Our 3-day NYC food tour report....
- Slob May 9, 2009 08:32 AM
Ms.Muchie and I invaded NYC this week and set out to try some new places and re-visit a couple old favorites. A couple of our findings really surprised us. Here we go.
First Meal: Co.
We touched down at around 3pm, zipped up to our hotel in Columbus Circle, dropped off our bags and immediately hit the trains for Co. When we arrived around 5:30 we were surprised to see that we were the first people there. From earlier reports we were prepared to wait for a seat.
I flat out LOVED Co. I don't think Ms. Munchie was nearly the fan of Co. that I am, but I'll let her speak for herself. I thought the pizza was really delicious. I don't know that I'm a pure Neopolitan pizza lover (though I did love UPN), but Co. seems to mix in some NY pizza flair along with the Neopolitan touches. What I really loved about Co. was that the crust retained its integrity throughout the meal. I didn't have to wolf the pizza down in 39 seconds in order to avoid it turning into a bowl of mushy farina.
Ms. Muchie ordered the lardo pie, and I went with the sausage pie. Hers, as she proudly pointed out, was better than mine. The crunchy lardo bits imparted a delicious smokiness to the entire pie. The char was perfect. All ingredients worked perfectly.
The sausage pie was also delicious but didn't have that special little oomph that the lardo gave the other pie. The sausage was high quality though, and the sauce was tasty too. It wasn't a bland, "traditional" Neopolitan sauce at all.
At the end of each review, I will tell you what I think means the most, and that is whether or not I'll return to the establishment in the future. I will gladly return to Co. In fact, I will look forward to returning to Co.
Big Booty Bakery:
After walking around for a little while and digesting the pies, we decided to make the trek to Big Booty Bakery for a couple cupcakes and maybe a cookie. We heard some good reports on the red velvet cupcake and decided to have one. We also grabbed a dulce de'leche and a peanut butter cookie.
The red velvet cupcake was INCREDIBLE! The cake was super moist and actually had some flavor to it unlike most red velvet cakes I've tried. And the frosting was the perfect mix of sweet and tasty. A really really good cupcake.
The dulce cupcake, on the other hand, was pretty tasteless. It was made very well and was really moist, but it lacked any discernible flavor. The peanut butter cookie, on the other hand, was ALL FLAVOR. If you are like my dogs and love a giant spoonful of peanut butter to gnaw on, then this is your cookie. PACKED with peanut butter flavor.
I will likely return to Big Booty for the red velvet cupcake. Will I seek it out? Not so sure. But if I'm in the area, I will definitely grab one.
Day One Dinner:
What a beautiful restaurant. Really nice digs. They did a great job of keeping the old flavor of the place and just polishing it up a tad.
We had a 10:30 dinner reservation, and the place was completely full when we got there. So, people must love this place. We didn't.
I'll start by stating that one of my pet peeves is when a restaurant allows the temperature of the room to get too warm. And it was REALLY warm in our section of the restaurant. So, Minetta started off on the wrong foot with me.
We started with a couple drinks, which were very tasty. I think they were some sort of punch drink or something. I forget the name, but they were good. We thought it was a prelude of good things to come. It actually turned out to be the highlight.
Ms. Munchie wasn't starving, so we shared a bone marrow app to start. It was OK, but there wasn't anything special about the preparation. The breads that accompanied the dish were rock hard super thin slices of bread that were heavily toasted to the point of losing all bread flavor. They were basically breadsticks. The accompaniment to the marrow (I think it was a really sweet carmelized onion concoction) was overpowering and wiped out the super subtle marrow flavor. The portion was really small for the price.
For her main dish, Ms. Munchie, who is a huge liver/pate fan, went with the oxtail and foie gras terrine. I'll let her give her own thoughts on it, but she didn't appear all that impressed.
I went there with one thing in mind--the black label burger. As a monster burger nut, I had been dreaming about this thing for a few days. As is often the case when you hype something too much in your mind, I was let down.
I decided to put nothing on the burger in order to really get the entire experience the way the creators of this dish intended. As I made my way through the burger, I found myself wishing for a couple slices of creamy American cheese on top of it and maybe some ketchup or something. In other words, after all this build up and the whopping $26 price tag, I found myself longing for a DIFFERENT burger.
