Culturesplosion.


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Eat a lot at Eataly!

I have a strong affinity for large indoor food markets (a bit odd, I guess, but there could be worse things…). They’re like malls, but with fewer teenagers and more things you can eat!

Prime examples include Chelsea Market, Reading Terminal Market, Pike Place Market or Mitsuwa Marketplace, but basically, if it’s big and filled with delicious things, I’ll be visiting. Given this, you can imagine my excitement when EATALY (map!), Mario Batali‘s “Italian culinary funhouse”, opened up last year.

This line stretched ridiculously long.

Located in the Flatiron District, Eataly is an impressive 50,000 sq. ft. of all things dedicated to chowing down and loving it. Here, you can shop for any manner of ingredients as well as enjoy the complete and cooked versions at various restaurants. There is so much to see, taste, and smell, you could seriously build a day trip around this place. Sure, it gets crowded on weekends, but it takes more than a few dozen elbows and poorly positioned mini-shopping-carts to keep me from snagging the groceries or dishes I want.

AMEN.

My first favorite thing about Eataly is its massive selection of high quality goods. The prices are reasonable for what you’re getting, and I’ve found stuff here that would be tough to locate elsewhere (really, fresh wood ear mushrooms?? hallelujah!).

Hey! We're not in plastic boxes! Yay!

There is a department for every genre, and every time I turn around, there’s another area of the store to be explored. Go browse around and stare at stuff: veggies, meat, cheese, beer, pasta (dry/fresh), bread, canned/preserved, cakes and pastries, coffee/espresso, seafood, rotisserie, charcuterie, beer, etc. It’s a chef’s paradise, really.

Take us home! You know you want to!

I never thought I could use the word "beautiful" to describe a meat department, but I guess now I can. And check out the silver pig statue!

You have to buy some of this fresh pasta. It'll make your home-cooking taste even more fantastic. The experts behind the counter are all incredibly jolly too.

My second favorite thing is the menu for actual eating. With casual restaurant sections devoted to seafood (Il Pesce), veggies (Le Verdure), and pasta & pizza (La Pizza & Pasta, fittingly), there is something for everyone.

During peak mealtimes, this place is PACKED.

If sitting down isn’t your thing, you can also go to La Piazza, a stand-up eating space to get your wine, salumi, and cheese plate on. Give it a try, you’ll feel so Europe.

You'll probably have to fight for a table on Sundays. All worth it for some choice cured meats.

There is also Manzo, a formal dining space for a little more haute, and various options for to-go treats and meals.

On one occasion, DH and I went to Il Pesce for some tasty fruits of the sea, and were enthralled by the Fritto Misto alla Ligure (assorted fried seafood Ligurian style):

Variety on a plate, served light and crispy.

And recently, we went to La Pizza & Pasta for some satisfying carbs:

Spaghetti al pomodoro...so al dente, so good.

Fettuccine con Coda all Vaccinara (Homemade Roman pasta with oxtail ragu). OMG.

Ok, so let’s talk about the fettuccine for a second. This dish was nothing short of mind-blowing. If you can eat only one thing at an Eataly restaurant, you have to eat this. The oxtail ragu? AMAZING. The flavor and texture made each and every bite worth savoring, and I was absolutely brokenhearted when I finally had to look back at an empty plate.

To temper the sadness, of course, we had to get gelato. My top choice remains the fig and chocolate combo, although the fig flavor is seasonal. Still, WHERE ELSE can you ever hope to find FIG-flavored ice cream?? Again, amazing.

Gaze at its gloriousness.

So that’s Eataly. Now there’s another reason to head to this neighborhood other than Shake Shack and Home Depot, and it looks like a BEER GARDEN is opening up on the roof in the spring. Even more to look forward to.

Buon Appetito!

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Ippudo + Mayahuel = Awesome

On a recent Friday, a strong desire for excellent ramen came over me. It was time for some IPPUDO (map!). Sure, the clock said 10:30 p.m. (long week, barely anything to eat that day, super-sad), but I figured “oh, by 11, there should be no wait at all, who would be so silly as to eat dinner that late?”…not realizing the obvious. When the DH and I arrived, of course, the place was PACKED. 20 minute wait, what? Oh yea, it’s NYC, duh.

Of course, we waited. Ippudo has been an old favorite for a long time, so we knew that the best ramen in the city was worth a 20-minute sit. But oh, was it a hungry sit. We took advantage of the time to choose our ramen off the menu, and once our table was ready, barely before all the staff could finish exclaiming their customary “Irasshaimase!”, we had emphatically stated our orders to the waiter. In our garbled eagerness, we must have sounded more like “RAMEN NOW PLEASE. NOM NOM?” Either way, a short while later, our wishes were granted:

Akamaru Modern, DH's ramen

Kogashi Miso Ramen, my ramen. Mmmm, carbon goodness.

Ippudo changes up its ramen from time to time, so this was my first experience with the kogashi miso ramen. I thought it was great. The charred miso broth had a unique flavor that was delicious, and the ramen noodles were firm with just the right amount of chewy. I also ordered the kae-dama, which is an additional serving of plain noodles, so that my remaining broth would get another go-around. It was perfect.

I must note that one of the favorite things I like about Ippudo’s ramen is that I never feel like I have to drink a gallon of water afterward. The flavor is natural and not overly salty, a mark of true greatness.

Our check came with a complimentary cup of hoji-cha roasted green tea, which was the best way to finish up the meal. Ippudo stays open on Fridays and Saturdays until 12:30 a.m., which makes it a great spot for a late dinner. Its popularity at all hours is well-deserved.

