Tag Archives: New York

Toast Post: Manhattan Cheese Trail

American Farmstead Cheese on Lower East Side window- by Tad Seaborn

Rather than repeat myself less eloquently in regards to my cheese-a-thon in NYC, I thought I would post  a link to today’s Travel Section in the Globe and Mail where I write about chasing the cheese (thanks Julie!) in New York.  If you would like some ideas on where to go, or just want to get your mouth watering please take a look.

If you have the paper, then you will see the above picture (which truly sums it all up) and some other beauties, plus a map of Manhattan showing all the cheese stops I made. Enjoy!  I certainly did.

Purchasing snacks at Saxelby Cheese, Essex Street market.

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My iPhone is still sticky from Donut Plant (but it was worth it)

This blueberry glaze is made fresh from real fruit.

Donut Plant. I know, you’re drooling.  Yet you’re thinking, no, it’s too much that donut!  Too sweet, too dense, too purple.  But it was gold, until I took a bite of my Tres Leche (super-gold).

Which ruined my strategy of “only taking one bite “.  My theory was that since we were going to Momofuko Ko that night I could not be eating donuts all morning (especially since I had just eaten a bagel on our walk over and had a lot of cheese to finish back at our apartment).

Apparently I could, and did.  My one-bite plan was quickly abandoned at first taste of the Tres Leche.  This thing is filled with evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream.  PEOPLE, go to New York right now.

I barely had the willpower to remove the above donut from my mouth and take its picture.  My hands were so sticky that the HOME button on my iPhone may never recover.

“My iPhone for a donut!” I may have yelled.

Donut Plant’s Crème brûlée donut has been called a “Boston Cream on crack” by Maxim magazine and I am sure they know their crack.

There are two types of donuts available; the denser “cake” donut and the fluffier, chewier “yeast” donut.  I am cake all the way.  Owner Mark Isreal uses his grandfather’s recipes but spent years perfecting his cake donuts.  The man even invented A square jelly-filled donut so that the filling is evenly distributed between the dough.

Donut Dedication. Checkout the whole history on their website.

Here’s what we saw inside when we finally found Donut Plant which is in the Lower East Side.

I did not go in with a plan and then I panicked.  Luckily my trusty donut instincts drew me to the Tres Leche.  But why did I did not also get a Vanilla Bean or Valrhona chocolate I cannot explain.  Questions that may plague me til my dying day.

(Here is a little review from NY magazine for more info).

And though Momofuko Ko was amazing (more later) this was hard to beat.

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NY NY: Fat Radish, Lost Cheese and Beer Braised Tongue Tacos

Our first morning in New York we forced ourselves to get up so we could be at the Friday Union Square market to get some fresh sheep’s milk ricotta before it was all gone.   An eye-opening, creamy latte from coffee truck (no such genius coffee trucks yet seen in Toronto) was consumed en route.  It was a gorgeous day.  We wound our way to the very last stall but found no ricotta making in progress anywhere.  Disappointment was quickly squelched when this was unravelled…

The couple that sell their cheese at this stall have roots in Italy. Jody was a shepard and their traditional Italian cheeses are made mainly from sheep milk.  This one is covered in wine must sourced locally in New York.  The flavour of the grapes worked its way into the paste.

This Caciotta is made from cow (Jersey Cow-can you see how intensely yellow the paste is?) and their milk comes from an elderly farmer next to their farm.  Sadly it will soon be phased out as the farmer will be giving up his business.  After a lengthy chat we asked him if he knew who sold this incredible ricotta.   And guess what!  They are the ricotta makers-but they weren’t happy with the recent batch and thus had none.  Sigh.

There were a few other cheese stalls in the market selling fresh chevre, goat milk Camembert, Alpine style cheese and aged cheddar.  And if you care about stuff like  fruit, veggies, greens, lavender and breads, they had that too.

Market Stalls made us hungry for someone else to make us market-fresh food so we headed over to the The Fat Radish on Orchard Street.

Tad had the BLT with poached egg, crispy bacon and oven-roasted tomatoes.

