Monday, November 2, 2009
NYC Day One, part I: JFK to LES
[This post was originally drafted the good old-fashioned way, putting pen to paper - no typing, no blogger, certainly no thumbing it in on the mobile. Just a college ruled yellow pad, medium point blue pen, and hand movement. Writing is liberating, I highly recommend you re-visit it if it's been a while.]
After a long, unrestful red eye flight from San Francisco, my wonderful lady/ travel companion Natalie and I were happy to dump our bags and meet up with David McDuff, who was in town to attend a few of the Dressner and Kermit events taking place in New York last weekend, as well as to hang out with some like minded bon vivants such as the Brooklyn Guy, Cory, Guilhaume and me (more on that later). As McDuff pointed out, the east village is home to the city's greatest concentration of ramen spots. We agreed to meet at Setagaya. Small and casual, Setagaya consists of a small counter, some small tables and a communal table for eight (think high school cafeteria style communal table - not the large, handsome, solid piece of wood table you might find at your nearest locavore modern American eatery). We each ordered a bowl of the Shio ramen. Warming, translucent broth, simple but with terrific clarity of flavor, with perfectly toothsome noodles, a soft boiled egg adding richness and textural contrast, and the star of the dish, a few delicious, slightly fatty and smoky pieces of pork. Such a perfectly harmonious, satisfying bowl of nourishment has convinced me to partake in ramen more often. We also shared a small plate of kim chee, soft layers of thin cabbage (napa?) which represented a slightly vinegary, but spicy and tasty, vegetable addition to our meal.
After ramen, we headed to 9th Street Espresso for some excellent espresso drinks. I must have been due for my annual killer cup of espresso (I do drink espresso more often, just that it's seldom good). Jet lag temporarily stayed, we strolled over to the Essex Street market, where David introduced us to Benoit, who was manning the counter of Saxelby Cheesemongers. We tasted two cheeses from Vermont, our favorite of which was the Menuet from Laughing Cow Farms. In cheese speak, it's earthiness brought to mind a tomme de savoie, while the slight caramelized and nuttier notes reminded me of aged gouda. A delicious cheese, and particularly useful for late night soaking up of the wine we would drink later at The Ten Bells.
For a taste of something sweet, we consulted Natalie's list of food spots to visit, and headed to the famed Doughnut Plant. If you're a Bay Area doughnut fan, think Dynamo Doughnuts. The quality of the ingredients, which are organic whenever possible, as well as the terrific textures and intense flavors, make these some of the world's tastiest doughnuts, and elevates them to the realm of first class pastry. While the strawberry jelly doughnut with peanut butter glaze and the seasonal pumpkin cake doughnut were tasty, the tres leches and blackout were the true standouts. Each had a custard center (tres leches for the tres leches, liquid chocolate for the blackout), which I found to be cool innovations in the world of the cake doughnut. As the gentleman behind the counter proclaimed several times, in a classically proud New Yorker inflection, these donuts were truly "first rate." He also gently chided McDuff for his Phillies loyalties.
Up next: tasting Kermit Lynch wines with... Kermit Lynch; bookending a long and raucous evening at The Ten Bells.