Lots of time, what to try?
My temporary gig ended recently and I suddenly find myself with a significant amount of free time. I have always had a passion for food and cooking but not having gone to culinary school to see how certain dishes are "meant" to be prepared, all I have are books that can only take me so far. Instead of wasting away on my couch, wildly refreshing every job website on the planet, I plan to get out and taste what NYC has to offer in hopes that I can someday recreate the flavors in my own kitchen.
The question is, where should I go? More specifically, what are some relatively affordable places in the greater NYC area that offer traditional cuisine that an average home cook has some hope of duplicating once he has experienced the real deal? My question is intentionally vague and I'm open to any and all suggestions (other than those involving bakery goods).
Sampler of tasty bits I wonder about: jambalaya (rice in general), omelets, mole, cod, bolognese, ramen/udon, grits, French onion soup, gnocchi, tacos al pastor, Thai curry, pork loin, duck confit, fantastic stock...
All suggestions will be greatly appreciated!