Grand Central Followup: Homemade Marshmallows, etc.
I appreciated the overview of the goings-on in the bowels of Grand Central, especially since I work in its shadow (or vice versa). A few comments:
I wouldn't categorize Drink City's homemade marshmallows as "marketing shtick," at least in the sense of cynical corporate or consultant-driven shtick. Drink City is an outgrowth of City Bakery which is, if I'm not mistaken, the brainchild of Maury Rubin. I presume that the Drink City menu also reflects what Maury wants to serve, and not the cynical whims of some consultant just passing through. Rubin has been into the whole hot chocolate thing for years (I remember going to hot chocolate tastings at both the (now closed) Sony Building location and the (original) Union Square location of City Bakery -- we've got the t-shirts to prove it). He seems to have a pretty good marketing sense and may want to serve things that excite a chowhound (which shouldn't be a crime). In sum, if it's "shtick" to serve homemade marshmallows, I bet it's Maury's shtick alone.
Before I wrote this, I felt duty-bound to actually have the hot chocolate (with homemade marshmallow), so I went to the food court for lunch today. The hot chocolate was very, very good. It was served at "drink-it-now" temperature (no McDonald's-coffee-type lawsuits here) which suited me fine. I believe it was made with Valrhona chocolate -- it had a deep, complex flavor and a thick, creamy texture. The much-maligned marshmallow was a large square affair with a little plastic skewer stuck in it for clean eating -- with the bottom melty from the hot chocolate it was marvy. A minor complaint -- served as full as it was, and with the skewer sticking up, the hot chocolate cop couldn't be covered (they give you the cover on the side). I tried to drink it down just a little bit so I could cover it and drink it after my lunch -- but I couldn't stop until it was gone. Of course, at $3 a pop, one shouldn't complain about the cup being too full....
Elsewhere in the food court: Tatany will be opening a branch, and it appears that Citarella will be opening a prepared food operation (not enough construction to tell whether it's sitdown).
Finally, the lunch I wanted to have before the hot chocolate was from Mike's Take Away. I wanted to test the Alpha Chowhound's pan, since I was a fan of the cart on 45th street in front of the Met Life Building. I have to agree -- it was a disaster. The "seafood bisque" was a green goop chock-full of mussels (suffering from mussel fatigue); the only other seafood constituent was a lone piece of lobster about the size of my thumbnail. Nothing bisquey about it. The best that could be said of it was that it was edible. The radiatore salad, on the other hand.... It was ice cold (even after 20 minutes in the bag under the bisque)and consisted of more green goop -- the main characteristic was lots of pieces of slimy raw eggplant and the occasional walnut. It was not worth eating (and not worth buying). Oh, well....
See, that's what you get for being flip!
OTOH, I think I made clear that I didn't actually sample said marshmallows (or, indeed, ANYTHING from Drink City). It's just that I was thrust into a dark mood by the soups (sic) at Mike's (you had EDIBLE??? I'd have KILLED for edible!) and my disappointment with myself for having been suckered in by the mention of chiles en nogada. I was pretty much viewing everything with a jaundiced eye...hype fatigue, I guess...
Hey, if anyone's wondering what the heck we're talking about, I wrote a Grand Central report (use link below)
re: Jim Leff
By the way, Jim, I was in Mexico in early October and was told in no uncertain terms that you're not supposed to make chiles en nogada after the end of September. Partly it's arbitrary Mexican tradition, but also the dish requires fresh white walnuts which I guess aren't all that fresh or white in the fall. Your instincts were on the money.
A couple more unrelated notes regarding the Grand Central food explosion:
Cafe Spice (also at University & 11th St.)is opening an outpost in the food court.
LiLac Chocolates has an outpost in the food market up on the street level. Haven't seen how the chocolates travel, but I assume that they will be as good as in the Village.
I did have the watermelon lemonade at Drink City and it was excellent (which it better be at $3). I expected either lemonade with a hint of watermelon sweetness or watermelon juice with a bit of pucker. Instead, the watermelon and lemonade flavors both came through in a harmonious balance and the sweetness was just right by me (I know some people like massive puckering, while others go for sugar shock; I like to think I'm somewhere in the middle).