New York Noshing, Part 2

I think I need to move to New York City for a whole year to eat at all the places that were on my list to try. Although, honestly…I could certainly just go to Zabar’s everyday and die a happy man. And for all the scoffing that Whole Foods gets, I’d be thrilled to have a store with the range of fine products that they do. Sure it’s not all local, or organic. But it’s nice to find a major supermarket chain carrying healthy foods, unscented products (which I stocked up on), a huge selection of local cheeses, plus chocolates from all over the place, near and far.

And for anyone that wants to complain about ‘Whole Paycheck’, go out and pick a basket of raspberries in the blazing-hot sun…then figure out how much it’s worth if you were to sell it?

So I came back cranky, probably because I had to suffer the indignity of the flight attendants physically unhooking my fingers from the outside of the airplane door at JFK Airport so we could leave. Luckily I brought an extra empty suitcase and stocked it up with maple syrup, dried California apricots and sour cherries, and a few other odds and ends as souvenirs. But while in New York, I had plenty of delicious moments…

If I had to name one of my Top Ten foods of all-time, it would be the Black & White Cookie. Although it’s getting harder to find freshly-made ones that aren’t shrink-wrapped, in New York. But good things come to those who search…

Black and White Cookie

I once made them (from a recipe in here), and realized it was a dangerous proposition. The good thing about making them yourself is that you can make them slightly smaller than the jumbo 7-inch disks you normally find.

And speaking of abnormally-sized Black & Whitesholy mother-of-Black & Whites!

Black & White...Cake!

It’s a Black & White Cake!


Excuse all the exclamation marks! But was I excited to come across this beauty! If I wasn’t by myself and had amassed a considerable amount of foods definitely not in the ‘healthy’ category in my hotel room, I would have had them tie one of these striped babies up for my in the sturdy cardboard box with the twine for me.

Moshes
115 Second Avenue
NYC

Ever since someone who writes about food for the New York Times told me, when I was writing my ice cream book, “David, you have to go to Il Laboratorio di Gelato. They have the best gelato!”

I never had a chance to go. But this time, I wised-up and planned in advance by asking owner Jon Snyder if I could set up a time to come visit. That way I’d be sure to get there,

Il Laboratorio di Gelato

Il Laboratorio di Gelato is a tiny little shop, and when I walked in, Jon was simultaneously roasted pistachios on a hot plate burner, churning gelato, fielding phone calls, and scooping gelato for anyone walking in that morning.

Jon Snyder

Jon started making gelato way back in 1983. Then he sold the business and went to work on Wall Street. But he tired of that and decided to start again and opened Il Laboratorio di Gelato five years ago, and to much acclaim.

You never know what you’ll find when you walk in. When I was there, flavors included Mastic, Olive Oil, Chocolate Malt, Pumpkin, exotic Toasted Sesame and tangy Crème Fraîche. I was pretty fascinated by the range of flavors Jon makes. But what really surprised me is that, if he feels so inclined, he’s open to creating a special flavor for someone…even if they just want a quart!

The gelato here in pretty pure: few mix-ins are added and he uses no eggs or cornstarch for purity of flavor. I’m certain to be going back on my next trip to New York, and I won’t need an appointment next time around to make sure I do.

Il Laboratorio di Gelato
95 Orchard Street (between Broome & Delancey)
NYC

Bacon Chocolate

One of the most interesting people in the chocolate world in Katrina Markoff, owner of Vosges Haut Chocolate. When I wrote my chocolate book, I just had to include her since I love what she’s been doing with chocolate. And since then, she’s expanded beyond her base in Chicago and opened shops elsewhere, including New York City.

Naturally I was dying to try her newest, wackiest creation: Mo’s Bacon Bar—Applewood-smoked bacon and smoke salt embedded in dark milk chocolate. Okay, the jury’s still out for me on this one. I love all three components, but I’m not sure they go together so well. If anyone has any thoughts, leave them in a comments. This is one controversial bar of chocolate, I am guessing. Would love to hear what others who’ve tried it think.