And I had the Market Plate of veggies which featured heirloom carrots, turnip, kohlrabi, radish and  cauliflower all either steamed or roasted and seasoned perfectly and tossed lightly in a walnut vinaigrette.

Brown rice with crispy onions on the side and some carrot-ginger puree.  If this is vegetarian I am IN.

It was a day dictated by cheese destinations,  we walked everywhere and had a good tour of the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village.  Below is Murray’s cheese counter (Bleecker Street Location).  Take a number and try a whole bunch of cheese.  Everything smartly organized by style from soft and bloomy to blue.

Or buy some artisinal yogurt, cultured butter or chestnut honey from France.

And if you’re me, buy a 1 pd wedge of a cheese called Dante (plus wildflower honey) for your cheese club, carry it for hours and then forget it on some random steps in the city after stopping to reorganize your purse.

But when you lose cheese, buy more cheese!  We wandered over to Lucy’s Whey which is in the Chelsea Market and tried some amazing American artisinal wedges.

Dinner was at Empellon Taqueria in the West Village which will be 1 yr old next week.  Chef Alex Stupak (formerly of WD-50) has chosen to focus on tacos at this restaurant (and tequila if you happen to be handed the booze list).  He recently opened a more “fine dining” version of the restaurant called Empellon Cocina.

Damn iPhone can’t take stunning gorgeous food photos in the dark but imagine you were dining with us by candlelight…

You can order tacos in pairs or in threes.  The above is beer braised tongue with potatoes and Arbol chile salsa and we also had soft-shell crab tacos,  scallop tacos with cauliflower, capers and raisin puree and over-salted fried Yuca chips.  The service could have been a bit better, although had the waiter come by more often I would have drank way too many Margheritas.

Overall, it was fairly lip-smacking and Tad and I ended the summery evening on a lovely but touristy note walking around Rockefeller Plaza. (my request, I wanted to be surrounded by big NY buildings.  I love doing that.  Reminds me of the first time I came here and just kept looking up as I walked.)

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NY NY: One pork bun too many before dinner at Prune

The Wild Blue Yonder

Departing Toronto and flying to NY on Thursday, we arrived just in time for all the trees to bloom.

East Village in Bloom

Once set-up in our apartment on St. Marks Place we ran to grab some lunch around the corner at Momofuku Ssam Bar.

We really did run as it was almost 3pm and they close until dinner at 3:30.  Tad had had their buns of deliciousness before so he  craved reunion while I was happy to finally be introduced.

Better than a circle of friends.

My picture cannot really convey the deliciousness which caused me to eat one pork bun too many when I was already bursting.  But the eyes would not back down and I shovelled the last one in feeling equally satisfied and slightly queasy at the same time.  In hindsight, an hour later, I have no regrets.

Bun-ravelled.

We had two steamed pork buns each and a pulled duck bun.  The duck bun was lined with smoked mayo and sauerkraut and the pork was accented by cucumber, scallions and hoisin sauce.  The bun was soft like newborn Wonderbread, crust removed.  Fresh, tender, sweet, salty flavours.

As I perused the drink list and I noticed a Riesling from Tawse Winery.  I said to the server, “Oh how nice, I’m from Toronto so happy to see a Canadian wine on the menu” and she replied, “Yes, wine making is getting popular in Canada.”

Why yes- yes, it is!!!

After some R&R at our apartment we wandered out again before dinner.  It as a gorgeous night.

The Cooper Union Building

We wandered around and I went into a couple little boutiques where jeans came in waist sizes for women from 23-28 (well, ok, it was the sales table but they were all beautifully laid out and not a bigger size in sight).  We headed to Prune for dinner at 7:30.

Prune (NYTs review) has been in the East Village since 1999 and is at 54 East 1st Street. Chef Gabriella Hamilton won the 2011 James Beard Foundation Best NY Chef Award and has recently written a biography called Blood, Bones and Butter (excerpt here from Bon Appetit magazine).

The pictures below were necessary but taken under duress as the place only seats 30, and it’s elbow to elbow.  Obnoxious food blogger iphone antics seemed out of place and I was extremely self-conscious.  Tad twisted my arm.  Lighting sucks but “picture it” all in better light. And btw, I don’t think you come here without ordering the bone marrow.

