Over the New Year’s holiday, Arne, my mom, and I went to New York to visit my brother Jeff, his wife Ashley, and their new baby girl, Rory. We took the JetBlue redeye flight – a direct flight that leaves Albuquerque just before midnight and arrives at Kennedy airport at 6:00 in the morning.
I’d never taken a redeye before, and I can’t say I loved it – but then, I can’t say I love any way of flying cross-country. Just not fun. Anyway, we took a cab to our Airbnb apartment rental (apparently referred to by in-the-know New Yorkers just as an “Airbnb,” as in, “How’s your Airbnb?” – to which the answer of “Not as cute as it looked in the pictures” seems to be expected). I was very glad I had rented it from the previous day so we could just go in and crash at 7 a.m. – otherwise we couldn’t have checked in until late afternoon.
After a nap, we met up with Ashley, and we were famished. As we were discussing what to do for lunch, she jumped on the idea of pizza, and shortly thereafter we were on our way to Dellarocco’s wood-fired pizza. Arne and I were instantly excited by the menu, which was rich with ingredients like shiitake and porcini mushrooms, olive tapenade, smoked mozzarella, and a cornucopia of cured pork products (bresaola, prosciutto, speck, soppressata, and more). Mom was less excited, but picked out the Dellarocco (pictured above), a white pizza with broccoli rabe, sweet Italian sausage, and smoked mozzarella. For balance, we selected our other pie from the “red pizzas” section of the menu – the Capricciosa, with mushrooms, artichokes, prosciutto, Gaeta olives, and basil.
The pizzas came out before long, and wow. The crusts were the best I’ve ever had, simultaneously crisp and chewy with an incredible taste of wood smoke. The toppings on both were great, but the broccoli rabe and sausage pie won hands-down. The bitterness of the broccoli was a perfect counter for the sausage’s richness.
On Saturday we headed to Chelsea Market (in, duh, Chelsea). We’ve visited the market on every trip we’ve taken to NYC, but never on a Saturday. The place was a zoo, so full of people that navigating through it was like… ummm… honestly, I can’t think of anything crowded enough to get my point across with hyperbole. There were, simply, way too many people. The best I can do is to show you this picture of the Spices and Teas shop there and tell you the row of people at the front (the right side of the photo) was three deep, and though I wanted to try some things, I was way too impatient to wait for a turn.
And it was almost impossible to move in the Lobster Place, an unbelievable seafood store that makes me want to weep with jealousy whenever I visit it. I can’t believe I didn’t take any pictures in there. It’s an enormous space filled with cases of the most gorgeously fresh fish displayed on ice, most of them fish you can’t get in Albuquerque – and a good number of fish I’ve never even heard of before. And things like cockles, which are like a clam’s prettier cousin. I could cook from this place for months and not use the same kind of seafood twice.
|That’s not our Sprite.|
Later, Mom bought us mini-doughnuts from the Doughnuttery. The little doughnuts emerge from their hot oil bath and are immediately tossed with flavored sugars and handed to you in a small brown bag. We tried them with simple cinnamon sugar and in a variety called “Cacaoboy,” flavored with cacao nibs, chocolate cookies, and mesquite. We also got dulce de leche and chocolate dunking sauces.
It’s hard to beat the airy lightness of a fresh doughnut, and these were very good. I especially loved the Cacaoboy. They were so good that when there was dunking sauce left, I stood in line again for more. This time I also got some flavored with “House of Cardamom” sugar – cardamom and orange zest. Wow, those were good. Arne loved them – no surprise, as they had a definite Scandinavian leaning to the flavor.
I also bought a bunch of incredible caramels from Liddabit Sweets – apple-cider caramels, fig-ricotta caramels, and gingrbread stout caramels. Small and potent, these are probably the best caramels I have ever tasted (and I’ve shared a variety box of Vosge’s caramels with Arne – not even close to this good). Check out the link above to order some for yourself.
After the Chelsea market, we went to the High Line, a lovely park that was once an elevated railroad line. Or at least, I have memories of it as a lovely park. Our Christmas card one year featured pictures of us playing on the High Line while it snowed, without another human in sight. On this Saturday afternoon, though, the park was as inundated with people as Chelsea Market had been. A park is no longer a park if all you can do there is shuffle along in an endless line of people. Suddenly I understood the New York native’s complaint about great things being destroyed by tourists. It was sad.
On New Year’s Eve, we were all kind of tired, so Arne, Mom, and I headed back to our Airbnb around 10:30 to let the new parents have some downtime. At midnight, we discovered we could see fireworks from our windows! It’s true that we had to kind of sit in the windowsill and crane our necks backward, but it was still a pretty lovely way to ring in 2014.
The next morning, we headed to Colonie, a lovely spot that serves (according to its website’s FAQ) “seasonal American with a focus on local and sustainable foods wherever possible.” While Manhattan’s hot restaurants seem often to draw from an Asian background – Momfuku, Fatty Crab, Ivan Ramen (which we visited on this trip, and I will discuss in another post) – Brooklyn seems focused on this kind of upscale American dining.
Ashley assured us that her sources said we’d have no trouble snagging a seat for New Year’s brunch if we arrived by opening time at 11:00 – the lines form later in the morning – and in fact, when we arrived a bit before 11:00, there was no one else there. The doors opened shortly and we settled into a simple, airy dining room with music that was just a touch too loud. Everything on the menu looked good. We started with a basket of doughnuts dipped in chocolate sauce, and moved on to a platter of oysters. (Mom and Jeff declined the latter, which was fine with the rest of us.)
Our entrees followed soon after, and they were beautifully presented. Ashley’s pancakes were so deeply browned and puffy they looked a lot like the doughnuts we’d just had. Jeff’s biscuits and bacon (he held the baby, so stuck with finger food) were fluffy and rich, respectively. Mom was disappointed with the biscuits in her Benedict – they were slightly underdone and doughy in the middle – but otherwise it was a nice plate of food, with perfect poached eggs and salty country ham.
My dish of house-cured salmon and potato roesti was absolutely gorgeous. The pink fish, the stack of well-browned, triangular potato cakes, accented with the pale green frilly leaves of frisee – it was almost too pretty to eat. But I can attest that it was delicious, the fish very delicate, the potatoes wonderfully crisp. Arne’s duck and potato hash was great too, even more so when I slipped him Mom’s uneaten Hollandaise to go with it.
We went home that evening. But that wasn’t all we ate on this trip – Arne and I snuck off one afternoon for a visit to Gotham West market, where we tried Ivan Ramen and charcuterie from Cannibal. And Arne, Ashley, and Rory had an adventure getting Cronuts for us all. Stay tuned for details!