Tag Archives: vacation

New York food guide

5 Sep

Manhattan skyline

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to travel to New York and grabbed it! I lived there during the summer of 2008, while on a J1. I had an incredible time and fell in love with the place. It constantly changes and never sleeps- it is absolutely infectious. I hadn’t been back since The Silver Chicken hatched, so I was more eager than ever to discover the best and most interesting food spots I could find. I arrived in on  a Monday evening and left on a Thursday evening- so I tried to cram in as much as possible.

Monday:

Burger at Bubby’s

The first spot I ate in was Bubby’s in Brooklyn. It describes itself as ‘American Cookery’ and has a decent choice on the menu. Slightly flagging from the flight, I went for a burger. It was good. Served with excellent stringy chips, a wedge of gherkin (more places should do this). It went down a treat. It’s a cool restaurant, with a slightly vintage theme. My sister who lived nearby assured me that it was a very busy spot at peak times.

Tuesday:

I was staying in the Meatpacking district. In the Jane Hotel. It was a fantastic find. Now I was a solo traveller, spending most of my day out and about, so I didn’t  mind the fact that the cabin was not the most spacious room I have ever stayed in. For the price- you won’t beat this is NY if you are travelling alone. The staff were excellent, there is wonderful character to the place and it had a beautiful bar area- which I sadly only found my way into after checking-out. The Jane was a real find and one I look forward to going back to!

The reason I mention this? In my current health-kick- I thought I would be virtuous on my first morning. The hotel is situated on the Hudson. So I got up, threw on a pair of  ‘runners’ ( not my running ones crucially) and set off towards the new Freedom Tower which is extending at pace into the Manhattan skyline. After a very modest run- my feet were ruined, and remained so for the entire trip.  Luckily for me attached to the hotel was Cafe Gitane. So after limping back, I wandered down, took advantage of the free wifi, and had a wonderful breakfast of baked eggs with smoked salmon. It was a lovely spot. You could have been in Paris- high ceilings, space between the tables and staff that broke with the traditional American approach to ‘service’.

Once my feet recovered sufficiently- I set out to explore parts of Manhattan that I didn’t have the opportunity to before.

Given my location parts of Greenwich village and SoHo were ripe for discovery. One find of the trip was Murray’s cheese shop. It was a temple to all things cheese- and other produce. Worth a visit.

Mozzarella chilling out in Murray’s

The highlight of the trip from a food-shop perspective was my first visit to Dean & Deluca. I had heard a lot about this place. Its reputation as a mecca for food lovers was not misplaced. I walked in and was speechless. I wandered open-mouthed for probably 30 minutes. All I can say is: Go! The header photo on the blog is actually taken there.

Dean & Deluca

As I needed some nourishment mid afternoon- I happened across the newer (posher) Chelsea branch of Doughnut plant. What can I say? When I lived in the Lower East Side I lived only a minute’s walk from their original incarnation. As a result- I frequented it with some regularity! They are not like any doughnut you will ever have experienced before! Check out their website to see the assortment of flavours. The Chelsea branch came with free wifi and friendly staff.

As I was meeting some friends that night, and I ran out of time, dinner was in McDonald’s. What can I say- I had these wonderful tapas style chicken pieces. The McNugget. Little morsels of tender chicken, fried in a delicate batter. Served with a piquant sauce that had both sweet and sour notes. Stunning.

Wednesday:

Clinton St. Baking Company

Wednesday was by far the most rewarding foodie day in terms of eating. I started off by meeting the younger sibling and went on an unduly marathon walk ( I may have slightly underestimated the distances involved) to the Clinton Street Baking Company. A very well-known and very, very busy breakfast/brunch spot. As we had intended breakfast- I had my heart set on pancakes but by the time we got there a lunch/omelette seemed more appropriate! It was good, service was efficient, and I would definitely recommend it as a breakfast spot in the LES. En route here we walked by Katz’s Deli– which I am yet to try despite its fame!

