My favourite New York eats

One of my colleagues is planning a trip to America in the next few months, and I told her I’d be happy to help by contributing some “places to eat” lists. Anyway, it got me thinking about some of the great food cities I’ve visited, and my favourite meals in those cities. It’s a topic husband and I come back to a lot; usually it starts with us out for lunch or dinner…
“How good is this burger?! So much cheese…”
“Remember that burger we are in New York?”
“The one at 5 Napkin?”
“Yeah, that one… man it was good…”
“Even better because we were so tired and cold and hungry.”
“That’s right, it was the day we spent walking around Central Park…”
“Remember how much it snowed that day?! I got snow in my shoes and it melted and made my socks wet – that was crap!”

Food has a way of bringing us back, perhaps even better than photos can. It involved more of your senses – you start tasting and smelling memories, rather than just seeing them. That’s actually the whole point of the cookbook I’m putting together… but back to this post, I thought I’d revisit my favourite New York eats – delicious memories for me, and hopefully helpful recommendations for anyone on their way to New York 🙂

1. Papaya King (hot dogs)
The food: good, old-fashioned hot dogs, smothered in sauerkraut and mustard. They’re the quintessential, perfect dog.
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The memory: this was our first “meal” in the city; after checking into our hotel, dropping off our bags and putting on warmer coats, we walked through Central Park to Papaya King at dusk, taking it all in. I remember seeing a squirrel for the first time in the park, taking a selfie to send to my mum, and almost crying when I realised I was actually finally in New York.
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2. Dough (donuts)
The food: a dulce de leche frosted donut covered in toasted almonds – it was big and light and the perfect donut.
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The memory: we ate this at Smorgasburg, basically an indoor food hall at the Brooklyn Flea Market. I loved Brooklyn, because it reminded me so much of my beloved Fitzroy/Collingwood area back at home, and being such a familiar setting I felt like I blended right in.
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3. Sullivan Street Bakery (bakery)
The food: bomboloni – Italian-style, filled donuts. A vanilla and a chocolate one. And tea, and coffee.
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The memory: it was another freezing cold New York morning, and I remember very clearly sitting in this beautiful old bakery, at a slightly rickety wooden bench, with a hot paper cup full of tea that I spilled a little when I took the lid off, because it was filled to the brim. It was dimly lit, with the morning sun still struggling to push its way through the clouds, and I was so content…
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4. 5 Napkin Burger (burgers)
The food: The Original burger – big, fat and juicy, full of beautiful melty cheese and caramelised onions, and it was magical. Still one of my favourite ever burgers.
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The memory: good heavens above, I was so damn cold… we’d spent about 4 or 5 hours walking around Central Park in about -8 degrees Celsius with nasty wind gusts. The highlight was visiting the Alice in Wonderland statue; it’s an all-time favourite book of mine 🙂  I remember being seated, telling husband what to order for me, and immediately running to the bathroom to run my hands under warm water and then under the hand dryer for a few minutes.
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5. Katz’s Deli (sandwiches)
The food: a potato knish, and a big, fat, pastrami with mustard on rye.
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The memory: oh man, we were so excited about this one… we’d seen Adam’s Man Vs Food episode several times, and couldn’t wait to finally try this iconic sandwich for ourselves. We arrived first thing in the morning, and felt like we were sitting in a movie set with the place still empty bar us and 2 other small tables of patrons. We were also really grateful we’d walked there (not so grateful for the grey, sludgy snow we had to walk through), because there were serious calories consumed.
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6. Russ & Daughters (bagels & appetizers)
The food: an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese and Scottish smoked salmon.
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The memory: a few hours after the Katz’s Deli visit, and a few more kilometres walked, we dropped into Russ & Daughters, because I wanted to try a bagel with cream cheese and salmon, just like they do in the movies and stuff. I know, but screw it; when you’re in New York, you embrace the cliches.
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7. Levain Bakery (bakery)
The food: probably the best chocolate chip cookie in the world. Also, a delectable chocolate chip stuffed brioche.
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The memory: It was another freezing cold start, with the most snow either of us had ever seen. We again walked through Central Park to get there, and I remember making my way down a set of stairs and feeling like I was in a fairy tale. I was in my own world taking photos of the perfect whiteness, oblivious to the fact my husband was taking photos of me, too. Defrosting in the warm little store with my cookie was the best!
