Taking a Bite out of the Big Apple – Part 1

10 Jan

Over winter break I took a short, sweet, and delicious visit to New York City. When I was growing up in near Philadelphia, NYC was relatively close and I often took trips to the state. However, I can only remember one clear time I went into the actual city when I took some friends to celebrate my Bat Mitzvah and saw Hairspray on Broadway. Although it was a fantastic time (thanks again mom!), I had no no real appreciation for the city and all its life and diversity. Years later, I have made my pilgrimage back to the ‘city that never sleeps’ and checked off a ton of exciting attractions and interesting eateries from my mental travel to-do list. This post will take you through my trip via the food. Although it appears I was eating the entire time, the reality is we spent hours every day walking and exploring all the typical NYC attractions as well (Rockafeller Plaza, Central Park, Times Square, Ground Zero, The Today Show/NBC Store, FAO Schwartz, saw RENT, and Radio City Music Hall etc.).

I had an incredible time in New York where foodieism is embraced and encouraged. Some of the world’s top chefs have restaurants here making the city a mecca for food innovation.  The amount of care that goes into opening these restaurants and developing memorable and creative recipes is intensely inspiring for me. I’m so thankful I got to take part in the food culture that NYC so honestly exudes for even a short period of time.

Stop #1: Dylan’s Candy Bar

Remember that trip I took to the city I took when I was 13? I was supposed to go to Dylan’s Candy Bar then. I dreamed about it for weeks. I studied the website, pupils fixed firmly at the bright and contrasting colors wanting desperately to visit for myself. You know that scene in the original Willy Wonka where they’re in the candy room with the chocolate waterfall? All I ever wanted was for that place to be real and I firmly believed Dylan’s Candy Bar could fulfill my fantasy candy land. Unfortunately, the train we took into the city that day broke down and we were forced to skip that part of the trip and head straight to Broadway. That makes an entire eight years that I’ve been wanting to go to Dylan’s Candy Bar, and it was certainly worth the wait!! Dylan’s was incredible and I was blasted from all sides by the temptation of creamy chocolates and sugary candies. In the end,  I decided on a simple s’mores flavored chocolate bar with bits of graham and marshmallow throughout, mm!

Stop #2: Burger Heaven

From what I gathered this is a NYC based burger chain with a few locations. I picked it because we were starving and it was across the street from Dylan’s Candy Bar and because the cashier there recommended I eat at Qdoba which was definitely not happening.  -___-  I was craving a burger in the days previous and this totally hit the spot. The place touted their sauteed onions which came on the house. Carmelized onions are like candy to me and I ate them straight and proceeded to have wonderful breath the remainder of the day. Worth it.

 Stop #3: Sprinkles Cupcakes

Sprinkles Cupcakes is known for being the FIRST cupcake bakery in the world. The first location opened in LA but I didn’t foresee myself going there any time soon so I settled for the NYC location. I maybe should have gone to Magnolia or Crumbs for cupcakes, but Sprinkles has a significance in cupcake history so I chose this one. The cupcake above is a banana cupcake with dark chocolate frosting. I made sure to pick a variety with the signature sugar dot. The cake was moist and crumbed perfectly and the chocolate was rich but not piled on so thick that it overwhelmed the cake. Overall, it was a great cupcake BUT my all time favorite is still Sweet in Orlando.

Stop #4: Momofuku Milk Bar

Milk Bar was far and away my favorite place for food in NYC. Had Hannah not spotted a low-key blackboard easel displaying the menu in handwritten chalk outside the store, we would have missed it all together. There are a few Milk Bar locations but we went to the one inside of Má Pêche, which is part of David Chang‘s wildly successful restaurant group. Chef and owner of Milk Bar Christina Tosi, has been my muse ever since I found out about her existence. Her style involves taking a simple ingredient that everyone, everywhere can relate to and reconstructing it into a new creative medium. For example, the top left corner of the picture is “cereal milk” soft serve, which tastes EXACTLY like the sugary milk left at the bottom of a Saturday morning bowl of lucky charms from your childhood. I think I said “how did she capture this so perfectly?” at least ten times while I was eating it.
The picture on the top right is a “Compost Cookie” which Milk Bar is famous for. The dough has chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, oats, graham crackers, potato chips, pretzels, and coffee grounds folded into it. Everything but the kitchen sink as the saying goes. The cookie structure was well executed with crispy edges and a fudgy interior, but I just couldn’t bring myself to love it due to the strong coffee flavor (I don’t drink coffee). I was slightly disappointed when I moved on to the corn cookie. That was right before my life was changed forever.
Christina Tosi’s corn cookie MIGHT be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. The taste was indescribable but falls somewhere between short bread, butter cookies, and salty corn on the cob. It sounds weird, I know, but holy crap was it tasty. Ever since I finished the corn cookie (which was very slowly because I never wanted it to end), I’ve been craving it. Luckily, this quarters issue of The Lucky Peach, features the recipe so all I need is to get my hands on some expensive freeze-dried corn and corn flour and hopefully I can spread the gospel of the corn cookie to all of my friends.

 Stop #5 Bouchon Bakery

Coming off one of the best treats I’ve ever consumed was one of the worst disappointments in baked goods. For those readers not aware, Bouchon Bakery was created by Thomas Keller and now has a few locations in California, NYC, and Las Vegas. Yes, THE Thomas Keller, owner of the French Laundry in California. Thomas Keller the world-renowned culinary genius who’s prix fixe meals take six hours to consume and reservations years in advance. Maybe my expectations were too high but I expected the “Nutter Butter” wouldn’t be dry and borderline stale. The second picture, a raspberry-almond croissant was also pretty dry and contained barely any raspberry. To be honest, Uppercrust bakery in tiny Gainesville, Florida makes a much better croissant. Maybe one day in a fantasy world I’ll dine at The French Laundry or Per Se and my mind will change but for now Mr. Keller won’t get a second chance to make a first impression on taste.

Stop #6: Artichoke Pizza

I’m not sure if Artichoke qualifies as “real” New York pizza or if it’s simply really good pizza. We went to the Chelsea location where you could only order 1/3 pies or full pies which was kind of annoying. We decided to split a third of margarita pizza which I thoroghly enjoyed although I do wonder what their signature “artichoke” pizza would’ve been like since it appeared to be incredible spinach-artichoke dip in pizza form. Mm..

Stop #7:  Stage Deli

Couldn’t go to New York City without going to a deli! Gainesville lacks great deli places in my opinion and there’s nothing like a good bagel (although I’m not into lox..worst Jew??) This bagel was yummy, toasted, warm, and chewy in all the right places. HOWEVER, my breakfast which was a basic sesame bagel, some hash browns, and two scrambled eggs came out to be $12!!! Dumb.  Oh well, when in Rome…

Not Pictured: NY Street Hot Dog
..because it was disgusting and the way the casing snapped in my mouth weirded me out so I threw it out after one bite.



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