This holiday season I stayed in town, dog and cat sat in two different parts of Brooklyn, and ate my way across and around NYC, discovering some fun, tasty spots. Below are a few of my top, most memorable eats of the 25+ places i hit over the two-week holiday span.
New York, NY 10012
First of all, if you’re a pasta fanatic like me and haven’t been to Raffetto’s, you have my condolences. This old school, family owned and operated Italian goods and pasta shop is like no other, anywhere. Pasta here is at it’s freshest. you can order just about any type of pasta, plain, stuffed, cooked, frozen and any way you like it. Cut to order, any size, any quantity be it Linguini, Tagliatelle, Fettucine, you name it. Besides traditional egg or semolina pasta, you can also choose from Rosemary to Saffron infused to my favorite, Chocolate Pasta! I like mine cut on the thicker side, so I go for Fettuccine and often eat it plain. Because it’s that good! Occasionally I’ll add a splash of high quality maple syrup, but truly, it isn’t necessary.
329 Smith Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
As a spoiled SF native of Asian descent, I consider great Vietnamese food a birthright. My hometown offers countless great options, many at lower price points. Initially, I questioned whether I’d ever find an outlet to indulge one of my favorite Asian cuisines in the 5 Boroughs. So when I heard the rock star team behind Seersucker (RIP) one of my former favorite spots for Southern cooking had opened a Vietnamese eatery in Carroll Gardens, one of my favorite parts of Brooklyn, I was super psyched. Having had some of my best Vietnamese meals at no-frills hole-in-the-wall places from coast to coast, I was impressed at how a sit-down, grown-up version of Vietnamese cuisine could reach a level far beyond my experience and expectations. Besides the traditional Pho/soup noodles you expect at any Vietnamese restaurant, I was blown away at how food I don’t generally like, such as cauliflower, could be prepared so delicately and so deliciously. How did I stumble upon a dish so off my radar? While ordering, my dining date broke the bad news that he no longer eats meat (boo!) and suggested the Cauliflower Salad. I made a face, but caved. Surprise! It was prepared with cucumber, peanuts, yuzu and herbs and was incredibly flavorful.
Nightingale 9’s chefs even managed to get creative with brussels sprouts, making them in a flavorful fish sauce!
My favorite, however, had to be the Banh Cuon: house made rice noodles filled with ground pork (my favorite type of meat), chicken pate, and cukes, rolled up into something absolutely, lusciously delectable. I don’t know if this entree is a Vietnamese staple as I’ve never had anything quite like it. But this dish is creative, unique, good looking and so yummy, I ate it all myself! (I love dining with Vegetarians)
The restaurant is cozy and inexpensive for the quality and service, and has an excellent playlist to boot. (I worked at record companies for many years, so I can vouch for that!) There are a variety of other dishes definitely worth trying as well. I plan on returning with a posse that enjoys meat!
Colorful Gelatin Desserts
New Wing Wah Bakery
245 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002
There are tons of Chinese Bakeries in New York’s Chinatown. Blink once and they all look like the same place. For the most part, if you’re rushed and need a quick and inexpensive sugar or salt fix, you can find the usual sponge cakes, pork buns, dry salted eggs buns, lotus/red bean buns and many more mysterious items ranging in color from bright green to muddy brown. They also generally serve “coffee” which really is just warm, watered down dark liquid, so shy away from that! After checking out a dozen or more of these places, I found what I think has the most varied and interesting treats: New Wing Wah Bakery, literally right next door to the Grand Street B/D subway stop. Sure, they mainly serve the same stuff as all the rest, but this joint has a better letter grade (B) is cleaner, and has at least one counter person who speaks a little English. And what New Wing Wah offers that I haven’t seen elsewhere are their jelly like desserts that range in price from 80 cents to a dollar.
My two favorites:
The Red Bean layer, which looks fancy, has a sufficient amount of red beans, and isn’t overly sweet, but rather, very light and yummy. It appears to be made of a solid gelatin like mixture that isn’t too mushy. Hopefully you don’t have texture issues, because it’s delicious!
The Coffee layer, another good tasting and good looking gelatin like dessert, is very similar to the red bean, but infused with coffee and almond extract. It probably sounds wierd and perhaps unappealing, but taste is all that matters right?
The infamous Dollar Duck Bun
137-28 40th Road
Flushing, NY 11354
This no-frills stand is inside Corner 28, your typical fast paced Chinese takeout place. It used to be on chaotic Main Street but has moved around the corner to 40th Road. Nevertheless, it’s still a fast block and a half walk from the 7 train’s Main Street stop. The golden ticket here without a doubt, is the Dollar Duck Bun. The warm bun is layered with a few pieces of moist roast duck (skin on), with a bit of hoisin and thinly sliced scallions. It’s juicy, delicious and flavorful, not a huge portion and can be devoured in two bites. At just a buck, I suggest getting two, or maybe even four. I do.
On to the New Year and new eats. Stay tuned!