02 May 2010

NYC April 2010: Old Favorites and New

I researched the hell out of this trip (as I always do) and had some great places lined up to try. While we didn't get to hit all of the spots, I'm very pleased with how this trip went, the highlights being some of the best things I've eaten to date. Our bus was running a tad late and we arrived in NYC about 30 minutes late. I had reservations at Lupa but we decided to skip them since we were already running behind. Luckily I had backup plans as I wasn't traveling alone. I had three places in mind for late night eats and left it up to my man G to decide where to go. I gave him the options of Co. Pizza, Sushi Seki, and the famous Halal cart on 53rd & 6th. He chose the closest option which was great because we were starving. So, we made a beeline for Co. at W 24th and 9th.

We arrived about 10 minutes before they closed at 11pm and made the host well aware of the fact that we knew they were closing soon and would eat fast. The place was empty aside from a few patrons at the bar and one huge table filled with a bunch of very loud and very drunk entrepreneurs which we were unfortunately sat right next to. The interior was fairly interesting with a lot of wooden tones and the very low "mood lighting" that annoys me and also makes for bad photos.

You can barely see the oven through that little artsy slit in the wall. Our waitress however couldn'tve been more friendly so we quickly asked about the specials and placed our order. I knew I wanted the Popeye which features pecorino, gruyère, mozzarella, spinach, black pepper, and garlic and the Honshimeji & Guanciale pie which unfortunately they didn't have. In it's place they were offering a Bird's Nest pie which featured three cheeses (I assume they were same cheeses listed for the Honshimeji & Guanciale pie: bechamel, mozzarella, and parmesan) thinly shaved asparagus, quail eggs, shaved black truffle, and truffle oil all for $24. While it was a tad more expensive, obviously due to the addition of the truffle, and I would've preferred a pie topped with pig and shrooms, we gave it a shot.

The crust at Co is thoroughly salted, some might say overly so, and wonderfully charred, more charred than any of the pizzas I encountered on our Pizza Conquest. The Popeye has been praised extensively mostly due to the fact that your not getting precooked spinach on a pie, nor are you getting raw spinach. It's because you're getting raw spinach that has been caramelized while the pizza cooks in their wood-burning oven. And let me tell you, it's GD delicious.

Some leaves were just barely cooked through while others were burnt to a crisp, disintegrating at the slightest touch. This created a wonderful array of textures and kept your mouth guessing, my only complaint being that the barely cooked pieces were sometimes tough to bite through, threatening to pull the entire layer of toppings into my lap.

The spinach added a great bitterness that worked well with the salty charred crust, the garlic, and the combination of cheeses. I didn't get much black pepper on my first slice but luckily the second slice featured a hefty dose of spice which I felt rounded out the flavor.

While I had never had a pizza with toppings like those featured on the Bird's Nest, it tasted pretty much exactly like I was expecting.

The bitterness from the shaved asparagus was pretty extreme and it wasn't until G came up with the genius idea of popping the quail egg with his fork and then spreading the yolk over the entire slice that I felt I could appreciate the balance of flavor. I congratulated him on his splendid idea and proceeded to appreciate a much more balanced pie.

The richness from the egg subdued the bitterness and resulted in a very interesting combination of flavors that I'd never had before. My first impression was that I preferred the Popeye, but after G enlightened me on the proper way to enjoy the Bird's Nest I would say I enjoyed them both equally. Since I haven't posted one in a while, here's my best Guy Fieri bite:

We declined our waitress' offer to peruse the dessert menu, we appreciated the fact that she wasn't trying to rush us out the door, left a suitable tip that reflected our appreciation and made the long trek up to 1st Ave in East Harlem where we were staying for the weekend. I made a point that we should hit the hey early because we had to get back down to TriBeCa in the morning for our 10:30 res at Locanda Verde.

We arrived right on time for our res at Locanda Verde and after snapping a quick exterior shot we were greeted by a gracious hostess who lead us immediately to our table. The space was huge and inviting with a lot of natural light streaming in through the tall windows. We were seated right in front of the pastry station where we had a clear view of them bringing our wave after wave of freshly baked goodies, but I resisted the urge to order the Pastry Mista as I knew we had a lot of eating lined up.

I already knew exactly what I wanted to order so I let my two friends peruse the menu (G can be seen doing just that above) while I washed up in the bathroom downstairs. I returned just in time as our waiter was bringing our water and asking if we wanted any beverages. We all declined but I jumped on the opportunity to order the much-raved about ricotta.

This ricotta was unlike any other I've tasted and truly one of the highlights of the trip. The ultra-fluffy texture was nothing short of sublime and brought to mind the notion of dancing in the sky on puffy clouds of creamy imported Italian sheep's milk ricotta bliss.

The addition of fresh herbs--is that cracked black pepper as well?--and a light drizzle of truffled honey in some mad scientist way, as A, the friend we were staying with, pointed out, produced a flavor reminicent of Trix cereal. Yes, you read that correctly, and once he pointed it out I couldn'tve agreed more. Well maybe not exactly like it. If Trix tasted this good I would have enough empty boxes lying around to put a 3rd story on my house. It may have been due to the slight citrus flavor from the burnt orange toast. Well, whatever it tasted like, it was GD euphoric.