Vosges Chocolate
132 Spring Street (between Greene and Wooster)
and
1100 Madison Avenue
NYC

Concord Grape Juice

When I was a wee-toddler, my parents took me to Disneyland. I wasn’t as fascinated by the rides and attractions as I was with the Welch’s Grape Juice Pavilion. I still remember that taste of icy-cool, deep-purple cup of Concord grape juice. And the love affair never wavered with the juice of these native American beauties.

So I was thrilled to see glasses being served…make that self-served!…at New York’s Greenmarket: I filled a big glass up and took a swig. Concord grapes are really delicious and at some point, I just know I’ll find a French farmer willing to plant a few vines just for me. But until then, I guess I’ll need to head back to New York each autumn for a frothy glass brimming with the sweet, flavorful juices of vitus labrusca.

Greenmarket
Union Square
NYC

Planters Bar

I did have to get my junk-food fix. But on the scale of ‘bad’ foods, really…how bad can a handful of salted peanuts caramelized into a bar be? If you’ve never had a Planter’s’ Peanut Bar, do yourself a favor and pick one up. Now if they’d only come out with a version enrobed in dark bittersweet chocolate, like my beloved…

Mallomars

Often cited as one of the best places for wood-fired pizza in New York, I was walking down the street and ran into Waldy’s. Since it was Saturday, it was almost empty (the women next to me said it was always so packed they never bothered), and I was happy that I could partake by chance.

Waldy's Pizza

If you’re alone, a small pizza is p-lenty big. Mine has pepperoni, broccoli rabe and fresh tomatoes on it. My little beef is always to wonder why places serve fresh tomatoes when they’re not ripe. Why not just leave them off if they can’t get good ones?

And this was perhaps the sturdiest crust pizza I’ve ever had: I could barely slice it with a knife, Parisian-style, and had to pick it up with my hands. Sacrebleu! But it made a nifty lunch and was happy to have stumbled upon Waldy’s.

Waldy’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Penne
800 Sixth Avenue (between 27th and 28th)
NYC

And some other places I went to of note:

I loved the guacamole made tableside at the upscale Mexican eatery, Dos Caminos. Great enchiladas as well. Had superb French fries at Shake Shack, and would love to find a way to get them to teach the eateries in Paris to get them to that level of crispness. The cheeseburger I had was rather ho-hum, but it’s a shack in the park for gosh’s sake. And with fries like that, the burger can take a back-seat for all I care.

I went to both Momofuku and Ssäm Bar…on the same day!
Am I a trooper, or what?

The Pork Belly Buns were indeed hefty handfuls. But the food lacked a bit of depth of that which I’ve had in authentic Asian restaurants. While I think David Chang’s fusion-ish food succeeds, you’ll have to excuse my home-town bias is saying that if either of these restaurants was in San Francisco, I think they’d have pulled it off better.

(And I think you New Yorkers must have cast a hex on me: Just as I typed that last sentence, the tooth I cracked my first night in NYC eating pizza finally fell out with a plink onto my keyboard. Touché…)

Adam dared me to brave Brooklyn for dinner at Al Di La, which was a smart choice. Although the wait is long due to a no-reservations policy, all was worth the wait and my nicely-cooked flank steak followed by a trio of house-made ice creams and sorbets were great, the Concord Grape being my hands-down favorite. At Prune, I had the greatest waitress ever. Usually solo diners get the sort-shift in restaurants, but she sheered me up with a nice glass of Spanish white wine and took care of lonely me all the way, starting with spiced-fried Chickpeas, to Lamb Sausage and Clams, and through to dessert; a crumbly Torta di Grappa with black grapes.

And just a few more words…

One of the unfortunate refrains I heard from most of my friends who are bakers and cooks in New York was “Ugh! The food bloggers…” It’s sad that people who love to write about food and share our experiences are getting a bad rap. Since I don’t live in the US nor do I read blogs and sites that focus on trashing restaurants, I didn’t realize the hostility being generated.

