This summer instead of breaking out our passports and brushing up on our garbled Spangitalian, we decided that the most exotic destination for our 8 and 9 year olds would be…drumroll – New York City! I am a former but not fully recovered New Yorker, and was pining for a long overdue fix of the Big City and all the yummy things therein… I will not bore with the laundry list of shockingly touristy activities we checked off the kids’ lists, but suffice it to say that we did EVERYTHING. Really. And then some. In 95 degree swelter. With a smile (on me) because I was just so glad to be back!
You would think all the walking (my new Fitbit was buzzing with joy), and juggling kids, and dashing for subway trains, and sweating profusely would be somehow slenderizing – but no no no. I more than made up for it with the feasting – oh well.
There are many agendas you can cook up for The City – touring art museums, exploring galleries, glitzy shopping, funky shopping, summiting skyscrapers, visiting monuments, epic kidtainment stops, giant parks, zoos, gardens, and on and on. It is probably not a huge surprise that WE ended up in every food market we could conjure in a week. So here is the unofficial Barsotti agenda of deliciousness in no particular order:
- New Amsterdam Market – I love New York on a Sunday morning – so quiet - like you have the place all to yourself for a minute. What a treat on a warm hazy morning to discover this lovely market tucked under the Brooklyn Bridge in front of the formerly bustling Fulton Fish Market. I love how each booth is so elegantly framed with banners behind, and everything has that old-times-are-new-again feel. You really sense you’ve stumbled on something authentic and vibrant as you peruse this community of small regional farmers, fishermen, coffee roasters, beekeepers, cheesemakers and more, with a smattering of fun surprises like kimchee and hard cider. 11am to 4pm on Sundays – South Street between Beekman Street and Peck Slip http://www.newamsterdammarket.org/
- Smorgasburg – Our savvy NY cousins of Sushi Samba fame (www.sushisamba.com) turned us on to this awesome mealer’s paradise that happens in a crazy shell of an old brick building in Brooklyn at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge. There must be 50 vendors. It’s really really hard to choose what to eat here, because then you risk not having room for all the other amazing things there are to try! Grab a shady spot to snarf up your fabulous little feast, and for 2$ a pop the kids can take a spin on the beautifully restored Jane’s Carousel with postcard views of Manhattan across the East River. Every Saturday in Williamsburg and every Sunday in DUMBO, 11am to 6pm, thru November 23+24 http://www.smorgasburg.com/ If you have an ounce of tummy space left, toddle over to Jacques Torres Chocolate a couple of blocks away for ice cream sandwiches, chocolate covered cheerios and other such highbrow delicacies. 66 Water Street, Brooklyn http://www.mrchocolate.com/
- Eataly – OK we HAD to do it. I love Mario as much as anyone, but I was sort of skeptical of what sounded like it was going to be a bit of a tourist/fan trap. And make no mistake – it was c.r.o.w.d.e.d! To a level that usually makes us SPLIT. But all that aside, I would probably be looming around here 6 days out of 7 if I lived in NY. It’s maybe one of the most gorgeous orgies of beautiful perfect food and mouth watering products I have ever seen, and restaurants, and cooking classes and on and on. We didn’t get to half of it, so I’ll need to go back next time and linger without my starving spouse and burned out kids in tow… What am I going to cook with the anchovy juice I bought? 200 5th Avenue at 23rd Street http://www.eataly.com/
- Chelsea Market – Housed in the former HQ of the National Biscuit Company (which dreamed up such enduring treats as Vanilla Wafers, Fig Newtons, Animal Crackers and Oreos about a hundred years ago), this abandoned building was revitalized in the 90’s to become what today is a bustling food and retail destination. I lamented my already stuffed belly as I spied people merrily tucking into whole lobsters and the like, but did manage to dash into Sarabeth’s for a quick fix with my dear pastry loving daughter. An elevator ride out the back brought us to the tail end of the beautifully landscaped High Line, where we cut the searing heat of the day with plum/basil and lemon/mint hand shaved ices. Pretty nice. Open Monday – Saturday: 7am to 9pm, Sundays: 8am to 8pm 75 9th Avenue (Between 15th and 16th Streets) http://chelseamarket.com/
- Union Square Farmer’s Market – Here’s the situation. I am VERY lucky to live close to the bi-weekly farmers market in San Rafael, CA which, all bias aside, I think is one of the better farmer’s market experiences you can ever have. It is huge and real and thorough (a whole aisle just for baked items!), and pretty much everything people are talking about when they rave about the California food scene. I am spoiled. So…I felt we had to make a pilgrimage to this famous NY farmer’s market and renowned mecca for local chefs. Yes it is a very nice farmer’s market. But this is one of the only things that is not as big a deal in NY as it is for me at home. That said, I’m sure if I lived in the city I would definitely be a regular… North and West sides of Union Square Park - Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket-site/manhattan/union-square-greenmarket
A DELICIOUS ASIDE: Definitely book a tour with the Tenement Museum in the recently cool and gentrified Lower East Side neighborhood. OF COURSE we opted for the “Foods of the Lower East Side” walking tour which explores the evolution of the neighborhood through the distinctive foods introduced by different waves of immigrants. While we were historically enlightened by our excellent guide, the kids were delighted to try pickles, bialys, green tea cream puffs, sopressata, dumplings, pickled pineapple, hot pretzels and a myriad of other yummy bites that seemed to magically materialize from multiple doorways along our route. The museum’s bookstore is also an awesome resource for good NYC literature. The only way to see the museum is through a tour, and there are several different ones offered every day. Definitely book online in advance!!! 103 Orchard Street at Delancey http://www.tenement.org/
You’ll stop at this market on the food tour for just a sec, but come back later to do some major lingering at the:
- Essex Street Market – This historic little market was established in the 1940’s by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to create a stable indoor venue for many of the food stalls and carts crowding the congested local streets. Originally serving a mainly Jewish and Italian clientele, the market is now a wonderful mix of over 20 vendors selling everything from artisan New England cheese (http://www.saxelbycheese.com/), gorgeous fresh fish, Greek food, Japanese delicacies, hot baked bread, Hispanic foods, healthy juices, irresistible cookies from culinary guru Dorie Greenspan (http://beurreandsel.com/) and even a good old fashioned barber shop right in the middle of it all!! Open Monday – Saturday 8am -7pm and Sunday 10am – 6pm 120 Essex Street at Delancey Street http://www.essexstreetmarket.com/
I am so inspired by NYC this summer!! Here are some recommended books:
* “Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York” by Robin Shulman - Amazing behind the scenes look at what locavore can mean if you live in a thriving metropolis…
* “Gods of Gotham” by Lyndsey Faye – I just finished this gripping novel/mystery set in a fascinating moment of NYC history.
* “Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built” by Mark Russ Federman - I heard the author interviewed on NPR and can’t wait to read the story of this classic lower east side establishment.
* “Heyday” by Kurt Andersen - One of my favorite books ever. Fascinating history revealed through excellent fiction. Trust me, just read it…
* “The New York Times Cookbook” by Craig Claiborne - This reminds me of cooking with my mom when I was younger and was just getting interested in cooking (and not just eating) great food. We still make the classic chicken liver pate almost every holiday season!!