It was only after the buzz from the ricotta had subsided that were we able to form coherent sentences necessary to place our order. I ordered the Uova Modenese which featured cotechino hash, spinach, tomato hollandaise, G ordered the lemon ricotta pancakes with fresh blueberries and Meyer lemon curd and a side of the crispy garlic potatoes, and A decided on the toasted hazelnut french toast accompanied by a light citrus salad. I couldn'tve been happier as these were all dishes I was really hoping I would have the opportunity to try.

Before I delve into the main dishes, I feel I have to emphasize just how good these potatoes were.

While maybe not the best iteration of potato I've ever had, they were without a doubt the best hash browns I've ever had. These potatoes are most certainly not for those with an aversion to garlic as they were smothered in it along with fresh herbs.

They were crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside, they were the first thing on the table to disappear. My dad is a garlic fiend and would've absolutely loved these potatoes. Vampires and those with somewhere important to be beware, a vicious garlic breath weapon shall be bestowed upon thee for 2d4 rounds/lvl.

Now, on to my delightful crock of eggs and hash.

This dish can be summed up in one word: rich. The perfectly poached eggs broke open to yeild the most decadent yolk I've had to date, and when combined with the wonderfully salty fatty cotechino hash and the bitterness from the fresh spinach the resulting flavor was the epitome of savory breakfast done right.

But the kicker of this dish for me was the tomato hollandaise. Wow. Just give me one of those beer helmets filled with this stuff and send me off into the wilderness. I'm sure it wouldn't take me long to discover an ancient tribe of natives and become their Overlord. "You may only quaff the blood of the Gods once you've quelled the unworthy!" Living proof that this hollandaise could topple empires. Can you tell I'm running out of ways to describe just how pleased I was with our breakfast at Locanda Verde? Along with the ricotta, these two things were the highlight of the meal.

G's pancakes were super fluffy and subtle while each individual flavor still had a presence. The french toast was uber creamy in the middle with a nice crisp outer crust. I have no idea how they achieved such a vast difference in texture in one uniform dish.

My first bite was great but this dish didn't really shine until I snatched a slice of orange and a hazelnut off my friends plate. It was then that I realized exactly what the chef was trying to achieve with this dish. Mission accomplished.

After finishing off the remains of the mountain of ricotta we settled up our check and headed out the door. We spent the day meandering the streets of Manhattan making stops at a few clothing stores and we checked out a brand new piece by famed street artist Shepard Fairey at the corner of Bowery and E. Houston. Quite a remarkable work of art. Unfortunately less than a day later we learned that it had already been defaced by his supposed rivals. People suck. Here are a few shots of the piece:

After having had our fill of top-notch street art we wandered around some more and hit our usual stop at Forbidden Planet. Sometime during our wanderings I happened to mention the best milkshake I've ever had which happened to be a few short blocks away at stand. Toasted marshmallow was all G needed to hear, he had to have it. That garnered no complaints from me so after a short walk and a wrong address given by google (the correct address can be found on their website) we arrived at stand.

The place was hopping as this was right around lunchtime but luckily they just happened to be clearing off a 4 seater against the left wall. The last time I was here was late on a Friday while a DJ was setting up and the majority of the patrons were at the bar. This time around the space was pleasantly filled with natural light and the bar was empty while most of the tables were filled. I find it amusing that I've been here twice with three other people and have only ordered milkshakes. The first time I didn't even look at the menu because, thanks to Michael Symon on the Sugar Rush episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate, I knew exactly what I wanted.

This time around we perused their list of flavors and one caught my eye: Ricotta Pistachio. Having just had the most decadent ricotta in the city at LV, combined with the fact that I love all things pistachio, I took this as a sign. I asked our friendly waiter if the ricotta pistachio compared to the toasted marshmallow, to which he replied that it was one of his favorites. I warned him that I would hold him to his word. He assured me I would enjoy it. G ordered the go-to toasted marshmallow and A after being told they were out of mint ice cream (he wanted the mint cookies and cream) went with the chocolate peanut butter cup.

I had high hopes as the hipster food runner (complete with rait-tail mullet hairdo abomination) laid out our milkshakes. I took one sip, made eye contact with our waiter and told him "Yeah, I'll take a toasted marshmallow if you don't mind. Sorry." This milkshake may have been a fine offering at your run of the mill shake stand, but it cowered in the awesome presence that is the toasted marshallow.

G took a sip of his, savored it for a brief moment to the get the full effect then replied "Oh my god..." Yeah, it's just that good. While I wated for my shake I got the opportunity to sample A's chocolate peanut butter cup and it tasted as just that--a liquified Reece's cup.

It's like mama bird chewed up a reeces cup and then regurgitated it into a glass for us, the ever-hungry baby birds. Cheep, cheep. Do you feel me? I'm speakin straight love here, nah mean? Anyway, I finally got my cute little milkshake and it was somehow better than I remembered it.

I truly did not think that was possible. It's the quivering soul of a s'more ripped from it's mortal coil and pureed into a glass for your enjoyment. And, in case you didn't already know, souls are delicious.

That is all for now. I reckon this weekend will be a 3 part series. What's still to come you ask? Rice pudding, blueberry pancakes, pork buns, pancakes and bacon soft serve, and the best burger I've ever had in my life. Plus much much more. Stay tuned.
Co. on Urbanspoon
Locanda Verde on Urbanspoon
Stand on Urbanspoon

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theminx said...

Yum yum!

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