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Yes, oh yes…

Welcome to New York City!

It was my first time to the city of bright lights, movement, and never-ending madness! Sounds amazing, right!? Correct, it is!

As soon as the plane touched down into JFK airport I felt awakened. Moved by the sense of something always going on. People always on the go, walking, jogging, running; looking left, right, straight. Where to go, what to do, what’s happening, what’s that noise! It’s New York City!! Let me in, let me experience the craziness first hand!

Off the plane, to the train and headed to the East Village; the location of where I would be staying for my one week visit. On my way I couldn’t stop thinking about everything I wanted to get into. Everything that I HAD TO DO as a person on this earth. The staples of my life! See Times Square, The Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Empire State Building, and let me not forget the location of where the two twin towers used to stand. Sad to see them gone of course, but as life goes on I was able to stand in a place of history, a place where everything comes true.

Now, I wanted to obviously do some touristy things, but for majority of my trip I was more concerned with food.

What’s good to eat? Where do I go to dine now? So many choices, so many decisions! I had a list of all the places I absolutely had to eat at. Whether I would make them all or not was up in the air.

First thing was first, drop off my luggage, then onto my feet and into this city. Let me eat already, the six-hour flight put me back a few meals so I need to recover. First stop was Union Square. I was a few blocks away, plus the day was beautiful, I had to make this my first sight.

A Farmers Market! Already!? You mean to tell me I can find amazing, locally grown produce here! Fantastic! The craziest thing is that I heard the biggest market was on Saturdays and today was only Wednesday and it took up almost half of Union Square. It was larger than the Farmers Markets I see back in San Francisco. Am I Jealous? I think so.

I did a quick walk through before my cousin and I went to eat and everything I found was gorgeous. Blueberries, raspberries, greens, vegetables, fresh pressed juice, local fish purveyors, meat purveyors, hell I could’ve spent a long time here. But, I was unfortunately starving so we headed south a bit arriving at my first bite into the city: Ippudu.

I walked in, greeted with a warm, comforting welcome, and let me not leave out the smell of heaven. I can’t lie, I was excited to eat here since ramen was such a big talk around my life at the time. Where could I find the best? Well, obviously here because that’s where I was sent. I was sat and with no questions asked I kindly told my server to just bring me the house specialty (whatever that was that’s traditional and most wanted on their menu)

A few minutes to wait, and believe it or not I was hit with a bowl of Miso Ramen; Ippudus classic dish.

A fantastically flavored broth, filled with scallion, ginger, house made bean paste flavored noodles and thinly sliced pork. Sweating like a dog because it’s about 90 degrees outside, I dove into this hot bowl of ramen, making sure every drop was cleared. And so it was. I can’t say I eat ramen frequently, or that I am some connoisseur on how it should be prepared/ taste. But, I can say I know when something is good or no good, and let me tell you my friends, this ramen was good! I was told to get the pork buns to go along with the meal, but I had to skip as to save room for the rest of my eating adventure for the day. Next stop, Rice to Riches!

Approaching, a modern styled storefront, I felt as though I was walking into some kind of Hello Kitty boutique rather a rice pudding shop. My cousin ordered. A share of two favors will do! Rum Raisin and Sex Drugs and Rocky Road, please! Before I know it I am eating again.. Wait, wait I’m just indulging now! No holding back!

Each flavor was awesome. If I had to level one down I wold go for Sex Drugs and Rocky Road. Not only for its crazy name, but because it had these delicious chewy chocolate pieces swirled within, and just sang to my taste buds. Sang like Luciano Pavarotti, yes that’s how good. The rum raisin in my case was no loser though. It was great! Reminded me a of bread pudding except a lot sweeter and less rum flavor.

Now into the city I go some more. Being a tourist, walking Canal street. Being stopped at every corner asking if I want to buy some luxurious Versace. “I’m okay my friend, I didn’t come to New York for that.”I came to New York to eat. Experience all the talk that everyone has to say about these restaurants.

