It’s funny how a move forces you to finally do all those things you always meant to do someday, but never really got around to. Like spending a full weekend in New York, just because. We finally got around to doing just that last weekend, and it was great. (Why didn’t we do it earlier??)
The thing about day trips in NYC is that you’re so tired and grumpy by the end of the day that you really don’t get to enjoy all the stuff you try to cram in before boarding the commuter train home. Staying in the city gave us a bit more time to just wander and enjoy the snow, check out the funny sight of New Yorkers encountering “nature” (think sledding on any hill in sight and lots and lots of Hunter Boots), and actually spend almost an entire day wandering around the Met, because we could.
We stayed at Hotel 17 (which I recommend for a cheap place to stay on the Lower East Side, if you’re looking for one), and took the opportunity for a late night tasting menu at Gramercy Tavern on Friday. We had a reservation at 10:30 pm originally (that’s all we could get), which got moved up to 9:30 because of the 20.9″ of snow that had just fallen.
Gramercy Tavern deserves all the praise it gets. The staff are incredibly attentive, and know exactly what they’re doing. Watch them avoid collisions in a busy dining room on a Friday night, and you’ll see what I mean. The place isn’t snooty, and you can show up in jeans if you want. And the food is worth waiting for, if you happen to be in the neighborhood without a reservation and try and get a seat in the Tavern.
We did the Winter Tasting menu, which is ~5+ courses stretched over about 2 hours. I ordered a glass of Malbec with mine, and James was happy to find a lemon bitter on the drinks menu, which ended up going really nicely with the first several courses on the menu. Each course was very fresh, very different, and made excellent use of the few vegetables available to us here in the North East in the midst of winter.
The amuse bouche was simply slivers of fresh local veg speared on a toothpick with a lemony vinaigrette — maybe not the best amuse bouche I’ve ever had, but it really was the only dish I wasn’t that impressed with, and it was really just meant to cleanse your palate. The first course was thinly sliced, really fresh scallops with pickled swiss chard stems and aji dulce peppers, which was fresh and light and almost tasted spring-like despite the season-appropriate selection of vegetables involved. The second course was this amazing lobster soup with brussels sprouts and pancetta. They poured this absolutely delicious broth over the soup ingredients, and I only hope to recreate it someday at home. My guess is it involved a bit of soy sauce, maybe veal broth, and balsamic, among other things, but I may be mistaken. The third course was some of the nicest smoked trout I’ve ever had, with three types of onions that even James ate happily. There was a sweet onion puree under the trout, with beet red pickled onion slices on top and something like a chopped onion marmelade to make the dish just a little prettier. It struck me as a play on bagels and lox, which was appropriate for the place.
The next dish was almost an Asian fusion dish, though I’ve never seen Asian / rural Bavarian cuisine combined in such a way before. It was a rabbit (?) dish, with cabbage, golden fried spaetzle, and fresh black trumpet mushrooms. The sauce was salty and savory and delicious, and it sort of made the dish, even if I did feel like I needed to drink a gallon of water afterwards.
The last main dish was a rack of veal and deckle, which they served with some stewed red cabbage and heirloom white beans of some sort. While the veal was a bit sinewy, it was nicely cooked, and quite tasty, as was the deckle, which was a fatty bite of goodness that I wished I had saved for last.
But that is not all, of course, because Gramercy Tavern is awesome and tasting menus have a few extra treats by design, at least at most places. We thought we had one course (dessert) left. We were given a choice between a blood orange cheese cake and some sort of chocolate mousse dish, and had ordered one of each and some coffee. What appeared was a deconstructed apple pie with sake-caramel sauce, fresh apples, and cinnamon cream. THEN dessert came (and the blood orange cheesecake won in my book, but I LOVE blood orange anything, so that’s not surprising). Then petit fours, and a final surprise: a cardamom coconut breakfast cake, all neatly packaged to go, for the next day. At that point, we were stuffed, and happy to sit in a food-coma stupor for a bit, and then stroll around the city at half past midnight, realizing that EVERYONE was out on the street, slightly tipsy and ready for snowball fights and chats with random passersby. This was when I started realizing why people actually enjoy living in the city, and I really hope Sydney will feel similar.
The rest of the weekend was also a lot of fun. We checked out Egypt and ancient Armor in the MET, and discovered Le Pain Quotidien, which had light, delicious tartines on some serious bread, tasted sandwiches at Porchetta (sort of not worth the hype, or the $10, but it wasn’t bad) and Belgian fries at Pomme Frites (which was good, but maybe a bit expensive at $7 a pop? Unless, of course, that’s your dinner, which very well may be the case at this place).
That, book browsing / shopping at Strand (amazing selection, but get there early if you, like me, can’t stand the pushy NY crowds), brunch at The Smith (potato waffles! Though the omelets looked better, and yes, you need a reservation), pear cider at the Union Square greenmarket, a stroll in Central Park, and a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and through the Brooklyn Bridge park were some of the other highlights of the weekend.
It was a fitting way to spend one last weekend in New York. And as it turns out, our last weekend before embarking on a low-sodium, low-fat food experiment. Yes, I’m going to have to get a little creative in the kitchen out of necessity.