Tuesday, July 7, 2015

NYC Trip 2015 - Day 4, Part 1: Katz's, Russ and Daughters, Lower Manhattan, Chelsea Market

Day 4 of our New York City adventure started out like every other day - with perfect weather! View from our hotel room with very clear blue sky.

Being the subway pros that we now are, we hop on the 6 train south and get off at the Bleeker St stop to begin our Lower Manhattan exploration.  We head east on Houston St and arrive at our first destination, Russ and Daughters Appetizers.   Like many other NYC fixtures, Russ and Daughers has been around "appetizing" for over a hundred years (since 1914).  They specialize in smoked fish, caviar, and other delicacies.  

smoked salmon case
Zac orders for us with the ease of a local.  We partake in gravlax, potato latkes, smoked herring and cream sauce, and smoked salmon and onions (no cream).  No bagels and lox for us this time, something to get when we return!

Gravlax and potato latkes

Herring and cream sauce

Smoked salmon and onions

We left room for a second breakfast at our next stop, and only one block east on Houston, Katz's!

view from our table.  this place is huge! 
We shared two Katz's specialties, their classic hot dog and pastrami sandwich, with an egg cream to wash it all down.  I have never had pastrami so tender and flavorful in my life!  Nothing to this point that claimed to be pastrami that I have eaten should be allowed to be in the same category of food as Katz's pastrami.  It was that good.

Two very full people
Stuffed to the brim, we set off to explore more of Lower Manhattan.  We meander our way back down Houston Street to the Nolita neighborhood.  Nolita is perfect for exploring, quaint streets lined with interesting shops, cafe's, and everything a stroll through NYC could deliver.  We walked down Elizabeth, Mott, and Mulberry Streets between Houston and Spring streets.   Along the way we discovered a very cool shop Made In Earth, where I picked up a fossilized memento; walked past Lombardi's pizza, and stopped for a pick-me-up at Nolita Mart and Espresso Bar on Mott St, on the border between Chinatown and Little Italy.   We wandered through some neat Italian groceries that have been around for close to a century or more, Di Palo's Fine Foods and Alleva Dairy.

Di Palo's Italian fine food shop

Alleva Dairy
Before leaving Little Italy we visit the Italian American Museum, and by visit I mean we looked in through the windows.

We still saw something worth noting.....a professional wrestler seems to get more prominence in this particular display than the Pope....

We don't really see much of Soho or Tribeca, no time, except to walk from Little Italy down Walker Street (parallel to Canal), past the Tribeca Grand Hotel on our way to the E train, Canal Street station. On our way, just past the Tribeca Grand on 6th Avenue, across from Tribeca Park, we see a film crew!  Curious, we walk right up to the film crew to see if we can figure out what is going on.  Someone quickly directs us to stand up against a building and out of the middle of the sidewalk.  I have just enough time to figure out they are filming someone walking down the street, and I get this photo.  I recognize him immediately as someone I'd seen recently on TV. Zac, not so much, but after Zac does some googling, he figures out this is Rami Malek, likely filming for Mr. Robot, a show on USA.  (Earlier this year I watched HBO's The Pacific, and Rami was a young soldier, likely why i recognized him).   So, that was cool.

Next up - Chelsea!  We take the E train from Tribeca up to the 14th Street station, where we emerge just a block or so away from Chelsea Market.  Chelsea Market exceeds all our expectations as a foodie's wonderland of fine foods to buy and eat! We opted to tour on our own (they have official food tours), which worked out well.  I was especially fascinated with all the fresh seafood, including sea urchin! 

Inside Chelsea Market
spices and teas as far as the eye can see!


Very near Chelsea Market is Artichoke Pizza, a perfect mid afternoon pit stop and late lunch spot. We get a sampler of pizza's to energize us for the rest of our day. 

Next up - the High Line! After pizza, we hop on the High Line around 18th street and walk up to 23rd.  There is more to see on the High Line, but we got a glimpse with some great views of the city.

Hudson River and New Jersey in the background

After the High Line our feet are in need of some rest (mainly MY feet), so we take the subway back to the hotel for our mid afternoon break, have to rest up for our evening in Brooklyn!  Stay tuned for Part 2 of Day 4: details on Brooklyn's Park Slope (the Other Fifth Avenue!), unexpected sunsets, and Peter Luger Steakhouse!

