I hope you had a lovely holiday. During the holidays one becomes keenly aware that eating is so much more than just satisfying one's hunger, it is a tribal ritual. Even outside of holidays, dining has become more akin to an activity, like going to show or seeing a sports event. This is very different from the way I was brought up in suburban Chicago, where eating was something to be done quickly. Whether it was picking up fast food, or eating in the food court of the mall, we put little to no emphasis on savoring meals or enjoying the experience. Perhaps it is a function of maturing, possibly it is living in one of the great culinary cities of the world, but dining has become something much more important to me. I am not alone, as you can see bloggers, tourists, and ordinary people routinely photographing their food around town. As such, I now treat dining with the respect that it deserves, and I am constantly looking for the very best quality food and experiences. In my case, that search can span different cuisines and restaurants during the same night! In this week's Loupe, I introduce you to the art of tasting food, glorious food!
Located in Brookfield Place, directly across from the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Memorial, is a food court on steroids where visitors have choices galore. Again, why stick with one restaurant when you can get a taste from a variety of restaurants. When I was a kid I used to go to the Mall (Northbrook Court) and my options were not as robust: Sbarro Pizza, possibly Häagen Dazs Ice Cream. Hudson Eats is an institutionalized version of Smorgasburg (the amazing outdoor food fair that started in Williamsburg). It certainly knows its audience, as its population swells with employees of nearby businesses during the day (breakfast & lunch), and they seem to cater to that customer with the modern design and selection of restaurants and cuisine. Many of these establishments have been in the Loupe before including Nam Pang and The Mighty Quinn, but I encourage you to check out Black Seed Bagels, Parm, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar, Northern Tiger, Little Muenster and Umami Burger. No need to stick with one restaurant or cuisine. Grab a table looking out over the Hudson River and Lady Liberty and blend in with the bankers, media executives and random foodies.
Gotham West Market
Another upscale food court with a great variety of high-quality food purveyors is Gotham West Market. It opened in 2015 and is closer to the Smorgasburg model in so far as it is a tad hipper, more adult oriented (booze and beer), and feels generally more Brooklynesque. Sure it's housed in a newish condo, but the interior happily ignores what's above. Inside is a great mix of restaurants including Ivan Ramen, Corner Slice, Cannibal (sorry Ross B. and Randall W.!), and Ample Hills Creamery. It is open late and a perfect place to sample a variety of food.
Snowdays Shavery is not ice cream as we know it but rather shaved ice. Evolving from classic Taiwanese and Korean shaved ices, shaved cream combines "the fluffy texture of snow with the taste and creaminess of ice cream." The owners saw this new craze burgeoning on the West coast and decided to bring it to NY with a NY edge. Try the signature Yeti Tracks, which is a blueberry cookies and cream made even cooler by the disposable color changing spoon that changes to blue when it's cold! Or sample the other flavors, which include NY Cheesecake, Roasted Black Sesame, Sweet Milk, or Green Tea Matcha; add several over the top toppings and you're good to go!
Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
Unlike 10 Below, Van Leeuwen is about the ice cream rather than the toppings. Like all good food concepts, it started out of a yellow truck that I used to see in the Meatpacking District. Soon their artisanal blends became too popular and they needed to expand. They make Classic scoops (fresh milk and cream, cane sugar and egg yolks) and Vegan scoops (cashew milk, organic coconut milk, organic extra virgin coconut oil, organic cane sugar, pure cocoa butter and organic carob bean), choose your poison. The flavors vary and include traditional flavors as well as sophisticated ones such as Earl Grey Tea and Passion Fruit Layer Cake. Try to save a little more room!
Sidewalks of New York
If you are going to consume a lot of great food in a single night, you may consider leaving the restaurant and food selection up to the pros at Sidewalks of New York. They will guide you and your crew through a variety of restaurants, ordering the best items on the menu food for you. They will also indulge you with the history of the neighborhood, regale you with fascinating stories, and point out some important landmarks. I have partaken in the West Village Food tour, but they have many others including Lower East Side, Food Trucks, Pizza & Beer, as well as a host of others (Mad Men anybody?) that will strike your fancy.
If you are going to bop around multiple restaurants in a single night, you have to know where to go and what dishes to order. Chef's Feed is the answer as its tagline is "eat like a chef on their one precious day off." The presumption is that chefs are professional cooks and recognize great food when they eat it. Chefs Feed enlisted the help of some of the most venerable chefs in the city to find the very best restaurants Their writers include April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig & White Gold Butchers, Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, and many more, This app and website has plenty of articles about great restaurants and food, which will help you choose wisely your next night out. For me, I am constantly checking Chef's Feed for professional recommendations of nearby restaurants and, more specifically, the best dishes they offer.
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
This place is just plain fun and very different as they serve soft serve ice cream. It also has humble beginnings in a rainbow colored food truck in 2009. They soon opened their first location in the East Village in 2011 and have been serving soft serve ice cream with unique toppings and ingredients since. Try my favorite Salty Pimp which includes vanilla soft serve ice cream, dulce de leche, sea salt, and chocolate dip.
Oddfellows Sandwich Shop
This sandwich shop refers to the very best kind of sandwiches ... ice cream sandwiches! Try a DIY Odds and Ends, where you choose the ice cream flavor and the kind of cookies (chocolate chip, ginger, oatmeal, peanut butter or fudge) or try one of their famous odd pockets (aka monkey buns). An odd pocket is a toasted brioche bun filled with ice cream --- you can customize of trust the experts. I'm a fan of the Chocolate chunk (chocolate chunk ice cream, coffee crisps and hot fudge inside the warm brioche). For the more classic ice cream sandwich, try the S'mores. Enough said.
Start on St. Marks for some Thai inspired ice cream. The ice cream is made on a cold plate that is (you guessed it, 10 degrees below zero) which produces smaller ice molecules to make it naturally smoother and creamier. On the cold plate, they mix in toppings with your ice cream, roll them into a cup, and then add even more toppings! Remember, don't eat the whole thing, you have more places to try!