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Tag Archives: New York City

Bergen Bagels | Brooklyn, NY

Bergen Bagels (Facebook / @BergenBagelsMyr)
536 Myrtle Ave. (map it!)
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 789-9300
Open daily 6a-11p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.

In addition to our sweet stop at Dough on our way out of Brooklyn, we wanted something savory as well. Because we couldn’t return home without a bag of fresh bagels, we decided to double-up and grab second breakfast while picking up the goods.

A quick online search revealed a nearby Bergen Bagels, which boasted a good history and solid reviews. This location had recently moved to a new spot, which was clean, bright, and easy-to-find. The location was so new that Google Maps still had the old place listed.

We caught it right at opening, and lines quickly grew. If native Brooklyners were gathering for bagel breakfasts, then we knew we were in the right place.

There’s something really delightful about catching a restaurant right when they open, when the displays are neatly organized and completely loaded with food.

And the spreads and salads are packed full of goodness. It’s so full of potential.

We were in bagel mode, so it was breakfast sandwiches for us. My wife chose their smoked salmon spread on an everything bagel. It was appropriately smoky and salty, with the right creamy texture, and went perfectly with the all-flavors-combined of the everything bagel.

And I was stunned to learn of the existence of an egg-in-the-nest bagel sandwich. Why, oh why, have I never thought of this before? It’s. So. Obvious. To make eggs in a nest, you need bread with a hole in the middle, in which to crack an egg. So why not a bagel? (Or a donut… hmm, future blog post in the making here…)

I know I’m over-reacting, but come on! Even though the egg was added after the bagel was baked, I loved how the egg still felt like it was just part of the bagel itself.

Here’s the bottom view. Egg yolk appropriately cooked through.

And the work in progress. It’s a surprisingly filling breakfast: a monstrous mound of fresh, chewy everything bagel with a fully cooked egg. Salty, nutty. Carbs and protein. If I lived in the neighborhood, this would be my everyday snack.

Of course, we took a baker’s dozen of bagels home with us, and enjoyed every one. If there’s anything I learned on this NY trip, it’s how to appreciate a good everything bagel.

Bergen Bagels on Myrtle on Urbanspoon

Dough | Brooklyn, NY

Dough (Facebook / @doughbrooklyn)
305 Franklin Ave. (map it!)
Brooklyn, NY 11238
(347) 533-7544
Open daily, 7a-5p
Accepts cash only

Date of Visit: Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.

As we were saying good-bye to New York, we still managed to sneak in some delicious eats. Before we even hopped in the car, we walked with our friends down the street to Dough, a corner shop in the neighborhood serving big donuts to a steady line of regulars.

The shop seemed empty when we first arrived, but within seconds it was crowded with folks nabbing fresh donuts and coffee, then sneaking back out the door. The customer area is fairly small, with just a small counter and a couple seats if you want to stay. But the retail front is surrounded by big glass walls that let you see into the back and side rooms, where a small army of bakers is busy at work.

We managed to find some room to stand and nibble on donuts, and watch one baker roughly chopping chocolate.

Despite the small size, their output is clearly enormous, as evidenced by the loaded carts and vans parked out front.

Dough specializes in one type of donut: large yeast donuts with a variety of very creative toppings. There’s no simple sprinkles or vanilla icing here; they dowse these bad boys with chocolate, fruit, nuts, even flowers.

Let’s take a look in their display cases. Example one: a cafe au lait donut topped with strussel.

Example two: a pumpkin donut with a light glaze and pepitas.

We attacked our box of donuts with gusto. Our selection included (clockwise from upper right) coconut, hibiscus, chocolate with cocoa nibs, and blood orange. These donuts back a punch flavor, so these aren’t easy coffee-and-a-donut type donuts. These are “I’ll slice a small piece off each one” donuts. The chocolate was rich with a slight bitter edge, the coconut nice and toasty, the bloody orange very strong, citrusy, and a tad sour from the acid in the actual slices of orange. And the hibiscus? Well, I don’t know how else to describe it but sweet and floral. All four were really delicious and fascinating types of donuts – like nothing I’ve had before. I like that they seem to use a base recipe for the yeast donut, and then use the toppings to really distinguish them.

As we were headed out of town, we didn’t linger too long over the donuts, but I’d love to go back and try even more.

