Monday, October 18, 2010

the [delicious] big apple

It's nice to be home. Not that I didn't enjoy NYC, which is where I was this weekend, but after a 7-hour train ride doing nothing but sitting on my butt, readjusting my pillow so it would stop falling on the person sitting behind me, and trying over and over to go to sleep, it's nice to be able to move freely.

But that's not what this post is about. In fact, this post is going to be one long rant from me about a weekend in the city with one of my oldest and closest friends, Nimra, and the ridiculous shenanigans we got into.

And the food. Oh, yes, the food. So much food. Such good food.

I arrived at midnight on Friday night after one of the most disastrous train rides I've ever experienced [long story short, I was a few hours late], but Nimra showed me around Barnard and Columbia [though I've been to the city countless times with family, I've never really seen anything besides downtown and midtown NYC], and we ate some Pad Thai next to Athena on the Columbia steps.

Despite how gorgeous the area was, how nice it was to be catching up with an old friend I hadn't seen in about two years, and how exhilarating it was being in one of the liveliest cities in the world, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of jealousy of Nimra's ability to go to some random Thai restaurant off of some random street whenever she pleases and buy some phenomenal Pad Thai. Probably for much cheaper than the two options I have here in Cville. So. Unfair.

The rest of the weekend passed far too quickly for my liking. Walked 60 or 70 blocks and took a tour of the Upper East and West Sides, Midtown, Downtown, Noho, Soho, Chelsea, and Union Square, strolled through Central Park, danced in a conga line outside of the Julliard School, chatted with a magician about Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter at FAO Schwarz, were lectured by a guard about the proper way of being proposed to at Tiffany's, and went from rags to riches at La Boheme at the Lincoln Center. All in all, a damn successful trip, especially for only 36 hours.

the generosity of some New Yorkers sometimes blows my mind. especially when it results in free, front-row seat tickets to the Opera.
And, oh yeah, the food. Let's get to that, shall we?

Saturday morning we had brunch at quite possibly the cutest restaurant I've ever been to in my life, Alice's Tea Cup. Predictably, the entire restaurant is Alice in Wonderland themed. Walls painted bright colors, glass-top tables with Alice in Wonderland memorabilia underneath, dainty, mismatched tea cups, a gift shop full of tea sets and Mad Hatter hats. It was darling.

scones and Roobios vanilla coconut tea.
I ordered scones, one pumpkin and one strawberry-lemon, with a pot of Rooibos coconut vanilla tea [Roobios is an African red tea that is naturally decaffeinated and slightly sweet]. They were delicious. The tea especially. Now, I'm not a tea connoisseur, but the variety of tea they had here blew my mind. I wanted to try  them all, but unfortunately could not. The coconut vanilla that I did have, though, was phenomenal. Nimra ordered loco coco hot chocolate, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper, and French toast bread  pudding. I think the bread pudding was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. It was cubed French toast soaked in brandy apricot tea and baked in a mug. Warm, comforting, perfectly sweetened, and divine. Alice's Tea Cup is releasing a cookbook in about two weeks, and I am strongly considering purchasing it solely for this bread pudding recipe. If you're ever in NYC, you must check this place out.

Not to mention I want to purchase a vintage tea set badly now.

After brunch, we walked around for hours and hours and checked out the city. Before dinner, I had requested that we hit up Max Brenner's Chocolate By the Bald Man, a favorite restaurant of mine in Union Square. It's a small chain; I think there are only a handful of locations in the U.S. But it is the chocolate lover's Eden. Seriously. They have a chocolate menu. I've had some pretty amazing desserts here in the past [my cousins introduced me to it a few years ago], but unfortunately, there wasn't enough time on this trip to have a meal there. Instead, I picked up some hot cocoa mix; they didn't have my favorite dark chocolate this weekend, but they had a new flavor out: gingerbread spice hot chocolate. I can't wait till it cools down here in Cville enough for me to justify making intensely thick and rich hot chocolate. [Though, knowing me, I won't be able to wait that long.]

 We stopped for dinner before the Opera at a little Italian joint called Bianca. I had suggested this one, as I had heard of it before, but I was still skeptical; ever since coming back from Italy, I could name all the decent Italian restaurants I've come across on one hand. Everything just falls flat in comparison to the real deal. But this one was a winner.

Bordetto di pesce [fish and shellfish stew with a light tomato and olive oil broth, served with crusty bread] for me and ravioli di ricotta con burro e salvia [ravioli with ricotta, butter, and sage] for Nimra. Both were absolutely delicious. Silky smooth, surprisingly light, and really authentic. It would have been the perfect meal had the squid not had its damn tentacles still attached. I can't eat things with tentacles. Or eyeballs. [I'm a terrible foodie, I know, but I don't care]. But I digress. For dessert we split a tortino di cioccolata, this really rich, dense dessert that pretty much tasted like a bittersweet Hershey bar in cake form. Amazingly good. If I could, I would recreate all three dishes.

Sunday brunch in NYC was quite an experience; everywhere was packed [more so than usual]. My oldest friend, Maliha, joined us for brunch which was lovely, since I hadn't seen her in 4 years. So, it was the three of us out, and I wasn't expecting us to have to wait too long, since we were a relatively small group. Mistaken. It was probably an hour long wait total, from walk-in to actually getting our food. But worth the wait. We were at an adorable place called Cafe Lalo [the same one featured in "You've Got Mail"].

If I ever have my own bakery, I would want it to look just like Cafe Lalo. It's so bohemian inside, with vintage art on the walls, interesting lights on the ceiling, small tables packed close together, bustling with chitchat, and a three-tiered glass case full of some of the most scrumptious pies, tarts, cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, and brownies that I've ever seen.

not my photo, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of the sugar invasion.
It was a perfect brunch spot; there were so many menu items it was hard to choose. The Belgian waffles caught my eye, but knowing that I was going to be getting dessert, I decided on something savory.

Steamed eggs with goat cheese, tomatoes, oregano, and basil, served with roasted potatoes and Tuscan salad. Maliha got steamed eggs as well, and Nimra ordered a Gouda and spinach sandwich on toasted multigrain.
And, of course, since I have the biggest sweet tooth in the world and a never-ending black hole for a stomach, we had to order dessert. Blueberry cheesecake and pear apple tart. Both were divine. Especially the cheesecake. [Not that I'm biased at all].

Ugh. I pretty much died and went to heaven this weekend. Eating and eating and eating. Didn't feel too bad about it either, since we walked so much that my legs are sore. But I'm severely in delicious food withdrawal now. Before catching the Amtrak home, I bought some KFC wraps to eat for dinner [so I wouldn't have to  resort to eating an overpriced blueberry muffin], which paled in comparison to previous Thai, Italian, and brunch foods [to be honest, I had one bite before I chucked the thing in the trash].

I'm only disappointed in the lack of time I had to spend there. Chelsea had suggested a few restaurants that I should go to around the city, and there are a few I've heard of that I would have liked to try, but 36 hours is just not enough for New York. I doubt an entire lifetime is either, if you're a foodie, but definitely more than 36 hours needed.

*sigh* I'm already planning my next trip back.

In other news, I have so many cans of pumpkin in my apartment that I need to put them to good use soon. PLUS, apple picking this weekend, so there will be bags of fresh apples to use in pies and cakes.

Ugh, I love fall. And the horrific consequences it will have on my waistline.


Thanks so much for reading!
I'd love to hear your thoughts :)