When people find out I’m a food-blogger, 90% of the time, their first question is: “What’s your favourite restaurant?” This is not a question I like answering I always say it depends on the company, occasion and of course budget. I will break this rule here though. I think Nha Trang is my favourite restaurant. Every time I have eaten there the food has been excellent. It is also cheap! Now this place doesn’t look much- tiled walls, you get a teapot as your water jug. The staff are also robust to say the least. If you order too much or too little, they will let you know!

Asparagus swimming with crabs

The sister had the crab and asparagus soup. Any soup that you can eat in the middle of the summer in NYC is worthy of a mention. It’s a very fresh dish and is enormous. I also love the grilled pork and mint rolls. The pork is full of the flavour of the grill but its richness is cut by the fragrance of the mint and the freshness of the other ingredients in the roll and the dipping sauce.

I also had a plate of spicy squid and it was really lovely. It was hot, had lots of flavour and the squid was very tender. The bill for the two of us came to a grand total of $26. Go to Nha Trang. It’s on Baxter Street- so if you are doing the tourist on Canal Street, it is only a short walk away.

Afterwards I tried the famous Chinatown ice-cream factory– which is on the same block. I wasn’t wowed by the ice-cream, but it may have been a poor choice on my behalf- others I know have raved about it.

Thursday:

Boarding….plate?

For those of you into quirky kitchen utensils/plates/ props- take a trip to Fishs Eddy. There were so many things I wished I could have bought. Very funky plates, mugs- all sorts. As I was limited by suitcase space- it took an awful lot of restraint not to buy anything here. I especially liked the plates made to look like old airline tickets. Just down the road is Whisk– another nice cookery shop. It’s a great few blocks for kitchen paraphernalia!

Another new-ish food shop in New York that is starting to attract a cult-following is Eataly. It is a massive Italian food shop. The variety of products on sale is incredible. They have everything, but as you can see in the photo they have lots of everything- countless types of pastas, cured meats, cheeses, the list goes on. The cool thing about this place is that they mesh food shop with somewhere to dine- so as you wander the aisles there are people munching away at tables. I also like the espresso bar you can stand at and revive yourself at. Something to combat the jet-lag with!

Strong pasta crops this year…

As I was flying out of JFK that evening- there was one more thing I needed to do before grabbing the subway out to the airport. I wanted to visit Shake Shack. I had heard a lot of hype about this place. I hasten to add- I beat the lunch rush ( I went to the Theater District branch) and there was still a queue out the door. A nice touch was that they brought out iced drinks to those of us baking outside. The burger was good- it was everything a burger should be, good bun, well cooked and all the ingredients combined for a very pleasing taste.

The shake was delicious and the fries were good. They also had a few beers from the Southampton Publick House . This is a small brewery/bar on long island which I had the pleasure of visiting a few years back. They have a beer called the double white, available in Shake Shack- a deceptive 8.5%-er. There is a small wait for the food- and most people who were there with someone else used this time to scout for a table or ledge to eat on. As a solo diner- I lacked such a scout. I ended up wedging myself in amongst another group- but they were kind enough to let me join their table.

By now it was nearly time to go to the airport- but I had just enough time to meet some friends and the sibling for a pint before dashing to the airport. In fact Jack, Debs and PJ were such good company- I lingered a little too long- and let’s just say I had an energetic dash to the airport to make the flight.

New York is one of those places, where if people have been- they typically have at least a  few suggestions on where is there favourite little place to eat or shop. I’d love to hear yours, so please comment below.

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Furlong & Kehoe: Ice creamy goodness on Thomas Street

19 Jul

furlong & kehoe

Just a quick little post this time. I was brought to a new ice-cream shop yesterday on Thomas Street called furlong & kehoe. Check out their website for information and what they’re about. As you may have gleaned from this blog over the last while- I like quirky, independent shops/producers that do things their way!