I'm going to be completely honest and will probably be viewed as a heretic by the hype brigade, but I'd much rather sit down with Five Guys cheeseburger and keep the extra 20 clams in my pocket.
I can see the appeal of Minetta Tavern. It's located in a nice area of town. It's a beautiful restaurant. Perfectly lit. Well appointed. It's a spot that would certainly appeal to some of the hipsters and cellphone set that we saw eating there. But the dishes we had just didn't measure up for folks more concerned with flavors and less concerned with telling their friends about the hip new spot they "found".
In fact, we were so let down by the meal not matching the hype that we skipped dessert. And we only skip dessert when we are completely stuffed and feel like the Monty Python character who exploded after ingesting that final thin wafer.
As you might guess, we will not return to Minetta Tavern although we wish them no ill will. They were pleasant to us, and we wish them all the best. We just didn't feel the hype was met at all.
Day 2's adventures to follow later!!
Well my lovely Slob, I have a couple things to add to this.
I thought the pie at Co. was good. Will I have cravings for it and go back? No. I think that UPN and Co. and Keste are all nice - but whatever. I don't get what's really supersonic about these places. The pies were good. But for flavor - NOTHING beats Artichoke Basille's.
The Big Booty Bread Co. red velvet cupcake was GREAT. The cream cheese icing was perfect. The cake was moist and flavorful. The peanutbutter cookie was really over the top. A peanutbutter extravaganza. THE MOST peanutbuttery thing in the world. The dolceleche cupcake totally sucked.
Everything you said about Minetta Tavern was correct. The bone marrow was delicious but there was like a full tablespoon of product after all was said and done - and that is just dumb to me. The bread with it was like kryptonite. My oxtail and foie gras terrine was weird. It was like a not-so-salty upscale SPAM - and I ADORE foie gras. Slob's burger was DULL. The drinks were LOVELY. Our waitress was fabulous. They had a "door guy" which was a turn-off. Even though I had reservations I felt like there was a chance i wasn't getting in. Door guy was cold and bouncer-ish. That was weird to me.
Artichoke is just so damn packed with flavor that we absolutely love it. We sat on a dirty stoop after midnight a couple days ago eating a couple square slices, and we couldn't have been happier. We stood on a long line at midnight on a weekday to eat pizza on a dirty stoop, and we can't wait to do it again.
We'll get to Keste later because we sat down there for the first time on our final day.
Make no mistake - I think UPN/CO/KESTE have very lovely pies - and would love to add that they are the healthier choice also with a lot less calories compared to AB's most likely - because of the light airy crusts & toppings. AB's square is a pile of flavor and a pile of calories - an enormous grade-A large thick greasy crunchy crust with tons of oozy cheesy saucy craziness on top. The fatso in me wants AB's. The Body Dysmorphic Disorder patient in me would choose the lighter pies - accompanied by a Xenical and a sprint around Central Park Reservoir.
Our 3-day NYC food tour report - PART 2
SLOB posted our Day One shenanigans earlier - I am posting Day Two.
We - (SLOB AND I) - AS PLANNED - went straight down to the LES for our Kenny Shopsin fix and ordered the Mac & Cheese pancakes and the Bacon & Egg pancakes and both were BEYOND MAGNIFICENT. In my not-so-humble opinion - K. Shopsin is a genius. We were graced with his foul-mouthed presence during the entire pigfest - (he was sitting down next to our table) and nothing made me happier - (except for the actual food)
After that - we strolled on over to another genius in town - Mark Israel's Donut Plant. We got the peanutbutter and strawberry jelly glazed and the Tres Leches Cake donut. I have had several PB&J's and they drive me insane. This was the first time having the TLCD and I almost yanked my hair out. It was perfect.
For Lunch - We went to The Little Owl. Jiminy Crickets - this place is so bloody over-rated. We ordered the Meatball sliders and the Gnocchi and man, I just don't get what all the hype is about - AGAIN. The meatballs were rubbery - soaking in water style - with some average sauce plopped on top. Gnocci was gritty to me. In all actuality - they seemed like just plain mini cubes of potatoes with a watery cream sauce. The sauce DIDNT suck but it wasn't fierce at all. Everything was super mediocre. The place was super small. WAY TOO small. If you are over-weight you will HATE it there. You simply just can't fit. The bathroom is only meant for anorexic people. It's the size of a postage stamp.