Later that night, I already had my plans made out for me. My friends and I were headed to The Spotted Pig. Probably my most anticipated restaurant to dine at, mainly because it was the most mentioned restaurant to go to while in NYC. Plus, they do a lot with my good friend PIG and using his offal parts is ALWAYS a plus for me too.

Table for 3 and twenty minutes in, I’m eating! Eating exactly what I was waiting for. First out, I already knew I wanted the Chicken Liver Toast. My favorite part about it was that it was chunky and rustic. It had those little bites of liver lying around, and for me I prefer that over the smoother pates. It was the perfect welcoming bite.

Next, Crispy Pig Ear Salad.

Amazing? Yes. Very attractive to my stomach and eyes? Yes. Offal? Absolutely.

I demolished the lightly dressed acidic greens with little bursting capers, and enjoyed the crispy pig ear. It had a little bite to it, but I would expect that coming from a pigs ear; it is a tough piece to work with. I have never seen it fried like this before though, only cured and thinly shaved.

Next was Ricotta Gnudi, also fantastic. Nothing to overly rave about, but it was good. Made with a lightly coating of semolina and finished in a brown butter sage sauce with pesto.

To finish the night, sautéed squid with haritcovert and cherry tomatoes did me in. The squid was cooked wonderfully, not chewy at all, and the burst of those sweet 100s took me back home. As any excellent tomato does, I go back in time; reminiscing on my grandmas cooking, when she had her own garden of too many things to name off. One of the things she always had was tomatoes, and she grew the best ones. Don’t ask me how, she just did! It’s like when people say, “My mom makes the best mac n’ cheese!” Well, that same saying goes here, except to the simplicity of a tomato. Then the evergreen haritcoverts to tag along with pine nuts and herbs to compliment. Wow, what a dish I must say. Thank you Spotted Pig! I was a happy camper that night. 🙂

Tomorrow came quick and so did the food. A light brunch and we’re off wandering about. Before I knew it, it was that time of the day. Off to lunch at one of those eager to sit down and eat at places. ABC Kitchen!
I’ve heard so much about the place, I had to check it out. Walking passed the front window, I peer in just to make sure there isn’t an over-abundance of people waiting for a table. Thankfully, their wasn’t!
A table for me and my buddies during the busy lunch hour with no wait, fantastic. Our host just had to make sure we would be out within two hours. I told her it wouldn’t be a problem.
See, I wasn’t at ABC to sit all day like most guests do when they go to a restaurant. I was simply there to eat! Enjoy what ABC Kitchen has to offer for me.
Our server (who was very friendly by the way) approached the table, introduced herself and told us to ask if we had any questions or concerns. Right away I asked her, “what’s good to eat, and good for the table to share?”
Suggestions poured out, and in reply I placed my order..
First up was the whole wheat pizza with spinach, goat cheese and herbs.

Now, I love pizza (who doesn’t?) but for me I always think that I am never going to find a better pie than the Calabrian style pizza I had in the little town of Lucca with a man of about 86 tossing them around a brick oven in the back of a family ran trattoria. I stick to that because honestly, for me, it’s true. Until the day I have a better pizza, I’ll be sure to let you all know!
So back to my lunch, the pizza was great. Although I would’ve liked a pinch more of salt to my tasting, I though it was definitely doable!
Then came out the roasted carrot and avocado salad with crunchy seeds, citrus and sour cream. Out of everything I ate at that lunch and possibly in NYC, I have to say this salad could top it all. The carrots were roasted with love! The taste of cumin, coriander, clove, all-spice maybe some cinnamon came bursting at me. The greens were vibrant and fresh with purslane and acid segments. Avocado hidden around the plate with the dollop of sour cream on top (which reminded me of creme fraiche in this case). Amazing I tell you and two thumbs up!