Sullivan Street Bakery | New York, NY

Sullivan Street Bakery (Facebook / @SullivanBakery)
533 W. 47th St. (map it!)
New York, NY 100
(212) 265-5580
Open Mon-Sat, 7:30a-7p; Sun, 7:30a-4pm
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 3:00 p.m.

In the middle of a busy day of trekking all over Manhattan, we stopped for a mid-afternoon snack in Hell’s Kitchen. While doing our NYC research, we had come across multiple references to Sullivan Street Bakery, and the descriptions of their breads, rolls, pizzas, and pastries were simply too enticing to pass up.

We were at the perfect point in our day to enjoy a treat (or three or four) at Sullivan Street. We had had an early breakfast, strolled through Central Park, hit up the Garment District, and even traveled to the bottom of Manhattan to see the World Trade Center site. We wanted snacks (both sweet and savory), we wanted some caffeine, and we wanted a place to sit.

The front of the space is tall and bright, with a full wall of windows and one long, thin counter with four or five seats. You’re certainly not out of place sitting in the bakery, but I’m sure more of their business comes from takeaway or wholesale customers.

Ah, but enjoying a cup of coffee in the bakery allows you to gaze at (and eventually buy) the sweet and savory treats. We ordered some iced coffees and then began working our way through the menu.

On one plate, we started with the bomboloni (upper left) and a slice of fruit canotto. The bomboloni is a delicious little yeast donut filled with sweet vanilla cream. The fruit canotto is made with brioche dough, mascarpone, and seasonal fruit. It was layers of moist, crumbly, rich pastry. We got two.

And then we got savory. They had a selection of pizzas, each of which was sliced into generous portions and abundant in toppings. First up: the pizza funghi, covered in cremini mushrooms and onions. Earthy and salty.

Then there was the pizza patate, which was a little lighter than the mushroom pizza but still sang sweetly with the potatoes, onions, and herbs.

One of the real stand-outs – in a list of standouts – were the strecci, long toasted pieces embedded with different ingredients like garlic, olives, or tomatoes. They were simply delightful: light crust on top, seasoned with salt and herbs, with plump little tomatoes baked inside. After we took a bite, the rows and rows of them lined up on the shelves looked like some glorious nirvana to us.

 

Sullivan Street Bakery is a very worthy NYC stop, early or late in the day. Even though we watched a regular flow of customers stopping in and out, the overall vibe is still quiet and relaxing. The gang behind the counter is incredibly nice. They started laughing at me as I kept coming up to the counter to sample more strecci and canotto and pizza. But we loved everything we had, from the baked goods to the iced coffee. The bright, well-designed, delicious-smelling spot is a welcome respite in the middle of busy New York City.

Sullivan Street Bakery on Urbanspoon

Barney Greengrass | New York, NY

Barney Greengrass (Facebook / @Real_Barney_G)
541 Amsterdam Ave. (map it!)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 724-4704
Open Tues-Fri, 8:30a-4p; Sat & Sun, 8:30a-4p
Accepts cash only
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 9:30 a.m.

Saturday morning. Our one big morning in New York City. There’s lots of pressure on what we choose for breakfast – we have to make it count. Fortunately, our reading and research let us to the New York gem Barney Greengrass. Nicknamed “The Sturgeon King,” Barney Greengrass is a 104-year-old Upper West Side deli, serving all of the true deli classics: smoked and cured fish, caviar, bagels, fresh roasted coffee – lots of prepared foods alongside fish and meats by the pound and other grocery items.

If you grew up in New York or are more experienced eaters than us, maybe you’re used to establishments like Barney Greengrass. I’ve experienced more simplified local delis or the imitation ones that dot America (excepting more unique finds like Katzinger’s in Columbus or Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor). But Barney Greengrass is the real deal. As suave as we think we are as travelers, we stood out like sore thumbs. We stepped right into the middle of a busy Saturday morning rush, and while we were warmly welcomed, we definitely felt that we should keep a low profile amongst all the regulars.

The space was crammed and busy, but we didn’t wait long before being given a seat close to the door. The busy crew at Barney’s seemed to know everyone, and there were a lot of families with kids. The design is delightfully outdated: small, old counters and shelves, lots of mirrored doors, display cases loaded with goods, tables and chairs positioned back-to-back. It the front window is a list of all the famous movie and television scenes filmed in the restaurant.

Mrs. Bfast w/Nick is a big fan of smoked salmon and lox. That, plus knowing that we were dining with the Sturgeon King, meant that we were both in mood for some fish. Our eyes were draw to the list of specialties, which features different salmon and sturgeon preparations. The platters below include more of those, plus whitefish and sable.

