Food in the City
I can’t believe that it’s been almost a week since you left New York City to go back to London, my friend! We really had the best time and I’m so glad that you came to visit me. Also, thanks for being my plus one to the Transatlantic Tables Connected dinner at Hundred Acres in Greenwich Village at the last minute. The BF was in Boston all week and couldn’t escort me and I really didn’t want to go alone. Even though I was busy chatting with the OpenTable staff about the Connected event and the subsequent open letter I had to write to the people of London for the writing contest all evening, I’m glad that you had a wonderful time. Of all the dishes, my favorite (and probably yours too since it was the most traditional English dish) was the Black Pudding and Eggs. Chef Ayesha’s version was executed so perfectly that I could have only eaten this dish that evening and been satisfied. But, of course, there was more to come and each dish was better than the last. I should have asked for that sea bass recipe before we left. I need to start cooking my fish at home that way. It was so moist and flavorful!
We slept in Wednesday morning because you were jet lagged from your transatlantic flight so we didn’t have time to have a “proper” American breakfast. When we finally managed to get out of the house, we decided to grab bagels and coffee since that was quick so that we could head to SoHo for a little shopping. Plus, you can’t have breakfast in NYC and not get a bagel. It’s what we do best here! And if you want a great bagel (or flagel if you’re watching your carbs), you go to Baz Bagel and Restaurant in Little Italy. We sat down at the 1950’s-style lunch counter and placed our orders. Everything about Baz screams old school diner. But don’t let the decor fool you. They make one of the best bagels in town. And if you don’t have time to dine in, they’ve got a to-go counter where you can order their fresh baked bagels by the dozen along with your favorite schmears and lox. When it comes to bagels, I’m a minimalist. I either like mine toasted with butter only or toasted with cream cheese. I don’t need fancy cream cheese spread either. I feel like the more “stuff” you put on a bagel, you’re not tasting the bagel. And isn’t the point to taste the bagel?? I ordered a flagel with cream cheese, a side of fruit, an orange juice, and a cup of coffee. Total bill was about $13. Baz’s bagels are crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. And it was only three blocks from the Canal Street stop on the J train. Winning!
I’m also going to let you in on another bagel spot that I love but we didn’t get to while you were here. But it’s not in Manhattan – gasp! It’s in Kew Gardens (Queens). When I was apartment hunting a few months back (which is a full-time job in itself), I went to see an apartment in Kew Gardens. After I viewed the place, I had two choices: walk 5 blocks to the subway or 2 blocks to the Long Island Rail Road stop. I decided on the latter and my feet were so grateful for it. I had just missed the train because the ticket machine wasn’t reading my credit card (first world problems) so I had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. I was starving and I needed a cup of coffee so I walked across the street to Baker’s Dozen Bagels. Based on appearances, it looked like a typical corner bodega in NYC. Nothing special. I ordered a plain bagel (toasted with plain cream cheese) and a small coffee which set me back about $4. I went back to the train station and sat down on a bench to eat my bagel and sip my coffee while I waited for the train. It was seriously one of the best bagels I have ever had. It’s kind of a schlep to get there but if you don’t mind the train ride (20 minutes on LIRR or 30 minutes by subway) then I would definitely take the trip out there again.
After a few hours of shopping, our wallets and our feet needed a rest so we decided to grab a quick bite for lunch. And when I think quick bite, I think of tacos. Let me explain something really quickly. I was born and raised in California and grew up having the best Mexican food and street tacos. When I moved to NYC, I found the Mexican food scene to be a little lackluster compared to California. Or maybe I was just spoiled with the abundance of Mexican food and how fresh it was out there. I mean, Mexican restaurants and taquerias in California are like Dunkin Donuts in NYC – one on every corner! I was disappointed too because NYC has some of the best restaurants in the world. And just when I was about to give up hope of finding a decent taco in this town, I found Tacombi.
