It had been a long time since I’d eaten in New York City.
(Speaking of long, this is a very long post – be warned!)
Wanting to eat in Manhattan, but unable to do so because a lack of a dining companion is a frustrating conundrum, to say the least. So one of the first things that my friend Euna proposed we do this summer was go on another one of our infamous fooding tours. You know, the ones where we roam around Manhattan with only one goal in mind:
To eat some of the most delicious, best-reviewed, and affordable food the city has to offer.
So yesterday, we embarked on another one of these gluttonous adventures, starting early in the morning at Lulu Cake Boutique in Chelsea.
Although I had never heard of this place before, Lulu’s was a bakery Euna had been wanting to review for a while. They’re specialize in “retro confections,” and the store is filled with twinkies, and snowballs, as well as cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and scones.
Euna and I met up there for our first meal, scanning through rows of baked goods, and I wondered how dessert-y a meal could be and still be considered “breakfast.”
I personally don’t have any fond childhood memories of Hostess treats, so I settled for a good ol’ cookie and macaroon.
The whole wheat chocolate chip and walnut cookie leaned more towards crispy than soft, which I enjoyed. The chunks of walnut and chocolate chip made for a thoroughly enjoyable take on a classic cookie.
The macaroon was pretty much a ball of clumped-together coconut flakes that was baked in the oven, then dipped in chocolate. It had a tender crumb, but was really sweet… Probably a good thing it was so small.
Lulu’s also had a sign up that they had COLD-BREWED iced coffee. So, of course I had to get it.
WOW. THIS COFFEE WAS SO GOOD. Made from Intelligista beans (which I had heard of, but never tasted), it was low in acidity with a deep, roasty flavor. Wow. This was totally worth it; the lovely bitterness of the coffee also helped cut through the sweetness of the cookies.
While I settled for the more standard baked goods, Euna had come here for one thing, and one thing only: HOSTESS TREATS.
And when you think “Hostess,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
TWINKIES. But these aren’t your average, yellow-on-the-outside-with-a-white-cream-filling twinkies.
The one on the left was a passion fruit twinkie, made with a yellow cake and a passion fruit cream; on the right was a red velvet twinkie, with a cream cheese frosting in the middle. Both twinkies were dipped in white chocolate, and the red velvet had a sprinkle of shredded coconut on top.
Both of these were reeaaaaally sweet, and without much of a distinctive flavor. The passion fruit did have a little bit of tartness, and the cream cheese filling in the red velvet was nice, but the sugariness was pretty overwhelming.
A pink Snowball was Euna’s other retro dessert of choice.
Pink, round, and dusted with coconut, the Snowballs were definitely the most eye-catching item in the dessert case.
A chocolate cake filled with coconut custard and nestled in pink marshmallow frosting and coconut, this was a sugar bomb. The coconut flavor definitely packed a punch, whereas the chocolate cake was just ehh… not very chocolatey. The pink part was intriguing – although it was a marshmallow, it didn’t have the springiness store-bought marshmallows have.
All in all, everything here is verrrry sweet. So if you are planning to try one of the desserts here, I’d get a coffee on the side – they’re really good and will definitely help you handle the sugar level.
After our sugary breakfast, Euna and I walked around Chelsea and headed over to Chelsea Market, one of my favorite fooding places in the city. It is an absolute mecca of all things culinary and delicious, and definitely worth visiting/exploring.
At this point in the day, it was starting to get pretty hot, so we cooled down with some iced treats from the new People’s Pops bar.
People’s Pops specializes in making creative popsicles (obviously…) from seasonal and local fruits. And with summer fruits just starting to make an appearance at the greenmarket, there are some really delicious flavors up for grabs right now.
Like Euna’s strawberry-rhubarb popsicle. Not too sweet, with chunks of sweet strawberry and tart rhubarb, this wasn’t your average pop made from high fructose corn syrup and artificial colorings. You know how those don’t ever really taste like fruit? Well, this was FRUITY-fruity, and really well made.
And while the other flavors were really tempting (blueberry chai, Stumptown espresso…), I opted for the shaved ice.
Made to order from hand-scraped shavings from a huge block o’ ice, the lady gave my cup a drizzle of both rhubarb and cherry syrups.
While not as intensely-flavored as Euna’s popsicle, the larger-than-normal ice shavings made for a refreshing crunch; I liked this better towards the bottom of the cup, which had the highest concentration of delicious, fruity syrup.
Frozen treats in hand, Euna and I headed over to the new High Line park. It’s gotten a lot of press recently, and I was eager to walk along it. A train line 30 feet up in the air that has been reconstructed and redesigned to become a public park, this place was GORGEOUS.
Designed with sleek lines and a minimalist style, I think that the most stunning part of the High Line is the juxtaposition of nature and urban cityscape. Seeing all the lush greenery amidst brick buildings and towering skyscrapers made for a breath-taking stroll above 10th Ave. If you’re in the area, GO TO HIGH LINE. It’ll absolutely blow you away!
Euna and I walked the High Line back and forth – 30 blocks one way, and 30 blocks the other. That much walking definitely works up an appetite; so after our parkside stroll, we headed over to our lunch destination: Torrisi Italian Specialties.
Which was another 30-block walk away. Jeezes…
But anyhow, if you guys have keep up with NYC food scene at all, you’ve probably heard of Torrisi. It’s a tiny shop known for being proudly Italian-American, taking the classic Italian dishes of New York and bringing them up to a whole ‘nuther level.