We went to Amy's Bread afterwards and had a lemonsquare and a cupcake BUT it was so tasteless I HAVE ZERO idea what we ordered. I completely forgot. The lemonsquare was stupid - meaning - just really average.
Then we went to Sweet Revenge - and got a peanutbutter cupcake and a red velvet cupcake. They were very attractive I must say. The pbcc had great flavor. The icing was lovely. The actual cake was tasty BUT it was dry so that really sucked. The rvcc was INSANELY dry. The icing was great. The cake was the dryest EVER. Shame. They were beautiful. NOT CHEAP.
For dinner we went to Babbo. Before I get to the food - (which is really the most important) may I please ask this question - What was Batali thinking when he hired Ebenezer Scrooge to be the Maitre D??????? This guy is the opposite of what should be the first face you see when you walk into this place - or any place for that matter. Very unapproachable and unwelcoming face. Also - please let me say that I am not trying to be "cute" and or be "nit-picky". I am stating a fact here - this guy is nuts. Ok - so while waiting for our table - we asked the bartender at the bar to be creative and make us something fun to drink while waiting. Well - he ended up making us a wine spritzery cocktail that was full blown Bartles & James. Again - not trying to be cute - just being honest. So after we got seated we ordered the -
*Goose LIver Ravioli
* Beef Cheek Ravioli
I thought my GLR was absolutely positively scrumptuous. Slob really liked his BCR but thought my GLR was tastier. The sweetbreads were fantastic BUT we were so stuffed from the ravioli that we only ate 1/2 the sb's so I was sad that I didnt really get to enjy them like I wanted too. No dessert. STUFFED.
Day Three will be posted by "THE SLOB"
Excellent Day 2 recap, Munch. I'll take a moment to add my thoughts to our Day 2 whirlwind tour.
Kenny Shopsin is a f**king treasure. When he told the dude sitting next to us to, "Stick your d**k in it" when the guy requested meat be added to a dish that didn't have meat listed as an ingredient on the menu I nearly spit out a chunk of my pancake. However, I knew that if spit it out you would have gulped it down, and I would have been out a precious bite.
Shopsins is one of those places that will be on our itinerary EVERY time we go to NYC. That's how special the experience is. It's not for everyone because some people are a little too dainty to appreciate Kenny. But it is definitely for us. He managed to take a dish that I thought sounded unappetizing (mac n cheese pancakes) and make it mouth-wateringly delectable.
Donut Plant is another place, like Shopsins, that finds itself on our itinerary EVERY time we visit the city. And it never lets us down. This time, we tried a cake donut because of all the glowing reports on the cake donuts. And the Tres Leches was a major winner. I still think the PBJ donut is the best donut in the history of the world, but I can understand the love of the cake donut now after eating the Tres Leches. The strawberry cake donut was good, but a little too subtle for my palate. I like to be clubbed about the mouth by flavors. This one might be good for the more suave and refined set, but us food hooligans like a little more pop. The creme brulee donut was delicious.
I agree on Amy's Bread. Totally forgettable experience. I can't remember the type of donut we had either. And that lemon square tasted like something you'd get at 7-11. Poor.
As for Sweet Revenge, I'm going to go a bit of a rant here. How the hell can your business be producing baked goods and you put out a completely dried out cupcake? How can you do that? I don't bake for a living and am not accomplished at all when it comes to baking. But even I can make a cupcake that is moist. On top of that, when you're charging $3.50 for a normal sized cupcake the damn thing better be good. When I tell you the cupcakes were dry, they were inedibly dry. Daffy Duck getting a mouthful of Alum dry. Baby Powder down the throat dry. You get the picture? We ate the tops, which were actually tasty because the frosting on both cupcakes was very good. But for $3.50, you gotta deliver an edible cupcake.
Your comments on the maitre d are very funny but also true. I don't know whether or not he's a queen and don't care. But he wore that traditional old queen snooty scowl the entire time I was watching him from afar. It was fun watching him because it was comical. He looked like someone they'd hire in a television commercial to play the role of the disapproving, crotchety employer.
