Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New York Chronicles Day 1

Early morning departure from Richmond as the sun came over the horizon. Landed in New York before 9 and took the M60 into Manhattan through Harlem, straight down the main artery, 125th Street. Signs of the old - "Fried Chicken, oxtail, collard greens and yams" juxtaposed with Presidential Pizza, a nod to one of Harlem’s newest residents, Bill Clinton.

After dropping our bags in Midtown, we headed over to Brooklyn to visit our old friend Dave Crofton, and see the new digs of One Girl Cookies, founded by Dave’s bride Dawn. It has grown literally from an apartment industry to a 14 + employee operation with a retail storefront in the hot Smith Street. They make a variety of sweets including cookies, cakes, Whoopie Pies and chocolate macaroons. We walked around Brooklyn a bit- with a requisite stop at the iconic Arab market, Sahadi on Atlantic Avenue. A crowd waits for bags to be filled with treats from enormous bulk glass jars of nuts and grains and dried fruits. Mountains of fresh pita bread, a dozen varieties of olives, fresh grape leaves and bulk spices fill out the scene. We met Dave back at the shop and went next door to French café, Bar Tabac. A cold Stella Artois took away any travel edge from the morning and a steak sandwich and pommes frites made for a lovely start to a 3 day food extravaganza. Friday afternoon was lazy and meandering, from Broooklyn to Nolita and Soho. We window-shopped, people-watched and enjoyed an afternoon of freedom on a perfect New York 75 degree day. Stoppped for a fresh limeade at Café Habana before heading uptown for a rest and a cocktail before dinner.

We ventured back downtown to the East Village to David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar with the hopes of having dinner- I had heard stories about long waits, and on the way there we passed his newer ssäm bar where a large crowd waited outside. Much to our delight, the noodle bar only had a 1/2 hour wait. We hung out with a few Brooklyn Pennant Ales and stood in front of an enormous photo of The Band from their Music from the Big Pink album in Woodstock. B side classic rock filled the room amidst the chatter of long communal tables of folks slurping ramen. The food. The reason for the visit. And worth the wait. We started with Seasonal Pickles, a nice variety of lightly pickled veggies including turnips, shitttake mushrooms, carrots, fennel and kimchi. We moved on to one of the house specialties, Steamed Pork Buns. David Chang is serious about his pork- he sources it from Paul Willis/Niman Ranch & Eden Farms. His steamed pork buns are a perfect combination of fluffy sweet bun smeared with hoisin and topped with crispy pork belly, crisp cucumbers and scallions. The pork melts in your mouth. Baby Bok Choy is sautéed with onions and chunks of Benton’s smoky bacon from Madisonville, TN- a great combo of crunchy bacon and spicy dried chili peppers. We finished the evening with another of Chang’s brilliant concoctions, the Momofuku Ramen- chunks of crispy pork belly and shredded pork swim in a dark and rich broth; poached eggs sit atop perfectly spun ramen noodles. We ate and slurped and tipped our bowls to drink every last drop.

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