Then, for the table to share, a small gift from the kitchen. Crab toast with lemon aioli and bitter greens. Hints of garlic, and market fresh herbs, I couldn’t resist but to put my utensils down and pick up the toast. Indulge! I had to, so I did. Thank you Karen (my server) for the wonderful dish, and compliments to the kitchen.
Of course I am not over yet, I still have another course. There it is, the house roasted turkey sandwich with applewood smoked bacon (smoked in-house) arugula and jalapeños. Don’t forget the French fries with fried rosemary.

I decided to take a photo of everything together.

Remarkably delicious, I must say that ABC Kitchen definitely served me a memorable meal! The food that I not only ate, but that was on their menu just shined with so much summer harvested products. Local, and market fresh! Even the table display of their ingredients was amazing!

Thank you to my well-informed server, Chef Dan Kluger and other Kitchen staff.
Now time to head north, go check out some inspiring restaurants, some eye-catching sights and obviously oversized amounts of people. On the way, I had to make a quick stop for a coffee But it wasn’t just any coffee. I had to get an iced latte from the well-known Stumptown coffee roasters.

Mmmm, is what I have to say. Hits the spot on this hot day, plus I need the espresso to keep me going. It’s a part of my blood, I can’t help it!

Back on the sidewalk again. Yes, I’m walking! That’s how I got around, and to be honest I thought it was the best way. I enjoyed it! The best part is, I was able to see all of my most concerned sites to see-famous restaurants: La Bernadin, Per Se, etc. I am in the restaurant industry now, so it’s standard for myself to see these places. So I did!

Time eventually gave in. I had to eat again.

Tacos at Tehuitzingo grocery. This place has yet to be discovered, and I was only told about it through a friend. If you go to New York, you may have a hard time finding it, as it’s not really “on the map.” This place is a small deli grocery store selling the same thing any other small convenient store would. In the back there is a service counter taking orders for tacos. So why not?
I’ll have the tongue and pig ear, please. Before first bites I get nervous with the question floating in my head, “I wonder where this meat is coming from?” I try not to let it bother me and just enjoy my taco. That I did, and awesome it was. A must go to place If you want to take a bite into the true flavor of a real taco. Oh, and make sure you squeeze that lime they give you over the tacos. You’re supposed to do that!

In for a few hours of rest on this hot day, i was getting anxious to eat at a place I unbelievably admire. Mainly because it’s owned by my idol in this hospitality business, but also because the food is over the top. Gramercy Tavern owned by Danny Meyer, the man who does absolutely amazing work within the restaurant world. I look up to him and inspire to do work just like his someday.
Until then, I’m ready to eat!
The host sat us without a reservation at the tavern, with the tavern menu. Perfect! I even planned ahead, I already knew what was going to be ordered. Our server greeted us, and told us about the special snack that tonight. We ordered it, along with a Blue-Bottle cold brew coffee for my friend. Wait, Blue-Bottle? In New York? Surprising! I guess New York is allowed to have a taste of the best from San Francisco. As long as it’s not Starbucks, I’m happy!
Out came our snack of lardon cheddar biscuits and some drinks to start. I went ahead and put my order in since I was ready, and everything I ordered my sever told me it was everything he was going to suggest (since i asked what he would’ve suggested after I ordered). I guess I did come well prepared.
First out, the apps.

Spring Greens with duck rillette toast and toasted almonds. Sweetbreads with mushrooms, Bok choy and almonds.

And wait, what is this? Did I order this?

A complimentary dish from the kitchen for the table. Mussels with salsify, red beans, chorizo in cilantro broth.
Wow, baked mussels in a broth so bright and refreshing. The chorizo gave off a touch of spice while the broth and red beans seemed to pull all the flavor together.

Now as for my sweetbreads, that’s another story.

Whenever I see sweetbreads on a menu I am for some reason reminded of my dad. I want to say because the first time I ever had them was with my dad, when him and I ate at The Ritz Carlton in Miami. I am just always reminded of his face and action to seeing sweetbreads on a menu. He lights up! He loves them, and thinks they are such a delicate, savory thing to have. Whenever they’re on a menu we have to order them. So I guess I can say I am taking a footstep like my pops, because whenever I see sweetbreads on a menu when I’m out, I have to order them. For the remembrance, but also for that taste! So fulfilling, I wish I had Gramercy tavern in San Francisco!

