Friday, June 10, 2011

Dining in NYC - Day 2

So I am going through my backlog of old blogs I never got around to finishing and realize I never posted the blogs I wrote on some of my fabulous vacations last year! Whoops. I guess I was so busy vacationing that I forgot to post! Some of you may remember an older post Dining in New York - Day 1, which detailed some of the culinary adventures my friend Sarah and I had on our last girls trip New York. Well we did so much and ate so much delicious food, that I had intended to break the post up (hence the Day 1). Well here is the second half.. Day 2!

Ess-A Bagel
831 3rd Avenue, New York
(212) 980-1010

On Day 1 in NYC, we stuffed ourselves with an everything bagel with Nova from H and H bagel. On Day 2 of our NYC bagel challenge, we decided to try the #2 bagelry in NYC, Ess-A. The nova from H and H was so fresh and delicious and while the bagel was doughy, I felt like they had cheated me a little by not including as much of "everything" on my everything bagel as I would h ave liked. The everything bagel at Ess-A was much more up to par. Thick and bready, the toasted crust on the outside gave a satisfying crunch. We opted for garden spread this time instead of nova. What can I say, I love a savory bagel in the morning (surprising since i had such a horrible sweet tooth). I have to say, when I compared H and H to Ess-a, it was a draw. H and H's bagel was so doughy and delicious, but I like the crust on the Ess-a bagel better.

As an FYI, did you know you can get H and H bagels from Manny's Uptown Kitchen? They fly them in every day.

65 4th Avenue
New York, NY 10003-5220
(212) 388-0088

After our delicious bagel breakfast, we met up with some of Sarah's friends who now live in NYC for a quick tour of the Modern Art Museum. They happened to have an.. interesting... human art exhibit feature naked people doing odd tasks. Like riding bikes and running into walls. Leave it to the New Yorkers to be so bored with normal art they invent crazy new art.

After lunch, Sarah's friend insisted we go to lunch at Ippudo, a Japanese ramen house down by NYU. There was a horribly long line, but the friend was adamant that we had to try this while we were there. I am SO glad we stayed. The ramen soup I ate at that place was so wonderful and delicious that it will forever be the best bowl of soup I have ever had, from now until the end of my days. It was THAT good.

Now for those of you who may not know, ramen is a cuisine and an art form in Japan. Its not just the crappy packs of noodles and packets of dried spice that we all lived off of in college. In Japan it is treated as a revered cuisine that people spend years learning to master (you can get a good idea of it in the movie Ramen Girl with Britney Murphy - don't laugh, its a good movie). I haven't come across a ramen-ya, a restaurant specializing in ramen, in Texas yet. A shame really.

But at Ippudo, the Ramen is really the star of the show. I ordered the Akamaru Modern ramen soup with miso paste, garlic oil, pork chashu, bean sprouts, kikurage and scallions. The soup that came to me, was nothing less than perfection. The broth was perfect and velvety, a complete emulsification of fat and liquid. The pork chashu was a delicate, fall-apart soft pork belly that blended perfectly with the broth. The oils and miso added a delightful thickness to the broth. This isn't a soup. It's a meal!

Crumbs Bakery
37 East 8th Street, New York
(212) 673-1500

After our delictable soup lunch, we continued our quest for the perfect NYC cupcake and stopped at Crumbs. We had been seeing their ads everywhere so when we happened to walk past one, we decided to pick ourselves up a cupcake sampler. They let us pick 4 of any of their 20 or so flavor varieties. They were all so beautiful that we didn't quite know which to pick. We opted for chocolate cupcake with cream filling, margarita cupcake, vanilla with M and Ms, vanilla with chocolate frosting. We stole them back to our hotel room (and we had to fight off several people on the subway who were eyeing them in a predatory way) and dug in. Ugh, we were so disappointed. Despite how lovely they looked, they were just gross. The cake was dry and unappetizing and the the cupcakes as a whole were so over-sweet, that we literally took 2 bites of each and then threw out the rest.

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-3500

After our horribly unsatisfying cupcake debacle, we decided to head out for dinner. I've been hearing for years about how great the Momofuku restaurants in NYC are, so I couldn't take a try there now not try one. After looking over the menus, we opted for the Ssam Bar, which also happens to be one of the 50 best restaurants in the world (I'm not sure by what authority, but its still nice to say I've been to at least one restaurant on that list).

We started out with the cured hamachi with edamame, horseradish, and pea leaves. The hamachi was tender and paired nicely with the accompanying spring-y pea puree. The pea leaves added a nice delicate flavor (and also visual interest light green and dark green are so nice together).

Next, we ordered the Hawthorn Valley Buttermilk Soup with fuji apple dashi, market herbs and pine nuts. I ordered it specifically because it looked pretty and sounded interesting. The thick congealed buttermilk dollops (I don't know a better way to describe it) paired well with the savory broth. And the flowers added a bitterness that couperbalanced the soft fuji apple pieces. The texture, though, did leave a bit to be desired, Sarah didn't like it, but I happily took one for the team and finished it off.