And the bartender at Babbo was completely unimaginative. When we asked him to make us his best rum-based libation he looked at us like he didn't know what rum was and never had been asked to make a drink of his choosing. When he busted out that Bartles & James concoction, we just laughed.
The food, however, was DELICIOUS. I loved everything we ordered. And I will definitely be back. I think we both prefer Scarpetta because there's a little better vibe there. But they're both great places. I'm a sweetbread lover now after our last trip to Degustation. And the sweetbread dish at Babbo was so tender it fell apart as I cut it with my fork. Just incredible.
The pastas were both delicious too. I preferred Ms. Muchie's goose liver over mine. But I loved mine too.
Excellent reports, Slob and Munch!
Never been to Babbo because I refuse to do the "telephone tango" to get a reservation. However, it's as though Batali is so confident he can fill up his restaurants that he seems to go out of his way to hire the most unwelcoming reception personnel. I've mentioned this befoe on this board, but the first time we went to Casa Mono, there were three of us, and the receptionist started to head us towards a table that was so small, it could barely accommodate two, let alone three. When I immediately advised her that there was no way that table was acceptable, she put on a huge prune face and in a very ungracious manner had two tables for two put together for us. The only other Batali restaurant we've been to is Esca, and the reception upon arrival was less than welcoming as well.
Re: Cupcakes. The next time you're in town, after you're finished with Shopsin's, I suggest you go to Sugar Sweet Sunshine, right near the Essex St. Market, on Rivington, b/t Essex & Norfolk.
RGR, thanks for the tip on Sugar Sweet, but we went there on our last trip, and we were unimpressed. Maybe we ordered the wrong cupcakes because everyone seems to love that place. We thought it was mediocre and fairly tasteless.
I'm willing to give it another shot, but I might have to twist Munchie's arm because once she gets turned off to a place it's tough for her to go back. We do spend a lot of time in the LES usually on our trips, though, so I should be able to convince her to go back if you guys give us some good suggestions on cupcakes.
To be honest, Slob, I've only had one cupcake at Sugar Sweet, and it blew me away. It was a while ago, but I'm pretty sure it was the basic yellow cake with vanilla buttercream.
You might want to try the cupcakes at Dessert Club ChikaLicious. They're daintier and less sweet than Sugar Sweet's. You should also consider going to the flagship, ChikaLicious. No cupcakes, but rather, small, exquisite desserts. They're in the East Village, across the street from one another, on 10th, b/t 1st & 2nd Avs. (closer to 2nd).
I had the basic vanilla cupcake at SSSB and for lack of a better word because I am in my morning coma - it was just DUMB. Like the sugar/water flavored icing and the flour/sugar cake. ZERO taste. We walked past SSSB this trip - & Slob asked if I wanted to go in and I would have but there were so many places we needed to try still and I probably had a belly full of something else at that moment so we kept on truckin'. Stay tuned for the bakery review that really deserves the biggest props in NYC - and that's TWO LITTLE RED HENS. PERIOD. Slob will post Day Three review shortly.
With regard to the vanilla cupcake at SSS, as one of my favorite sayings goes, "Chacun à son goût!" :-)
While I've never tried any of Two Little Red Hens' baked goods, but they do get lots and lots of raves.
Looking forward to the last installment of "Slob and Munch Eat NYC."
Amy's Bread - I avoid the cupcakes but their regular cake (especially chocolate with white frosting) is fantastic.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine - I like the odder ones like the pistachio, lemon, pumpkin, and also the chocolate. I typically don't get the basic vanilla
Chikalicious Dessert Club - they're all very good but on the petite side, and the frosting is whipped/light/airy and while it tastes really good, it somehow doesn't appeal to me in the same way. Not that I'd turn one of her cupcakes down.
Butter Lane - very high quality of ingredients. Their chocolate isn't as rich as I prefer, the cakes are definitely on the lighter side. But you can really taste the quality of the cocoa powder they use - it's not bitter or chalky at all. And you can choose your favorite combination of frosting/cake with a choice between American or French buttercream frosting.
I was boiling mad after we ordered the lemon bar and cupcake at Amy's. After we ordered it I just remembered that I was supposed to try the cake. By the time I remembered I was just over it. I don't even think I am familiar with Butter Lane. Will go there in June on our next journey - along with Chick.