Next out we’re the mains. Smoked kielbasa with spaetzle, beets and grilled summer greens. Then Monfish with summer squash, fennel and fava beans.

I love it! Wait, wait, I LOVED it! I know it’ll be a while before I am back at Gramercy Tavern. Well that’s what I think, but I hope Gramercy and NYC pull me back as soon as possible.

Before we were able to pay the bill that evening, our server brought the table cookies to share from the kitchen. Such a nice gesture! Ranging from chocolate chip to oatmeal, and little biscottis, they were devoured quickly! Every crumb! Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo, but my favorite was the Amoretti cookie (mmm, almond flavor).
I wish I didn’t have to, but I think it’s time to exit. Goodbye Gramercy Tavern!
Thank you Christopher, who was our server that night and Chef Mike Anthony. The meal was stunning and is definitely going into my most memorable book!

The next day I feel like I’m walking on a cloud. My stomach is still full, and quite happy. I’ve been doing myself some good around this city, eating everything delectable in site. I don’t see anything wrong with that, do you? I thought so.

Let’s walk to the West Village where my cousin and I ended up having a little brunch. Now this little cafe that we dined at was nothing on my list, it just happened to surprisingly catch our eye as we were walking about. Buvette! Hmm, sounds different. Opening the door, I am hit with a remembrance of Europe. I feel as though I just stepped foot into Paris, Cafe de Flore. Pastries and coffee to my left, food running from the middle of the bar and a chalk board with a regional map of the location of the grapes in the days special wines.

Please have a seat, here is our menu and todays special. I was excited. Not mainly because of the food, but moreoverly because I was in a different place. The vibe was different, more comfortable and warming. No time to spare, my cousin and I ordered because we knew the two of us had a long day ahead so we had to keep moving.

For her Salade de Saumon, and for me the Poached Eggs with favas and pecorino. Moving along with conversation and sips of my latte, which was correctly made by the way. No overheated milk, or half a cup full of froth. My latte sat in a bowl with a rosetta the size of my heart. Thank you Barista!

Finally, my eggs!

Looks amazing, I know! My egg was poached very nicely, perfectly oozing yolk over favas, peas and pecorino. Simple and delicious, that’s sometimes just how I prefer it. Toast along just in case I need any help cleaning my bowl when I get to the end. Pure olive oil, herbs and the taste of fresh green vegetables filled my mouth. All I could think was, “I wish I could eat this everyday til the end of my life.” I would be a happy man. Fava beans happen to be one of my favorite beans. For what reason I don’t really know, but I think it’s a texture thing, then flavor. They are just so light, and refreshing for me. Plus it’s my sign of summer! Sadly, for this dish though, I believe I was just receiving the last crop of the season, which means no more favas for a little while. 😦 Not cool!

Moving along, we headed downtown, viewing Staten Island from Manhattan and obviously the location of the twin towers. My main attraction to be down here though was right in front of my eyes, very open to all and every one of the public. Battery Park Urban Farm!

Another mission of mine to do in New York City was to be able to see any urban farms, rooftop gardens, or city farming. After all of the places I emailed and called, they either never got back to me, or they charged a ridiculous amount of dollars just to look at the place. Crazy that I would be charged for things like this. Obviously, I didn’t pay. I opted for a fantastic personal tour around Battery Urban Farm.

Sitting right next to the hustling city is this small urban farm, growing seasonal fruits, vegetables, flowers and many other types of plants. I walked in and asked the guy who looked to be in charge if I was able to walk around and view the place. He told me I was free to do whatever I’d like as long as I didn’t harm anything on site.

Two little plots of land filled with all types of goodies. I did a quick look and obviously took some photos.

