16 July 2009

NYC 07/09: Day 1: Milkshake Epiphany

I visit NYC fairly often to hang out with friends and commence the cosmic gluttony. I usually eat more than any normal human being would, but then I try to walk it off while touring the city and doing other things. It usually works... not always. I'm definitely feeling a bit squishy today, but it was most certainly worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. This trip was a birthday present to myself. I took the bus up with my friend Zack whom I met while working as a QA tester at Big Huge Games. We stayed with my friend Adam whom I met through World of Warcraft. Adam and I were in a guild together, he was one of the main tanks and I was the mage class lead. We met when our guild had a get together out in Vegas and have kept in touch, although neither of us still play the game. Now that I've thoroughly outlined the reasoning behind the trip, let's get to the good stuff...

Friday I went in to work early so I could leave at 2pm, rush home and get my things and then burn down to the Baltimore Travel Plaza to catch the 2:50pm bus to Port Authority. Zack met me at my house and we arrived at the station at 2:45pm just in time. Or so we thought. We got our tickets at the counter and ran outside expecting the bus to arrive any second. We waited. And waited. We watched other people board their buses all the while wondering if someone was playing a cruel joke on us. On top of the fact that our bus was nowhere to be seen the slack-jawed yokels that work at the station couldn't even give us a straight answer as to whether or not we missed it. At around 4:10pm as we were standing on the curb a bus driver happened to be walking by and inquired what our destination was. He said he was going to Port Authority but he had a stop in Newark and was running late but would arrive around 8:30pm. He offered us a ride and we gladly took it. The weekend finally began.

We arrived in NYC around 8:40pm and knew exactly where we were going and what we were going to eat. Zack is the kind of guy who's up for anything but has no opinion one way or the other, so I took the liberty to research and plan where we were going. I'm a foodie, it's what we do!

My first planned eating destination was Una Pizza Napoletana. They open at 5pm and only serve pizza until they run out of fresh dough at which point they close. Our bus was supposed to arrive at 6:35pm, so I was set on going there. But since we didn't roll in until almost 9pm, I had already resigned myself to the notion of yet another trip without UPN. But the always optimistic Zack suggested we go by there anyway since it wasn't very far from my back-up dinner spot. So we arrived closer to 9pm and found a line outside. My hopes were restored; I was finally going to get to try good New York pizza. We get in line behind 2 girls and my spirits are definitely lifted. A guy comes out covered in flour and wearing a white apron, he obviously worked there, and goes up to the two girls in front of us and mumbles something to them and they nod signifying they understand and he walks back inside. One girl turns to me and says "Sorry but they're closed, they're out of dough." I respond: "They're out of dough? What is everyone in line for then?" She says "Oh we got the last two doughs." I look to Zack while she goes on to say that they'll be open at the same time tomorrow but I barely hear her. Screwed out of pizza again. I growl something unintelligible and show the restaurant a majestic double one finger salute. I storm off, Zack, perplexed, following behind. I'm done with UPN. Pizza, no matter how good, shouldn't be this arrogant. I understand the man may have a love for his craft and be a tad eccentric, but this is a ridiculous way to do business.

Luckily, I had multiple back-up plans. Not missing a beat, we head to Holy Basil for highly recommended Thai food. We get there and the décor is great, if a bit moody. It felt kind of strange being two starving energized dudes who just arrived in the big city, ready to paint it red, and our first stop is an intimate dimly lit Thai dinner. The waiter approaches and we order the Duck Spring Rolls and two Thai Chang beers.

The beer was excellent, unlike any domestic I've had that's for sure. It reminded me of Kingfisher with a few more flavor dimensions. The spring rolls were good with a nice crisp shell and moist duck in the middle. The accompanying sauce was also great. I probably could've eaten it with a spoon. Nothing spectacular, but a nice start to the meal. After some recommendations from the waiter I order the Pet Kaprow which he said was the house specialty and Zack ordered the Kang Massa-mun.

My duck was fabulous. One of the best iterations of duck I've had to date. Each piece was crispy and succulent. The Thai basil definitely popped, but I would've liked a bit more. You can never have too much basil. The bell pepper and tomato added an extra layer of moistness that rounded out the whole dish. I didn't try too much of Zack's curry but the chicken was tender and he raved about how addicting the sauce was. We tried another round of beers this time going with Tiger, which was good but fell short in the shadow of the surprisingly light and complex flavor of Chang. We paid the check, downed our beers, grabbed our bags and headed out the door. Little did we know we were on our way to the dessert that would be the culinary highlight of the weekend.