We started with coffee, served in small green and white cups. It was strong, hot, and delicious, and they kept it filled.

At the suggestion of our server (who was the best – more on that soon), we started with an order of latkas. We noticed, however, that he referred to them as “potato pancakes” to us. Again, despite our efforts to blend in, we were clearly outsiders.

Expectations were high on these, and they delivered. I’m by no means the latka king, but these easily top my list. They’re thick and chunky. Shredded potatoes inside are moist and well-seasoned, and wonderfully crisped on the outside. Served with the sides of sour cream and applesauce.

Like I said earlier, Mrs. Bfast w/Nick is a big fan of smoked and salted salmon, so she naturally ordered the lox platter. Her request, though, was met with a simple, “It’s too salty for you” from our server. Plain as that. When she tried requesting it again, he just repeated, “No, it’s too salty for you.” He wasn’t mean about it, just honest. I’m sure they’ve had so many tourists try the lox, find it too salty, and try sending it back.  I loved it. The server and the restaurant are so true to their DNA that they won’t let you order something they know you won’t like. After the server “lox-blocked” her (Mrs. Bfast w/Nick’s term), she asked for the gravlax salmon platter instead, which he let her order. Gravlax (spelled “gravlox” on their menu) is a preparation using dill and other spaces. She gave it rave reviews. Super fresh, delicate, and flavorful. Notice the small bite of salmon next to her coffee cup. She caught her server later and asked if she could just try a sample of the lox. He gave her a small slice. Turns out he was right: it was really salty. Amazing, but salty.

As we were in the land of the Sturgeon King, I ordered the sturgeon cooked with eggs and onions. It was a dense plate of protein, salty and a bit smokey. The eggs were cooked just right, the sturgeon flaked apart, the onions offered a nice little punch of flavor. I took each bite slowly, savoring the wonderful flavors.

Each meal came with their house-made bagels. I asked our server which bagel we should order, and he replied “the everything bagel” without hesitation. They were terrific. Big, mostly crispy, a bit chewy, very salty. Served with a tiny slab of cream cheese. It was simply delightful to pair with the fish and eggs.

My seat gave me a direct view of the bagel case. I heard that simple clicking sound of the plastic doors opening and closing pretty much constantly. If we hadn’t had a day of wandering Manhattan ahead of us, we would have taken a dozen home.

We loved our experience at Barney Greengrass, so much so that we kept geeking out about it throughout the day. I felt that we discovered a New York institution and got to join the crowd of regulars enjoying their Saturday breakfast. The food was delightful: authentic, house-made, packed with flavor. A little expensive, too: our meals were about $15-19 each, but a.) we were in New York, and b.) it was well worth it and speaks to their 100-year-old tradition of excellence.

Barney Greengrass on Urbanspoon

Wafels & Dinges | New York, NY

Wafels & Dinges (Facebook / @waffletruck)
Various locations around NYC
Follow their website or Twitter feed

Waffles at midnight? Yes, please! On our previous trip to New York, we were left with some great culinary suggestions for our next visit. One of these came from Jean-Francois Flechet, owner of Taste of Belgium in Columbus and Cincinnati. He told us about a little food truck serving authentic Belgian waffles around Manhattan. So on our recent trip, as the Mrs. and I were sans kids for the weekend, we sought out Wafels & Dinges after catching a Broadway show. Off the hook, right? We used #nokidznorulznyc as our hashtag.

Once we got off the subway, it look a little searching to find the Astor Place wafel truck, but the bright yellow paint job and eager lines of NYU students helped us spot it. Wafels & Dinges has clearly been busy over the years. They have two five or six trucks in operation; we visited the Kostar, the smaller one, while the original truck Momma was operating elsewhere. Since our visit, they also opened a small permanent stand at Bryant Park.

The concept is simple: the truck serves two styles of wafels – Liege style and Brussels style. Liege style uses a batter infused with some type of sugar, so you get a compact, circular waffle that’s marbled with caramelized sugar. The Brussels style is more rectangular and more reminiscent of what most Americans think of when you say “waffles.”

You choose your base, your wafel, and then you choose the dinges, or toppings. You can customize your waffle with individual dinges, or you can choose from their menu of sweet or savory arrangements. Savory versions include ones topped with BBQ pulled pork, corn chili, or even bacon. As it was late night and we had already had dinner, we were both in a dessert mood. Mrs. Bfast w/Nick chose de Throwdown wafel, with their spekuloos spread and whipped cream.

