Ten Days in New York City (NYC)
So as many of you know I just got back from a ten day escapade through NYC. It was my first trip to the greatest city in the world so I had a lot of ground to cover in a short time.
How did this trip come about? Well a good friend and mentor of mine Chef Jason Hoffman of “The Taco Guys” (www.thetacoguys.com) had mentioned to me that he was consulting on a new Bar/Bistro in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Immediately my attention was his as he described the menu and concept of this new establishment. “It’s going to be French inspired cuisine with Eastern European accents.” He said. I was hooked. I figured since I would be going to work for 6 days I should probably set a steady schedule of vacation (i.e. eating) around my work days. So naturally I did just that. What follows here is the true story of my first trip to NYC.
I booked the red eye from Portland so I could have a full day of adventuring as soon as I got off the plane; I highly recommend this flight to everyone. So I arrived at JFK Airport at 6:30am, I couldn’t check in until later in the evening so I took the train to Madison Square Garden and dropped my bags off at a storage locker on 36th street. Since it was only 8am I figured I could get some good sightseeing in before the tourist blitz. I headed to the Empire State Building, what better way to acclimate to a new city than to see it from its tallest point? The line as I suspected was rather short, it only took me one hour to get to the 86th floor. Upon stepping onto the viewing deck I was hit by a gust of warm Atlantic air, completely refreshing after being on the subway for an hour. I looked out off the deck and received a bird’s eye view of the most amazing city I have ever seen. I did the walk around took some photos with my IPhone and headed down, I had been in NYC for 3 hours without food it was time to get eating!
I had connected with the owner of Mazelle to grab lunch and drop my bag; he recommended a hot spot in Brooklyn called “Roberta’s.” If you didn’t know it was there you’d walk right past it. The brick entry is guarded by a tall wooden fence and drapes. I felt as if I was entering some lost enclave in a concrete jungle. When I entered the subdued rustic entry my nose, eyes and, ears all jumped to attention; on my right there was a wood fire oven roaring away with a bustling staff slinging fresh pizzas like nobody’s business, the long dining hall is lined with communal tables filled with locals and tourists alike, and the sounds of true rock ‘n’ roll steadily streams from the sound system. We are greeted by the hostess who promptly alerts us it will be a 45 minute wait for a table. This place must be good. We put our names down and head towards the bar to grab some pre-game drinks. I had the local ginger beer whose name escapes me, but none the less it was fantastic. We step out to the bier garden to sit a wait for our table. Again don’t be fooled this restaurant is huge. I peruse the menu dissecting every little part, I notice two things: Sweetbreads and a grilled Treviso salad with smoked Escarole (the fish not green). Really? In this place? I was blown away by the seamless diversity of the menu, the simplicity and care. It was a very harmonic balanced design. Someone cared when they put this menu together, immediately I knew it was going to be good. We ordered two pizzas and the smoked Escarole Salad. The pizzas are perfect, crisp thin dough with that smoky wood fire flavor I so love coupled with the sweet and spicy pork sausage, sweet and spicy pork sausage. A tangy red sauce and plenty of well-placed peppers and onions. The salad? Well you guessed it; spot on with the smoked fish and bitter Treviso, an absolute delight for an afternoon salad. My most humble regards to the folks who made this lunch happen.
We head back to Mazelle to speak a bit further about the plans for the coming week. As Yury and I spoke about the game plan I found myself quite impressed by his vision of what Mazelle would ultimately transform into. Not that I wasn’t already hooked but after hearing his plans I couldn’t wait to get started. But first I had food to eat.
After a slow night of winding down from my first day in NYC, I awoke at the early hour of 8am, showered and made my way to the subway station. I pulled up my map and planned my attack for day two. First I would make my through The American Museum of Natural History, followed by a stint at the Metropolitan Museum. I got off the train and found the first bagel shop I could, it seemed trendy and full of buzz so I figured it must be good. I ordered up an onion bagel with smoked salmon schemer, what a treat. The perfect way to start this day, a good balance of carbs and protein to guarantee my success. I walk the Natural History Museum for 2 hours see the whole thing (This is a must do when you are in NYC) after taking in the sights and sounds of the museum, I headed outside to find my first dirty water dog of the trip. I find the one hit it with some mustard and found a bench to sit down on. As I sit and watch the world roll by I get a text reminding me to make my way to “Katz Deli.” Distracted by the notion of real pastrami on rye, I forget about the Metropolitan Museum and head back to the train.
