New York (part two)
So we were in on the third day in New York by now. We left the hotel early and as usual we caught the train to Central Station. New York Central Station is a landmark , much visited by the tourists, so being a tourist we headed that way.
This reminded of the scene out of “Friends With Benefits”
Massive building with huge marble facades
I love the old ticket boxes
You’ve seen it in many movies before and the movie that plays in my head is Friends with Benefits on the very last scene and for some reason The Untouchables, the scene where the baby’s pram is rolling down the marble stair case in slow motion but that movie was in Union Station, Chicago. I guess it’s because they look the same with their huge marble facades, marble stairs and brass stair banisters. So bloody big and I love that they kept the old station ticket boxes and wooden benches but what I loved the most was the food stalls (of course). It was located under ground and as soon as you come in, you see rows of tables then just behind that was the array of food stalls selling things from salads and soups and from Mexican to Asian food. Usual gamut of choices but what made it stood out for me was their set up. Yeah it was a food court but they didn’t make it look cheap, they really did build it to fit the grand old building, keeping the integrity of it.
From here we made our way to Union Square where I was introduced to the “whole foods” concept. Whole foods is a fantastic concept. Food packed in ready to be cooked, minimal prep time for the consumer, just simply buy and eat or in some instances, you just need minimal cooking time; cool idea for the time conscious New Yorkers. I also saw a lot of hot food and cold food ready for packaging then sold over the counter, another cool idea. This way you really you do get a home cooked meal but with out the fuss of getting your kitchen dirty. I assume this is to save time in the kitchen. Seeing that the apartments there didn’t really have a lot of kitchen space, it’s not only uninviting to cook but chuck the hussle and bussle of New York in there and I see why this whole food concepts would really take off.
View from Union Square
Pre-cooked food ready for packaging
Packaged sauces, curries etc
Hot food pre made
We were on another walking tour of NYC, so again we started in mid town and made our way down. I had a list of restaurants to visit, whether to eat or just to have a look at what they were doing. One of the restaurants was Momofuku. Momofuku is made famous by an American-Korean chef, David Chang. I have read a lot about the chef, his history and the food he cooks. I was so looking forward to experience it all first hand, so under the guidance of my friend, we made our way to 171 1st Avenue. When we arrived, we stood out side the door and again, I found myself with a smile from ear to ear. Another tick off the list. I think we stood at the doors like geeks for at least a couple of minutes before entering.
We were seated right on the bar over looking the kitchen, prime position to observe the chefs doing their craft. The restaurant was set up in booths on the right hands side as you walk in then the bar on the left where you can also sit at and eat. Further down the narrow galley like set up, the kitchen is on the left and bar stools where you can eat and watch the chefs. The furniture was made of light wood, reminiscent of Japanese interiors. We were excited and eager to taste the food so we ordered a couple of Japanese ales and started with pork/shitake –hoisin, scallion and cucumber steamed buns. Very nice. The filling had braised pork, all sticky and super tender and soft that it almost fell apart when you picked it up. As described, it was sauced with hoisin and finished off with cucumbers and sliced spring onions or scallions as they called it and it was wrapped in flattened version of Chinese steamed bun, folded in half with the filling in the middle like a sandwich, great idea from a service perspective (chef thinking cap on here) and a fantastic way to start a meal. We then had a serve of the Grilled Octopus- scallion kimchi, salsify, cara cara orange, a refreshing little number with an awesome orangey sauce that went extraordinarily well with the octopus; it was so refreshing. My mate had the Chilled Spicy Noodles – Sichuan spiced sausage, cashews – which was a salad type dish with these spice covered nuts and egg noodles. It was very spicy from the chilli oil I presume but the sausage was just magic. I had the Momofuku Ramen, pork belly, pork shoulder and poached egg. It was a ramen type dish with a nice broth. It was nice but we couldn’t finish it all, we had so much to eat by this point, especially starting out at Union Square eating pulled pork (which wasn’t that great, greasy, I’ve had better and made better). In all, I was glad I had eaten at Momofuku but as we got talking to the chef’s I did find out a few of their trade secrets which unveiled the curtain of mystery and from there it just didn’t seem as special, from a chef’s point of view. I loved that we ate there but I think there are places like Wagamama is as fitting or on the same level but still, I can now say I ate at Momofuku!
Excitement was mounting………
Cool Japanese like furniture
Chilled Spicy Noodles
We left there and found out he Momofuku milk bar around the corner. Another cool thing we just had to visit. Again, we sat outside like tourists and took pictures. We were way too full to eat so I’m sorry to say that we didn’t even get to eat a cookie!