Spekuloos is like Biscoff; it’s a glorious cookie spread similar in consistency to peanut butter or Nutella, and it’s so delicious you should put it on everything. Everything, do you hear me? Everything in the world.

I was eying the evening’s specialty: de Big Apple pi. It was everything I wanted to finish off the night.

Unfortunately, they had run out of the apples from Sarabeth’s, but they were fine with substituting  bananas instead. We both chose the Liege waffles as our base; we prefer the chewier, sweeter, denser waffle than the lighter Brussels one. So my snack consisted of: Liege waffle + bananas + dulce de leche + whipped cream + cinnamon sugar. Need I say any more? It was delicious, sweet, filling, perfect as a late night snack. No wonder Wafels & Dinges was named Best Food Truck in the country by the Travel Channel.

If you’re searching for a Wafels & Dinges truck, it’s best to keep an eye on their website. The two trucks switch locations between morning and night. In the mornings, you can typically find one in Central Park and one near Grand Central Station; in the evenings, you’ll find one near Astor Place and another on Christopher Street.

The next time you’re in New York, go find one of their trucks. For me, it’ll easily become a favorite stop in the city during every visit. And did I mention the spekuloos spread…?

Wafels & Dinges (MOBILE CART) on Urbanspoon

Beyond Breakfast: Momofuku Ssäm Bar | New York, NY

It’s funny that, having written the book about breakfast in Columbus, I have some sense of what it takes to get your head around a city and its culinary landscape – at least, one part of it. So when I think of trying to choose places to eat in New York City, I’m completely overwhelmed. Resources like Yelp or UrbanSpoon only go so far in helping you, when every neighborhood might have untold hidden gems tucked down every side street and around every corner, and it’s hard to decipher what’s close to what, or what’s popular versus what’s really worth trying. Thankfully, this is when we get a little help from our experienced and knowledgeable friends. (Thanks, John and Shelley!)

Thus, on our first night in NYC, our sights were set on Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Momofuku is a series of restaurants in New York, Toronto, and Sydney, with six varieties in New York alone. The Ssäm Bar is a slim, dimly-lit corner space in the East Village. We managed to walk right in and find two seats at the bar, where we were greeted by the most helpful and welcoming server. He was very patient with us while we poured over the menu, even when the restaurant filled to capacity almost right away after we arrived.

The space is very comfortable and warm. Low lighting. Low ceiling. Lots of wood accents. Bar seats and then a mix of tables. Brightly lit kitchen space at one end, where you watch the busy crew through the windows.

We first ordered the steamed buns, which came as a pair on the plate. Perfectly soft buns, tend pork belly, with a little sweet hoisin and fresh cucumber. I had to slow myself down and savor every bite.

We followed the steamed buns with the BBQ bun, a single steamed bun with lightly fried pork belly, slaw, and a smokey mayonnaise. Great combination: tangy and creamy, nice contrast between the soft steamed bun and the crunch of the pork and slaw.

But the real capstone of the course was the whole boneless porgy. The porgy, topped with shredded kelp, mushrooms, and herbs, was presented in a giant bowl, and the server poured the hot broth from a tea kettle tableside. We could eat everything but the head and tail (we kept daring each other to eat the eyes). But the actual meat and skin of the fish… oh boy. It flaked apart at the lightest touch, and as we ate, the flesh mixed with the mushrooms and herbs in the broth, resulting in this savory, chunky soup. The dish transformed as we ate it, and with each bite we marveled at the rich, comforting flavors. Finishing with the porgy left us with that “wow” impression, where we kept bringing it up to each other throughout the weekend. That tells you what we thought overall: we’d gladly return, especially to try the bo ssäm or rotisserie duck ssäm, which are slow prepped and served family style.

If you want to visit/connect:
Momofuku Ssäm Bar (Facebook / @momofuku)
207 2nd Ave. (map it!)
New York, NY 10003

Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

The City Bakery | New York, NY

The City Bakery
3 West 18th St. (map it!)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 366-1414
Open Mon-Fri, 7:30 am – 7 pm; Sat 7:30 am – 6:30 pm; Sun 7:30 am – 6 pm
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: City Bakery came as a recommendation during our visit to New York City, and ended up being the last breakfast we had there. We arrived about 20 minutes before they opened, and so we wandered around the neighborhood briefly.

