Monday, August 1, 2011


I've reached the third part of my four part series on New York in July (even though we've now entered August). . The four parts of the series are in no particular order and may also break the mold of holding off until the next nearest Thursday to post. I'm getting hungry just thinking about this one. I'm no food critic but here's my appraisal of the new food directions in New York City.


Before our trip to New York I had no idea how far ahead of the curve we were at Joy and Steve's wedding. Their donut cake was not only tasty but so au currant. New York's hottest new thing - the doughnut. Not just any doughnut but the gourmet donut, a delicate blend of non-traditional, exotic, and sexy confectionary delights that tickle the roof of your mouth and play culinary games with your mind.
Both of my donut finds were lucky coincidences linked to my flea market scavenger hunting. Just off the F train at 23d Street and on the ground floor of the Chelsea Hotel is Donut Plant. Opened in February by Mark Isreal, the 23rd Street shop is an expansion of his smaller East Village store. Mark sits on the fence between yeast based and cake based donuts in an effort to not disappoint either type customer. I'm definitely a yeast man. I like the Krispy Kreme, melt-in-your-mouth variety and Mr. Isreal pulls enough of these out of his fry vats to satisfy my cravings. He differentiates his squishy sweets from the now long gone from New York and oh so ordinary Krispy Kremes of yore by using local and organic ingredients without the help of eggs. I don't know if this is supposed to make them healthier but I'm keeping to that premise and no one is going to tell me otherwise. With flavors like Lavender, Crème Brulee and Matcha Green Tea available in both the traditional round and somewhat easier to maneuver square shape these donuts are a must.
Traveling from the Clinton flea on Saturday to the Williamsburg on Sunday the Bedford Bakery, Dough, makes going to the flea a success even if your only purchase is a donut. Clocking in at between $2 and $3 a pop these yeast based (they had me right there) circles of gastronomic genius are worth much more, but please don't tell them that. Dough has made it very clear that the path of culinary success is fried, round and made from yeast. I love em. From their blood orange to their café au lait, from their chocolate with cacao nibs to their Hibiscus, every single inspiration is tastier than the next and I think I tried to taste them all.
These yeast darlings don't have to be served hot like their Krispy Kreme stepsisters to make them irresistible. No. They're perfect anytime of the day you show up to purchase one. Other than their flea market booths you can find them at 305 Franklin Avenue in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn. Cupcakes beware, you're old hat now. The donut wars are on and I'm willing to put another notch in my belt to accommodate those doughy irresistible circles and squares

Danny Meyer knows food and fast food is not a genre of food he's about to ignore. His Shake Shacks seem to be multiplying faster than the rabbits in farmer McGregor's garden. I can't even find a current list of all the locations but I know the original and I know it well.
Over the years it's become a tourist destination or at least that's my answer to the continued long lines of multi-nationals waiting for the hamburger juice to start running down their chins or the condensation from their super thick shake to run in tiny rivulets over every knuckle. Nestled under a canopy of trees in Madison Square Park (renovated with the generosity of Mr. Meyer), the outdoor restaurant combines the traditional comfort food of America with the pea gravel and café tables of a Parisian park. At night the sky twinkles with the exact amount of amber glowing bulbs necessary to create perfection.
When we lived on 29th Street the park was only a couple of blocks away, near enough to take Emmy and Buddy, our dog. for little playtime followed by burgers and shakes for us, and a Poochini for Buddy. That European inclusion of humans and animals for an evening of dining out is a rare American experience, except at Danny's. There are probably a half dozen Shack alternatives available in NYC now but none have the ambiance of the original.
I'd assume the lines at the cloned versions are shorter but I'm still willing to take my vibrating announcer, find a comfortable table under the lights, and sit with my crossword puzzle waiting for that tingling in my pocket telling me my bit of heaven is ready to be picked up.

Who would have thought the Toy Building would end up housing a place as unchildlike and sophisticated as Eataly. Then maybe this place has turned many of us into bambinos, kids at a candy store where all of the candy comes from Italy. The Market at Eataly is amazing just by its design. It's discontiguous arrangement of grocery stations sandwiched between eateries and tiny shops makes it unique and inspirational. It's laid out like a tiny Italian village where butchers, local produce vendors, vintners, and cheese shops hold court between cappuccino cafes and seafood restaurants.
The idea for Eataly was the heart's desire of Oscar Farinetti, a self-made electronics entrepreneur, who opened his first Eataly in Turin, Italy in 2007 after having sold off his electronics business. For Eataly New York he has partnered with Mario Batali and the mother and son team of Lidia and Joe Bastianich, all three superstars in the culinary world. The final partner, Slow Food, was founded in Turin by Carlo Petrini as a non-profit organization dedicated to counteract the fast food and even faster life style surge prevalent around the world.
At Eataly you can chose from a vegetable butcher who will wash and trim your vegetables for free, to a class where both the food and language are Italian, to trying to decide between over 100 varieties of olive oil from all over Italy to a veal chop smoked in hay by Chef Michael Toscano at Manzo or a dish of pistachio gelato from Bronte, Sicily from Gelateria. Eataly will be celebrating its first Birthday this month with special parties from August 26th through the 31st. I have a feeling this is a Birthday party you don't want to miss.

"No Skinny Bitches" is the vinyl sign adhered to the front door of Rice to Riches on Spring Street in Nolita. This high-tech version of a baby-boomer's soda fountain serves up a multitude of rice pudding flavors in an environment of bright plastic forms, plasma screen menus and posted platitudes that aren't necessarily directed to an under 16 clientele.
Every aspect of this fast food guilty pleasure has been designed to perfection, from the signage to the takeaway containers and spoons, to the rice pudding itself. Flavors offered are as delicious as they sound: cinnamon sling, old-fashioned romance, and sex drugs and rocky road.
I'm a traditionalist; chocolate chip flirt is my favorite. There is also a selection of toppings you can add to your pudding so skinny bitches beware. If you're going to count calories Rice to Riches isn't for you.


New York City, 1962
by Bruce Davidson
Magnum Photos

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