Monday, July 02, 2007

UtHC Travels: New York City

Our second attempt at a weekend getaway in New York City fared much better than our failed first attempt. Even up to the last minute, I didn’t get my hopes up and had resigned myself to the fact that anything could still interrupt our plans; but nothing did and I breather a sigh of relief when we finally arrived and I found myself sipping a Starbucks latte and being whisked up Central Park West in a taxi.

I found New York somewhat changed since my last visit in 2002. Could it be that New Yorkers are friendlier? We seemed to encounter people who were helpful, polite, and friendly at every turn. They seemed to have slowed down their pace a little too, it didn’t seem as frenzied, and maybe it’s just me, but are their families with young children everywhere? Maybe I was just missing Noah already.

One could spend a year in New York and still not have eaten at all its great restaurants. I decided to visit as few of the low-budget headliners and keep my fine dining fund for Montreal. I selected a few places based partly on word-of-mouth recommendations, partly from reviews on egullet, and partly--call me silly--because I wanted a bagel from the same place Meg Ryan ate one in “You’ve got Mail”.
They are among the most popular of New York eateries, but one must start somewhere and I had to see what all the fuss was about!

H&H Bagels

What a better way to fuel yourselves for a trip through the Metropolitan Museum of Art that a few bagels from this famous Upper West Side bagel shop. I tried to sample these bagels with an open mind and a conscience attempt to avoid the whole Montreal bagels versus New York bagel debate...but you, my readers, deserve to know the truth.
I know Yew Yorkers love their bagels and are fiercely loyal to them, but man, they don’t know what they are missing: ours are way, way better.
NY bagels reminded me of the ones I can buy in the bins at the grocery store, except they were fresh from the oven so they tasted a bit better. They were smooth as a baby’s bottom, sweet, soft-yet dense, and really, really big. Each bite seemed to stick halfway down my throat and when the entire thing finally did make way into my stomach, it set up shop. I started having mild cramping within half an hour and it felt like there was still a whole lot of yeast action going on down there. Now, I like to think I have a fairly strong stomach and healthy digestive system, but these bagels almost did me in. I didn’t pass anything for two days and that’s all I am going to say about that.


I love poking around gourmet grocery stores, but this time the people watching was almost more interesting than the label reading and cheese tasting. I felt very conscious that I was in the middle of the Upper West Side and I minded my manners. We had no problem selecting a number of delicacies for our picnic lunch in Central Park; we thought the prices were very reasonable, and the place utterly charming. I didn’t dare venture upstairs to the kitchenware department for fear of being tempted, but if you’re in the area and need to pick up a pepper mill or some flatware, be sure to check it out.

Katz’s Delicatessen

Think Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal with almost as much seating as an average food court and about as much atmosphere. After being given a ticket at the door, we were required to stand in three different lines to get our food: one for pastrami on rye, one for fries, and one for drinks. Oh, and there’s another line to pay when you are finished, as well. I don’t think one can compare Montreal smoked meat to New York pastrami and so I won’t. I believe our smoked meat is brined, which is why we found the pastrami to be dryer than we are used to…and almost chewy. It is cut much thicker as well, but we still enjoyed it and the whole experience. The staff was jovial and efficient, the crowds were colorful, and the fries were as thick as my thumb and piping hot. What can I say? We loved it for what it was: New York’s oldest deli, still swinging and slicing.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine

We tried two cupcakes at this casual, open kitchen, Lower East Side bakery: Lemon and Chocolate Almond. Very reasonably priced at $1.50, we had no problem agreeing that it was money well spent. While they were not the best I’ve had, the owners can certainly be proud that they are offering a product that tastes homemade and can compete with the best of New York’s cupcakes.

Lombardi’s Pizza

Apparently one of the oldest eateries in the city, their banner outside the restaurant boasts “best on the planet” and I won’t challenge that. It was certainly some of the best I have ever had. You can keep your deep dish, stuffed crust, extra toppings pizza, I like it thin and thin it was. We ordered the simplest kind, Margarita, a favorite of mine, consisting only of tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, fresh tomatoes, and pecorino cheese. I had no complaints! Pizzas are fired in an original coal oven, giving the crust a wonderful smoky, slightly charred flavor. Service was speedy and prices very reasonable. Little Italy may be shrinking, but they can be proud of this place.

In visiting these places, we barely scratch the surface of all there is to eat in New York City. I hope to return and sample some more soon!


Nora B. said...

Aside from the bagel side effects, sounds like you had a great trip, Aimée. I hope that you had a relaxing break too.

Sandy said...

Aimee, I adore NY and miss it so much (it's been a few years since I've been back.) It's actually where I got engaged. Your post took me back to a mini-vacation and I enjoyed reading about your experiences there.

Amber said...

Yay you got your mini vacation in! Looks like it was a great time. How did Noah do without you? How were you without Noah, is perhaps the question:)

Aimée said...

Hi Nora- We had the best time, thank you!

Hi Sandy- Isn't that the beauty of reading other blogs? You can travel to far away places, but never leave home. I'm glad I brought back some happy memories for you.

Hi Amber- Apparently, Noah didn't ask for us once. He had a great time--and so did we. It was so short, we didn't have time to miss him. I didn't even call!


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