Probably the best dish we had were the Steamed Buns with Pork Belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions. I love m some pork buns, and these were delicious. More of an asian pork bun taco than a traditional bun. But boy were they delicious. We liked them so much we ordered a second plate.

All in all, Momofuku Ssam was a great experience. It was alive and humming with New York's trendiest. However, after teating there, I have to say that Austin's own Uchi and Uchiko are every bit as delicious and innovative as Momofuku. They could really be one in the same restaurant.
Alice's Tea Cup
220 East 81st Street, New York
(212) 734-4832

The next morning, we met up with Sarah's friends again for a lovely breakfast at Alice's Tea Cup. It's a cute little breakfast and lunch restaurant that really caters to little girls. Every little girl gets a pair of sparkly fair wings to wear while she eats there (where are the adult fairy wings, I ask). The inside is covered in pastel murals of Alice in Wonderland. The food is served on antique, mismatched china and every tea pot has a cozy.

I had Alice's Curious French Toast, french toast bites infused with apricot brandy tea with fruit coulis and vanilla creme anglaise. It was an interesting french toast. It was baked bread pudding style. It was very sweet and wonderfully warm, the perfect complement to a hot cup of tea. We also ordered a plate of scones for the table. The scones at Alice's Tea Cup are amazing. Well worth a stop if your in the NYC area.

After we had breakfast Sarah and I headed to JFK airport. This should have been a simple $40 cab fare, but it turned into the trip from hell. While we were eating breakfast Sarah's friend mentioned there was a subway only 2 blocks away that went straight to JFK for only $5. So we though, hell why not, we've got plenty of time, lets save a little money. So we drag our luggage down road 2 blocks, but don't see a subway, so we keep walking, maybe its really 3 blocks.

While we're walking, this crazed tweeker starting following us a half block behind us. We got a little nervous so we ducked into a 7-11 and got a bottle of water. When we emerged, the tweeker had passed, so we continued on. Before I know it, the tweeker spins around, runs towards us and hawks a giant lugie and spits on me. It was probably the single most disgusting thing that's ever happened to me. We hurry up and run past all while concerned New Yorkers turned to ask if I was ok (yes, apparently, there are concerned New Yorkers still). I doused myself in hand sanitizer and we continued on our way to the subway station... Which turned out to be *10* blocks away not 2. But whatever, we were there.

We get on the appropriate train which says its going to JFK. While we're on the train, though, we start hearing unintelligible announcements. "(crackle) mrah muh mrah mah JFK mrah ma muh mra mra (crackle)." Well shit, the conductor was trying to tell us something about JFK. But what was it. All the other passengers looked confused and a few started to become outwardly agitated. Once we were in Queens, it started to become very apparent that the train wasn't going to JFK. One lady on the train started yelling and a little old Japanese man started rocking back and forth. That's when I got really nervous. A creepy looking gentleman on the train offered to go get his car and drive us to the airport. We said thanks but no, I don't want to get raped today, thank you very much.

When we get to the last stop, Sarah and I had already decided we were going to call yellow cab and have them come pick us up. But, no, our Queens adventure was just beginning. At that last stop, a very large woman with the MTA walked through the train car telling us all to get out, you didn't have to tell me twice. When we got to the street level, we discovered there were buses, lots and lots of buses and they all had JFK on their marquis. Sarah and I had a brief pow wow. We could get on the bus that says JFK or we could wait for a cab. As we looked around and the urban squalor around us, we opted to follow the stream of people getting onto the buses.

Our bus wound its way through Queens stopping randomly to let people off. I followed our progress on my iPhone and noticed we were headed in the general direction of the JFK station. The bus trip wouldn't have been so bad, but no one on that bus knew the subway was closed and everyone was all pissed off and irate. Sarah and I ended up being a bunch of scared looking white girls on a bus full of angry people from Queens. I'm ashamed to say it, but we were those girls.

After 6 or 7 stops we finally arrived at the JFK subway station which has a skytrain over to the airport. But no sooner had we gotten off the bus then we were immediately accosted by 10-15 large men. They followed us as we got off the bus, "Give me your subway ticket". "No" we said as we stared straight ahead and tried to walk the 200 feet to the skytrain. "Come on, you don't need that ticket, I got to get home, let me have it". "No!" At this point poor Sarah was almost in hysterics. But we stuck to our goal and kept walking. I will tell you, I was never so relieved in my whole life, than when we finally got on that skytrain. At the time the debacle of our trip to JFK seemed horrific, but I've finally gotten to the point where I can look back and laugh. It is kind of a good story, and I learned a valuable lesson, always take a cab to the airport.