Maybe I’ve been lucky, but almost everyone I’ve ever worked with in a restaurant kitchen, who wrote a cookbook, or opened a food-related business, put a lot of hard work into it. Few have illusions of getting rich or famous; they do it because they have a desire to simply cook and share what they’ve made. Perhaps that sounds idealistic, but that’s the feeling I’ve gotten working with even the greatest and most famous of chefs. No one ever began their shift saying, “Let’s see what we can pull over on the customers tonight.”

Sure not everything’s a success and there’s always a few rotten apples on both sides of the stove. But it’s important to remember that being a guest in a restaurant, ice cream shop or bakery is a honor.

The operative word being ‘guest’.

I don’t know why anyone would deliberately set out to antagonize a chef or a customer, but it’s sad to hear about it all the same. And it’s especially unfortunate that cooks and bakers are all miffed at bloggers and have developed a wary skepticism of someone wielding a camera. It’s okay to be critical if the situation merits it, or to mention something enervating. But please be respectful of others when you’re a guest in their establishment. It’s just food—and if we can’t all sit down together and enjoy it, something’s gone wrong.

Big thanks to everyone who I met in New York, who fed me, who showed me around, and who broke bread—and in a couple of cases, a Mallomar or two—with me.

Read New York City Noshing, Part 1

41 comments

  • There’s nothing like the sight of a black and white first thing in the morning (when I’m reading this post) to take me right back to my childhood in NYC. I haven’t lived there for years, but when I do go back, I always have to have three things: a black and white, a good “street” pretzel, and a proper pickle from the Lower East Side. And as for bloggers trashing restaurants, well, really, what’s the point?

    As a food writer who is not a reviewer, my mantra has been: if I didn’t like it, you won’t read about it in my column or on my blog. If I have constructive criticism, I pass that along to the establishment with a phone call or email. If I had a terrible experience, I pass that along to my friends.

    I do think the best, most creative voices writing restaurant critiques (surprisingly, the Financial Times has some of the best food writing around) come from knowledgeable food writers, most with culinary backgrounds, many of whom have worked in restaurants and understand the challenges as well as the possibilities.

  • Hi Lydia: I recall the days when if you had a problem with an establishment, you brought it to their attention so they could fix it (hopefully!)

    I don’t do restaurant ‘reviews’ for that same reason. I prefer to point people in the direction of places I like. And the flaws I find, I try to balance them with something positive about the place. And yes, the Financial Times has some of the best-written, well-balanced food articles around.

  • In all the bake shops in NYC how did you fall in to Moshes! I am a kichel fan and have been going there for years, perhaps too many years. Love the cake.
    Your vacation are always fabulous. Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to try the pizza.

  • Unscented products!!! I know!!! (Sorry for the !!!) What is it with the french–they scent everything. At least there’s usually just a simple lavande, but still…

  • I’ve been a newspaper restaurant reviewer in the past..I went anonymously, visited a restaurant three times, and had 2 or 4 other people with me each time. And I paid for the meals. When self-styled reviewers even begin to adhere to those sorts of guidelines, I’ll respect their opinions.
    On my blog, I discuss only restaurant dishes I find memorable.

  • Next time you’re on the East Coast, you might find it worth your while to come down to Philly to try Capogiro‘s gelato. Small batch, local ingredients (where possible) and very addictive!

  • I’m a fan of the bacon bar… salty, a little smoky, wrapped in the creamy sweetness of chocolate. I wish I had one right now.

  • See? This is why those of us who don’t live in Paris always pork out when we are there…too much good stuff to eat, like going to NYC.
    I think I just gained 10 pounds reading this post.

  • Oh David, this piece about NY’s most delicious finds has me salavating. As a former New Yorker now living in Florida, you brought back gastonomique memories that has me drooling, (not a pretty picture). Black and Whites are my favorite all time cookie. Nothing satisfies quite like that disk of cakey white cookie with Chocolate and Vanilla frosting.

