We had six days and nights to once again experience the culinary treats of New York City. This time, it was summer and the fresh veggies and fruits were in full harvest. The restaurants were offering al fresco dining, and the art of food was ours for the taking. I had booked some award winning restaurants and some locations with famous chefs, so we were ready to let the eating begin! We started off with our traditional late night pizza at Cafe Fiorello. They only offer their pizza after 8:00 PM now, since it’s so good that it became the only item on the menu that diners were ordering. This time, I tried mine without the cheese, and a simple tomato sauce with fresh basil was elevated to new heights with a paper thin crispy crust.
We decided to keep it to two meals per day; lunch and dinner. Having just tea for breakfast allowed us to go “hog wild” on the multiple courses at the other two meals. Lunch between 11:00 and Noon, and early dinner allowed for theatre as well as maximum digestion before sleep. The plan was in action and ready to begin. First lunch was the prix fix menu at The Modern, the fine dining spot at MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art. The amuse bouche was a pea soup on a float of toasted bagel with shrimp. Then I opened with the green salad on a bed of avocado, with cucumber and mint. Scott chose the tuna cured in mustard with potatoes and egg. For my entree, I had olive-oil poached salmon and Scott had chicken stuffed with pistachios accompanied with young leeks and foie gras. My entree reminded me a little too much of a bubble bath…. and was a tad bland for my taste. He had the red velvet cream cheese mousses with sorrel ice cream and I had the gianduja cremeux wafer streusel with nutella ice cream. Both desserts were average. The service was top notch and the setting was gorgeous as we overlooked the MOCA sculpture garden.
Dinner later that evening was at Marea, one of Zagat’s top 10 highest rated restaurants in NYC . We had eaten here before and were especially excited to return. Unfortunately, we were given the worst table in the entire restaurant. It was in the far back corner, under the air-conditioning vent, next to the waiter’s computer and water station. We asked to move to a different table but were told, “No, not possible.” We asked to have the blowing air-conditioning vent turned a little lower, and it was, for about 3 minutes. Then it was back up to full speed fan with arctic levels for the rest of the meal. It was so cold, that both my soup and pasta were cold when they were each only half way finished. As a “consolation prize” we were given two muffins as we walked out. This was a very pricey dinner….shame on them for having such a bad table in the first place. The food, however, was utterly delicious, before it was “blown cold.” We had soft shell crab, zucchini soup, agnolotti, garganelli bolognese with parmigiana-reggiano, and of course, two blueberry muffins as we walked back to our hotel.
The following evening was 4th of July and many spots were closed for the holiday. One location that was open was our favorite lunch hang on the upper east side , Via Quadronno. Their minestrone style chunky soup is among the best I’ve had. We accompanied this with an asparagus and egg salad, prosecution and melon, and soppressata veneta panini sandwich on a baguette. Delicious!
Keeping with the Italian theme, dinner was at Quality Italian near Central Park. My filet stuffed agnolotti was divine, as was Scott’s veal chop. We both tried a cannoli off the cart and were content in out choices.
Sunday brunch was at Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village. This is a cozy, bustling late night “pub” type spot known for it’s over-the-top $28 Black Label Burger. I had never been for brunch. As the doors opened at 11:00 AM, a darling man in a yellow summer suit greeted us and welcomed us to a booth in the back. He apologized for the laws of New York which didn’t allow him to serve booze until noon. We ordered the most scrumptious eggs, punched potatoes, virginia ham, duck hash, and grilled bread. The coffee was steamy and the tea was loose leaf. It was Heaven.
Dinner that evening was at Becco, one of the restaurants in the Bastianich empire. The name, Becco, comes from the Italian word, beccare, which means to nibble or savor something. That is exactly what we intended to do. We started out with the famous bread basket and bean dip. Divine. We picked a bottle of wine off their $29 bottle wine list, and we ordered their pasta sampler. The sampler comes with a caesar salad or antipasti and unlimited amounts of 3 pastas (which change nightly.) This was perfect for my six foot five inch Italian husband, Scott! Tonight’s pastas were penne with short ribs, spaghetti pomodoro, and cannelloni béchamel.
The following day, we hit another Zagat top 10 for lunch…Del Posto in Chelsea. This is a $49 prix fixe lunch meal which includes 3 courses. The opening bread basket comes with both butter and whipped pork fat. I started with vitello tonnato, followed by lamb chop and neck served with minted fregola, walnut, and sweet pea salad. Scott had a salad of soft lettuces with truffle dressing, and for his entree, burnt beef (it was called that), parmigiana zeppole and raisins. We both had divine desserts; mine was called “Cornetto e Cappuccino,” which meant Blue Bottle coffee gelato, apricot & candied bread. Lastly, we received the beloved dessert box complete with hidden drawer.
We were ready for another dinner outside, so we booked a table at Daniel Boulud’s Boulud Sud by Lincoln Center, and ended up inviting our friends Randy and Steve to join us. The food here is Mediterranean, and we dined al fresco with gazpacho, greek salad, chicken tagine, and octopus a la plancha.
Our final dinner was at Felidia, Lidia Bastianich’s flagship restaurant. It’s a New York Times 3 Star restaurant, was a nominee for Outstanding U.S. Restaurant from the James Beard Foundation, and has won many awards from The Wine Spectator for it’s wine list. The chef, Fortunato Nicotra, gave us a meal beyond compare. We opened with tuna crudo with caviar, lamb chops with vegetable-stuffed artichoke, pasta with vegetable ragu and pecorino.
After such foodie highlights, it was hard to pick a favorite. For atmosphere and silver service, I’d have to go with Del Posto. For favorite food bite of the week, I’m going with the lamb chops and stuffed artichoke at Felidia. Now, time to exercise.