Everything is made fresh on site at Tacombi – including their tortillas! There are three locations in NYC: Flatiron, West Village, and Nolita. I have gone to two of them and although they are the same taqueria, they have completely different feels as far as dining experience. The Nolita location reminds me of a food truck parked on a cul de sac but indoors. The first time I went to the Nolita location, I was with my #squad and we were bar hopping on the Lower East Side. After a few bars, we got hungry. I ordered a shrimp taco (my favorite) and a chicken taco. It was amazing. Or maybe I was just hungry. But I went back a week later to double check – you know, because things do tend to taste way better when you’re really hungry and a little tipsy – and it was just as good, if not better, than the first time. Here’s a little secret: you can only get the shrimp tacos at this location. They’re not on the menu and they’re first come, first serve so once they’re out for the day, they’re out. The West Village location reminded me more of a taco stand that would be on the beach back in my native California. And if the ambiance doesn’t give you that feeling, the write-in menu definitely will. The menu is exactly the same as the Nolita location but there’s one special taco that is only on their menu: the cochinta de merida. It’s like carnitas but they use different spices and there’s a hint of orange flavor to it. I ordered a fish taco and a chicken taco and we split the guacamole appetizer. I’m glad you talked me into trying their guacamole. I hadn’t had theirs (and it’s difficult to want anyone else’s after you’ve had Rosa Mexicano’s guacamole) but it was very good.
Once we were done with our tacos, we headed back to my apartment to drop off our shopping bags and rest a bit more. Since we had a rather late lunch, we ended up having a late dinner as well. You said that you had a craving for Indian food so I suggested going to Asya in DUMBO (Brooklyn). We showered and changed for dinner and then headed out to Brooklyn on the subway. Somehow, we managed to get turned around after getting off the subway and walked in the opposite direction of the restaurant. When we finally found our way, we were a few minutes late for our reservation. Go figure. They were still kind enough to seat us right away…yay! We decided to split our entrees this time so we agreed to share the chana masala (my all-time favorite) and the chicken vindaloo. In typical “me” fashion, I forgot to photograph the food before we ate. Maybe it’s because I’m not a food blogger but I always forget to do it. Oh well. Can’t always bat 1.000. But my favorite part about eating Indian food is the naan bread. Sorry if I hogged it all. Sometimes, when I order Indian for delivery and I have leftovers, I go to Whole Foods and buy frozen or fresh naan to have on hand – just in case I run out of the order I got from the restaurant before I finish all of the entree. Or sometimes I just eat naan for dinner because I can. It’s my secret single behavior. Don’t judge.
Even if my personal trainer told me tomorrow that I couldn’t have any more bread, I couldn’t live without dessert. So as soon as we were done with dinner, I wanted something sweet. We decided to hit up Sant Ambroeus since it was on the way back home. Some of the best boulangeries and patisseries are in NYC and that makes me a very happy girl. My waistline may not always agree but I just do extra cardio to make up for it. Sant Ambroeus is one of those places that I was surprised had great desserts. The first time I had one of their desserts was when I was shopping uptown and ducked into one of their espresso bars to escape a sudden rain shower. I had a slice of their marble cake and a cappuccino as I waited for the storm to pass. Man, was it good! But at the time, I didn’t know that Sant Ambroeus was also an Italian restaurant. A few weeks later, I went on a first date with a guy and we had dinner at the full restaurant in the West Village. But, surprisingly, they did not have that marble cake on their dessert menu. Story of my life. They did, however, have an assortment of cookies that sounded delightful after my decadent risotto entree. I ordered a cup of tea and split the cookies with my date. The shortbread cookies were my favorite! They were buttery and light but not overly sweet – the perfect ending to my meal. From time to time, I stop into Sant Ambroeus for an afternoon cup of tea and a cookie or two. The people watching is always fun too.
Another great coffee and dessert spot is Maison Kayser. I love going to the Midtown West location that’s right next to Columbus Circle. You can sit outside and enjoy the view of the circle and the southwest corner of Central Park. It also gives me an excuse to go shopping in the Time Warner building afterwards. I’m a huge fan of their brioche au sucre (brioche with sugar) with a great cup of tea or a cappuccino. However, the last couple of times I’ve gone to get my fix, they’ve been sold out. But don’t feel bad for me. It gave me the opportunity to try something else from the pastry case. I ordered the mocaccino cake. My life is now over because I know this cake exists. I wish I had one right now! Velvety chocolate mousse with a coffee center – drooling! But if dessert isn’t your thing, I highly recommend their tartines. The crab and avocado tartine is my favorite and be sure to wash it down with an elderberry flower sparkling lemonade. We’ll have to go here for lunch or afternoon coffee the next time you visit. Your trip was way too short and we have so much left to do and see and eat!
I hope you enjoyed your stay here in NYC! Hopefully, I’ll win the OpenTable writing contest and win a free trip to London to visit you and you can take me to all of your favorite spots to eat and drink. Hope to hear from you soon!