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Dec 5, 2013 09:35 AM

I lost a bet and now I need to cook the winner a brilliant meal: best sources?

Dear NY hounds:

I lost a weight-loss contest with a friend, and the loser's prize is to cook one meal for the winner, spending $250-$300 on ingredients and wine.

It's an amount of money that can feel like a lot (I'm a grad student) and then turn out to be not that much, especially at NY prices. But I'm planning to buy a few standout ingredients and a bottle or two of excellent wine, and then hope my cooking lives up to the investment.

I have one day (this coming Saturday) to shop in the city (I live in Philly now). Can folks help me get to the best providers for my shopping list? I moved away in 2005 and my old favorites may not be best bets any more. I need:

A butcher (Lobels? Ottomanelli?) for an outstanding piece of dry-aged beef.

A wine shop where the staff are knowledgeable and helpful and will be interested in pointing me to the best of the $30-$70 bottles.

A fish market where I have the best chance of being pointed to the freshest options for a crudo I'd like to make (does Blue Moon still sell at the Grand Army Plaza market on Saturdays? Is there a comparable provider at Union Square?)

A market where I might have a chance at fresh porcinis, truffles or other harder-to-get fungi at an optimal quality-to-price balance.


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  1. Ottomanelli's (W. Village) is great...a friend just cooked a 28-day aged prime strip and it was delicious.

    Union Square has Blue Moon and/or Pur Vida on Friday and/or Saturday. Only place I'll buy fish...try the black sea bass for your crudo.

    I stopped in at SOS on Avenue B yesterday; truffle prices are quite fair at $125/oz. Haven't seen many fresh porcini around - you could call eataly and see what they have.

    Morrell's or Sherry Lehmann are, of course, great for wine, but I'm partial to Astor just for their selection.

    1. You do realize, don't you, that the beef alone at Lobel's would probably cost at least $125? I think you may need to scale back both your menu and your expectations if you expect to stick to your budget.

      5 Replies
      1. re: JoanN

        Joan I do realize that I could spend $125 on meat alone at Lobel's (I'm not planning on buying a 4 lb. roast like the one you linked to, but still). That's part of why I'm polling the boards. There has always been a debate about whether Lobel's meat is "better enough" to justify the price vs. other good butchers in the city. My go-to in the past - for dry-agd meat that was comparable to Lobel's at a somewhat more reasonable price - was Ottomanelli. But that was awhile ago.

        So you've hit the crux of my question, which is about where people go these days for the best-possible quality without too much of a hype-based markup.

        For some things there's no way to get one without the other - it may be that all the best butchers in the city are charging $40/pound and up these days. But that's why I'm asking.

        1. re: JoanN

          Well, with Lobel's you're also paying for Madison Avenue, no?
          That's why I suggest Ottomanelli's in the W. Village - reasonable and, if cooked right, just as good.

          1. re: mitchleeny

            Thanks mitch, that's helpful. Good to know that they still match that description. Thanks also for the other pointers. I'm so glad to know Blue Moon is still going strong (their website is out of date so I was a little worried).

            I don't know Sherry Lehmann or Morell's (heard of both, haven't been). Is one of those more service-oriented than another? I am of the "don't know wine but I know what I like" variety, so I think I'll need a little more help than Astor provides. I'm also interested in any smaller corner places that people especially like, on the wine front. Here in Philadelphia we are still stuck with the Eastern Bloc-style state stores, so it's been awhile since I talked to a nice, obsessive wineseller.

            1. re: GDSwamp

              When I need more help than Astor, I love Chambers Street Wine, though, if it were me, to prevent you running around the city and being left with no time to cook, I would pick out the main shopping destinations then poll for nearby wine stores.

              1. re: GDSwamp

                Sherry lehmann is excellent- i have been there often and the staff is very helpful without any attitude. If you give them a budget and what the menu is they'll take it from there

          2. I'd do the bulk of my shopping at Union Square Market, then just go to Whole Foods for any smaller items you might need. Then Union Sq wines around the corner.

            Or go to Market, then head west to Chelsea Market for cheeses and breads and condiments etc you don't see at market.

            4 Replies
            1. re: thegforceny

              that's exactly what i'd do...

              At the Un Sq Greenmarket:
              -- the mushroom selection is awesome: there are 3 or 4 vendors that have stellar porcini, oyster, and crimini...
              -- while i don't buy beef, there are one or two places that sell fresh organic bone-in lamb steaks that really unavailable in any restaurant i know and which trump any regular steak,imo...
              -- Keith's Herb Farm and a couple other places are still selling fine fresh sage and rosemary, plus fine garlic and carrots...
              -- at the seafood place, scallops are always excellent...and lately i've been buying tuna steak and searing it as an appetizer w/ some drizzled olive oil and lemon and rocksalt...

              Whole Foods should fill in the gaps...and the (expensive but nice) Bedford Cheese branch on Irving Pl btw 18th/19th will work for cheese...

              Let us know how it turns out :)

              1. re: Simon

                Good advice but why not get cheese at farmers Market as well

                1. re: Simon

                  Which vendors have the porcinis?

              2. I have been very pleased with the dry aged beef and the fish and seafood at Eataly. In fact, you probably can get everything you need there, and will be very pleased with their products and their quality-to-price balance.

                1. The manhattan fruit and veg exchange in chelsea market has an amazing selection of fresh mushrooms at good prices (cash only), and also in chelsea market the lobster place has quality seafood. The chelsea wine vault in chelsea market is hit or miss on how helpful staff is that day

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                    The Manhattan fruit and veg exchange in chelsea market is not cash only.

                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                      They take credit cards now but there's a minimum ($10). They will also charge you for a bag unless you bring your own, IIRC.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Oh- glad they finally take credit cards! I don't remember being charged for bags though... Maybe that's new.

                      2. re: Ttrockwood

                        I find CWV staggeringly overpriced, personally.