With bellies full of meat and ramen, we strolled over a few blocks to MAYAHUEL (map!) for a drink. I had been wanting to visit this place out for a long time, so was quite excited when we arrived at the inconspicuously marked door. A polite gentleman greeted us. Quick I.D. check and we were in.

So many bottles, which one to choose?

Mayahuel is a mixology-style cocktail bar (and Mexican restaurant) specializing in tequila and mezcal drinks. It was started by the same team that created the cocktails for Death & Co.. The interior is a gorgeous space of dark woods and soft lighting that makes you feel like you’re in an Old West speakeasy-saloon for aristocrats. Check out these details:

Copper design embedded into the bar

Sit at the bar and look up through the ceiling to the second floor and its red umbrella light.

Beautiful chandelier above the staircase.

And the drinks? Oh, the drinks. There is something special here. Our selections were full of complex tastes and smells that really made an impression. Each one was a conversation piece.

Old Man Miller Swizzle

This was a combination of pineapple-infused mezcal, reposado tequila, 151 rum, lime, agave nectar, absinthe, and medly #1. The flavors totally expand in your mouth. Lots of ingredients, but they were all well-balanced.

Randy cocktail

I’m not going to inquire as to the origin of its name, but the Randy cocktail was a good choice for me. Reposada tequila, lime and ginger, with a rinse of mezcal. I loved the fact that, despite its simple appearance, the drink kept changing from sniff to sip to taste to swallow and after. The smoky mezcal really gave it an interesting kick. It was like a barbecue party in a cup!

So all in all, quite a nice evening. I really enjoyed the Ippudo and Mayahuel combination and give them both my thumbs up.


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Brunchtime at Northern Spy Food Co.

I went to NORTHERN SPY FOOD CO. (map!) recently for dinner and had a great time, so when I was thinking about a good brunch place to catch up with a dear friend, this restaurant easily came to mind.

There was a little wait for a table, but not too bad. In the daytime light, I got a good look at the decor inside, which is a charming space of light blues and wood (even the bathroom is cute!). I guess the best description I can come up with is seaside country cabin. The restaurant is known for being a good quality yet inexpensive place to get local, sustainable-ingredient food. I really like the menu, full of interesting little dishes and treats that aren’t often seen at other restaurants. The tables are spaced close together, so the best way to figure out what to eat is to take a look at the person next to you (“oooh, what’s that you’re having?”).

First, our drinks:

Blood-orange seltzer and Sparkling sangria

The seltzers here are really tasty, and there is a nice selection of flavors. The sangria was a crisp accompaniment to my meal, and I ordered it because the girl sitting at the next table had one and seemed to be enjoying it.

Moving onward, my friend’s dish:

Cayuga polenta and eggs

I love the polenta at this place. It is so rare to see good polenta on a menu. Sure, it’s probably chock full of butter, but the taste is amazing.

And then the kale salad, which seems to be something of a specialty here:

Kale salad with Shelburne cheddar, winter squash, almonds, pecorino, and two baked eggs

One would think that this dish wouldn’t be very filling, but I thought it was super-hearty and super-delicious! The greens were very fresh, and I loved having it with eggs. Let’s get another look at that veg:

Aww yeah, up-close KALE ACTION.

If you need a reliable spot for a good meal with a good friend, I recommend this place. It’s solid.


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A pleasant evening at Edi & The Wolf

Avenue C is still a little bit of the wild frontier in Manhattan, but I have no problem trekking farther east when there is something good waiting for me. It took a little while to get to the eating at EDI & THE WOLF (map!), but the whole experience was a pleasant one and totally worth the wait. The things we do for some good Austrian food.

On the night of our visit, it was again blisteringly cold, and we were trying to find our bearings around 7th street. The restaurant was unmarked and could have easily been missed, but I took one look at the planks-of-wood exterior à la cabin in the forest and knew it was the place.

We peeked beyond the heavy curtain past the front door and was immediately hit with the buzz of activity inside. The interior had a warm and rustic feel, with lots of wood, metal, and rope elements. This place was totally hopping, and filled with a nice mix of stylish young people and older patrons who knew where to find a good meal.

Beyond the grate, a table set for a party of fancy coolkids.

There happened to be a large number of big parties that evening, so that meant poor couples like us had to wait awhile until the hoard cleared out. Our hostess was very nice, though, and kept us posted on the status while we waited and partook of some of the establishment’s fine fine suds in the bar area.

For our waiting, we got a round on the house!

Finally, a party left and we got not only a table, but practically a quarter of the restaurant to ourselves (it was a very large party). Our clever hostess had taken our appetizer orders a little while earlier so the food arrived almost as soon as we sat down. Hooray!

We weren’t too crazy about the landjäger (dried cured Austrian sausage…good flavor, but a tad Slim-Jimmy), but oh boy, the baby back ribs with honey, beer, mustard, and pickles were amazing!

You must eat them with your hands. It's the law.

And what would an Austrian meal be without wiener schnitzel? It was delicious:

Delicious baby cow...mmm mmm

We rounded everything out with a chocolate hazelnut crepe and a well-made espresso. Our waitress was cheerful and attentive and we felt like we were well taken care of amidst the bustling atmosphere. I hope we can go back again soon, preferably on a less busy evening.

So if you ever find yourself hanging around Alphabet City and want a little taste of Austria, I suggest giving this place a try.