This is one such example. We got chatting to Ian and he gave us some background to this very new venture. We got to sample some of the flavours- Beetroot and chocolate was very interesting and you tasted both very independently. Maple and Bacon was also delicious and very different. I went for their vanilla- which was really beautiful and had that great elastic consistency you get with proper ice-cream. They’re only new- 2 weeks old- so I would certainly recommend giving them a try. Dublin is all the richer for new foodie- ventures like this and I think they are well worth supporting.

Brussels food guide: Beers, Frites and all things nice

3 Jul

I recently travelled to visit a friend in Brussels for a long-weekend. I was very excited as I had heard much about the food, frites, beers and of course the chocolate!  I was in unsafe hands- as Shane had been living there for 4 months at that stage- so knew all of the haunts I should visit.

Stoemp

Eating out: We spent the weekend grazing around the city, and thus only ate out a few times- two places are worthy of a mention- one is 9 et Voisins. The restaurant was very full upon entering and we were seated at demi-communal bench seating.  Service was very friendly and enthusiastic. We both opted for Stoemp, a traditional dish of sausages served with mashed potatoes- infused with a purée of some sort (I opted for spinach). It was delicious. The sausages were chargrilled and the mash was wonderful. Simple food, but delicious!

Busy counter at Noordzee Mer du Nord

The second place that we both enjoyed was Noordzee Mer du Nord. We ate here on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It serves tapas- style plates of fish. We had one plate of small pieces of fried fish and a plate of brown shrimp croquettes. Topped off with two glasses of white wine- the total bill came to about €16. The ‘restaurant’ is a long metal bar which you can stand at, or they have a few tall tables on the neighbouring square. The service is certainly robust, but good fun. If you don’t collect your order promptly- expect your name to be screamed over a megaphone. Really. Definitely worth a visit if the weather is good.

My favourite frites from the weekend

Monument to the frites

Frites: When I asked you nice people for tips for Brussels- my friend John got quite enthusiastic about the frites. I didn’t realise what a feature of Belgian life they are. There are even statues of them currently dotted around the city to mark the fact they are celebrating a special year of gastronomy in 2012. Shane is currently busy with the onerous task of compiling a list of the 10 best Friteries in the city. We sampled 2 of his favourites. La friterie de la Barrière de Saint-Gilles is regarded as one of the best in the city and this was certainly the case, however my favourite was Chez Antoine on Place Jourdan. The latter is surrounded by bars- some of which will allow you eat your frites at their tables if you buy a beer. We whiled away a very pleasant half hour there.

Bars:Here is a brief round-up of some of the bars we visited:

Potemkine – my favourite- retro with fantastic, old-style fridges behind the bar. Front opens right up and was the perfect place for some people watching.

Flamingo– big, little bit like a canteen. Newly gentrified area, thus a very good place for people watching.

Moeder Lambic– nice long bar- great selection of beers. Frequented it more than once.

BarBeton– nice bar- smallish but good atmosphere.

Walvis– little alternative music wise- good bar with a Villo (Their version of Dublin bikes- €1.60 for a day pass- brilliant for getting around the city) station right outside for the journey home.

Somewhere that is well worth a visit that also has a percentage volume is the Cantillon Brewery. It is a traditional brewery, brewing only in the winter months (to make use of the low temperatures) but still open for tours during the summer. It is very informal- they give you a brief, but insanely informative talk and let you wander the building at your own pace. Afterwards they will give you some samples of the beer. Admission is €6.

Aksum Cappuccino

Sweet tooth stuff: Belgium is very famous for its chocolate, it goes without saying. Brussels is hanging down with chocolate shops- most of them catering to the tourist trade. There are exceptions to this though. Shane happened to be living very near one of the chocolatey highlights of Brussels, Pierre Marcolini. The chocolates and other sweets in this shop are incredibly beautiful. They are works of art. Wouldn’t a photo be ideal here to illustrate my point? Unfortunately- no photography allowed. I ate one of their almond milk and raspberry ice-cream cones. It was delicious, but be prepared to pay more than you would for a Cornetto. If you are a caffeinated individual- I would have to recommend Aksum, an Ethiopian coffee-shop. It is a friendly and cosy place to recharge the batteries on a quiet street. Free wifi too.