Momofuku Cookie Bar – cool concept really!
After that, we went further down town to the financial district. First we walked around SOHO for a bit of shopping then down to Chinatown and walked around there for a bit of sight seeing. We also took our time taking pictures of the two bridges and getting to know lower Manhattan. It seems to me that this area of Manhattan is hip, happening and where the “cool” people seem to be. It is safe and you do get all the hip restaurants and cool shopping precincts. I love this area and if I was to live in NYC, I think I would enjoy living in this part of town.
The two bridges, Manhattan (left) and Brooklyn (right), looking into Brooklyn
The financial district is some what different, more buildings – huge buildings! When we popped out of the subway, I thought I was in the business district of Sydney. It was a concrete jungle. We were close to Ground Zero and I was curious as to where these two towers once stood and to find out a little more of what happened that day.
I remember exactly where I was that on that fateful day. I was in Oxford , England getting ready for work. I saw it being played out on TV and it all seemed surreal and I really wanted to see where it was and to pay my respects. We made our way to the 9/11 Memorial. It was a solemn moment, seeing the two infinity wells where the two towers once stood, the names of the victims inscribed on the side. It was a beautiful memorial in such a beautiful space to pay your respects and as you look up, you see two towers being built, supposedly it will be the highest buildings in New York once more.
Infinity pool with names of the victims inscribed on the side
New towers reaching for the skies
On our way out from the memorial, we get a call from the staff of the David Letterman show. Earlier in the week we entered our names for a couple of tickets to the show and they called to say we were lucky in receiving two tickets for the next days show. Now we had David Letterman in mid after noon followed by a Knicks game at Madison Square Gardens, can this trip get any better? But for now, its photos by the bronze bull in the financial district, walk up Wall Street and a bit of shopping at the outlet stores then dinner at Peasant.
Bronze Bull, depicting aggressive financial optimism
Looking down Wall St
Financial District looking towards Wall St
Peasant is an amazing Italian restaurant, located on 194 Elizabeth St in Nolita. Peasant is an Italian restaurant oozing with that lower Manhattan attitude and it was noticeable right from the start. The restaurant was recommended by a colleague who used to work here a few years ago and he had instructed his friend Paul, who still works there to show us Peasant in full light.
Paul greeted us and sat us down right next to the kitchen. From here you can see that this place was full of energy. I love the décor, wooden floors and exposed bricks, the kitchen is open and you can see the action happening in the wood fired oven, with the chefs behind stoves and the guys plating up in front and centre! The restaurant was a cross between villa in the middle of an Italian country home and a trendy art gallery with food! The place hummed, it was full of buzz but not too loud that it was distracting. Just from looking around the full restaurant you can see that this is a place to be seen, cool and hip and the people eating there that night certainly looked like trendy New York crowd. I was fricken loving the atmosphere and being so close to the kitchen, I can smell the goodness being cooked up.
The waiters were very good; I mean they were on another level. They knew their stuff and more importantly they knew their product and passion oozed as they described the dishes, it simply made you want to try every thing and from looking at the menu, we truly did want to try every thing.
The menu ranged from salads, pizza’s, pastas right through to suckling pig and baked sardines. I don’t know if New York coolness was getting to me but even the way the menu was written sounded cool like Polpi In Purgatorio which translates to baby octopus, chilli peppers which is one of the dishes we had. We ordered but we got more than we ordered! We had cow’s milk cheese and roasted tomatoes which was simplicity, authenticity and freshest indgredients at it’s best. Baked razor clams, prosciutto amongst other things and of course, we could not leave with out trying the Porchetta Arrosto, rotisserie suckling pig which was cooked to perfection. That wood fired oven certainly was working over time. It seemed almost everything came out of that oven and it made look and taste fabulous. The octopus was definitely my favourite. It came out sizzling in an earthen-ware dish, fresh from the wood oven I assume. Just when we thought we could eat no more, chef and owner Frankie de Carlo sent out desserts which sent us over the edge. Along with a bottle Italian rose for the night; we truly made a good effort at putting away this fine food, served by absolute pros and cooked by geniuses! Peasant restaurant, thanks for the lesson in Italian cuisine!
We tried to find this cool Mexican bar I heard so much about which was supposed to be near by, but with the cold and being tired from the day’s activities, we decided to call it a night, I mean, the next few days in New York were jammed packed! The best is still to come!!!!
To be continued…………………….