Our original intention was to stop in for some coffee and one of their famous pretzel croissants…

…but instead found ourselves in the midst of a full-blown Sunday morning brunch…

…and took the opportunity to enjoy it.

ATMOSPHERE: City Bakery is a big place, bigger than it looks from the outside. It’s one gigantic room with an upper level balcony and huge pillars running down the middle.

Apparently they’re known for being a bakery, a restaurant, a chocolate shop, plus a beer/wine bar. So many things in that one space. We got to experience some of the above – obviously not the beer and wine at 10 a.m. – and we were treated with some delicious food. Maybe not the best breakfast of New York City, but a few items really stood out.

It took us a little figuring out what was what – there weren’t many signs explaining things. On the lower level, toward the back of the space, was a hot bar of breakfast foods. There were eggs, big triangle slices of French toast, bacon, and more. We found out (after asking) that you paid by the pound for your breakfast.

Behind the hot bar was a counter with bagels, toppings, cold foods, and more. Overall, a pretty big selection.

After you loaded up at the hot bar, you took your tray along the large center bar, which carried drinks, pastries, and more. The pastry selection was B-E-A-utifully laid out. It’s what every Panera hopes to to be!

FOOD: Along the pastry line, you can order said pastries and cookies, your drinks, and other accoutrement. Amongst that lot is…

…the sumptuous hot chocolate. We had heard tell – along with the pretzel croissant – of City Bakery’s hot chocolate, and on a chilly January morning this was the perfect complement to our breakfast.

The best part was watching the slow preparation, stirring up the thick chocolate, tantalizingly pouring it out…

…adding one of their homemade marshmallows…

…resulting in this gift from the gods.

I opted for a simple plate of eggs, bacon, and the three-dimensional French toast. All pretty simple and straightforward, but hot and fresh. The eggs were a little dry (always a challenge on a buffet line), but the bacon was great, and the French toast a lot of fun. The toast was lightly seared and had a lot of the maple syrup sweetness baked into it.

And finally, the famous pretzel croissant. Warm, fluffy, crispy on the outside. Indeed, the perfect melding of a pretzel and a croissant. I don’t know why we don’t hear about more of these.

SERVICE: I know we caught the City Bakery folks just as they were opening, but the service here still left a little to be desired. It had that same surliness we experienced at Ninth Street Espresso, but without the ultra-good product to back it up. The nicest person we met there was the girl who ran the hot bar in the back. Everyone else either didn’t talk much, scowled, or just made you feel a little unwelcome. The woman who checked Beth out got all flustered over the fact that Beth had put her own bagel and toppings together, when there’s no sign saying otherwise, and when it seems perfectly obvious – the way everything’s laid out – that you should do so. A little unacceptable to fly off the handle like that.

OVERALL: Thankfully, City Bakery’s food makes up for the weird service. The location is stunning, there’s a huge selection of breakfast foods – for as big or as small of a breakfast you want – and a few menu items are particularly strong. Definitely, definitely worth a visit, if only for a hot chocolate and a pretzel croissant.

SIDE NOTE ON WEBSITES: City Bakery’s website, while nice to look at, highlights a problem I had with a number of NYC restaurant websites: too much Flash animation or extended intros, and not enough straightforward information! Just look at City Bakery’s website: http://thecitybakery.com. It’s nicely designed. But if you wanted to find out the hours of the bakery, or their exact address, or maybe a menu… you can find it eventually, in the small text of one of the paragraphs – not the hours, though. Or… well, which alternate website listed below do you choose? The one for their catering, the one for their chocolate festival, or the one about building a green bakery? Fortunately, there’s the one about the pretzel croissant, which leads you through a slow Flash slideshow to a single page with their address, a note that says they’re open 7 days a week (still no mention of hours), or… a link back to their original website.

Not to be overly critical, but I was just amazed by the poor/strange quality of some New York City restaurant websites. I figured that if any place would have good restaurant websites, it would be freakin’ New York City! But, alas… I ran into sites like Jing Fong’s, which looks like a placeholder page from my cable provider, or Sarabeth’s, whose appealing website has a fairly out-of-the-way link to menus or location information, or even Kitchenette’s, which has a light version of the flash intro (with no option to skip it). The internet is about fast information (albeit often too fast, yes), but I personally get frustrated when restaurants make it difficult to find the information I need, so that I can bring my business to them.

OTHER LINKS:

City Bakery on Urbanspoon

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