We arrived and grabbed ourselves a table in crowded, cramped store. After perusing the menu, I, being my veggie-loving self, started off with 2 appetizers; sold by the quarter-pound, these were $4 each.
The asparagus was bright and refreshing, complemented really well by the mint, red onion and lemon dressing, as well as the dusting of Parmesan. Even Euna, a sworn veggie hater, liked this.
The broccoli rabe was also really good; a pile of sautéed bitter greens, matched bite for bite by the intense heat of the chili sauce. I also devoured this – oh, how I love my veggies…
And for our main course, Euna and I shared the….
I know, boring right? It’s an Italian deli staple, often overlooked and unenjoyed. But Torrisi’s does this sandwich JUSTICE.
The chicken, which is so often dry and overcooked, was EXTREMELY tender and moist – that in itself revolutionized my standards of chicken parmesan. But the creamy, fresh mozzarella and the unbelievably tomato-ey sauce elevated this sandwich to new heights – NEW HEIGHTS THE CHICKEN PARM HAD NEVER DREAMED OF GOING BEFORE!!!
Yeah, it was that good. The only downside was the bread – a standard, sesame-flecked bun, it didn’t really do anything for the sandwich and I thought the parm deserved better. Euna and I both ended up taking off the top half to more fully enjoy the innards.
Once lunch had been consumed, we walked around some more, passing through Chinatown, Tribeca, the West Village, and finally making our way up to Hell’s Kitchen.
We originally trekked back northwards because our dinner destination was in this area, but the lure of the nearby Kyotofu dessert bar proved to be to much for us… That, and we had about 3 hours to kill. So Euna and I ended up sitting down and eating at one of my personal favorite bakeries in the city.
Why do I love this unassuming Japanese sweet spot so much, you ask?
BECAUSE OF THE BLACK SESAME.
I know, I know, I’ve raved on and on about the wonders of the nutty, roasty, delicious flavor that is black sesame. People think it’s weird, but HEY, don’t hate it before you try it! Asian eateries have been incorporating black sesame into their menu more, and Kyotofu showcases my favorite dessert flavor especially well.
Case and point?
The black sesame sweet tofu, served with a white sesame tuile and a hoji-cha syrup.
Yes, this is a tofu. Yes, it’s soft and a cross between custard and jello in texture. Yes, it is sweet – just barely; you pour on some of the toasted-rice syrup to sweeten it to taste. And YES, this is one of THE best black sesame things I’ve ever eaten.
This was actually a sizable dessert, but it was gone way too fast… Once I had scraped down to the bottom of the cup, I seriously still wanted to lick every last bit of black sesame tofu from this thing. And although we were nearing dinner, this was TOTALLY worth every bit of stomach space; my taste buds were thanking me for this treat. Mmmm… blaaaaack sesaaaameee….. Me want more…..
And, as always in Kyotofu, a pair of financiers came with our check.
These little flower-shaped bites were denser than your average pastry, with a good chew and a nice, mild green tea flavor. Matchamatchamatcha, how I love you matchaaaa.
The rest of our time before dinner was spent girl-talking at Kyotofu and taking a short walk around Hell’s Kitchen. And before we knew it, it was DINNNNER TIMMEEEE!
Our dinner location was Pam Real Thai, a restaurant that served some of the more authentic Thai cuisine in the city – we ain’t talkin’ about Pad Thai here, folks.
But see, the thing is, I’ve never had Thai food before. EVER. :O
So when the waiter came to our table, I just let Euna handle all the ordering while I waited in anticipation of my foray into this unknown world cuisine.
First up: Anchovy rice.
It tastes like it sounds: fishy. But in the best way possible! Once mixed, the salty of the rice went really well with the sweetness from the mango and the clean punchiness of the cilantro and onion.
It was pungent, and I ended up having to pick through the pork, but it was my favorite dish of the night.
The Crispy Duck Yum salad however, was not balanced at all. It was SO salty, and the bits of duck were almost too crispy –aaaack, sensory overload!
And that was when I alternated bites of the Shrimp Pad See Ew (funky names, huh?). The flat, thin noodles were chewy and bathed in a pleasantly sweet sauce. Our protein of choice was shrimp, and while they were good, I thought they played second fiddle to the noodles. The springy noods were very fun to eat :).
Then the final dish of the night was…
Pla Chili Sauce, or a whole red snapper fried and covered in a spicy-sweet-tart sauce. And served with some broccoli florets – gotta get your veggies!
Euna undertook the painful task of deboning the fish, while the rest of us just sat and enjoyed the white, flaky meat and the crispy skin. While the fish itself was really good, I thought that the skin was a little too crispy and the sauce a little too salty for my tastes.
So how was my first experience of Thai food? I really enjoyed it! It’s definitely really flavorful, and I love how every dish was salty, sweet, and sour, all at once. And although so much flavor did get to be too much after a while, I’m still looking forward to trying more Thai dishes.
So that was our long, food-centered tour of Manhattan’s west side. I love these food tours that Euna and I go on; they give me an opportunity to see more of New York City, and taste the different cuisines that exist in this one area alone. And all that walking was DEFINITELY worth it. It’s kind of magical, being able to see how the city changes from neighborhood, from the people to the buildings, to (of course) the restaurants.
So much good food, when the summer’s just begun… I can’t wait to see what kinds of yumminess July and August has in store :).
Lulu Cake Boutique:
112 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
425 W. 15th Street
New York, NY 10011
Torrisi Italian Specialties:
250 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10011
705 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
Pam Real Thai:
404 W. 49th Street
New York, NY 10011