NY, belated

I know it’s been almost a month since my last NY trip and there are a few other highlights I’d like point out.

katz-sign1

katzpastrami4What can I say. A trip to New York isn’t a TRIP to New York (at least for me) without getting my pastrami on at Katz’s. Absolute heaven between two slices of (seedless-just the way I like it) rye. Every time I go there, I always utter after my first bite, “I can’t believe how f*cking good this is.”

Lombardi’s Pizza is another requisite stop as I eat my way through Manhattan. And yes, there have been times when I’ve hit BOTH Katz’s and Lombardi’s…on the same day. Huzzah! lombardipizzacloseup1I know it always freaks Jim out when I take a close-up shot of the pepperoni, fresh basil, mushrooms and extra mozzarella. I love it.

I figured as long as I had dinner at Le Bernardin, why stop there? So I headed to the Time Warner Center andbouchon-bakery-sign1 since I couldn’t get into Per Se, went for Thomas Keller’s lovely sit-down bakery instead. (And where a not-so-lovely backwards Samsung sign hung above my head.)

chocolate-souffle2

What else do you order at Keller’s stellar bakery but a warm, silky dark chocolate souffle with an equally warm vanilla custard sauce you delightfully puncture the cake with? Washing it all down with a glass of Melville Pinot Noir, of course.

Overall, I thought the dessert was wonderful but the service a bit pretentious. Although they sat me at a table that had a dead-on view of Columbus Circle, my lone-dining self felt a bit put-off by their haughtiness. Hard to pin down, just a feeling.

barmasa-sign1Next up, was yet another younger sibling – BarMasa, younger brother (or sister?) to Masa, arguably the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan. I peaked my head through the dark curtain of the bar and was greeted by a hostess. Quickly calculating my finances after my dinner at Le Bernardin, pastrami at Katz’s, pizza at Lombardin’s, and dessert at Bouchon Bakery, I surmised I could afford one order of sushi, and maybe a glass of sake at BarMasa. I coyly asked the hostess if I might sit at the bar and order one drink and one order of sushi and she happily replied yes and showed me in. The bartender looked at me and must have realized I wasn’t the big spender like everyone else at the bar and shoved the bar menu under my nose before he headed to the other end of the bar to talk to two businessmen, who, in all likelihood, were talking about the New York Mets. The two blond women sitting next to me were just drinking white wine with no food and were chatting away with the one closest with her back turned towards me. I have never really met a sushi bar I didn’t like (except for the one near my house with the Heineken sign in the window – heathens!) but this one was starting to get on my nerves. I scanned the menu for sushi I could afford and decided on an order of the hotate (seared scallop). hachino-beer2

At this point, I was going to order sake, but I spotted my favorite Japanese beer of all time on the menu and I knew to look no further. Hatachino Nest Beer makes the ever-elusive Belgian/Japanese white ale, of which I’ve only had twice.

seared-scallopEnter my seared scallop. My $7 plate of two small lightly seared, thinly sliced scallop on a shiso leaf. Beautiful to look at, so of course I needed to take a picture. Enter the bartender. “I’m sorry, the Chef does not allow picture taking in the restaurant.” Was he going to confiscate my cell phone? I apologized and quickly put away my cell phone spy camera but not before I was able to get off a few stealth shots (which explains the fuzziness of the photos). The food (the two pieces of scallops I did have) were good, but not sublime. Maybe it was because by that time I wasn’t hungry. Maybe it was the Nazi bartender who stole my tastebud’s thunder. I do know for one thing, that experience cured me of my want to eat at the “real” Masa, next door. At least for now.

porto-rico-sign1

To round out my New York Tour Fall 2008, I must make mention of two retail stores, the first being Porto Rico. I have had their coffees before and they are wonderful, but I wanted to take some tea home and was hoping they’d have a good selection. Afterall, the “finest coffee & tea” is listed on their red awning. But the minute we stepped in the store, I noticed scores of wall-to-wall bins of various coffees and teas to match the wall-to-wall people in line. I was so overwhelmed with the cacophany of smells of Sumatra, Guatamalan, Italian Roast, French Roast, and Jamaican Blue (just to name a few) mixed with green, white, black, herbal and everything inbetween teas, I had to leave. It was just too much.

mcnulty-sign1And then we stumbled upon McNulty’s. My nephew, Deric, first introduced me to McNulty’s about a year prior. He bought me a bag of chocolate tea, something he thought I’d enjoy. A black tea with a hint of chocolate essence, it was good, but if left a minute too long to seep, it would go bitter. And fast. I figured I’d give McNulty’s another chance so onward we stepped in. The store was calming. A spicy scent wafted gingerly in the air. I spotted two teas I wanted to take home – chocolate mint, and chocolate coconut. Both, turned out, were amazingly subtle and smelled heavenly.

When I go back, probably in a few months, the usual suspects will be in place waiting for me. Hoping to try someplace new to stick gfork in, though.

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