Catch up on the first parts of our trip here:
Day 1 - Dinner at Per Se, a Thomas Keller Restaurant
Day 2 - Momofuku Noodle Bar and Babbo
Day 3 - Flushing, Sushi Yasuda, and Spot Dessert Bar 

Monday, May 25, 2015

NYC Trip 2015 - Day 3: Flushing, Sushi Yasuda, and Spot Dessert Bar

Day 3 of our amazing New York City adventure, April 28, 2015, started with our emergence from another peaceful and restful night at the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown East around 10am.  We hopped on the E train, transferred to the 7 train until we got to the last and final stop:  Flushing, Queens.  Travel from the hotel room to emergence on Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing took about 45 minutes, our farthest excursion from Manhattan.  Flushing, near Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street, is another Chinatown, Wikipedia describes it as "one of the largest and fastest growing ethnic Chinese enclaves outside of Asia, as well as within New York City itself."  We ventured there to experience the culture, and of course eat good food. We made our way to Main Street and walked towards the Golden Shopping Center.  The basement of this shopping center is our destination; it houses a food court of sorts that, so we have read, is a gastronomical gold mine.

Main Street, Flushing, Queens
 We enjoyed strolling through various markets along Main street.  So much fresh produce, meat, and seafood! Wouldn't know what to do with myself if I had this much fresh food at my disposal...

Restaurant window, steamed squid for sale

Basement food court in the Golden Shopping Center - We ordered the lamb and squash dumplings at the Tianjin Homemade Dumpling stall, pictured below with the blue awning.

Lamb and squash dumplings
Seating was at a premium, and it was not clear to me that seating was not a free for all like the typical shopping mall food courts I'm accustomed too.  I originally sat down in the area in the photo below, just across from where we just bought our food.  Very quickly, a nice young lady from another vendor informed me that I did not purchase food from her restaurant, therefore could not sit there.  I hadn't even noticed seating at the Tianjin Dumpling stall, but quickly found it as to not get kicked out of the entire food court.  Scroll back up to the photo, do you see the little red counter and stool? Typical seating in the Golden Shopping Mall Food Court (not exactly roomie).  Really though, it was a fun adventure, with great food.  Zac ventured off to get a bubble tea, and came back with a Chinese savory crepe from another vendor. That crepe, oh man. Delicious!  Never had anything like it before.  Golden Shopping Mall = very good eats, and a destination for any NYC resident or vacationer!

Main Street, Flushing

Main Street, Flushing
 Next stop - dessert!  Zac ordered a sesame bun of some sort, and I got the green tea sponge cake.  Oh, and of course more bubble tea.

Dessert destination
 We stopped in more markets and were fascinated with all the seafood.  We saw geoduck!

Geoduck in center of photo, white shell.  Razor clams to the right. 

On our way back to the subway station we stopped at a large shopping mall at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street.  I got a back massage (wonderful!) and Zac rested while eating a very spicy noodle dish. I can only guess it was spicy based on all the peppers on the top!

After leaving the Flushing Chinatown area, we went to visit Flushing Meadows.  Only 1 stop away on the 7 train, headed back towards Manhattan - We got off at the Flushing Meadows Corona Park stop.  We had another day of perfect weather!  Wandered around the park, visited the tennis facility, then back to Manhattan!  

Our evening plans consisted of dinner reservations at 8pm at Sushi Yasuda, just a short walk from our hotel.  Our hotel was on 52nd between 2nd and 3rd avenues, close to 3rd avenue.   Sushi Yasuda is on 43rd, also between 2nd and 3rd avenues, so not far of a walk at all.  We left a bit early to have plenty of time to meander around midtown on our way south.  I will take this opportunity to express my obsession with the buildings of NYC.  Maybe it is the engineer in me, who knows, but I could not get enough of just looking at interesting buildings, particularly the landmarks.  One of my absolute favorite things about walking around was seeing the expected and unexpected, such as looking left vs right down a street and seeing things like the photo below!  We walked west on 52nd, crossed Lexington, over to Park Avenue.  This is a view of the Chrysler building while crossing Lex. Stunning! 

