Friday, August 5, 2011

Village of the damned tasty - guest post

My (not so) little brother Dan recently said hasta luego, as he set off for Colombia to teach at the University of Bogota.  Via Iceland and New York, of course...
During a brief stopover in sweltering NYC, he did the Greenwich Village foodie tour.  Muy celosa - I'd love to do this.  Dan's musings and excellent pics below. 

Check out his blog:

Central to my brief stopover in New York City was the much lauded foodie tour of the Greenwich Village offered by

Savouring local cuisine ranks amongst my absolute favourite aspects of travel, so you can imagine my eager anticipation (stoked in no small way by exemplary TripAdvisor reviews) as I zeroed in on Bleecker Street in the West Village to meet my guide and fellow epicurious tourists. I should say that I'm pleased to be sharing my account of what was to follow in conjunction with my sister's blog of her own food infatuation in London. She was inordinately envious of the tour so it's only fair she gets an early mention!

Our guide, Kurt, immediately set our group of 16 food explorers at ease, and proved to be an energetic, entertaining and knowledgeable guide to the area and its culinary offerings throughout the three hours of the tour.
First stop proper was Joe's Pizza on Carmine Street for a slice of Joe's speciality for the past 35 years. The base was judiciously thin and crisp, the topping an unassuming but studied margherita. In fact, I noted that the entire menu was rather minimalist. It couldn't be further away from the 'more is better', dozen-topping culture more familiar to me, and popular amongst the multinational pizza chains. Joe clearly believes in keeping things simple: it pays off. Peter Parker worked here for a bonus point.
We then ambled back to boutique food store O & Co. for a taste of their own brand of first-/cold-pressed extra virgin. Why wait until everyone else has had their fun with the olives? Fantastic stuff as you'd imagine. Unbeknownst to us, the second taster had been sprinkled with what may be the closest things we earthlings have to crystallised angel tears. White truffle salt. Truly phenomenal.
As we dipped in and out of the local establishments throughout the tour, Kurt assailed and regaled us with a mix of local  history and culture to illustrate the scene. As an example, Stefani Germanotta waited on tables at our next destination until his meteoric rise to fame. [allegedly]
Palma. We were ushered through the small rustic dining area and courtyard and into the rear kitchen on the ground floor of the restaurateur's family home. Once again simplicity was the order of the day, and Kurt was soon spooning out a dish so easy to make you wonder why you hadn't discovered it before. Tiny cauliflower florets, pine nuts, breadcrumbs and finely chopped parsley came together to form something far greater than the sum of their humble parts. My relationship with cauliflower is often begrudging at best due to my tendency to over-/under-cook it: this dish of fragmented florets (key to a consistent al dente) may just herald a new dawn, a thawing of the frost in cauli-Dan relations. Moving on...

Faicco! Not Italian profanity but a superlatively equipped Italian charcuterie back on Bleecker Street. We only wandered in to gawk at the sheer array of pork produce on display and to nibble on a prosciutto ball (superb) but you'd be hard pressed to find a better selection of Italian sausage and other porcine sundries from the Old Country at what seemed to my eye, unexpectedly reasonable prices for an area that's so gentrified it hurts. But my head was swamped with krona and pesos, as well as dollars, pounds and ounces, so who knows?

Seventh Avenue was crossed in short shrift as the call of a heat tempering drink beckoned. Centro Vinoteca was our next port of call and it served up a few canapés to accompany their entirely guilt-free 3pm cocktails. Figs wrapped in bacon, artichoke topped with razor-thin parmesan and an as-yet unidentifiable third, mystery (delicious) canapé jostled for palate supremacy with a Long Island Iced Tea. Outside, the heat still radiating from sky above and pavement below made this respite seem like an indulgence. It felt like it couldn't have come at a better time.

Savoury yielded effortlessly to sweet as we rounded the corner to the soporifically named Milk & Cookies for a bite of the latter. Melt-in-the-mouth doesn't begin to describe their oatmeal cookie, but it's a start.
By now, the food trajectory had locked onto its final target of a probable afternoon snooze, and we pressed on for our cheese course back at Murray's. Not before a stop at the narrowest house in New York City (9 feet wide and a snip at just $2.7m) and the "off-off-BroadwayCherry Lane Theatre for some local infotainment from Kurt.

Murray's cheese counter is a sight to behold: Kurt confidently assured us the staff were conversant in the qualities and food pairings of all 300-400 cheeses on offer. We tried but a handful from Europe and the States, and greatly appreciated they were too as counterpoint to the fondly lingering cookie!

I, for one, was well on my way to food and culture surfeit by this stage, so fortunately our final stop was just the shortest of waddles across Bleecker Street. Scali Caffé is the easy-going, Village outlet for a couple of chefs with much more expensive Italian restaurants uptown (Il Postino and Scalinatella) so we were briefed to expect the best. The offering was pitched at just the right level: a sliver of cheesecake so  miraculously light that only Kurt's repeated exhortations that it wasn't some eggy flan in disguise could make me believe otherwise.

The tour was priced at $50 from, and I would highly recommend this or another of their many food-inspired tours on the back of what was a great experience one sultry afternoon in Manhattan. Thanks to Kurt and the many food impresarios we encountered along the way.

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