I arrive at “Katz Deli” to find a line down the block! As it was highly recommended I figured it must be worth the wait. So I wait in line; it moves quickly and as I reach the door it hits me! That wonderful smell of cured meats, pickles and, rye bread. I knew I was home. I get into a line to order a pastrami on rye extra brown mustard cause that’s how I roll, I talk with the dude making my lunch and learn he’s been there for 12 years!! 12 years! This dudes been rocking the sando line. I drop a couple bucks in the tip cup and throws me a couple slices of pastrami for me to sample. The moment that sweet smoked meat hit my tongue…Silence, sunshine, cool breeze, doves fly overhead and, a harp plays softly in the background. Heaven? “Dude! Yo! Your sandwich is ready.” I grab my monstrous sandwich turn and try to find a table. The nice thing about dining solo in NYC is that I can quickly find a spot, I drop another couple bucks with the sandwich king and head to a spot beside a pair of tourists pretty sure they were French, they had tried to finish their meals but the pastrami proved too much for their dainty tummies. I look at the feat ahead of me, snap a quick photo then begin my journey through a wonderful world of meat, bread and, mustard accompanied of course by some killer dills. Not to defeat by a miracle of meat I proudly finish my lunch. I look up at I find that the other diners around me are staring in amazement at my ability to undauntedly attack this behemoth. An utter masterpiece. I sit and breath a bit before getting up to wash my hands and find my next meal.
In the spirit of one of my favorite chefs (Anthony Bourdain) I power onto my next stop. As it was now 6pm I figured it would be an ideal time to head to Times Square to take in the zoo. And a zoo it was. Now you should know I love to watch people, it’s one of favorite pass times. And boy oh boy was I in for a treat. Tourists were everywhere, cameras flashed, people gazed, Elmo laughed, the naked cowgirl cackled, the big screens glared with wonder. This by all means is truly remarkable, more people than I could bother trying to guess all stuffed between two skyscraper lined avenues, much like the hot dog I enjoyed earlier. There even grandstands to sit and watch the giant flat screens flash previews of the musicals playing right off Broadway. I wandered around here for a couple hours, charged my phone at a Starbucks across the street from “The Letterman Show” and took in the sights. Once my phone was charged and my coffee had settled I had a choice to make; go home, or go eat. I choose to eat. But where? Ah ha, it hits me. Why not Les Halles, Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant, nothing fancy just very well executed French bistro fare. I make way on foot; it’s only a few blocks on Google maps. Here’s a free tip, don’t think that the blocks are small, it took me an hour to get there. Once I arrived I pulled up a chair to the bar ordered my cranberry soda water with a lime of course, and asked for a dinner menu. I scan the brasserie style menu and find the old stand byes just as I had envisioned it. I order the seared scallop salad and it is perfect. The scallop is fresh and tender seared perfectly, the accoutrements match perfectly to the scallop, for dinner I order the Hanger Steak and Frites, with béarnaise. The steak is perfectly cooked and the sauce is to die for. Just as I had envisioned it.
As I leave the Les Halles I look up to find that I am within walking distance to “Ground Zero” I head in for a closer look, the silence and still of the night only add to the energy I could feel here. It is a very powerful moment to stand at the base of a monument to the men and women of that fateful day. It is astounding the sense of remorse and loss I feel here. It is reminiscent of the feeling standing at the Iwo Jima memorial, pride, anger, strength, love. It’s a mash of emotions. The new monument is a beautiful structure reaching high into the night sky dressed to the nines these towers bring hope and pride to the front of my emotions.
I take a long train ride back to Ft. Hamilton, it leaves me plenty of time to be grateful I have the opportunity to experience this; “The Greatest City in the World.”
To be continued….