Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Food Field Trip NYC: Snoopy goes Gaga

This year B and I escaped to New York City for Thanksgiving.  Thanks to stumbling upon Jet Luxury, a company that manages rooms in 4 and 5 star hotels, we snagged a great rate at the indulgent Trump Soho.  I am not a fan of The Donald in any way; at least that was the case prior to this trip.  But after a stay at this property, I appreciate that his powers--or at least his name--translated into a truly world-class hotel.  Collapsing onto the bed felt like being enveloped into a cloud; the hotel's location was the perfect base for all New York City has to offer...shopping, art, shows, and of course, food!

To start our journey we played the ultimate tourists and rose early to join the masses at the 85th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Prior to giving up any and all personal space on the parade route--an experience I hope never to replicate--we needed caffeine and fuel.  While the holiday pickings on Spring Street were slim, Balthazar was open and a flurry of activity.  The cinnamon bun I selected from a myriad of flaky pastries did not disappoint.  It was airy and sweet, without being cloying.  It was so delectable that B went back on Friday to get two more for breakfast.
Balthazar on Urbanspoon

After the parade, we quickly ducked into the subway. Famished, we called around to see what was open for a casual lunch.  Lombardi's had been on our short list for a while, so we headed to this NY pizza institution for a coal fired pie.  The service was brusque and ambivalent.  RC Cola products stand in for Coke or Pepsi (yes, this brand apparently still exists), but the pizza--with its charred crust, gooey mozzarella, and fragrant, flavorful sauce--was just excellent.  Lunch for two at this cash-only destination was a reasonable $40.
Lombardi's Pizza on Urbanspoon

After a long winter's nap on Thanksgiving Day, we embarked upon an enchanting evening at Tocqueville.  This charming, elegant, and seemingly hidden dining room was the ideal setting for Thanksgiving dinner.  Since the restaurant was at capacity, we had to wait a bit for our table.  The delay allowed us to enjoy a sublime cocktail, the Tocqueville Toddy, which consisted of mulled warm apple cider with brueil calvados. The fragrant potion set the tone for a seasonal meal in an intimate dining room with soaring ceilings, low light, and plush banquettes. The sommelier helped B select a wine--an impressive Washington Cabernet--that complimented the three- course ($95 pp) prix fix. Highlights included a creamless caramelized chestnut and pumpkin soup and dry-aged striploin of beef in black truffle jus. Being a purist, I opted for the turkey, which was moist, flavorful, and well served by the accompanying sweet potato-maple mousseline.
Tocqueville on Urbanspoon

Dining in NYC couples well with drama.  Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than at DB Moderne Bistro.  This was hands-down the best pre-theatre meal I have ever had.  While the dining room was full, service was attentive; excellent wines were available in the 1/4 litre, and the $45 three-course prix fix offerings were diverse.  Each of our (combined) six separate courses was flawless.  A starter of pasta, pumpkin, mushrooms, and greens captured the essence of the season in every bite. The Coq au Vin was was so rich and caramelized, that the entree looked more like short-ribs than chicken and tasted divine.  It left us wanting more and wondering, how did they do that?  The desserts were delicate and rich, offering savory and sweet choices. 
db Bistro Moderne on Urbanspoon

New York City is always a wonderland at the holidays, when seasonal treats, stalls, and stores spring up all around the city. Case in point: Gaga's Workshop at Barney's.  This surreal world, comprising the 5th floor of this luxury landmark, consists entirely of a Gaga inspired art installation and merchandise running the entire Gaga-gamut: from sunglasses to studded leather bracelets. True Gaga-fanatics can score a $95 chocolate shoe or a $45 rock candy bracelet.  Yes, prices are at the superstar level, but this experience is free and a must-see if you are in NYC.  If you try the chocolate let me know.  I could not justify the purchase price.  But do not fear, I did not want for sweets.

In my opinion the best chocolate chip cookie anywhere is found right in Manhattan.  City Bakery's Birdbath Soho was conveniently located just blocks from our hotel and I could not resist the pull of that cookie in the window!  The classic chocolate chip cookie is crunchy and chewy, bursting with rich chocolate chunks, sweet with brown sugar; and very shareable at about six inches in diameter.  At $3, this cookie is an escape that I think even Lady Gaga would appreciate.
Birdbath on Urbanspoon

Thanksgiving is a time to indulge and that we did!

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