Part 4 of 4: LA Native in NYC
By Day 4 (Sunday, 7/15) my feet were ready to fall off and I was glad I had less in mind to try on my last day.
Russ & Daughters #2: My original plan for breakfast was to try the Clinton Street Bakery but alas, I awoke too late and also did not realize the F train did not run its normal route on the weekend. By the time I arrived at 930AM, the wait for just a single diner was a minimum of one hour. Not wanting to stick around, I swung by Russ & Daughters to try another item on my list, their famous Super Heebster. I ordered mine on an everything bagel and waited as my sandwich was assembled. My issue with their bagels remained the same after this second visit but the contents of the sandwich were amazing. The whitefish salad was rich and creamy with a pronounced smoked fish flavor. Despite being combined in a creamy salad, I could taste both the whitefish and salmon and they worked harmoniously. The wasabi infused flying fish roe offered little pockets of briny ocean flavor that was lightly accented with wasabi. The horseradish cream cheese was not overly strong with horseradish but I could've used more of that flavor in the sandwich. I had gotten mine with tomato and onion but quickly realized it was better without so I took those out to be eaten separately. After my first visit I was already a fan and the second visit only confirmed that I really love this spot and will always be back when I visit Manhattan.
Katz's Deli: Honestly, what more can be said about this famed NYC deli? Having never tried anything from here, I definitely wanted to give a shot not only to say that I had been but to actually compare the famed pastrami with the one from Langer's here in Los Angeles. Although the exterior is fairly calm and quiet, the doors give way to a raucous interior that was essentially organized chaos. I quickly got in line for one of the eight cutters. After maybe 10 minutes, I ordered up a pastrami on rye without mustard and watched the cutter go to work. As he picked up the slab of pastrami, I was amazed with how deft his knifework was and quickly offered me a small sample on a plate. The pastrami was tender and supple; the spiced crust was flavorful with a thin layer of fat underneath; it was unmistakeably pastrami. With sandwich and pickles in hand, I went off to procure a cream soda from further down the line. The sandwich is massive and delicious. Despite its size I easily polished it off with a couple pickles with some select applications of the tableside mustard. Superb. However, who has the better pastranu sandwich? Katz's or Langer's? While I find the pastrami meat itself better at Katz's (better spice, meatier texture) the rye bread at Langer's is light years ahead and helps Langer's ekes out the win in the pastrami sandwich battle. The rye bread at Katz's is fine; it was relatively fresh and didn't disintegrate. However, it didnt lend anything to the sandwich itself. The rye flavor was weak but the rye bread at Langer's has a fantastic crispy crust that provides a texture contrast that really makes the sandwich. I will be back though; how can I pass up this institution? Alton Brown surely couldn't since I spied him two tables over...
il laboratorio del gelato: For dessert, I headed across the street for some gelato. The interior was perfectly clean, almost like a clean room. I was appalled to find that despite a few dozen flavors on display, tastes were limited to two per person which I found counter-intuitive. Nevertheless, I settled on a three scoop cup of ginger, tarragon pink peppercorn, and fior de latte. All three flavors were very good, especially the fior de latte. The tarragon pink peppercorn won the day for being most unique for being herbaceous and peppery but could still call itself a dessert. The one gripe I have is that the gelato was more airy than I was used to and melted very quickly on the tongue. This didn't provide much of a mouthfeel that I attribute to truly excellent gelato.
Moishe's Bake Shop: This was originally an unplanned stop but since Glaser's was closed for my black and white cookie showdown, I recalled Moishe's in my prior research. I am glad I stopped by. I found their black and white to be superior to the one from William Greenberg. While the chocolate wasn't as high quality, it delivered a wonderful smooth chocolate frosting that was slightly tacky and rich while the vanilla frosting did not get lost in the mix. The cookie itself was moist even in the afternoon with a slightly crisp exterior that was not hard but more resilient than the B&W from William Greenberg, enough to offer a texture contrast. This is my pick between the two for a black and white but I will be sure to try Glaser's on my next trip.
Maialino: My reservation for 7PM was originally intended to be for two, but my friend had a last minute engagement in Flushing and could not attend. I originally wanted to do the Sunday Pasta Tasting Menu but I decided on ordering some items a la carte. The bread basket to start was fine but the olive oil provided was exemplary. It was fruity and smooth. My starter was the Polpo ai Ferri, seared octopus and this was fantastic. The octopus had a great char and was perfectly tender, not rubbery at all. The roasted tomatoes were sweet and juicy. The arugula provided a nice grassy and peppery flavor. The sauce helped provide additional acidity and richness to tie it all together. My first primi was the Bucatini all'Amatriciana. Unfortunately, this was the weakest dish of the night. A couple bites of the pasta had pasta that was undercooked, definitely “crunchy” but the rest of it was just fine; very odd. The tomato sauce while bright could've used a touch more heat. The pieces of guanciale didn't provide as much flavor to the sauce unless I actually ate a piece of the caramelized fatty pork. My second primi was the Malfatti al Maialino. This was a great pasta dish. The folded pieces of pasta were wonderfully tender and fresh, the chunks of braised pork were tender but just a touch dry, and the arugula gave the dish a nice freshness. The sauce was hearty and tied everything together. However, I can see how one could find the dish too salty but I found it was not too salty for me. For dessert, I went with the Torta della Nonna, pine nut tart with lemon caramel since I had gelato earlier in the day. This was a rich custard tart topped with what seemed like an excessive amount of pine nuts. However, my concerns were allayed and this was a great dessert to finish the meal. The tart had a great crust and a creamy custard with a strong pine nut flavor that contrasted nicely with the tart lemon caramel. For the wine I wanted something sweet but with a good acidity and was offered a couple choices from their Adriatic list. The name of the wine I chose escapes me but it bright with light citrus notes of orange and a nice acidity to balance the sugars with a clean finish that didn't overly linger on the tongue. Service was fine if not a bit slow. I'd strongly recommend to try Maialino for Italian despite some of the flaws.
Murray's Bagels: My final meal in NYC was breakfast the morning of Monday 7/16 prior to heading to JFK. I had read Murray's Bagels offered some of the city's best and since it was close to my friend's apartment, decided to swing by. For breakfast, I picked the Leo sandwich on a whole wheat everything bagel and a nova sandwich with plain cream cheese on a whole wheat everything for a snack on the plane. The Leo sandwich was thin slices of lox folded into an omelette that was not overly greasy. The lox itself provided a good level of salt to the sandwich. The bagel itself was much better than the one from Russ & Daughters. A thin, crackly crust gave way to a tender, yet chewy interior without being too bready or dense. It tasted fresh and was easily a superior bagel to anything I've had in Los Angeles. It worked fantastically as well for my airplane snack with the nova and cream cheese although the nova had a slight mushy texture, especially compared to what Russ & Daughters has available. Given the choice, I would happily pick up my fish products at R&D and getting a selection of bagels from Murray's. Is Murray's the best in NYC? I can't say, but if there are better bagels, they'd be transcendent versions of the humble bread.
Thus concludes my eating adventures in NYC last weekend. I hope my experience is helpful to others. If there are any questions, I'd be happy to answer them. Thanks for hosting me New York, it was a fantastic eating escapade. I will be back to not only re-live some of them, but to try things I missed out this time around (such as finding out if cinnamon truly makes for a lesser babka...:P). Until then, happy eating!