|Ferry to lower Manhattan.|
New York food & drink travelogue - "After an adequate start to our Big Apple breakfasting, in a sparsely-populated Italian restaurant on the border between - appropriately enough - Little Italy and the East Village, Tribeca's Gee Whiz Diner was a dream come true. With its open kitchen, cosy booths and friendly/efficient/sassy staff, it could have been populated straight from central casting."Mention "The Big Apple" or "The City That Never Sleeps" and people instantly know of the metropolis to which you refer. Glance out of the aeroplane window when landing at Newark Liberty airport and you are greeted by a skyline that has not only formed a central backdrop in countless films, TV programmes and novels, but has also greeted immigrants from across the globe who went on to build a nation.
Everything about New York seems iconic and familiar. Yet take time to explore this fabulous city and you will find a diverse mosaic of differing neighbourhoods, cultures and architecture. Visitors may think they know NYC from the media, but it is more atypical and extraordinary than is sometimes imagined. And that is equally true of the city's food and drink.
This is what JML and I came to realise during a birthday-celebratory long weekend in autumn 2015, encompassing Manhattan, Brooklyn and (briefly) Staten Island. Our trip to New York wasn't all about food and drink. But as two lads who rarely pass up an opportunity to partake of a tasty morsel or alluring beverage, it played a pretty central part. So join us on our Big Apple culinary journey...
|Beer at the Blind Tiger - tasty! (pic Courtesy of The Blind Tiger).|
B is for beer, Brooklyn and breakfasts
Now I know that America's national, alcoholic drink of choice is almost certainly beer. And from our last visit to NYC, some eight years ago, it was apparent that that state-side brewing wasn't all about the more insipid, mass-produced brands that now also adorn the booze aisles of UK supermarkets (thank you Brooklyn Brewery for that particular revelation). Also, I have recently rediscovered home brewing (watch out for a post on this soon), meaning I have absorbed some the internet buzz that exists regarding craft beers emanating from the USA. So an initial pint of pretty decent IPA procured from a food stand in Battery Park, and enjoyed whilst overlooking the Hudson River and a distant Statue of Liberty, was an unexpectedly welcome refreshment three hours after clearing immigration at Newark. However...
Even the most mundane midtown or Tribeca pub seems to have a bar adorned with an intriguing array of pumps offering tempting brews, each advertised with a branded, sculpted tap handle. Ales from the likes of Goose Island, Allagash, Lagunitas and Brooklyn jockey for attention. And whilst not all of these could be considered "craft" beers, they are none-the-less very appetising. Yet also dotted across NYC are veritable temples dedicated to real ale, such as The Blind Tiger in Greenwich Village. Its unassuming entrance on Bleecker Street hides a smashing colonial-style dark wood and brick interior lined with blackboards displaying the plethora of brews currently on offer. And what a range... IPAs, Belgian tripels, oatmeal stouts, saisons, porters, lambic ales, all sourced from New York and neighbouring states. To be honest, I could have stayed supping all day, but we restricted ourselves to a couple of quaffs. Oh and be warned - east coast breweries like things strong - Victory Hoppy Belgian-style quad at 13% ABV anyone?
|Red Hook's Bait and Tackle bar - in soft focus, naturally...|
Beer also featured in our visit to Brooklyn - where two of our Edinburgh friends were ensconced whilst work had brought them to the City That Never Sleeps. Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighbourhood is what real estate agents describe as "up and coming". Imagine the area around Leith Docks, and you have the picture of where our mates chose to reside. And in the Bait and Tackle, we found this dockland neighbourhood's answer to the Port of Leith. If you ever end up in this bit of the smashing borough that is Brooklyn, do check out this eclectic former fishing supply shop-turned-bar. And if you are carnivorous, or even if you are not, a trip to Prime Meats should certainly be in order. A "farm to table" restaurant located in the Carol Gardens neighbourhood, its cuisine has a Germanic alpine influence that makes the most of local and fresh ingredients. Treated by our friends to a tremendous dinner to celebrate JML's birthday, starters of grilled octopus, and herb and gruyere spatzle were sublime. But the mains stole the show: sukrut garnie - bone-in pork belly with German wurst and saurekraut was delicious, yet by the same token the steak frites, and dry-aged cote de bouef looked and tasted amazing.
|Hearty huevos rancheros from Fort Defiance, Brooklyn.|
What I didn't mention above was the smashing, American wine that accompanied the meal. The copious, smashing wine. The copious, smashing wine that made us trust a certain smart phone navigation app that directed us along the quickest walk home, through a very "interesting" area of Brooklyn, where we were stopped by two members of NYC's finest, concerned for our safety. Do not fear, we made it back safely - to the Bait and Tackle... So the next, brilliantly blue sky-emblazoned, squinty-eyed, cardboard-mouthed, morning demanded a hearty breakfast. Cue Fort Defiance in Red Hook. A subtly, yet beautifully, decked out restaurant that serves a heavenly "all-Amercian" (eggs any style, Nueske's bacon, hash browns and toast), and an even more divine huevos rancheros. Worth crossing the East River for this alone. Wandering back to Manhattan through picturesque, leafy streets lined with brownstones, we decided there and then that our next visit to NYC would involve more exploring of Brooklyn and its inviting cuisine.