Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Notes from NY


Eataly
Despite what has surely been oodles of publicity about Eataly, I actually knew very little about itt.  Batali and Bastianich have certainly taken other projects seriously, but for whatever reason I half-expected this to be a mail-it-in, hype-over-substance capitalization of celebrity at the expense of the tourist wallet.  I was wrong, and blown away by the volume and quality of goods – everything from the raw fish and meat counters and charcuterie case to the pizza, pasta and wine restaurants looked fantastic.  I tasted only two things: an espresso, and some made-before-my-eyes fresh mozzarella.  Both were wonderful.  Here’s hoping that Chicago's soon-to-come version is something close to this.  It would have been nice if one of our own, like a Tony Mantuano, could have put together something serious like this, but we’ll take what we can get.

Moshe’s Falafel
Forget food lists, this cart on 46th and 6thshould be on NYC’s  Top 10 Sites to Visit list.  Where else can you get falafel that are ultra-crunchy on the outside, airy and well-seasoned inside, and served on the street by long-white-bearded, yarmulke-wearing guy who looks about 110 years old?  The $2.50 admission price includes 4 big, delicious balls and some excellent tahini.  If your midtown hotel concierge doesn’t tell you about this place, he sucks.

Bagels
I’m not sure where people go for bagels in NY these days.  I tried a couple of random places on the upper west side, near Amsterdam and 79th where my hotel was.  They were no better than the NY Bagel and Bialy stuff we get in Chicago.  One thing that NY bagel places definitely have over ours though is that they all know how to hand-slice nova to order.  That’s a pretty big deal.

Maialino
Danny Meyer and Bill Clinton are in the same category of people I liked before they decided to write a book.  Both wrote self-important, long-winded drivel that seriously dampened my opinion of them.  I was so annoyed by Meyer’s book that I almost decided to boycott his restaurants.  That, of course, would have been silly.  Add Maialino to a list of NY favorites run by Meyer.  Pastas were particularly wonderful, with a black-pepper-heavy, very rich spaghetti carbonara being my favorite.  A whole rabbit dish where the kidneys and everything else were included prominently on the plate was also delicious.

Yakitori Totto
I liked the simple, grilled skewers of meat here, but I liked the setting even more.  It’s a bustling, crowded place, but once you settle in the staff treats you well, pours some beer, and there’s instant camaraderie with the people sitting around you.  Everyone at Totto – from families with kids to young people on first dates was having a great time, and the place emanated warmth that’s a refreshing retreat from the cold, pressure-filled intensity of NYC. 

Bar Boulud
This was easily the best food I had on my NYC trip.  Onion soup was dark, sweet and super-oniony, with a rich, gelatinous broth that I could not get enough of.  Lyonnaise salad included the crispest, freshest frisee with thick, pleasantly chewy lardoons and slices of chicken liver cooked just-right.  I’ve never had a better version.