Early March Trip report
I went to Manhattan with a slight detour to Madison, NJ for a play.
Amy's Bread (Hell's Kitchen location)
My first meal after touching down in the evening. I've known about Amy's Bread from a baking book I got a long time ago from a booksale. Alas, for a first meal, it wasn't so good. I got chicken veg soup, french roll, and lemon mousseline cake. Maybe the baked goods weren't at their peak at 8pm? Anyway, the soup was bland, the roll was stale and cold, and the cake? Oy, sad cake makes me sad. It was very sweet and the crumb was dense and pasty. The slight acidity from the lemon curd (there was but a film of it between the layers) did not stand a chance against the cloying sweetness. Guy I was chatting with in front of me was apparently a regular, and he was there for a usual slice of carrot cake and coffee. He said the carrot cake was great and has never tried anything else. Maybe I should've gotten that. I had a meeting to get to right after, so I didn't (and did not want to) sample anything else. The staff was very nice.
I attended a group luncheon at Brother Jimmy's BBQ near Union Square. We were served itty bitty and very dry cheeseburgers, BBQ wings, fried shrimp, congealed nachos and a selection of salsas. The food was terrible. Luckily, the food was not the point of the luncheon.
I stopped by the Union Square Greenmarket since it was right across the street. I was searching for NY State wines in general, and Finger Lakes ice wine in particular, to bring back home since it's nearly impossible to find anything like that in California (go figure) and from past experience, it's bloody difficult even in NY wine shops. Alas, no producer there had ice wines but I did try a lovely Riesling Trockenbeeren, Vignoles, and Cab Franc from Anthony Road Winery. Lugging three bottles of wine in a backpack across city was rather painful.
In the evening, my friends and I decided to see Rent in a rather last-minute decision, thus dinner plans went askew. We wandered around the theatre area for a bit looking for any place to sit down and out of the cold. I forget the name now, but there's an organic smoothie and yogurt place that was staffed by a very helpful and polite young lady. We all liked the drinks we got. I picked a create-your-own smoothie of coconut, peanut butter and agave with soy milk. Cold beverage for a cold night but it tided me over.
Dinner.. better left unsaid. 24-hour diner in Times Square. Not my choice. I lament the wasted calories.
Day 3: Carb-loading
Got PB&J, chocolate blackout, glazed, and blueberry. The raised ones were chewier than I thought, but the blackout cake donut went over very well with the person I shared it with.
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Croque Monsieur was excellent. Also tried a yuzu tart, cannele, and kouign amann . My favorite of the bunch was the kouign amann. I haven't tried any other KAs before so I can't compare. The tart and cannele were good but I kept thinking I should've picked the prettier pastries.
GROM near Carmine
The trek from Dominique Ansel was punctuated by suprisingly warm weather and I was aiming for a pizza place when there GROM was, right around the corner! I wanted to cool down first so gelato it was. I got a hazelnut and a special flavor of the day (chocolate-orange). Hazelnut was fine. I wasn't so crazy about the special flavor.
Got a slice of pepperoni. It was good, thin, fold-in-halfable. I'm not very picky about pizza so if there were better places, I'd nod and go about my business.
Jacques Torres Chocolates
The big ol' chocolate chip cookie was very good. I liked the crunchier edges and my friend preferred the squishy middles. The wee bit of salt on top made it extra omnomnom. I bought a bunch of small chocolate bars and choco-covered candied ginger as gifts. Giftees said they were great. I've not tried any myself.
I got the porchetta plate with greens and beans. My friend got the sandwich and spuds with burnt ends. All but the spuds were a let down. The porchetta was dry and very salty. Beans were grainy and greens were tough. Friend did not like her sandwich. We fought over the burnt ends.
Friend and I both got the lunch tasting menu option. Huh, I should've taken notes. Oh, the menu is still up on their website! There may have been a savory amuse bouche somewhere along the way but I can't remember. Running down the list... scallops were very well-prepared. Smooth as buttah. Cardoon dish, I thought there'd be a hint of bitterness but no. Other than that, I don't remember much of it. Monkfish was good. If I remember correctly, suckling pig consisted of pork prepared three ways; ham, braised and seared belly, chicharron. We both loved the chicharron (can't go wrong with delicately crispy pig) but speaking of, I wished the pork belly was crisped more, but all in all, a nice meat course. The greens were done right! *evil eyeballs Porchetta* There was an amuse bouche of tiny pineapple upside down cake with pineapple salad. Dessert was a choice of chocolatey or tropical fruity, or a cheese course (with a extra supplement). Friend got the choco, I got the tropical. Extra spoons? Yes please! My choice consisted of passion fruit sorbet, coconut meringues, coconut sauce, passion fruit puree. Friend loved the sorbet. I snagged some chocolate mousse and cacoa nib ice cream from her dish. I was very pleased they offered a good selection of non-alcoholic mixed drinks. I got a cranberry something.
And off to New Jersey!
After seeing a play in Madison and juuuust barely missing the train back to NY, we were a bit leery of being the only pedestrians still out and about at 10pm and everything was closed. We wandered forlornly until we happened upon a couple walking their dog and they said there was a diner that-a-way. The waitress was so very awesome (she out-awesomed the service at GT!) and made sure we got our food quickly and anticipating us doggybagging the majority of our dinner, got us boxes and bags without asking. Maybe it was stress-heightened, but that was a good pastrami on rye with a pickle. She even packed a cup of ice water with lemon for my friend since she didn't have a water bottle with her and I did. She made sure we got to the train station on time and told us about a shortcut. I think we tipped her 75%. Got on the last train back with minutes to spare! Googly says the name of the place is Nautilus Diner.
I had a few hours to kill until my flight. I scoped out the nearest Momofuku Milkbar (a very tiny place in the lobby of some building) and got crack pie, candybar pie, and one each of every cookie. I wanted to bring back cake balls too but the clerk said they (and the pies, really) should be kept refrigerated. I didn't see anything that could go bad with the pies, but I reluctantly put back the cake balls.
i took a leisurely stroll to Sullivan Street Bakery afterwards for my last mad bakery dash. Had a potato pizza and custard-filled bombolono on the spot (both omnomnom), got a slice of mushroom pizza for the plane ride, and a green olive loaf. The pizza was still good a few hours later and handily beat a wee packet of airplane pretzels.
At home, the olive bread refreshed just dandily in the oven. Good stuff but I'm still partial to Acme sourdough. Candybar Pie was a veritable salt lick. The corn cookie was very good, like a condensed northern-style cornbread. The rest of the edible souvenirs are in deep freeze.
Thanks for the report!
If you make it back to Amy's Bread ever, try instead their chocolate cake, sticky bun, or carrot cake, for sure.
Definitely plan ahead if you want to eat in the Theatre District again! Also cheeryvisage has a good list of Times Square options if you do a search on here. Good to keep with you if you are wandering around Midtown.
IMO the best flavors at Grom are the dark chocolate, chocolate chip, tiramisu... more of the standard chocolate and/or coffee ones. I'm not a huge fan of the hazelnut.
I personally would have gotten some cake balls anyway, and eaten them on the plane.