Sunday, September 28, 2008

Birthday Food Tour in NYC

Jenny just turned 23 on September 12th. Happy Belated Birthday! Malia and I try and head up to New York in September to celebrate this momentous occasion. Now Jenny pretty much has it all, so it's not always easy finding a birthday present for this girl. Malia and I were watching the Food Network (our favorite tv channel) one evening after work and it dawned upon us - why not celebrate Jenny with a walking food tour of NYC! Obviously, there are a million places to eat in New York, so we decided to focus on places where we could grab bites of little things, allowing us to try some different items and minimize time spent waiting at tables to eat.

We Bolt bused it to New York from D.C. on Sept 19th and arrived around 7:30pm. Jenny surprised us wih reservations at Les Halles, a place we'd been dying to try after reading Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential". The restaurant is known for its Steak Frites, but Malia and I were a little apprehensive about ordering fries, since that was one of the places on our food tour the next day. But hey you only live once, so we went for it. Jenny got the steak frites as well. For dessert I got the bananas flambe. I wish I had taken pictures, because the presentation is amazing (for 12.50, it better be). We all agreed my dessert trumped the chocolate mousse and creme caramel. We headed back to Jenny's apartment to rest up for tomorrow.

Jenny knew that she was going to be taken for a food tour, but had no idea where she would be going and what she would be eating. We headed out at 11am to our first destination....


The shop is rather small and thus the line for doughnuts began to peak out the door. Let me tell you it was well worth the wait.

These doughnuts were the best doughnuts I have ever tried. Unfortunately in our passionate throes of eating, we forgot to take pictures! We tried five different doughnuts, three yeast and two cake: raspberry glazed, coconut cream/coconut glazed, plum jelly/peanut butter glazed, blackout (chocolate/chocolate glazed), and tres leches. The unique thing about the filled doughnuts is that they are piped throughout the square shaped dough so that you get a taste of filling surrounded by the dough in every bite!

JAM Note: Coconut Cream/Coconut Glazed was the favorite (although the bday girl liked the raspberry glazed the best.)
Our second location was an ode to all things chocolate: brownies, cookies, candy bars, truffles, and hot chocolate. Feeling the shift from summer to fall, we all decided we wanted to sip on something warm. Travis and I chose the spicy hot chocolate. It was a nice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and just the right dose of chilis to pack a little punch. The spices mellowed the sweetness of the dark chocolate. Malia and Jenny went for the mint hot chocolate, which always reminds me of the holidays.

Before heading on to the next food stop, we purchased a couple chocolate bars for the road: a dark chocolate with strawberry filling and a dark chocolate with key lime pie filling. The key lime filling was packed with bright lime flavor, which was a nicely juxtaposed against the dark, semi-sweet chocolate.

After eating steak frites at Les Halles the night before, you would think we would have had our fill of french fries. But then again who in their right mind passes up french fries? These fries are made to order: double fried and served with your choice of sauces. The European Mayo and Especial Sauce (ketchup, mayo, and onions) come free. A variety of sauces such as curry, mango, and parmesan peppercorn will cost an extra $1. We got two regulars, which were more than enough for four people to share. They were hot and crisp on the outside. Delicious. Of the sauces, the parmesan peppercorn was nice and creamy, but the pepper was a little overpowering. JAM Note: the especial sauce was the favorite - the raw onions add a nice kick.


Jenny had been to Rickshaw Dumpling before, but Travis told us that Jenny would definitely want to share these dumplings with us. We got 6 of three different kinds: peking duck, pork, and shrimp. The first two were pan-fried and the last was steamed. I prefer the pan-fried, adding a little crispness and chewiness to the dumpling. These are surprisingly light, and had we been eating only dumplings, I think we could have packed away quite a few more of these.
JAM Note: The traditional pork dumplings were the unanimous favorite.

In case you hadn't figured it out, healthy eating was not one of the criteria in scheduling this food tour. I was a little worried that a greasy grilled cheese might send my stomach over the edge after dumplings, but these sandwiches were not overly oily. The secret is the panini press they use to give the bread a nice crunch on the outside and to melt the cheese on the inside. Jenny and I shared a classic cheddar cheese with tomato on sourdough. That combination is definitely my favorite. The sourdough was amazing, crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, with a slightly tangy flavor. Malia got the same, but subbed monteray jack. Travis took the nontraditional route with a chicken melt with roasted veggies on olive bread. He seemed to enjoy his choice.

Say Cheese!

This Wisconsin boy sure loves his cheese.

The final stop took us to Columbus Circle. You have the option of sitting down at their cafe to munch on sandwiches and some of their more intricate desserts. We opted to take our treats to go and enjoy them in Central Park. Everything they offer looked so good, it was hard to decide what to eat. The bakery offers everything from macarons, croissants, tarts, baguettes, and gourmet takes on "the nutter butter" and "the thin mint".

Jenny loves her macarons and chose a cherry with chocolate filling and a chocolate with chocolate filling. Malia and I opted for almond croissants, hers filled with raspberry preserves and mine with chocolate. They were divine. Unfortunately they forgot to put in Travis' coconut macaron. But we shared our goodies with him, so he didn't go hungry (as if any of us was actually hungry at this point).

After a long day of walking and eating.

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