    And the peanut bar..I thought they stopped making them but perhaps I have to make a trip to NYC to fill my soul with these pleasures. And of course the pickles and hot pretzels, OMG!

    Just a note, I made your banana bread and it received rave reviews from family and friends. Thank you for this interesting, humourous and informative blog.

  • Hi David,

    I tried the applewood-smoked bacon chocolate bar in Vonges Haut–I must say though that it is a very brave and innovative creation, but it somehow does not fit into my taste. Maybe it’s the salty and crispy bacon flavor (very preservative-enhanced) that somehow overpowers the chocolate, but mostly because I can imagine those crispy bacon dog snacks! On another note, the kalamata olive-white choco bar is DELICIOUS…you should try that next time!

  • Hi David,

    I tried the applewood-smoked bacon chocolate bar in Vonges Haut–I must say though that it is a very brave and innovative creation, but it somehow does not fit into my taste. Maybe it’s the salty and crispy bacon flavor (very preservative-enhanced) that somehow overpowers the chocolate, but mostly because I can imagine those crispy bacon dog snacks! On another note, the kalamata olive-white choco bar is DELICIOUS…you should try that next time!

  • Well I, for one, am glad to see you get back on that plane.

    Reading about the culinary delights of Paris is one thing–it’s so far away I can thoroughly luxuriate in the vicarious thrills you so ably provide! But New York? Been there, done that, and still miss the food, which, if certain life choices had turned out differently, would still be within reach. No vicarious thrills there, just an envious pang.

    Which is a complicated way of saying: I’m glad you had a good trip, particularly as I understand, deep in my gut, what a wonderful time it had to have been.

  • I saw that bacon chocolate bar at Whole Foods in Chicago actually, just to let you know :)

  • I actually posted a review of the Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bar a while back. I liked it — the chocolate/salt combo really does it for me. Here’s my review

  • Out of some crazy coincidence, I just bought the Vosges Bacon Bar today. I’m really not sure why I did; I’ve had a hatred for bacon ever since my days working in a cafe where I’d come home with my clothes and hair reeking of the stuff – plus, I’ve never had any Vosges before, so why would this be my first choice? Masochism?

    Surprisngly, I really liked it. It didn’t seem at all meat-y, just had a depth of smokiness and saltiness. However, I will be trying the rest of their range before I go back for secondsies. Might you, or anyone else, have a recommendation?

  • Speaking of strange chocolate bars, on a road trip a couple years ago I came across a Gabriola Gourmet Garlic “Garlic-Chocolate Bar”, and couldn’t resist picking it up to give it a try. Garlic-infused dark chocolate–who wouldn’t give that a try? Perhaps I was influenced by the bar next to it that made even that seem tame: Dark Chocolate with Garlic-Cream centres.
    To make a long story short, I spent the next few hours through the wilderness ruing the fact that we hadn’t brought anything to drink along.

  • I was weaned on Black and White Cookies from a bakeshop in Fort Lee, NJ. Now Moishe’s Bakery is the only place that will do. I was once lucky enough to have a baker boyfriend who made an entire box of the best black and white cookies ever for me but I stupidly didn’t get the recipe. I have made my own and the cake part comes out but the frosting is always too runny. I will try again soon.

  • I haven’t tried the bacon bar (though I’ve been tempted), but I have tried both the Woollooloomoo (macadamia nut and coconut) and the Barcelona (smoked almonds and salt) and enjoyed them both immensely. Does anyone else suffer from sticker shock? They are fantastic candy bars, but $7 (okay, it’s $6.99) is a bit steep, despite the fact that the box is pretty.

  • Well I am a cook and a blogger, so I think I still like bloggers!

  • I didn’t like the chocolate bacon bar – in my estimation the Barcelona bar has all of the positives and none of the negatives – with the crunch of almonds and a little salt. It’s my favorite.