Day 3: This day featured a lot of walking and nibbling. No formal sitdown meals or reservations. We must have walked about 20 miles on this glorious day, and we didn't get back to the hotel until about 1:00 am. Woke up at 8:00 am and ran around Manhattan all day and night. What an incredible day this was.
First stop: Itzocan cafe
At Itzocan Cafe in the East Village we wanted to try the huitlacoche corn souffle cake, which we had heard some good things about. Oh boy what a disaster that was. Completely tasteless. It looked like a lump of mold and tasted like NOTHING. Very weird color. You want to talk about mouthfeel? This thing had the mouthfeel of wet sawdust.
Luckily, we ordered the guacamole, which was actually very tasty and fresh. We really enjoyed it. We showed up here around lunchtime, and there were no other patrons in the house. Tiny little restaurant. Nice people. I wish them well, but that souffle was a nightmare.
Next stop: Porchetta
I HAD to try the Porchetta sandwich after reading so many raves about it. Munchie wasn't as enthused as I was about visiting this spot. But I just HAD to go. Well, I should have listened to her. The sandwich is ALL HYPE. I think it cost us $9, and it was far from a big sandwich. There was virtually no flavor to it. I had heard that it was juicy and nicely seasoned. It was neither. It basically tasted like a baked pork butt with no seasoning. And there was nothing on the sandwich to help give it a little push. Just dry meat and bread. This one falls into the HYPE BUSTER vault.
The potatoes with crunchy ends, on the other hand, were DELICIOUS. Packed with flavor. In fact, if I ever pass by Porchetta hungry again, I might dip in for some potatoes and skip the pork.
At this point in the journey, we met up with a local friend, who suggested we hit Ray's and try an egg cream. After each of us had a sip, we gave it to our friend. It just tasted like a feeble chocolate milk with some soda in it. No dice.
Next stop: Keste
We had read about the pizza maven at Keste and heard some good things on this board. So, we decided to give them a shot. Feh! I had the sausage pie and Ms. Munchie had the 4 cheese. Hers, ONCE AGAIN, was better than mine. Sound like a common theme? But, they were both bad, so that's not saying much.
Sog city. Wet dish rag crust. This is the type of pizza that if you don't gulp it down in 23 seconds it transforms to inedible slop. It starts out as slop then turns to inedible slop. It's a shame, too, because, again, I wanted to enjoy this place. The people were nice. But the pizza was just really bad.
The sausage on my pie looked like boiled pellets. Totally devoid of flavor. No char on it. Just ground up pork with a hint of seasoning. I'm almost remiss to refer to as sausage. The sauce was tasteless. The cheese was bland. And the crust we already discussed. I don't know how this place will survive with such great pizza all over NYC.
Next stop: 3 Little Red Hens
We wanted to absolve ourselves of the sins of Keste, so we ran like maniacs to 3 Little Red Hens (TLRH). What a gem this place was. We gorged ourselves on 5 different small cupcakes--blackout, red velvet, carrot, strawberry cream, boston cream. They were all delicious, but my favorite, by a longshot, was the blackout. What a chocolate marvel this was. Chocolate on top of chocolate wrapped in chocolate. I saw Willy Wonka himself stumbling out of there in a daze muttering some gibberish.
Next stop: Cake Shop in the LES for a slice of the peanut butter bomb cake.
We hadn't slipped into a diabetic coma yet, so we thought we were out of the woods. This cake was REALLY GOOD. It was shaped like a bundt cake, but under the frosting was a thick layer of peanut butter whipped madness. DELICIOUS. The cake was chocolate and very moist too.
The only downside of this stop was the chick who worked the bar. She was ultra-sour. We tried to chat her up a little, and she gave us the full snub. I even complimented the cake after the initial snub, and got the double-snub.
Next stop: Mayahuel in the East Village
We hadn't had any real cocktails up till this point in the trip, so we decided to head back to the East Village and hit Mayahuel, which is a new Mexican style tequila-centric bar. I went with the Git Ur Lapsong Suchong, which featured smokey tea-infused Blanco tequila, lime, tamarind soda and agave nectar. It was poured over crushed ice. I think the drink was about $13, so it's not a cheap place. But I had never tasted a "smokey" alcoholic beverage before, and this was a special treat. I sipped it like a fine wine and enjoyed it quite a bit.
