Sunday, October 18, 2009

New York minute #2

Apart from the sheer buzz and energy of the place, eating is a primary reason for us to stay on the Lower East Side when we come to New York. There are some seriously good bars and restaurants to eat at here. You already know about Schiller's Liquor Bar where we ate and drank on our first night. On Friday, we dined at wd-50 on Clinton Street. To start off with, I had eggs benedict (photo above) and M ordered hanger tartare with smoked almonds, banana and hibiscus. Then I ordered the scallops with pine needle udon, grapefruit dashi and Chinese broccoli. M ordered the duck breast, Worcestershire spaetzle, parsley root and mustard greens. For desserts, I devoured the sake sorbet with licorice and Bartlett pear, and M chowed down on the soft chocolate with peppermint ice cream, black cardamom and toffee. Everything was exquisitely fresh and light and perfectly portioned.

On Saturday, we dined at The Stanton Social on Stanton Street, which encourages diners to share several small dishes. So we chose: Stone-ground blue corn crabcake corn dogs; lobster paella cakes with chorizo and artichoke salad; grilled cheese slider with Cheddar, house-cured jalapeño bacon, fried green tomato and lemon aioli; Rhode Island-style lobster roll; butternut squash and sweet potato ravioli with vanilla brown butter and candied pecans; charred squid lettuce wraps with spicy papaya kimchi, miso mayo and jalapeño-soy; grilled hanger steak with a smoked paprika crust, caramelized onions, potato and chive tater tots and Spanish bravas sauce; and finally roasted beets with lavender honey and goat cheese. Once again the food was achingly fresh and delicious. On a Saturday night in LES, the place was heaving so the atmosphere was terrific.

And on Sunday night, we ate at Freemans, which is at the end of Freeman Alley off Rivington Street. Surrounded by taxidermy on the walls and immersed in candlelight, we started with hot artichoke dip with crisp bread, and shrimp and grits with bacon, shallots and green pepper puree. For our main dishes, M chose a stew of Colorado lamb with butternut squash and grit cake, and I chose a Hudson Valley duck breast with local mustard greens and a Concord grape reduction. I couldn't resist a dessert of sweet potato pie and buttermilk ice cream. M had his first sour mash. The place was heaving and it was a lot of fun.

Aside from eating on the LES, we ate a lovely lunch on Saturday at the Austro-German Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue. We always eat here when we come to New York because the food is excellent, the atmosphere is lovely and the cafe is close to the Met. The long queue to get in was worth it for the bratwurst mit sauerkraut and röstkartoffeln (roasted sausage with Riesling sauerkraut and roasted potatoes) that we ate. For dessert, M ordered sachertorte (Viennese dark chocolate cake with house-made apricot confiture) and I ordered milchrahmstrudel (Quark cheese strudel with vanilla sauce).

Beforehand, we had explored the new American wing at The Metropolitan Museum and saw Robert Frank's The Americans exhibition there (photo above). As always, the photos were amazing. I loved the way he focused in on people to describe a larger event - such as close-ups of politicians' faces or an orator at a political rally rather than the crowds at the rally itself; or close-ups of a few attendees at a funeral rather than a typical funeral scene such as a casket being carried or lowered surrounded by mourners. I was most intrigued to learn that Frank was friends with Beats such as Kerouac and Ginsburg, and to later "alternative figures" such as Sam Shepard and Patti Smith.

Afterwards, we visited The New York Public Library (photo above). M and I have both been blessed by opportunities to study in some wonderful libraries - the Bodleian in Oxford, the British Library in London and the reading room of the British Museum also in London. But none have been open to the general public. So it was a real pleasure to see the beautiful NYPL building.

The rest of Saturday was spent shopping along Fifth Avenue, culminating in a visit to toy shop FAO Schwarz where we bought Little Planet a couple of Charlie and Lola stuffed dolls and several books from Barefoot Books (photo left) - I love this publishing company because their books are very colourful and bold and also multicultural. Incidentally, both Barefoot and Charlie/Lola are British companies/brands.

On Sunday, we visited the Witney Museum of American Art, which disappointed us with its meagre collection. I wanted to see more Edward Hoppers, more Winslow Homers, more Franz Klines and Andy Warhols and Jasper Johns... more of everything.

Afterwards, we stopped off for coffee and pastries in a lovely independent cafe on Lexington called Corrado Bread & Pastry. And then we browsed the big stores Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf Goodman and Macy's (the latter of which disappointed - it was so rundown).

Then we became real tourists and climbed up to the top of the Empire State Building. What a view - we giggled and took photos and tried to identify buildings and our hotel. We felt like kids! I can't wait to take Little Planet up there one day (photo above). And then we came back to the LES for diner in Freemans, but I've already mentioned that.

More soon...


leslee said...

That's eggs Benedict?? Wow! Looks like you're having a great time in the Big Apple. So glad the grandmas are spoiling little Planet and you guys are getting a fab vacation. :-)

Planethalder said...

Hi Leslie! Long time no hear! Yes and the eggs benedict were terrific. wd-50 use molecular gastronomy techniques.