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8. Momofuku Milk Bar (sweets)
The food: crack pie and birthday truffles. We had them in Toronto, and again in New York. Magical, magical pieces of sugar.
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The memory: we were walking back to our hotel at the end of another long day/night, delirious with exhaustion and excitement. Then, I saw the neon pink sign; we stopped mid-stride, looked at each other, and ran in. We walked the few blocks back to the hotel with our goodies, collapsed onto our bed, and stuffed our faces like little kids with their lolly bags after a big party.
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9. Crif Dogs (hot dogs)
The food: hot dogs. Lots of them. The BLT, the Jon-Jon Deragon, the Tsunami
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The memory: we’d heard about this place on Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, and were pretty keen to give it a try when we saw him there with Mr Momofuku David Chang. We were the only ones there when we arrived, the guy who was serving us was so much fun, and we had the best time just being there. It was the second last day of our week in New York, and we had a blast stuffing our faces with hot dogs and laughing and talking about the past few days!
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10.  Four & Twenty Blackbirds (pie)
The food: the most magical black-bottomed oat pie and a pot of Earl Grey tea.
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The memory: this is one of my strongest travel memories. We’d spend the day in Brooklyn, and I wanted to try the pies here after seeing them all over Instagram, but we also wanted to cross the bridge back to Manhattan before dark so I could get some photos. We/I got so caught up in my pie, we didn’t realise the sun was rapidly going down outside; by the time we got out, dusk was coming and we hauled ass to the Brooklyn Bridge. We didn’t get to photograph it in daylight; we got the most perfect dusk light and sunset we could have asked for, and one of the most magical moments I’ve ever experienced.
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11. The Halal Guys (street food – Middle Eastern)
The food: gyros bowls, only USD$7.00 and chocked full of rice, lamb & salad. And topped with pita bread.
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The memory: this was our last meal in NYC, and it was the best way we could have possibly ended the week there. It was cold, but not raining, we joined the line and waited patiently for our bowls, and the line moved pretty quickly. We were served with smiles and laughs, and left the cart to find somewhere to sit and eat. I remember vividly sitting on a cold floor outside a fast food restaurant and I was wearing a black and white flowered dress with black tights and knee high black boots. We were amongst dozens of other people who were sitting around the streets with their dinner, all kind of exchanging smiles when they realised they were all eating the same thing, like we were all united in our choice of street food over restaurant fare, and we were all pretty happy with ourselves.
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#TBT: Washington Square Park, New York City

Because I cannot WAIT for winter to hit again! I love rain and cold and grey skies. And we got that in spades here…

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I can’t even remember how we got here. I’d just fallen down some stairs a few days before in the ice and snow and rain of New York and done some torn-rotator-cuff damage to my shoulder. It was so cold, it was grey, it was raining and miserable outside, not many other people were out. I was trudging through the rain in my brown leather boots, pulling my scarf tighter around my neck, my hair was getting wet and I couldn’t have cared less.

Washington Square Park is one of the city’s favourite meeting places, with the arch and the fountain being popular spots for tourists and locals alike. I just thought it was beautiful through the rain on that cold day.

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Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, New York

Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, New York
http://www.fdrfourfreedomspark.org/

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“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedoms of every person to worship god in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want – everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear – anywhere in the world. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt, January 6, 1941

The Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park was dedicated almost three years ago – a stunning four acre park that memorialises those four freedoms. You can read more on the website, but their mission statement reads:
The Four Freedom Park Conservancy’s mission is to operate and maintain Four Freedoms Park, a public space dedicated to celebrating and honoring the life and legacy of President Franklin Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms through educational initiatives and public programming.