The lovely and talented Ms. ordered the La Vida Rosa, which is their tequila-based version of sangria. A really tasty drink.
We didn't want to get tired out, so we left after those drinks. The place is dark and a little quiet, so we found ourselves getting a little groggy. So, back to pounding the pavement we went.
Next stop: Van Leeuwen artisan ice cream truck parked close to Patsy's on University Place.
I really loved this ice cream. I went with the chocolate in a cup with some caramel and chocolate sauce and fresh whipped cream. Ms. had the pistachio in a cone.
All of the ingredients tasted super fresh and hand made. The pistachio didn't have that fake artificial coloring or fake ice cream style pistachio taste. It tasted like a real pistachio nut. And the chocolate was really deep in flavor. The toppings were all hand made too. Nothing from cans.
I'll definitely seek this truck out next time I'm in town. It was expensive, but it was very much worth it. We sat on a stoop and watched people walk by as we ate it. A fun experience all the way around.
Next stop: Artichoke Basil
I know there are mixed reviews on this place, but we LOVE it and it is a regular stop for us every time we're in the city. They didn't let us down this time either. The young guy working the oven is a real asset to their business. It was midnight, and there was a long line out the door on a Thursday night. And this dude had the conviction to his craft to throw out a slice instead of serving it. He pulled it out of the oven and didn't like the integrity of the crust or something on this spatula. So, instead of serving it to someone, who would have probably gladly gulped it down, he tossed it. That said A LOT to me.
We grabbed our square slices and hoofed it down the street to an unoccupied stoop and wolfed them down. So full of damn flavor. It might be too saucy or greasy or whatever to some people. But to us, it's greasy gooey heaven.
Final stop before the ER: Momofuku milk bar for some dessert
I wanted to give the jelly donut soft serve a go after hearing a213b rave about it. What a disappointment it was. I had two licks of it and threw it in the bin. It tasted like super super sweet sorbett. I think it was supposed to be strawberry jelly, but it just tasted weird and had a weird consistency to it. It sure as hell tasted NOTHING like a jelly donut.
We also grabbed a handful of corn cookies, which were absolutely delicious. LOVED them. They had a really strong corn flavor, and we love corn flavored pastries and muffins and breads. These made up for the abysmal jelly soft serve. I've had really mixed results at MM, so I'm not sure if I'll go back. I guess if we're in the neighborhood we might stop in for some cookies.
YIKES SLOB - you're a tough customer. : ) Let me add to this if I may -
ITZOCAN CAFE - yeah - I was the one who DEMANDED we go here - read a post about it and was dreaming of corn souffle - but sad to say - it was weird. I didn't hate it but I would never order it again. The guacamole was out of this world. Fresh.com.
PORCHETTA - yeah - the pork was fresh but not that juicy - not totally dry though to me - and totally needed some kind of sauce. It was similar to a sandwich we tried at Inoteca. Potatoes were awesome. Tons of flavor. Crispy and fun.
KESTE - I didnt try the sausage pizza - it looked yucky. My 4 cheese pie was good to me but I wouldnt seek it out.
THREE LITTLE RED HENS - WOW!!!!!!!!! What a pleasant surprise! All the cupcakes we tried were heavenly. Everything was perfect.
CAKE SHOP - great GREAT Peanutbutter Bomb Cake - the chick behind counter was so snubby that I am just to turned off to go back. It was like she was doing us a favor by serving us - I dont know - it was just weird.
MAYAHUEL - what a nice place. Great drinks. Great atmosphere. Romantic. Cool. Hip. I thought it was terrific.
Van Leeuwen artisan ice cream truck = VERY NICE. Fresh. Subtle for all you "subtle guys" LMAO! - It was lovely. Refreshing.
ARTICHOKE BASILLES - well - this is my favorite pizza - and MAYBE my favorite food of all time. AND YES - the guy making pies is a real winner. They are lucky to have him.
MOMOFUKU MILK BAR - I LOVED THESE DAMN CORN COOKIES. moist. corny. heavy cookie. one cookie weighs 10lbs. AWESOME. the jelly donut icecream was TANGY AS HELL. it was sour.com. I just dont care about that kind of stuff - the whole sorbet thing - so commenting on it means nothing to me. I would totally go back to MMB to get cookies.