Finally- over the course of the weekend- we tried to sample as many different beers as we could- in the tasting sense rather than the binge sense.  Aided by the fact most beers are served in 200-300ml measures. We managed 23 different varieties between us- ranging from the lowest supermarket own brand- to the delicious craft brew.

Here they are:

Lindemans framboise – like blended raspberries.

Stella Artois

Westmalle tripel

Omer traditional blond

Taras boulba

Zinnebir

Maes

Volga- brewed with vodka.

Vedett wit

Cantillon lambic- the basis for their other brews- sour!

Cantillon framboise

Cantillon gueuze

Mac chouffe

Rond blanc sureau- flavoured with elderflower. Served with a strawberry and wedge of orange. My favourite I reckon Rond blanc sureaufrom the weekend.

Leffe blond

Jupiler

Delhaize 365

Hoegaarden

Grimbergen blonde

Delirium Tremens- deceptively light! 8%

Leffe radieuse

Adelardus triple- sweet and again deceptive. Another 8%-er

Witkap stimulo

Edinburgh food guide

16 May

Last week, I asked you nice people for suggestions for food related places in Edinburgh. I got some great suggestions in terms of places to eat-out in and some interesting shops.

I went over with my better-half to visit some of her nearest and dearest and they brought us to two places I want to talk to you about.

The first was Holyrood 9A. This is a great spot for a few reasons. As you walk in there is an impressive array of interesting beers on draught at a very attractive bar. Crucially  it had one of my favourites Blue Moon. Secondly the menu was interesting, with an array of quirky options. My (adventurous) Cheese burger was served with nice skinny fries and a side of slaw, and presented attractively. Also it was nice to be served a burger that you could actually eat with your hands rather than the towering skyscrapers most places serve. Approving noises were made all around. Others got the steak-sandwich, and the Shroom Italienne, with Piri Piri fries. Service was very friendly and prompt. Also worth noting- this place is child friendly- crucial as we had a little person in tow.

The other place we frequented was The Scottish Cafe. It is located in the National gallery in the Princess Street Gardens. It is an open and airy dining room and was  humming on the Sunday afternoon we visited.  It sources a huge amount of its produce from Scottish producers and the menu reads nicely.

I opted for the cheese sandwich with chips (god I ate mundane options this trip). In truth it was a posh cheese sandwich, with Isle of Mull Cheddar, nice red onion relish, and a barley and beetroot mix. The barley and beetroot mix was different, my only gripe was the cheddar was grated and made the sandwich a little dry. My better half had the rabbit terrine with some bread (more on this in a minute) and she enjoyed the dish. We finished with a rhubarb tart and a portion of set cream. The tart was tasty and different from the typical, it was almondy and moist and I ate every morsel. The better half  and her sister shared a portion of set cream. I managed to sneak a taste or two- and it was one of the most delicious deserts I have tasted in a long time. The consistency was perfect and it had a rich vanilla taste- studded with an abundance of vanilla flecks.

While the food here was good- I am sorry to say the service was not at all in the same league. The side of bread mentioned earlier- ordered with our food, didn’t arrive. After reminding a waitress it still didn’t arrive- and on the third asking finally arrived at the table-  quite some time after the dish it was due to accompany. I asked for a refill of water and it never arrived. There were a lot of staff walking around- but they seemed ambivalent, certainly towards our table.

 

I would like to thank everyone who tweeted, facebooked and left suggestions for this trip- I really appreciate it.  Also I would like to thank the other half’s family for the weekend and for bringing us to these places. I’m looking forward to the next trip already.

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