Roasted marrow bones, parsley salad (with capers) and sea salt on the side.  Served with grilled bread.  The sum of the parts –the fatty, rich,  mouth-coating marrow with the sea salt cleansed with the bright, fresh flavours of the parsley salad was luscious.  You really are temped to stick your tongue into the bones (once the little spoon renders itself useless) to dig as deep into the crevice as your would like.

Our mains--see the clams and pork in the back?

The mains were also lovely.  I had Arctic Char (with the crispest, sweet skin I’ve ever tasted) on a lemon rice which was like a light risotto mixed with fresh peas.  Tad had pork shoulder with Littleneck clams in a broth filled with kale and white beans.  The tender, delicate pork was sitting in the broth surrounded by the sweet, tender clams.

Not too sweet, a little espresso bitterness in the chocolate. Perfect conclusion!

Dessert was a chocolate semifreddo (an Italian chilled dessert usually softer than typical ice cream) on slightly sweetened whipped cream and I think it had little caramel bits around it  (we’d finished a bottle of wine and a negroni at this point).

So excuse my bad photos, tomorrow I hunt for cheese.  Til then….

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Trigger Happy- My slightly obsessed efforts to get a Momofuko Ko reservation

I’m going to New York this weekend with my husband.  The weather looks like it will be fabulous, we’re flying Porter so will avoid Air Canada nonsense and we found a great apartment to rent for 4 days in the East Village.  Yet despite all this and the simple pleasure of wandering New York itself, I am obsessed with getting a reservation at Momofuko Ko.

If you like to eat, and you like to to travel  then like me,you probably prepare your food itinerary before you do anything else.  I am slightly concerned that I overplanned but more concerned that I won’t be hungry enough to eat all things I want to eat.  And I do want to eat a giant pastrami sandwich which takes a while to digest–which could kill at least three hours without food.

We’re having dinner at Prune Thursday night,  Friday we are doing Mexican at Empellón Taqueria, Saturday lunch at Artisinal with friends (cheese and wine flights here I come)   and Saturday night was to be at Momofuko Ko.   I had it all figured out.  You can only reserve at Ko on-line 7 days in advance.  You get a password and enter the site, and then hold your finger over the mouse pad until the second hand hits 10:00 am and then you FIRE.  If you’re lucky you’ll see one slot in the 12-seat restaurant still showing a green check mark and not a BIG RED ‘YOU LOSE” X.

After already spending 1 1/2 hours on the phone (the Monday 5 weeks in advance that I was allowed to call)  trying unsuccessfully  to get a seat at the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare I was pretty turned off by the “cross your fingers and hope to eat” reservation system.  I had already rescheduled my day to phone Prune at the exact right moment.  But, this on-line thing seemed simple.  I tested my speed on the mouse button on the Momofuko site.  How fast could I be?

Like a gunslinger in the old West practicing to draw his six-shooter I was ready for this Sunday, March 18 which would hook me up with a Saturday night reso.

But then my son’s first soccer practise got scheduled for the same time on the same Sunday.  First as in, “first ever”.  He’s 3.   After a brief but serious discussion with Tad about which was more important (Felix might not like soccer, I was sure I would like dinner) we decided I would take Felix to soccer and he would stay home to make the reservation.  BUT HE HAD NOT BEEN PRACTISING.  I didn’t mention my concern as it seemed slightly….crazy.  But I left detailed instructions.

I got the call as we headed onto the filed.  ALL BOOKED.

I felt loss then anger–why did these stupid restaurants have to be so exclusive?  I could eat a hot dog and be happy–I  was lucky enough to be in new York!  And there was the Shake Shack to think about.

And yet, just this morning there I was, finger hovering over the the mouse pad, and I did it.

See how easy it is?  And only a $150 charge and loss of your reservation if you’re fifteen minute late.  This is my lucky day.

Only problem is Sunday night we were planning to have dinner at Colonie in Brooklyn.  They don’t take reservations there so maybe we’d get in, maybe not.   Sigh.  Maybe I should just go wander around  the MoMA.

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