  • Meg: Yes, the price does cause one to pause, but it was such an unusual combination, it didn’t matter. Next up is one of those Barcelona bars that Alice and other recommended!

    Kevin: Ick! Anything with garlic in it for dessert gets a pass in my book. At least you were out in the woods were no one could smell you.

    Estelle: Since you’re a baker, like me, I just found a recipe for Black & White cookies on Epicurious.

    They’re really fun to make, although I only used the recipe I mentioned in my post. If you make them, let me know how they turn out.

    Nancy: I was just walking by and it looked good. I guess my ‘pastry-radar’ still works perfectly. What a great Jewish bakery; I’m so glad I found it!

    Casey: There are people that adhere to certain guidelines on the web (but apparently they’re the exception…) but, like you, I just prefer to point readers to places that I like.

    btw: This was a great post about customer service from the fabulously-funny Food Whore.

  • I really really want one of those pizzas now. I’m in Seattle, and the best woodfired pizza I’ve had recently was at Via Tribunali (one of Tom Douglas’ ventures)… It was incredibly good, but still, it was $13 and the crust was kinda floppy.

    I may just try that Epicurean recipe for Black and Whites though, that sounds delicious!

  • I love that you found Moishe’s- I went to school literally above them (part of nyu) and every single morning the smell was maddening! They have the absolute best hamantaschen ever, I think in my first month of school I ate one at least three times a week.
    One of my favorite places to shop in New York is Chinatown- the fish and seafood selection is wonderful. Also, I rarely go there, but the market in Grand Central is great, if expensive.

  • An excellent post – am thinking I need to go on a diet for a year then go visit New York for a month, armed with notes from your blog!

    As to the Concord grapes – these are grown in Italy under the name of uva fragola (apparently). So you might find them in France somewhere under a similar name.

  • I know of two bacon bars in existence. The first I tried was from a fine food shop in Harvard Sq. in Boston. The owner of the shop delared this chocolate to be wonderful and insisted I would not be disappointed.

    The bar was fully of soggy bacon and tasted heavily of whisky. Yuck.

    I have a cookbook on frontier cooking that saids woodsman used to take their whisky ration and pour it over their bacon ration and eat it like a soup. That bar was like that (unfortunately do not remember the brand) so when I saw Katrina’s bar I had low expectations for such things. However…

    Katrina’s bar is lightyears away from that terrible other chocolate bar. Her chocolate is, of course, fantastic, and her bacon has been carmelized so it is crispy like toffee. I guess what I am attempted to say is that it avoids the pitfalls of that other terrible terrible bar of chocolate.

    That being said I do think in theory that maple + smoke + sea salt + bacon would be amazing but somehow it falls a bit flat. I don’t quite know why. The chocolate definately overwhelms the bacon and it becomes more about texture than OMG bacon chocolate.

    Barcelona and d’oliva still remain my favorites.

  • The maple walnut flavour at Il Laboratorio di Gelato is unforgettable, just pure maple syrup in gelato form studded with walnuts. Thanks for bringing back the memories. I’ll be sure to check out your other recommendations next time, but I’m not sure about the black and white monstrosity.

  • Great post, David. I love those damn Planter’s Peanut bars too. Aren’t they addicting? Sweet, salty, crunchy…
    The Mallomars I ship to Aunt Esther in Tucson. And I thought they were universal.
    All of us NY kids grew up with Black & Whites and you are so right. How huge are they? Maybe we were fed these to shut us up for a good long while, then we’d feel ill and go take a nap haha

  • Eww! Is that cake edible? Lol! :P

  • i tried the bacon bar last week and almost gagged. it’s not that i’m necessarily opposed to bacon in chocolate, but it tasted like the bacon had been cooked in a 500-degree oven and the fat had burned. blech. i do love the barcelona bar, though.

  • Geez, I feel like such a dork!

    I wish I’d bought one of those Barcelona bars. Everyone seems to love them the most of all the Vosges bars. Will pick one up on my next trip back, which may be in a month or so.