I’m not into politics, nor do I care for politicians. I know next to nothing about my own country’s political history (and not even sure it’s worth worrying about considering the iPhone wasn’t even around yet the last time we had a prime minister run a full term), much less about a country on the other side of the world, no matter how big a world power they may be. For the most part, I don’t care. But those words up there hit me hard when I visited the FDR Four Freedoms Park in January; I was reminded of the concept of freedom (more so freedom from ourselves) writing this post on Wednesday night, and reminded again more specifically of the words themselves last week while I was putting together this article for Outlet Magazine. 75 years ago, in the midst of yet another world war (the speech was meant to help rally the American public against the threat of the Axis powers), this man had the strength and courage to speak up about the freedom that should be afforded to EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD. And what really got me, still gets me, is how relevant those freedoms are, today maybe even more so than when they were first expressed.

Freedom of speech and expression: how many instances have we heard of in recent years where journalists have been made victims? Or even just regular every day people speaking out about their beliefs?

Freedom to worship god in your own way: how many people are persecuted and killed over religious differences, not just every day, but every hour?

Freedom from want: did you know that the 85 richest people in the world hold as much wealth as the 3.5 BILLION poorest?

Freedom from fear: imagine living on constant fear of bombings, rape, drive by shootings, poverty, homelessness, abuse…

 

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The park itself is beautiful; from the pictures I’ve seen, it’s bright and colourful in summer, but it was another level of stunning in winter. You can visit any day except Tuesdays, when it’s closed, and you can take the cable car over – it’s a gorgeous view looking over the city on your way across. Everything about the island was perfect, from the decrepit old smallpox hospital to the modern design of the island by Louis Kahn, it is magnificent. It doesn’t get the attention of Central Park or The Empire State Building, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a must visit in New York City. And while you’re there, take a moment of peace to appreciate how fortunate you are to have at least had the freedom to travel to such a beautiful place.

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Before I wrap this post up and we head to the weekend (yay!), I also just wanted to express my gratitude to all of the beautiful people who have stopped by and taken the time to leave a message after my re-introduction post on Wednesday night... It was hard to write and even harder to hit the POST IMMEDIATELY button; I expected that it wouldn’t have been for everyone and I may have lost a few followers. I never could have predicted the incredible outpouring of love and support I’ve received from this online community (and I’ve actually gained a few followers!), and I am so so grateful for it! Thank you all so much, from the bottom of my heart 😊🙏🏼❤️

Eat here: Nippori, New York, (Japanese)

Nippori
245 W 51st St, New York
http://www.nipporiny.com/

So, I’m currently curled up on the couch, coughing violently, with what I suspect is a  slight fever, and feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. But (light at the end of the tunnel) I’m also off to Japan in 43 days… this is rolling around SO quickly!!! This whole low FODMAP thing is a bit shit when I feel like a burger or a donut, but one of the other foods I frequently crave (and can actually eat at the moment) is Japanese! Yay! Every now and then I get crazy cravings for Japanese food. But good Japanese food, not like Japanese-by-numbers crap. I had one of those cravings in New York earlier this year, and did a bit of research online (AKA I Googled for 10 minutes before getting bored and hungry and settling on the first one I saw) and we ended up going to Nippori for dinner before seeing WICKED – conveniently located across the road,  by the way!

Nippori is a gorgeous little place, small but beautifully set out, with the very high standard of customer service you would typically associate with such a nice Japanese restaurant.  After being invited into the warmth from the New York winter cold and greeted like old friends who hadn’t visited in months, we were immediately seated and handed our menus. Everything looked to be pretty good, and the food envy started almost straight away, watching meal after meal being brought out of the kitchen and placed on surrounding tables. We decided to order a few plates, in the interest of being able to try as much as possible; we ended up with:

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Top left: one of the specials of the day, a perfectly braised pork belly with onion, bean sprouts, and the most magnificent sauce. Perfect choice!

