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NY eats

iron chef-ing it up in NYC, part 1

So, winter break is already more than half over and for the majority of it, all I’ve been doing is bumming around at home.

Which is perfectly fine – I personally feel that breaks are made for bumming around. A lil’ rest and relaxation, you know?

But recently, my mom and I have had this urge to just go out and EXPLORE. I think our bodies just want to move around, see new sights, breathe new smells – in short, to go ADVENTURING :D.

Doesn’t that sound fun and exciting and thrilling?

So adventure we did. The other day, we got ourselves lost in a NY state park – don’t worry, we managed to make our way back to our car. Somehow… And both yesterday AND today, my mom and I crossed the bridge to Manhattan for some good eats and a change of scenery.

Yesterday, we began our adventure in the Greenwich Village-ish area, starting with the Union Square Greenmarket.

cold weather means... APPLES!

Is it weird that I love exploring food places? I could literally spend hours in a Whole Foods store, or a farmer’s market. My mom’s kind of into that too, so we took our time absorbing the sights and sounds of the Greenmarket. Here are just a few of them:

squares of wheatgrass on sale for all your macrobiotic needs.

We’re not exactly in a thriving growing season here – you know, it

turnips... of some sort.

squashes and such

more apples

pears... there were also lots of pears.

remnants of a summer long gone... dried chilies.

taters!

shiitake mushrooms

more fungi. the portabella kind.

It never ceases to amaze me how many New Yorkers own dogs – don’t they all live in apartments?

doggie!

As usual, there were also a bunch of homemade goods for sale: pies, cookies, breads, and things of that sort. There were vendors selling different jams, preserves, cheeses, honeys, soaps, and granola as well. There was so much wholesome goodness it’d make your head spin.

quiche. keesh.

3.141592...?

jams. jellies. yogurts. oh my!

HEALTHY carbs :D

more carbstuffs.

some of the sweeter baked goods.

There are also quite a number of meat sellers, offering everything from fish to poultry, from rabbit to…

Still, I love, love, LOVE the Greenmarket; I honestly wish I lived in New York just so I could get my groceries here. You can tell everything is homemade, and as fresh and unadulterated as can be. Bergen County has farmers’ markets too, but they all close in early autumn and none of them are nearly as large as the one in Union Square. I’ve got a serious case of greenmarket envy…

But anyways, after meandering our way through the farmers’ market, my mom and I explored the area some more before we headed to our lunch destination.

Otto! This is where the “Iron Chef” bit comes in – in case you didn’t know, Otto is the more affordable of Mario Batali’s restaurants. For all of you who don’t know who Mario Batali is, he’s the redheaded, pony-tailed Iron Chef who cooks around Kitchen Stadium in Crocs. Anyone who can rock a pair of Crocs is automatically awesome in my book :).

I’ve been to Otto before, but because my mom’s been so inspired by Italian foods lately I thought it’d be nice to bring her here.

ze menu

I wouldn’t say the restaurant is cheap, but considering the quality of the food and amount you get, it’s a pretty bangin’ good deal. I mean, come on, just look at this stuff!

free breadstuffs.

I know I shouldn’t fill up on bread at the beginning of a meal, but we were pretty hungry and the olive oil was so good that we couldn’t resist dipping and munching.

my mom's pasta alla norma - tomato, roasted eggplant, basil, and bufala ricotta

What really amazes me at Otto is the clarity of the ingredients – everything tastes like it’s supposed to. I know that might sound weird, but the sauce was just so TOMATOEY. And they undercook the pasta juuuuuust a smidge, so it’s chewy and perfectly al dente – you don’t get that with most other places. But trust me once you’ve had al dente pasta, you’re gonna wonder why that little bite just makes the the world soo much better.

bufala ricotta, as in ricotta cheese made from buffalo's milk

Plus, LOOKIT, they’ve got the amazing blobs of creamy, ricotta goodness! The texture is so different from regular cow’s milk ricotta – so smooth and heavenly, it’s like a baby’s bottom. (This is me assuming that babies’ bottoms are smooth – but I’m sure it’s true. Babies’ everythings are smooth. Although not always heavenly.)

The pasta portion was pretty big, so I ordered 3 vegetable antipasti:

white beans with soffritto, brussel sprouts vin cotta, & spicy rabe with ricotta salata

I love vegetables more than your average person, so I was absolutely amazed to see these humble ingredients elevated to such delicious awesomeness. Like, these were AMAZING. Who would’ve thunk that beans with celery, carrots, onions and herbs could be so good? That was my favorite, but the brussels cooked in wine and the broccoli rabe with salted ricotta were excellent too. Plus, the servings were bigger than I thought they would be. YES, NEVER-ENDING RAMEKINS OF CRUCIFEROUS GOODNESSSSS.

Looking back at it now, this looks like kind of a measly meal (I mean, it’s not even 2 full entrées!), but my mom and I were both so full by the end of it. BUT OF COURSE WE HAD LEFT ROOM FOR DESSERT. Now that is food strategizing at it’s finest my friends.

americanoooo

Damn, those Italians like their coffee strong! My mom ordered an Americano but it was so dark – we poured cream into it, but the color and the flavor BARELY changed. It was amazing – the espresso at Otto actually defies the laws of physics. The coffee was strong, but once I got past the bitterness flavor-wise I thought it was pretty good.

You didn’t think that was ALL we got for dessert, did you? MOST DEFINITELY NOT. Because there was….

dark chocolate, tangerine, and salted peanut

GELATOOOOOHYESSSS.

Otto’s gelato was so good. SO GOOD. Remember what I said about the clarity of the food here? Same thing applied to the dessert; the chocolate tasted chocolatier than chocolate, the tangerine was more citrusy than an actual fruit, and the peanut actually tasted like peanuts, and not just peanut butter. Wow. WOW. I didn’t care that it was the dead of winter, I downed that cup of gelato like no one’s business.

And then it was all gone. Done. :(

I dream of the day when they have black sesame gelato at Otto (I may have actually convulsed with joy as I typed that. Just maybe.)

After lunch, my mom and I went to El Porto Rico, which has some of the best coffee in the city. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures in there, but after standing intoxicated by the heavenly coffee fumes, I got a pound of their beans to take home. We walked around the Village a little bit more, than called it a day because it was getting dark, driving back home around 5.

So that concludes day of Iron Chef restauranting. Where did we eat today, you ask?

Well, that’s for the next post. But I’ll give you a hint: MM.

:)

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