One of the best markets anywhere, and a great place to start a whirlwind culinary week in New York, is the Greenmarket, which takes place a few times a week in Union Square.
New York’s Greenmarket is a colorful riot of fresh corn, technicolor heirloom tomatoes, fresh-made Ronnybrook ice cream (which I didn’t get to try since my consorts put a damper on things and said it was too early in the morning and I didn’t think I could finish a pint by myself), tiny little chili peppers, sweet amber-colored maple syrup and some respectable locally-made cheeses.
I’d be happy to go on and on and one, but the visit was recorded for posterity on video. Stay tuned…
Speaking of corn, ever since the Second Avenue Deli closed their doors, life hasn’t been the same. Even though I live thousands of miles away, just knowing Sharon Lebewohl and her crew were there slicing mounds of corned beef and pastrami was always enough to make it my first, and often last stop too, on trips to New York.
Last time I was in Chicago, it was a few weeks before Christmas and I joined the queue for Garrett’s Caramel Corn. The line wasn’t that long…or so it seemed, and when people told me the wait was two hours I didn’t believe them. That is, until after I’d waited for 20 minutes and barely moved three steps forward.
So I left and decided to forget about it.
But later that night, I was, like, “Damn, I am so craving my Garrett’s.”
And the next day I joined the line again only to be subjected to another endless wait. Although I’m Parisian and believe that lines are only for other people, I quickly deduced that I’d better not take cuts in front of any of those hardy midwestern-types who could kick my butt back across the Atlantic.
I left empty-handed and sad—but who isn’t more thrilled than I am that Garrett’s opened in New York City? Who’s happier than I am now?
If you go, get a mixed bag; half-caramel and half-cheese corn. While I normally shy away from ‘cheese-flavored’ snacks, Garrett’s cheese corn is insanely-good and I’ve been known to plow through a 3-gallon drum of the mix in a startling short time.
I just wonder when they’re going to open in Paris.
If they do, that’ll be the end of me.
560 5th Avenue
242 W 34th St/1 Penn Plaza
I’m always complaining that in Paris, you can never find what you’re looking for.
Let’s say you need shoelaces that are 110 cm. You’ll go to the shoelace department at the enormous BHV department store and on the wall of shoelaces, they’ll be 90cm…100cm…105cm…109cm…111cm.
Of course not.
So here I am in New York presumably the greatest shopping city in the world. And I can’t find one of those things that keeps tortillas warm. I’ve checked Williams-Sonoma and the insanely-huge Bed, Bath and Beyond (where the security guard tailed me for a good 10 minutes…so maybe the stereotypes are true that Americans don’t like Parisians).
And lastly, Zabar’s.
As if I need an excuse to visit Zabar’s, one of the great food places in the world. If they don’t have it, it ain’t available.
(It wasn’t, btw…)
But oy vey!…all the pushing and shoving and jostling.
People were getting mad at me, so I had to tone it down.
(UPDATE: Café des Musées changed owners in the Fall of 2014 and I’ve heard mixed reports from locals and visitors. I haven’t been back since the change of proprietors so an unable to provide a personal report about any changes. But I will update this post when I return.)
Located a few blocks north of the historic place des Vosges, steps away from the hubbub of tourists clogging the sidewalks, is Café des Musées, a terrific restaurant in Paris.
Chef François Chenel makes his own pâtés and smokes his own organic salmon, which arrives with a spoonful of crème fraîche, chives, and toasted levain bread. Both are also available to take home, including pre-cooked lobes of foie gras, even if you’re not dining here.
We split an order of grouse. One of the great things about France is that in the winter, restaurants will feature game like partridge, wild pigeon, and other specialties that are hard to find elsewhere. The grouse was dark and meaty-red, just as ordered. Alongside were triangles of braised celery root, a pile of dressed watercress and quetsches, Italian prune plums, cooked until jam-like. Although not as unctuous and sweet as I would have liked, a shot of port in the deglazing would’ve sealed the deal.