Once at Park Avenue, we turned south and walked several blocks past this very interesting and old church. I also enjoyed looking at the building at the end of Park, where it zig zags around the Met Life building and Grand Central. I do not know the name of this building, but it is beautiful (even more so at night!).

At 47th we turned back east, then south on 3rd avenue, nearing our destination.  On our right at 46th street Zac sees this giant blown up rat, and the awning for Sparks Steak House.  Another very fun thing about our trip - Zac knows everything about everything.  I would see this and think, how odd, a giant rat, but he sees the restaurant, understanding the significance in the mob history of NYC. Right out in front of this restaurant, by that Lincoln town car, a major Gambino crime family hit went down in 1985. Crazy! I would go into details, but just go to Wikipedia and you will then know all that I know.  Oh, back to the giant rat - some of the staff was on strike, this is to draw attention to their strike, I can only guess!

Have I mentioned my obsession with the Chrysler building?   Plus that sky, just beautiful.  Can't say too many times that the weather on our trip was perfect!

We've worked up an appetite by now, and arrive at Sushi Yasuda at 7:45pm.  We don't have to wait long for our 8pm table.  The restaurant interior was quite nice, lots of wood everywhere, fresh and clean looking.  They were undergoing some sort of renovation at the time, but I would have never noticed had we not had to go in a different entrance.  We opted for the Omakase menu, meaning "selected by the chef."  We are by no means sushi experts, but have had our fair share while traveling and locally.  I could positively tell that what we were eating at Sushi Yasuda was on a completely different level - the freshness, presentation, taste, and buttery melt in your mouth quality to the fish; all of these contributed to what was an amazing dining experience!   And so it begins.....

Soft Shell Crab

Another photo of the soft shell crab

Cucumber and seaweed appetizer

Cooked fish appetizer with fish cake flower

Sashimi platter

Sushi platter (we ate a few before remembering to take a photo :)

We alternated seats half way through so we could both watch the sushi chefs at work

Sushi assortment, Top = Sea urchin, Bottom = oyster

Sushi assortment - eel two ways
No dessert at Sushi Yasuda (we have bigger plans on that front!).  I was slightly worried the meal at Sushi Yasuda would not be filling enough, but those worries were unfounded.  We both left quite satisfied, and really too full for dessert.  But hey, we were on vacation, and there is always more room for dessert!  We take our time and spend more time exploring the area, end up at Grand Central, visited the terminal before catching our train.  What a beautiful building!

Our sights are set on Spot Dessert Bar on St Marks Place in the East Village. We hop on the 6 train down to Astor Place, then take a short stroll over to St. Marks Place.   We discover Spot Dessert Bar on several "best of" lists including best dessert in the city, notably their green tea lava cake. While walking down St Marks we first stumble across what we think is the restaurant, a small narrow store with cases full of sweet treats, all of which I want to devour at once.  The nice young man at the counter realizes we are not regulars and lets us know this is there "to go" location, the sit down service restaurant is a few doors down.  So on we walk.

Spot's To Go location

So many tasty treats! 

Can you tell we are having fun? 
We order three items to get a good sampling, including their #1 seller, the Chocolate Green Tea Lava Cake.  It's a warm dark chocolate cake with green tea ganache, green tea ice cream, and walnut soil. My first reaction is that it's too beautiful to eat! Then I realize how crazy that is and dig in.

It was even better tasting then it looks!
2nd up was the Golden Toast - It's like a deconstructed strawberry shortcake.  Very good!!

Third up, and lastly, we ordered the Yuzu Eskimo.  I can't recall if I'd ever had Yuzu before, but am now a huge fan! Quite refreshing and a good contrast to the richer chocolaty dish.  This dessert consists of frozen Japanese citrus creme bar, fresh strawberries, chocolate pearls and the Yuzu sorbet/creamy element.

We only discovered Spot Dessert Bar that afternoon when researching possible dessert options, and boy are we glad we found it. The entire experience from the presentation, to taste, service, atmosphere, everything was perfect.   It was an very nice and unexpected addition to our gastronomical adventure! Would recommend to anyone traveling to NYC.  

And that concludes our 3rd day in NYC! Stay tuned for Day 4, Wednesday April 29th, which includes Katz's, Russ and Daughter's, Chelsea neighborhood, Brooklyn, and Peter Luger's Steakhouse!