I was curious to know where all of the harvested product went and where it was used. I asked the gentleman and he told me that they help support the public schools with food for the students and staff. The farm also holds work days and field trips for schools and children to visit, learn about growing, harvesting, and tasting delicious fruits and vegetables. They want to promote education within the schools for students, taste literacy and sustainable gardening practices as they consider it. Thankfully their were 8 eager high school students that wanted to start a small vegetable garden for themselves otherwise this 352 cubic yards of organic soil wouldn’t be where it is today. Amazing!

Afterwards, I caught the next subway headed to the west side, Chelsea Market. Starting at the High Line, walking atop, seeing the sights and plants that Chelsea had to offer. Soon enough, I was at the market.

Stepping foot inside I felt like I was hit by a piece of history. So much about the Chelsea market and it’s beginning was written over the walls. I was reminded of the ferry plaza back home, except in my perspective this place was much bigger and a little better. Plenty of vendors, food supply stores and boutiques. A quick coffee for myself at ninth street espresso and I started my walk into the west village, on Hudson street to be exact. I was headed to takashi, a place to feed myself of all the offal I can get.
My hostess told me I would have to wait an hour for our table. Perfectly fine, I’m used to that when I go to a restaurant that serves excellent food. We happily waited, enjoyed drinks and conversation. Before I knew it we were seated, in front of our grill, anxious to eat. Now this place let’s you cook your own meat that you order. So no more complaining to the kitchen about your steak being too rare, it’s not their fault; it’s yours this time! The menu is all beef, no other options! Perfect, because I’m in the mood. Waisting no time, I made sure we ordered the Yooke which is chuck-eye tartar with special sauce and raw quail egg. Also the Horumon-Moriawase which is a chefs selection of all the raw offal cuts that we would be served (they all looked so delicious, I couldn’t pick my own). We also had some sides to go along with the meat, such as rice, cabbage salad and kimchi.

I just want to make sure I mention that before we received either of these dishes we ordered a nice piece of Kobe marbled chuck-flat steak. The server cooked it for us on our grill. Medium rare was the result and it was just like butter. I think I barely had to chew when I threw a piece of that steak in my mouth. It literally hit me hard with flavor.. I had to savor it, let it breathe like it was an old school Bordeaux or something. Then I went for the Yooke. The name for the mouth-watering chuck eye tartar with the quail egg. For my friend, it was his first time eating tartar, but for me, of course not. I tossed the egg in and mashed it all about. Very slowly did we enjoy this very rare piece of protein. It’s not something you want to throw back too fast, that’s why I tell you slowwlllyy. Take your time as my dad would say.

The chefs special consisted of the first stomach and fourth stomach. What that means exactly is which part of the cow’s stomach the meat is coming from, since the stomach has four chambers. To me, it’s all tripe so bring it on. Beef liver, heart and sweetbreads also accompanied. My friend and I had the honor of cooking everything ourself. Able to experiment and take our time with this precious food we found ourselves wondering about this beef. Just what kind is it? This beef is the beef I like to call “the extra special” kind. This meat is coming from sustainably raised cattle with no antibiotics or hormones. To get even more specific, the meat is coming directly from Kansas’ Creekstone Farm courtesy of Pat Lafrieda, and Oregon’s Washugyu cows courtesy of Japanese Premium Beef. Thank you my friends, for treating and raising animals the proper and correct way. So I am able to eat without any worry on where exactly my food is from, or If I am going to get some kind of weird disease.

Sitting for at least two hours, we were stuffed, satisfied, and two happy men. Now our next move, was the night over? I don’t think so! I was invited to the Fatty Crab earlier from a friend that works there, so I just couldn’t pass it down. Off to the Fatty Crab. More food (Pork Belly and pickled Watermelon) and well, the rest I can’t discuss. Let me just say it’s all history now… I’ll see you in the morning for another day of the city that never sleeps.