Other menu options are a pretty well-crusted entrecôte steak, served with real French fries, which are unfortunately rare nowadays in Paris. Cochon noir de Bigorre is always great here, a neatly-classic steak tartare, and for those looking for a vegetarian option, a cocotte of seasonal vegetables comes in a casserole, bathed in olive oil. (A friend from California who ordered this pronounced it “boring”, so perhaps that’s not the best choice.)
For dessert, we shared a raspberry Dacquoise; a slightly-crisp almond meringue which had a nice cake-like chew. It was served with excellent, dark cherry-red raspberries which were so sweet they were syrupy.
For those on a budget, at both lunch and dinner, on offer is a prix-fixe option. One recent fixed-price menu was vichyssoise and foie de veau, veal liver, with dessert for just 19€. Another time it was a poached egg in red wine with a lamb shank following up for the main course, with dessert being rhubarb crisp.
The service is a bit scattered, but that to me is the charm of eating in a neighborhood-type restaurant where people just go for good food but are welcome to linger. It’s the kind of place where the tables are pushed close together so you’re rubbing shoulders with your neighbors and perhaps sharing a basket of good bread. That’s one of the pleasures of dining in smaller Parisian restaurants and cafés.
My friends and I shared a bottle—ok, two bottles—of fruity gamay from the Touraine which went very nicely with everything from the charcuterie to the game and through the dessert. And afterward as well.
Café des Musées
49, rue de Turenne (3rd)
Tél: 01 42 72 96 17
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A recent post on Marinated Feta elicited some interesting comments and questions about olive oil. Here’s a few tips that I follow when buying, using, and storing oil:
1. Keep olive oil out of the light.
I know you’ve spent a lot of money on your oil and you want to look at all those pretty labels lined up on your countertop. But too bad; it’s one of the absolute worst things you can do to oil. Light destroys olive oil, and other specialty oils as well, so stow it away. Nothing destroys olive oil faster than light. Except heat.
2. Keep olive oil away from heat.
That means don’t store your olive oil on that shelf above your stove, even though that’s where it’s handy. Keep it away from sunlight as well. It’s best not to store olive oil in the refrigerator. If you do, when you take it out the condensation can dilute the oil and cause it to spoil quicker.
How does one explain, in a few short paragraphs, something that’s such a critical part of Italian life, like gelato? If you’ve spent any time in Italy, especially in the summer, it’s hard to look anywhere and not see an Italian balancing a cono di gelato, often while balancing the omnipresent cell phone at the same time.
But everyone, from suave businessmen in Armani suits to grandmothers chatting on a stroll with friends—they all eat gelato. And like the tiny shots of espresso taken from morning ’til night, it’s a part of Italian life and consumed everywhere, all-day long. Granita di espresso on a roll for breakfast anyone?
‘Gelato‘ means ‘frozen‘ in Italian, so it embraces the various kinds of ice cream made in Italy, and that’s the best definition one can offer.
More than most countries, food in Italy is fiercely regional: in the north, near Torino (Piedmonte), the food is very earthy with white truffles and hazelnuts appearing in various dishes. At the other end of the boot is Sicily, where the climate is far warmer so the flavors lean towards citrus and seafood. And in between are lots of villages and regions, including the Emilia-Romagna, Umbria, Campania, Tuscany, and Puglia, among others.
The gelato made in the north of Italy, where it’s cooler up near the mountains, the gelato is richer, often made with egg yolks, chocolate, and most famously, with gianduja, the silky-smooth hazelnut and milk chocolate paste. In the south, ice creams tend to be lighter, and flavored with lemons and oranges. In Sicily, granite are prevalent; slushy shaved ices that are almost served like a drink, with a spoon and a straw to slurp them up, as well as fruit-flavored sorbetti.
But getting back to gelato…as mentioned, gelato means Italian ice cream. But what makes it different?