The next destination on our itinerary was the Stand for a Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake. I first came across this wonderful creation on the widely popular food blog Serious Eats. After seeing the photo, my dreams were filled with merry romps through lightly caramelized marshmallow fields and swimming in streams of heavenly white goo. Then, about a week before my trip, I saw it again on Food Network's 'The Best Thing I've Ever Had' being destroyed by Iron Chef Michael Symon. Not just one, but three! That sealed the deal. I had to have it. We arrived at what we expected to be a burger joint but was unlike any burger joint we'd ever seen. This place had a full bar right in the middle and a DJ setting up in the back pumping 80s tunes into the whole scene. It was rad. Our waitress came up and attempted to hand us menus but we told her we knew what we wanted and ordered two milkshakes. We took turns in the restroom and before Zack returned, she was on her way back, milkshakes in hand.

I couldn't help it, I took a sip before he got back and immediately starting giggling to myself. It was somehow better than I had imagined. It wasn't overly thick, but it wasn't too thin. It was light and drinkable and filled with tiny bits of marshmallow. The straw was nice and wide so there were no hang-ups. I immediately understood how Michael Symon could drink 3 in a row. I was considering it, and would have had we not planned on hitting the bars afterwards. After our initial reaction a couple walked by and the woman turned to us and said "Toasted Marshmallow Milkshakes, that's why we're here. Amazing aren't they?" I emphatically agreed. We got talking and she recommended a few bars for us to try nearby. She also said that this milkshake was her second favorite in the city. "Second favorite?" I asked "There's something better than this?" She said the only milkshake in the city better than this was the S'mores milkshake at 5 Napkin Burger. Dessert plans for Saturday? Check. I felt that $6 was a little expensive for a milkshake but when Zack and I discussed it, we both agreed that we would've gladly paid $10 for this wonderful elixir of marshmallowy goodness. This one definitely restored all HP/MP. We paid the check and off we went to the next destination, a bar suggested by our fellow shake enthusiast, the Half Pint.

Upon entering Half Pint we immediately validated her opinion as sound. This bar was great. It had a decent amount of room to move around without too much extra space, the décor was minimal and the lighting was darker but not dark. And one could immediately see all of the lovely beers on tap. I asked the bartender for a suggestion and after a few seconds of deliberation (his first suggestion was Brooklyn Lager which I promptly shot down, not a fan) we ordered up two Blue Point Toasted Lagers. This beer was also unlike anything I had had before. The foam was had a bitter edge and before it hit my lips I thought it would be overly bitter, but the lager was anything but. It was smooth and definitely toasty. After the foam dissipated, so did the bitterness. It went down easily and was very pleasant. I'm not sure if this beer is something I would drink in any large amount because I feel the toastiness might become too much. Even though I'm most certainly not a fan of Budweiser they make a good point that drinkability is very important. I regret not ordering a second round because I really would've liked to try the Blue Point Blueberry seasonal, but we had an agenda to maintain.

I got a hold of Adam who just got off work at midnight and said he would be at Bar East until close so we could rendezvous with him at anytime.

So we started walking north, making stops in Washington Square for some scenic pictures and Union Square for an hour and a half of ridiculous breakdancing. Zack and I are both fans, and watching these guys battle it out to MJ meddlies was definitely a highlight of the trip. We finally made it up to Bar East on 90th St. around 2am where Adam was playing pool. He had an open tab so I ordered the last bottle of Kingfisher, which I love, and Zack and I threw down on some darts. My first two throws were straight bulls-eyes. It was going to be a good weekend. This bar was fairly typical; you could tell most of the patrons were locals as they all mingled together. After my Kingfisher I took a suggestion from the bartender and had a Defiant Muddy Creek microbrew. It wasn't very good. We did a round of patron silver shots and hung out until close. We played some 3 Inches of Blood on the jukebox and no one was into it. I wasn't surprised. Adam looked at me with a smirk and just shook his head. I mean, why would someone not love metal about killing orcs and robots from the future? If you don't, you may want to reconsider reading this blog as I'm not sure you belong here. Shortly after last call we headed back to Adam's place and crashed out. I had been up for over 24 hours and I was spent. I could never imagine what the morning had in store for me...

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