Top right: pan-fried pork gyoza, one of my favourites. Nippori did gyoza particularly well, great flavour without that unsavoury aftertaste you can sometimes get with dumplings.

Bottom left: assorted sushi platter. The fish was fresh and buttery, fell apart as you ate it, and the rice was really well seasoned. One of the better sushi platters I’ve had.

Bottom right: oyako don – this chicken, onion and egg on rice dish is a favourite of mine to order at home at Shiki Japanese, and despite being a little different and a lot more expensive AUD$9.50 vs USD$13.00), it certainly didn’t disappoint. The spring onions gave it a great taste, and the sauces they used were perfect with the chicken and egg. Loved it!

It wasn’t the cheapest place to eat, but then again, nothing really is in New York (particularly in the theatre district!). It was more than worth it though; good Japanese food is always something I’ll happily justify spending a little more on, and it’s a place I’d definitely recommend if you’re craving some good Japanese food in New York, too. And while we’re talking Japanese food, any exceptional recommendations for Tokyo??!

 

Nippori on Urbanspoon

Coast to coast hot dogs! Eat here: Papaya King, NYC and Pink’s, LA

Happy Friday friends! OMG it’s been such a long week… since my run on Sunday, my body has been aching like no-one’s business (I tore the cartilage in both hips a few years ago training for taekwondo national championships, had one operated on, the other ignored, and dear god they hurt like hell after a run!), I woke up a few mornings ago feeling like I was swallowing razor blades, work’s been busy (this is a good thing, just tiring!), and I’m trying to make sure I’m making enough time in the week to work on my blog and other writing. I feel like I’m putting almost all of my energy and time into meal planning so I won’t screw up this low FODMAP thing as well as practicing anti-anxiety and depression and disordered eating behaviour, I am baking up a storm over the next two days for my sister-in-law’s weekend baby shower (there is an ungodly amount of butter and eggs in my fridge at the moment), and, despite not having having made time to de-stress with my usual daily yoga,  and not having had more than 6 broken hours sleep in a night for the last few months, I am trying to keep a positive frame of mind going! I’m actually feeling surprisingly, oddly good at the moment… calm before the storm, perhaps?!

ANYWAY, back to my original point – Friday!!! If I wasn’t FODMAPing, I’d probably be heading out for some sort of delicious meaty treat for dinner. Husband and I were discussing hot dogs last night (just the standard kind of highly intelligent dinner-table conversation that goes on in our house), and I started thinking about how much I’d love one… but instead of going to get a hot dog, I’m going to flash back to two delicious dogs I had in America back at the start of the year, on opposite sides of the country. Both classics, both city institutions, both delicious, both worthy of your spare change and time to visit.

 

First up, representing the east coast…

Papaya King
179 E 86th St, New York
http://www.papayaking.com/index.php/food/

IMG_5569To quote the great man, Anthony Bourdain, “…there’s always a shining light on the hill, an old reliable, arguably the best hot dog in New York City, our best food forward in the meat-in-tube form department: Papaya King.”

With an endorsement like that, you can hardly not visit this place when you go to New York! And so we did. We actually walked the whole 3.7km (or 2.3 miles) from our hotel to Papaya King, because we had literally just gotten off the Amtrak train that took us into NYC, dumped our bags, and were ready to kill two birds with one stone – let’s see a bit of the city on our way to food!

While I’m not sure this is the best hot dog in New York (Crif Dogs, I’m looking at you!), this was certainly the best old-style dog we had there. And the papaya drink was pretty darn good too,; I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised as I wasn’t expecting much from it! Plain and simple, dog and sauerkraut, fantastic mustard, quick and friendly service, good snap on the hot dog, soft bun, happy days. It’s standing room only, so if you’re there in winter like we were, get cosy with the guy standing at the counter next to you and come together over a mutual love for good food!

