good food reasons to visit New York
1. Katz’s Deli
Katz’s Deli is a New York institution. Anyone who’s interested in food should pay it a visit – even if just for the pastrami on rye. Established in 1888 Katz’s has survived two World Wars and is the scene of Meg Ryan’s infamous orgasm in When Harry Met Sally. But be warned: the burly butchers behind the meat counters can be rather sour (unless handsomely tipped; in which case you get a generous portion of pastrami on your sandwich).
2. Eleven Madison Park
Eleven Madison Park was voted the best restaurant in New York City in Adam Platt’s Where to Eat 2012 and 10th best restaurant in the world in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Besides the high accolades, I was immediately drawn to eating here as the 14-course tasting menu explores the history of New York City through food. Chef Daniel Humm’s food is extraordinary to say the least, and the “menu” you are presented with upon arrival is a list of ‘ingredients’ or words from which you have to choose 4. Humm then customises the 14 courses around these core ingredients. (I picked ‘foie gras’ – sorry! –, ‘parsnip’, ‘sweetbreads’ and ‘pistachio’.) My friend Taryn picked ‘langoustine’, ‘lobster’, ‘pork’ and ‘chocolate’. The highlight of it all was a personalised tour into the kitchen where a mixologist created a frozen Colony cocktail with liquid nitrogen and gin (see pic below) whilst we observed the militant kitchen operations. (Taryn swears it’s the best drink she has EVER had). Once again, a bit of forewarning: it’s not cheap and getting a table is quite a feat.
3. Food Trucks
I don’t quite know where to begin on this one. The food truck revolution is a phenomenon. Run by the NYC Food Truck Association via social media, you can get just about any specialised food – from dim sum, Mexican, souvlaki, burgers, empanadas – at various intersections in the city at any given time of day. And it really works. In fact (and I’m going to be bold in this statement), watch this space… My favourite: Wafels & Dinges serving waffles with various toppings including savoury pulled pork.
4. Shake Shack & The Burger Joint
I’d heard a lot about Shake Shack prior to my trip, and even though the burgers are great (that Shack Stack – cheeseburger with a crisp-fried portobello mushroom stuffed with melted Muenster cheese – is beyond description), it still doesn’t hold a candle to The Burger Joint at the Parker Meridien. And I use the phrase ‘at the Parker Meridien’ very loosely as ‘the joint’ is sequestered behind floor-to-ceiling drapes behind the hotel lobby. And when you get behind the curtains and make your way down a dark passage, a vinyl-boothed space reveals itself in all its New York ‘underground’ glory. The options are simple: cheeseburger with hand-cut fries and a cola or beer. There’s no website.
5. Starbucks and a bagel
What’s New York without Starbucks? Yes it’s a chain, and yes it’s probably not the most original discovery, but there’s nothing quite like a New York Times, bagel with cheese, caffe americano and a corner table from which to watch the world go by.
6. Bowl of coffee at Balthazar
Apparently, if you’re into celeb-spotting, Balthazar is where it’s at. I didn’t see any. But the ‘coffee in a bowl’ and the general vibe is totally worth a visit. (Even though the food’s not really much to write home about).
7. Dean & Deluca
No trip to the city would be complete without a visit to Dean & Deluca.I visited the original store that opened in SoHo in 1977 at the corner of Prince and Greene Streets. It’s technically a ‘food department store’ overflowing with produce from seafood and shellfish, breads, cheesemongers, butchers and dry goods by any name. Heaven.
In a similar vein, Wholefoods is definitely a worthwhile stop. I saw these incredible heirloom tomatoes there:
9. The Magnolia Bakery
Magnolia Bakery is a tricky one… Yes it’s an institution, and yes it’s quaint (plus it’s located on my favourite street in Greenwich – Bleecker). But the cupcakes weren’t as mind-blowing as I’d expected. Or maybe we’re just a bit over cupcakes? Personally, I think both Tina Bester and Kirsten Zschokke’s (of Miss K fame) cupcakes are far nicer!
10. Chelsea Market below the High Line
Chelsea Market is located just below The High Line. The market is open seven days a week and is a great place to stock up on a takeaway picnic to have on the High Line or for a sit-down meal. We had lunch at Friedman’s Lunch (by the way, the BLT on sourdough is a winner.)
I love you Cape Town, but I can’t wait to go back to the Big Apple.