One of the things I enjoy most about going to New York, besides the unlimited theatrical offerings, is definitely the food. In one Manhattan block, you’re likely to find the cuisines of several different countries or regions from around the world. Here in Texas, you’re lucky to find more than barbeque, fast food, or Tex-Mex in one corner of the Metroplex. If you want Italian or Chinese, you’re most likely to be limited to a major chain restaurant. Now, I’m not saying that Texas doesn’t have good food, it just doesn’t have the gastronomical variety of the Big Apple. My stomach enjoys dietary differences from meal to meal.
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions New York City and food is pizza. Good old slice of thin crust pizza. Nothing is more New York than walking to any of the thousands of pizzerias in Manhattan and grabbing a slice of heavenly cheese pizza. And I adore a good slice of New York pizza. My husband, not so much. He prefers the thick-crusted Chicago variety. But even he was swayed to enjoy a slice of thin pepperoni. I’ve heard New Yorkers owe the magnificent flavor of their pizza to the local water. I don’t know if this is scientifically proven but whatever it is, I’ll have another.
But man cannot live on pizza alone, although my mother tried very hard during our first trip to New York fifteen years ago. My husband and I wandered across an Irish pub down the street from our hotel in Hell’s Kitchen. Built in 1868, the Landmark Tavern is a joy. This place might just convince my husband that a move to Manhattan is in our future. The staff is wonderful, the food delicious, and the ambiance historically breath-taking. Another thing you can’t get in Texas- hundreds year old buildings that aren’t museums. Wait, we can’t get hundreds year old buildings. Fort Worth alone only dates back to the 1840’s. Most buildings over fifty here get torn down so something newer can go up in its place. Okay, back to the Landmark. We went here for dinner two nights in a row. Being vegetarian, I am more limited in my choice of offerings when I go out to eat. So, I had the vegetarian spring rolls both times, and I would order them again. They were crispy, tasty sticks of pure deliciousness. Two sauces accompanied the rolls. The first was a salty soy sauce and the second was a spicy sweet Asian sauce. Combining the two led to a heavenly cacophony of flavor, one that I will dream about for the rest of my life. The first night my husband sampled the Shepherd’s Pie, which, generally, is already of his favorite dishes. This one might just be specifically one of his favorite shepherd pies. On our second visit, he varied it with the Bangers and Mash, which he also enjoyed.
Vegetarian Spring Rolls
Thanks to my obsession with the Travel Channel and travel shows in general, one of the places that was planned ahead of time with the help of a great deal from Amazon Local, was S’Mac, short for Sarita’s Mac N Cheese. We visited their Lexington and 33rd location. Getting there right after opening, we beat the lunch crowd and started our meal with the restaurant to ourselves. With our deal, we each got the Major Munch portion of our choice of Sarita’s Recommendations and a drink. As a self-proclaimed Macaroni and Cheese connoisseur, I went with the Pariesenne. My skillet held a creamy marriage of shitake mushrooms, brie, rosemary, and figs. It was so incredibly filling that though I try as I might, I could only down half of this splendidly cheesy dish. The crust that tops each skillet itself is a marvel to behold. When your fork breaks through and the steam escapes, you know you’re in for a real culinary treat. My husband went with the Cheeseburger skillet. He, too, though delighted with his choice, simply could not finish his meal. Even without our Amazon deal, this meal would have been one yummy bargain and will remain on our must-eat list for our next trip to Manhattan.
After working off our skillets with a lengthy walk back to our hotel, the husband and I rested up before starting the thirty street journey to Columbus and 78th for our next stop around the world in eight meals. This time, thanks to Groupon, we discovered a fabulous Middle Eastern restaurant by the name of Gazala’s, which the features the cuisine of the Israeli Druze heritage. Our meal started with our choice of a hot or cold meze, or starter. While my husband chose the Meat Cigar, I went with the Hummus with Mushrooms. The paper-thin pita served with it could barely support all the flavors provided by the creamy hummus. The mix of seasonings was perfect with the mushrooms and pita. Although I would have like to have tried the Artichokes, it wasn’t available with our deal. No big deal, we’ll try it next time because like S’Mac and the Landmark, we will be returning to Gazala’s. Feeling adventurous, my husband tasted the Halabi, a meat dish which he described as “very authentic and very well spiced.” He loved the tastiness of it. I partook of the Falafel Plate, served with a savory red cabbage side dish and Tahini. These were the best falafel I’ve ever had, and I’ve eaten lots of falafel. They were crispy and savory and paired well with the creamy hummus of the appetizer. For dessert, we split the Date Cookies, which the menu describes as “semolina dough stuffed with chopped dates and walnuts.” They were also topped with airy confectioner’s sugar. After the sugar overload, we were thankful for the thirty block walk back to Hell’s Kitchen. Overall, our meal was fantastic and the waitstaff extremely courteous and helpful. Our waitress was able to answer any of my questions as to what on the menu would be suitable to my vegetarian diet. Also, the menu left plenty of delicious-sounding options for us to try next time.
Hummus with Mushrooms
Our last major foray into the world of food was at Studio 54. Yes, that Studio 54. And after continuing the history of the location by “shooting up” in the leopard-print carpeted upstairs bathroom (okay, it was insulin. My love of food and the genetic lottery has led to me being a diabetic,) we headed downstairs to the theatre. Roundabout Theatre Company has turned the main room of the famous, and infamous, 1970’s Disco club into a 1930’s Weimar-era Berlin cabaret for their production of…”Cabaret.” Since this was the main event and reason for our trip to Manhattan, I splurged and reserved us seats at one of the tables in the Orchestra section. Along with the fabulous view of the stage comes table service. In between the waiters running over to compliment our clothes, we ate…well. While the husband ate the German Meat Plate, I munched on the Farmstead Cheese Plate. It featured a selection of German cheeses, crackers, a yummy fig jam, grapes, strawberries, and sticky sweet candied walnuts. Each and every one, delicious. I passed on the Peppermint Schnapps but only because I didn’t want to dull my senses for the show. Sorry, no pictures of the food that night. Along with the knitting, the book, and the broom, we also put away the cell phones. Somehow, they just don’t seem apropos for the 1930’s surroundings.
And so, besides the complimentary breakfast at the hotel and lunch at LaGuardia airport, that was our last meal in Manhattan this time around. We had a fantastic and memorable time in the city that never sleeps but always eats well.