Brooklyn! One word is pretty much all I need to say. It’s where I was going to spend my morning into the late afternoon.
I met with a friend of mine that lives in queens. We met at Blue Bottle coffee. A quick Gibraltar to give me a fresh pick up to start my day. He brought his camera to take any interesting photography along the way. As for me, I just love to enjoy any views or sites that each block has to offer. It was my first time, so I did take some photos, but my whole purpose was to just experience New York. The real way, not like a tourist!
Our walk led us to Marlow and Sons Diner. A quick bite and off to downtown Brooklyn. Oh, what did we eat? I knew everyone was concerned about that! My buddy had the fried green tomato sandwich (hello summer) with a fried egg.

I had the rabbit hash which also had a fried egg.

It’s very rare that I see rabbit on a menu when I am out. So in my case I had to order it. Was it better than my nonnas braised rabbit, of course not, nothing beats family flavor. But I can say I cleaned my plate very nicely. As for the Diner experience, I loved it. I felt like I was a regular at the place. For a second, the place even crossed my mind to look like waffle house( that’s a midwest/ southern thing by the way).
Next was to see a few more sites and head back to Manhattan. I walked passed Grimaldi’s, had ice cream at Brooklyn ice cream, then walked near prospect park. My time in Brooklyn was great! I can say I wish I had someone from that specific area to show me around a bit more, but I was able to see the main focal points I was concerned about so no worries!
Back in Manhattan, I did myself a little good as to relax a bit because the heat was starting to get to me. My friends and I spent some time “cafe hopping” if you will, until it was dinner time.

I landed at Momofuku Noodle Bar, alone (sadly 15 minutes before they were closing up). I gave my apologies around twenty times, and explained how this night would be the only time I could eat here because I had plans for my last night. They were more than happy to serve me, in fact they went above and beyond with it. I order the chilled spicy noodles. Perfect for the hot weather even though they were over-ratingly spicy. But I liked that.

While eating through those house-made noodles and Sichuan sausage with spinach and slightly candied cashews, the kitchen put together a few gift dishes for myself. Pickled mackerel with seared skin, bee pollen, smoked strawberry and nasturtium. Amazing! Each little flavor pulled together so well. The pickling and smoking came together nicely with sweetness and acidity. It was a nice palate cleanser between the spiciness of my noodles.
One bite after another got better and better. My mouth was on fire, but it somehow felt great, in a weird satisfying way. Then, five minutes later my server Chris brought me another gift from the kitchen. 

A three bean salad with chick pea purée, lemon, dehydrated falafel and herbs. The beans were nicely dressed with nice acidity and tanginess, all that was light so you can still catch the flavor of those fresh vegetables with the chick pea purée on the bottom that honestly reminded me of yogurt. It was so smooth and just has the sourness(from the lemon) of European style yogurt. Very refreshing! I finished off the meal and ended the night with a walk around St. Marks. Momofuku you did a wonderful job with food that i take joy into eating. I can say that I will definitely return!

My last day arrived, I had something special planned. That is food wise. My cousin and I were going to the Mets game that night to watch them destroy the Phillies. I heard Shake Shack was opened in the new Citi field so everyone should already know where I’m headed with this one. You can’t beat a shake burger and fries on game night, especially when I’ve never had one before! A one hour wait was worth this burger for sure! Everything in it was perfect. The biggest enhancer was obviously the special sauce, but as far as meat and bun they were both nice. Great meat and good quality produce! Thank you yet again Danny Meyer, for establishing something that succeeds in not only great food, but great hospitality. Also a big thanks to the New York Mets for crushing the phillies 11-3. Citi field capped off my last might with a round of fireworks, not only for the big win but for the day we all recognize independence, July 4!

Sadly but surely my time in new york city has ended. I accomplished everything I wanted to and even more. I was able to not only eat at about all the restaurants on my “dining” list, but I also met some great friends along the way. I can look at New York now and say I’ve been to that city, and experienced that rush. What pride I take into that is sadly huge. Can I see New York city possibly in my future? Hmmm, you never can tell!
So, until next time New York, sleep well if you can and don’t stop serving people the best at what you do!

The goodbye walk from a fabulous city!

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