Thursday, May 22, 2008

Highs and Lows

I went to New York with two goals – to eat at Mario Batali’s Babbo and to stuff myself silly with the best street food that NY has to offer. I think I did pretty well on both fronts, straddling two extremes of the gastronomic spectrum.

Babbo was as great as I remembered it (I went there for the first time about 4-5 years ago). They serve some of the best octopus I have had to this day, simmered in white wine and charred on a super hot grill. It is so creamy and soft, so full of flavor, and so impossible to reproduce or find anywhere else. I had my very first squab, which to my surprise and delight was cooked to medium rare and tasted exactly like a dense calf’s liver. Totally bizarre, incongruous, and un-bird-like, but also wonderfully delicious.

We ate in good company – besides my friends Kanchan and Shariff, who were celebrating their newly-acquired marriage license (though not yet the marriage itself) we had REM’s Michael Stipe sitting at a table on our left, and Jim Nelson, the editor-in-chief of GQ, sitting on our right. I was feeling very VIP that evening. We totally spent the whole night drinking with Michael Stipe and then Jim Nelson gave me some women’s clothes that had been bumping around the GQ stockrooms… you know, some Prada, some Miu Miu, nothing special. And then I woke up from my octopus-induced coma and realized I should probably stop staring and/or drooling over the famous people.

The rest of the weekend was spent in the pursuit of less refined, though no less complex street food. 1) Pizza at Lombardi’s in SoHo – thin crust (wish it had been more charred), nicely melted mozzarella, anchovies on one half (my half), not too much sauce, way too many tourists with fanny packs;

2) A beautiful skirt steak sandwich at a flea market in the depths of Brooklyn (perhaps my new favorite place). The steak was well-marinated and tender, topped with a spicy aioli and stuffed into a crusty ciabatta roll.

It was horrifically messy, left everything orange and slightly sticky, yet completely happy. The grilled corn on the side though… oh the corn. It was candy sweet and charred from the grill, every kernel so full of juice that it felt like little balls of caviar exploding with every bite. It was amazing and bordeline dessert-like.

Oh but that’s not all. There was also 3) a NY street hot dog (meh), 4) a street cart soft pretzel (meh), 5) some fresh canoli (yay), 6) bison jerky from the Union Sq farmer’s market, and so on and so forth. I think I have only recounted 1/10th of everything I ate in those three days. I am still in recovery from all the eating, but I still love eating vacations. You can get the high-end and the everyday, and each tastes awesome and unique in its own way.

P.S. Next on my NY list – really good Mexican tacos, Chinese dumplings, and hot chocolate form Jacques Torres. Oh, and a really good Rueben, Cubano, a decent margarita would be nice…. And I could go on. My food fantasies tend to run amok.


One Food Guy said...

I can't wait to read more about your NYC eating escapade! I love Lombardis pizza - did you go to Rice to Riches next door?

I can't wait to get back to NYC for some good city eating!

I'm in Switzerland right now!

mehdi said...


You should also give a try to Senegalese cuisine at NY. In Harlem, 117th street there are two. Its a nice experience.


PS: I'm also a super-fan of NYC street food, esp kebabs on skewers.

Anna said...

One Food Guy - Dude. You get to go all over the place! I am envious. I so wanted to go to Rice and Riches, but I was, ahem, vetoed by my dining companion. I had my eye on at least three of those flavors. Next time, I am totally there.

Mehdi - I wanted a kebab and was again over-ruled. They smelled so good though! Thanks for the tip on Senegalese food. Will keep an eye out for it next time I am down there.

JC said...

That pizza looks so good! Actually everything looks good.

Hillary said...

Anna - sounds like you had a delicious time! The cannoli sounds good and that pizza looks pretty tasty!

Joe and Kristina said...


My girlfrined and I just moved from the US to India. We bought a Masala Dabba because we are tring to learn how to cook Indian food. We were trying to figure out how to store it after we grind the spices. We were searching the web for info and came upon your blog entry Tuesday, December 05, 2006. Can you give us any info?


Joe and Kristina

Rachael said...

I don't think they have good tacos in they?

Anna said...

Rachel - Depends on who you ask! The short answer is likely no, NYC doesn't have great Mexican food. Compared to Boston, however, it's the greatest ever. Boston doesn't have much Mexican food, and what there is, kind of... sucks, frankly. NY is probably the closest spot for me to get decent Mexican. My life is so sad. It's true.