  • In general the fries in France are not amazing but the best French fries I have ever had were in Paris, at A La Biche Au Bois. I didn’t know that fries could be so amazing, mmmm…so good!

  • I liked the bacon bar when I tried it – the smoked saltiness and the sweet really worked for me – but I think it’s too pricey to try more than once.

  • Yow – Ssam Bar too! How did you think it compared to Noodle Bar? So lovely to see you. As for the big blogger debate – my little beef is that I think a bigger distinction should be drawn between restaurant bloggers and food bloggers – they’re two very different categories with two very different styles…. anyway, so much for that. Come back soon! New York misses you!

  • That is a really beautiful black and white. I grew up with them in S. Florida and I miss them. Whenever I go back to visit, I try to get one. I always ask if its fresh, they say yes but 9x out of 10 it isn’t very fresh. I really should make some.

  • To put my two cents into the Vosges bacon bar: I tried it the other day and it left me desiring bacon and chocolate, but not in the same item. Like many have said: excellent theory, unfortunately it’s hard to live up to in practice.

    The good thing about her having made this bar? I’d never heard of her chocolate before and now I see it all over. I’ll definitely try some of her other bars in the future.

  • I am a Yelp member and I find it extremely useful. I am very new to the Bay Area and at first I relied on Zagat but their coverage was so spotty (especially in the East Bay). There is something about Yelp which seems to encourage people to boldly assert their personalities in their reviews. I can tell whether these are the types of people whose opinions I would care about offline.

    I trust the Japanese businessman’s reviews of Japanese restaurants more than that of the twenty other reviews written by people who wash down their rainbow rolls with Sapporo. Due to the culture of Yelp it is always easy to tell who the businessman is, and I would argue he has a much more informed opinion than your average American food-critic.

    In a perfect world we would give our feedback directly to the restaurant, but many of them make it difficult by giving us a hard time for not wanting to drink corked wine.

  • Hi Bugis: Thanks for your thoughts. I guess what started me off on this was that I was saddened by this new feeling of animosity, of us vs. them—between customers and people in the food business, that the internet has apparently fostered. Everyone I know in the business works really, really hard at what they do and is sincerely interested in making sure people have a good dining experience. The work is so difficult, and the pay so mediocre, that you really have to love it to do it.

    (I agree with your assessment of Zagat: It’s basically a few lines culled from thousands of submissions. Who chooses what to publish? And if someone is doing the choosing, are those 3-4 sentences really a good representation of public opinion?)

    I do read eGullet.org, which is good because there are moderators which keep folks in line and intervene if necessary.

    Incidentially, there’s a fun site for Japanese dining which rates the Japanese places in Paris based on authenticity. Perhaps it’ll spread worldwide!

  • Note to self: If I am in SF any Aug-Oct, Gail & Michael have Concord grapes growing in their back yard.

  • Hi David,

    About the Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bar – if you can get the truffle version of it, try that instead. It works better as a truffle; the flavors really melt together and make sense in the softer, single-bite form.

    I really like the unique and bold concoctions Vosges creates, but their actual chocolate always lets me down a little. When it comes to American chocolate, Guittard in San Francisco is the absolute best. Their single-origin bars are incredible and don’t need any embellishment or fancy add-ins.

  • My fiancee loves Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bar! I buy two bars every month or so when I’m in down on Michigan Avenue. He can’t get enough! I love much more sweet and he loves savory/spicy, so I don’t really care for the bacon bar, but it’s not some vile tasting monster. The addition of salt makes the flavors meld together nicely.

    Another interesting creation from Vosges are milk chocolate covered tortilla chips dusted with ancho chili powder. Very delicious!

  • Personally I’m a bigger fan of the truffle version of Vosges’s Mo’s Bacon Bar. The softer chocolate brings the flavors together better than the bar. Vosges chocolate itself is also not the best, which is also less noticeable in the truffle version.

    The best American chocolate is without a doubt E. Guittard from San Francisco. Their single-origin collection is great, and their discs are great for baking with.