International Food Adventures - New York City, USA Part I

Fun Fact: Maccas chips in Australia actually taste better than Maccas chips in NYC. The chips in NYC don't seem to have any salt on them; they taste more like the ones you get with fish and chips, but having the texture of the long, thin fries.

I had a list of so many places that I wanted to eat at in NYC, and unfortunately didn't get to try all of them, even having spent almost a week there! The food scene in NYC is just as you'd expect: vibrant, multicultural and with endless places to try out in every corner of the city. One of my favourite things to eat in NYC were the bagels - even the ones from Starbucks were amazing! There's so much more elasticity to the bread of the bagel, and even with a simple cream cheese topping it tasted delicious.

Magnolia Bakery in Grand Central Station was one of the many dessert places we got to try in NYC, in particular their famous banana pudding. Even for someone who isn't a big fan of banana, it was an enjoyable dessert; the banana, pudding and vanilla biscuits mixed together for a sweet yet never overpowering flavour, with a fluffy texture that was lighter than a typical pudding.

As a big burger fan, Shake Shack was a must in NYC, though I have to say it didn't quite live up to the hype I'd expected. The beef patty was quite thin, and the use of that same artificial style, plastic-y cheese mentioned in my previous USA post made for an average burger. The bun itself was nice and soft though oily, and the crinkle cut fries were decent enough, but nothing I couldn't get at a Mr. Burger, Huxtaburger or the like in Melbourne. That, plus the long waiting period to not only order but also receive our order, was a bit of a let down. Maybe Melbourne has just become such a great foodie city that so many other places dull in comparison!

I'd been dying to try out Dominique Ansell's cronuts since they became a thing, so of course had to make a trip down to lower Manhattan for this! For those of you who aren't familiar with the name, Dominique Ansell was the chef who came up with the concept of a cronut; a croissant and donut fusion topped with icing, similar to what you can get at Adriano Zumbo's and other places in Melbourne. The flavour when we went was a pear, honey and cream cheese cronut. It was lighter and fluffier than the ones I'd had in Melbourne, and definitely not as sickly sweet or oily. The use of cream cheese balanced out the sweeter fruity flavours of the cronut, even with all the sugar dusting.

Luke's Lobsters is one of the most famous places in NYC for lobster rolls, so on a trip to downtown Manhattan/Wall St, we decided to give it a go. The lobster roll combo we went with consisted of a half a lobster roll, half a crab roll and half a shrimp (prawn) roll, as well as two crab claws, slaw and a dip. I really enjoyed the rolls, as the seafood was fresh with seasoning on top, and the bun soft. Compared to a lot of the heavier dishes we'd been having, this was a nice welcome change, together with the slaw on the side. I was a bit surprised with the whole half pickle we got with the dish - this too seem to be an American thing - usually it was something you'd only rarely see on burgers, and I didn't feel like it was really needed in any of the elements of the dish for additional flavour.

At Chelsea Market, we had dinner at Buddakhan, an Asian fusion restaurant with a hip, upbeat atmosphere not unlike that of Chin Chin's or Gingerboy. As we hadn't made a reservation, we had to sit at the section usually reserved for drinks while you wait for your table so it was a little cramped, but the food was still great nonetheless. For starters, we ordered pork buns and tea smoked spare ribs, mains of peking duck fried rice, asian green stir fry and a black dragon chicken dish, finished off with a 'Crying Chocolate' dessert.

My favourite dishes from here would have to be the pork buns and the dessert; the pork buns had an extremely soft bun and the charred pork belly was tender and juicy, with ample flavour and generous portions. The Crying Chocolate dish consisted of malted chocolate ganache with a vietnamese coffee ice cream, and for a chocolate based dessert, wasn't all that sweet; the coffee ice cream had a good strong flavour, and helped to balance out the sweetness of the ganache.

No trip to NYC is complete without having pizza, and ours was no exception. Having done some research before going, we ended up going to Lombardi's Pizza in Little Italy - the joint is actually the first ever pizzeria in America - established in 1905. The atmosphere and ambience of the place is not unlike what you'd find in the row of Italian restaurants down Lygon St in Carlton; vibrant and lively, filled with sounds of chatter and music. With its red and white checkered table cloths and dark wooden furniture, there's a comfortable, homely feel to the restaurant, with the delicious smells of pizza and pasta surrounding the whole place. The dishes we ordered were the Grandma Grace's Meatballs, a tomato and mozzarella dish and a large margherita pizza.

The beef and pork meatballs were topped with a homemade gravy sauce and shaved romano cheese, and was a very hearty dish to start off the meal. The meatballs were a generous portion with great strong flavours, in particular the tomato gravy cutting nicely into the meat, which itself was juicy and tender.

The mozzarella balls came with slices of tomato and were drizzled in olive oil. As a huge fan of mozzarella cheese, I really enjoyed this dish, with the chewy texture and subtle cheese flavours mixing together with the acidity and zing from the tomatoes, balanced out with salad greens.

Between three of us, we were slightly too ambitious and ordered a large pizza (8 slices/18 inches), which we struggled to finish! You can't go wrong with a simple margherita pizza, with fresh tomato paste and melted stringy mozzarella cheese. The base of the pizza was quite thin, but as a lunch option a 46cm pizza is still quite a lot for three people!

Despite being extremely full from the large pizza lunch we had, there was a cheesecake shop nearby that we visited afterwards called Eileen's Special Cheesecakes. Located in Downtown Manhattan, it's been opened for over 40 years, with a range of sweet and fruit based cheesecakes. We went with an original cheesecake, a strawberry one and a mango one. The cheesecake itself was quite dense but as the portion wasn't very big, it didn't feel very heavy or too filling. There wasn't a very obvious base to the cheesecake like with most of the ones here, but it was still very enjoyable.

On our last morning in NYC, we went down to the Rockefeller Plaza to try out the famous Lady M crepe cakes, which was absolutely divine. The twenty or so layers of extremely thin crepes, each with a sweet, light pastry cream in between, was probably my favourite dessert in NYC. Crepe cakes I've had before don't come anywhere close to the Lady M ones; sometimes the ratio of cream and crepes isn't quite right, resulting in a slightly dry dessert. Even though the layers of crepes were very thin, it was still extremely sturdy and the cake didn't just topple over or fall apart when we cut into it. Definitely a must try for anyone visiting NYC!

This blog post seems to be getting closer to a short story, so I'll leave one of my food highlights for a future post! A night in East Village spent like a local New Yorker (I'd like to think so, anyway!).


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