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Click to add a blog post for Papaya King on Zomato

 

 

And the west coast’s delegate…

Pink’s Hot Dogs
709 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles
http://www.pinkshollywood.com/

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I have a confession to make; this hot dog was not a planned thing. We were on our way out to dinner at Umami when our walk from the hotel to The Grove took us on a path right past Pink’s. We knew we were having big fat burgers for dinner. We still stopped for a snack. Naughty fatties, I know, but when passes a city institution such as Pink’s one does not pass it by! It’s pretty exciting, as demonstrated in the photo above by the kid who just dropped for no apparent reason other than extreme hot dog excitement.

Pink’s has been around since 1939 and if the walls lined with signed celebrity photos are anything to go by, it’s still pretty popular 75 years on. We had a chat to a local lady lining up who told us she’d lived here her whole life and never had one – she only stopped there tonight because it was the shortest she’d ever seen the line! Guess it was meant to be…

We kept it simple with our order, going the classic chili dog with mustard, onions and chili, come in at around USD$5.00 including tax. It was money well spent; fantastic dog! The chili was amazing, just enough kick to help the flavour along, not enough to overpower it. The dog itself was delicious, the bun was perfect – soft enough to enjoy, not so soft that it went soggy.

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Pink’s wasn’t originally on our list of place’s to try, but it should have been – it’s not just the delicious food, it’s the experience! People there were friendly and happy and willing to chat to us strange foreigners, even though the line was deep and they could have all been grumpy and impatient… I guess that’s just the by-product of good food and service! It’s not fancy food, but it is fun, and it’s been around so long for a reason – enjoy!

Pink's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

A view from above: Top of the Rock, New York

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Well, if you’ve stuck around this long, allow me to thank you for joining me this week as I reminisced my way through New York… Truly, it’s one hell of a city, and I’m already planning my return (seriously). I thought it only fitting to end the week off with this post; there haven’t been many other times in my life where I have felt both literally and figuratively on top of the world to this extent…

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Taking the elevator up to the 67th floor of the Rockefeller Center on a cold but clear January day was exciting, but walking outside and up the stairs to the 70th floor was something else. From way up there, out in the fresh, open air, I could see so much more than I ever could have imagined possible in the middle of such a big city. From one side, Central Park sprawled through the middle of the metropolis. From the other, the Empire State and Chrystler Buildings sparkled in the morning sunshine.

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Do yourself a favour when you’re in New York, don’t bother waiting in the ridiculous line to get to the top of the Empire State Building; surely when you take your photos of the New York skyline, you want that to be in there! Buy an express pass for the Top of the Rock, visit early in the morning if you really want to skip the crowds, and enjoy the most gorgeous view of the city without the long waits  : )

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Through my eyes: South Street Seaport, New York, USA

We’re almost at the end of NYC week! Hope you’ve all enjoyed my little virtual tour and maybe found a few new things to add to the bucket list, or things to re-visit – I don’t think you could ever have too many visits to New York 🙂

Before we finished off tomorrow, I wanted to add in a quick little snapshot of a place that generally isn’t high up on many visitors’ lists: the South Street Seaport.

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The South Street Seaport is down the south end (duh) of Manhattan, wedged between the Financial District to the north and west, and the East River to the southeast. It was used as a port back in the 1600s by the Dutch West India Company, and today greets visitors as a historic site and museum, with beautiful views out over the water, and of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.

It’s a really lovely place to walk down to and just sit and watch from, especially if you get a clear day with a bit of sunshine. It’s well worth the visit, even if you’re not interested in the history – sitting out on the pier and taking a New York Minute to just appreciate where you are and reminisce about all the amazing things you’ve just seen and done is always a good idea, especially towards the end of your trip, actual or virtual 🙂