Eating the Big Apple: A week in New York

With fine dining and super-trendy speakeasy bars to traditional diners and street vendors, not to mention Central Park, Bloomingdales, Broadway and its never-ending night life, New York has it all.

In fact it took a trip to New York to coerce me into finding the time to update this blog with a new post, which I have neglected as of late. Having recently married and six months into a new job, Salt and Pepper Pots has been sat on the sidelines for some time with wedding planning taking over much of our lives. But here it is, a new post, a simple post, on our time eating, drinking and playing about in the Big Apple where we chose to spend our honeymoon; I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend that others do the same.

Staying in Time Square, I was very aware of falling into the trap of visiting a restaurant two paces from your doorstep and paying over the odds for mediocre meals at restaurants that relied on their central location rather than their food. While big hitters like Bubba Gump Shrimp and The Hard Rock are obvious examples, not every Times Square eatery is over priced or based on novelty. We were fortunate enough to stumble upon Saju, a small French bistro right off of Times Square, central, but tucked away just enough to not be noticed by too many passersby. On our first night we enjoyed a fish feast of mussels, seafood linguine and a fish grill, washed down with a bottle of Malbec, reasonably priced at $30 from memory, with the total meal coming to around $120 – that’s about £70. Not bad. We enjoyed it so much we returned on our final night when we were both hankering for a steak. We were presented with two deliciously simple, perfectly seared steaks while seated in a front bay window. Top notch.

I’m not sure if many visitors to New York realise there are such fabulous beaches located so near to the city, or that they are so ridiculously easy to reach. Coney Island, with its theme park and long sandy beach, is one of those places you either love or hate. I had heard a lot of mixed opinions before visiting with some calling it a place ‘full of freaks’ and others describing it as a haven. I loved it. Just 50 minutes on the Metro from Times Square, with a return costing under $6, it was one of the most enjoyable days of our week. Pulling into Stillwell Avenue you can almost taste the sea. With its stretched boardwalk running the length of the sandy beach and piers stretching out into the ocean, there was nowhere better to be on a hot day. Add its world-famous Luna Park and Deano’s Wonderland theme parks and a host of beach front bars and you have the recipe for a perfect beach day. Yes, we rode the roller coasters, a lot. I love rides. But onto the food. Arriving at around 11am, we started off with a New York breakfast standard, Eggs Benedict with fries (fries are served with everything), at the appropriately names Tom’s Coney Island – a typical American style diner – while looking out to sea. Having spent the day in the sun we later propped up at the bar of Paul’s Daughter. Sat right on the boardwalk we ordered up a plate of calamari, fried clams and potato wedges – delicious. It would have been rude not to have partaken in a beverage or two. For me that meant Brooklyn Brewery’s Summer Ale – a lightly hopped seasonal ale perfect for hot weather.

You cannot go to New York without sampling some of its street food with vendors positioned on literally every corner. Don’t be put off by the perhaps perceived lack of hygiene or proximity of your food to taxi fumes – these carts serve up some of the city’s best grab and go bites. Our favourite was this Philly steak cheese wrap. I’ll admit it looks similar to a doner kebab, and probably shares many similarities, but don’t be put off, just give it a go. Other delicacies include the famous New York slice. We found a favourite pizza place near Times Square where the slices, like most of the city’s pizza places, are the size of your head. Take it up the red steps of Time Square’s TKTS booth to really tick it off your ‘foodie things to do in New York’ list. The famous pretzel is another staple grab and go item. We tried one in Central Park, but I have to say I wasn’t impressed. Being a massive salt fiend, I was expecting to enjoy the baked salted twist, but it was just SO salty, and dry. Maybe we got one from a dud vendor, either way it wouldn’t go down as a foodie highlight. We also visited the zoo. I couldn’t resist adding in a few of my favourite snaps; a snow monkey and a red panda. Well worth the $12 ticket price.

Breakfast! In New York that means eggs, eggs, eggs. Scrambled, fried, poached, in a pancake – eggs seem to be the city’s staple breakfast item, at least in my experience, unless you go for a salmon bagel, which are delicious. Eggs Royale was a favourite of mine – poached eggs on a muffin with smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce. Eggs Benedict, the same but with bacon, sounds just as lovely until you realise that by bacon, it usually means ham, which is no where near as tasty. Another alternative is Crab Benedict, crab cakes topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, often served with home fries (basically wedges fried with peppers). One morning, when eating breakfast in a particularly ‘local’ diner, I decided to try the unusual (for a Brit) combination of pancakes with maple syrup, bacon and scrambled egg. While not the most conventional of flavour profiles, I have to admit it was darn tasty – a strange mix of sweet and salty complemented by fluffy pancakes. But half the portion would have been enough, as generous as the portion sizes are. I left feeling more than a little full.

One of the best things about New York is that it is a melting pot of cultures resulting in a plethora of authentic restaurants serving up cuisines from all over the world, much in the same way as London or any multi-cultural city. We stumbled upon a Cuban restaurant one afternoon which made for a pleasant pitstop and break from the humidity on a particularly hot day. Sitting at the bar, I slurped down a pint of Blue Moon alongside a selection of plantain baskets filled with pulled pork, chicken and mince. Delicious! I must also mention our visit to the Waldorf Astoria – an icon of the city and one of its oldest hotels. We made a point of visiting one of its bars, The Bull and Bear, for a cocktail one evening. Needing a break from the huge portions, we chose this evening to skip a three course restaurant meal and instead propped up at its bar to enjoy a cocktail, a Pom Cosmo, and a decadent seafood platter piled high with oysters, lobster, spider crab and prawns. A feast! Cocktails were around $20 and the platter $65. Perhaps it is living in London, but I found that to be remarkably good value, as I was expecting to pay a great deal more at such a plush venue. Highly recommended, if only to have a nosy inside the hotels lobby and the impeccably presented loos. Finally, a special shout out to British Airways, who on discovering it was our honeymoon gifted us with a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle – enjoyed high above the skyline!

To sum up New York is an absolutely fabulous city. From an eating and drinking point of view we barely scratched the surface, but every bite of the little that we did sample was fantastic. Brilliant service and quality food, enjoyed at restaurants across the board from humble diners to the grand Waldorf, made our experience of the city one to remember. Thumbs up New York!

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