Sunday, January 26, 2014

NYC - Where Food and People Watching Reach A Whole New Level

Meagan, Harry and I on the Staten Island Ferry. Lady
Liberty in the background. 
     Meagan is great at including fun things in her life. I often go day to day just trying to get through it and don't have events that I generally look forward to. Well... that makes me sound lame and pathetic. But between rowing, work and trying to pack everything to do it all again the next day, it's hard. However, it works for me, but it's nice to have someone to remind you to enjoy things and stop to smell the roses once in a while.
     Either way, for the long MLK weekend we decided to book a trip to New York City. Since Harrison lives on Long Island and bus tickets are pretty cheap, we figured all we'd need to pay for is transportation and food. There are far too many stories from this weekend that are fit for the big screen, and I'm not about to go into them all. So instead, I'll drool a little more over the foods we ate. I must preface this with the fact that I've got a weigh-in coming up, and I didn't want to do my body damage this weekend, so I tried to not go crazy.

Stella's Pizzeria & Restaurant- Bellmore, NY

The best cheese pizza I've ever had. I know
it doesn't look like much, but just trust me. 
      Whenever you hear about the food in New York, you hear about their pizza and bagels. Apparently it's all in the water. Something about the water makes these things better than anywhere else. I won't lie... I had a hard time believing this. The first place we went as soon as Harrison picked us up from the bus station was a pizza place called Stella's PIzzeria. It's his favorite and apparently has the best pizza. Now, I'm not generally a fan of cheese pizza. I like much more excitement on my pizza. I'm also not generally a fan of thin crust pizza. It's thin and flimsy and gets soggy way too easily. However, the thin crust cheese pizza I've had before doesn't come near this thing crust cheese pizza from Stella's. It was perfect! Yes, the crust was thin, but it was crisp on the bottom in a way I've never seen before. Somehow the very bottom layer of the crust was browned and harder so it held the pizza together. Yet there was a thin layer of crust just above that outer shell that was still soft like a standard pizza crust. And the cheese ... oooooooh the cheese was so gooey, chewy and not overly greasy. Even the sauce was great. There wasn't so much that it was pouring out, and it was perfectly sweet but didn't dominate in flavor over the cheese. I totally forgot about the whole "fold the pizza as you eat it" method until I was nearly done, so clearly that means a return trip is in order. I also ordered a slice of their big thick chicken and broccoli pizza and a delicious garlic knot. The pizza was absolutely loaded with huge pieces of chicken, large garlic cloves and tons of broccoli. I don't think this was traditional New York style pizza, but it was delicious none the less.

John Moore's Deli - Bellmore, NY
Pastrami, Egg and Cheese

     The next place we went for food was John Moore's deli off Merrick St. by Harrison's house. They had
everything! Tons of meats and interesting sandwich combinations. It was just this tiny little deli with tons of customers shuffling in and out. I got a pastrami, egg and cheese on a hoagie roll with poppy seeds. It was perfect. I absolutely love pastrami, and it was sliced nice and thin just like I like it. The eggs were light and fluffy, and although the cheese was american cheese, I felt like it was all part of the experience. Yea, I probably would've liked some other kind of unprocessed cheese better, but it's like getting tacos at some restaurant in the hills of Tuscany. You just don't do it.  The roll was super soft and fluffy and everything was warm. Perfect on a chilly morning on the coast.

Katz's Delicatessen - New York, NY

Katz's Reuben with Corned Beef, Matzo Ball Soup and Pickles. Mmmm!
     The week before we went to New York, I was watching the Food Network on my lunch break at work and Adam Richmond from Man vs Food went to Katz's Delicatessen in New York's lower east side (this clip right here). Katz's has been open since 1888 and considers itself New York's oldest deli. It was the description of their briskets and their corned beef sandwich that convinced me that I needed to find this place during our trip. 10,000 pounds of meat in a week? I'm in. As an iconic Jewish deli, everything is served cafeteria style just the way it was years ago.
Just look how beautiful she is (the sandwich).
     One of my favorite things about this place were their "samples." Well... I guess it wasn't really a sample considering you get it after you order, but when you're waiting at the counter and the master sandwich maker is building your sandwich, they cut off a couple pieces of steaming meat and put it on a plate on the counter for you to eat as you wait. The perfect cure to my overwhelming anticipation. I ordered the Reuben with corned beef. They stack rye bread with an outrageous amount of corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and homemade russian dressing. Where do I even begin?
     Well, I have literally never had better tasting corned beef in my life. This meat melted in my mouth and practically fell apart it was so tender. But it didn't fall apart in a too-dry, overcooked way. It was plenty moist and flavorful with little to not fat. Sometimes corned beef can be extra fatty (in a bad and greasy way), but this wasn't even close. I'm not sure if they use homemade sauerkraut, but it had an awesome crunch. It wasn't too pungent or sour, but it had a light vinegary taste that aided in the flavor and didn't overpower the sandwich as a whole. And I can't say I've ever really had russian dressing that I liked, but this was beyond anything I've had before. It was way less creamy and goopy like what comes out of the bottle. It seemed more like chunks of who knows what (onions?) in a thinner, less unhealthy sauce. It still offered a creamy texture and flavor that went perfectly with the sourness and crunch of the kraut, the warm melty swiss and heaven's salty meat. Ugh I'm salivating just reliving this moment.
He was just too fast.

     We also ordered some of their pickles which I believe were homemade too. They had two different flavors (sour and the half sour) that were the perfect finish to the meal. There is no other option but to go back and next time try their pastrami. Or combine the corned beef and pastrami. Oh the possibilities! You should really watch that video I posted above.

Mustang Harry's - New York, NY

     After a late late lunch at Katz's, we stopped at Mustang Harry's (funny because we were with Harry) for
dinner before heading home. Mustang Harry's is a sports bar close to Times Square and therefore pretty expensive, so Meagan and I split this beautiful salad. It was a rotisserie chicken salad with mixed greens, sweet corn, baby tomatoes, avocado, and feta cheese in a cilantro lime vinaigrette. I was absolutely in love with the vinaigrette. So light and fresh. Mix that with the sweet corn, avocado and feta and it was all just a genius blend of flavors. I know... not my standard restaurant meal choice, but like I said... I was trying to be careful. Until the next morning...

Town Bagel - Bellmore, NY

    On our last morning in New York, Harry wanted to take us to get bagels. Heck, we wanted Harry to take us to get bagels. I wanted to taste test these bagels and really see what all the hype was about. We went to Town Bagel to get breakfast and maybe a couple bagels to take home. When I walked in, I didn't think I'd be leaving with 14 bagels. Boy was I in for a surprise. They had a bunch of different kinds and a deal that was "buy 12 get 6 free," so I got 12, and Meagan got the other 6. If I recall correctly, I went with cinnamon raisin, pumpernickel, pumpernickel everything, egg everything, whole wheat everything, whole wheat, poppy seed, sesame seed, and plain. But then of course I saw the blueberry after I had already chosen my 12... so I got one more... in addition to my 12 and the whole wheat everything one I got toasted with cream cheese. First of all, I've never had someone put so much cream cheese on a bagel, and I couldn't have been happier. By the time I got to it on the train, the bagel was still plenty warm and crisp and the cream cheese was so soft and warm.
     The star of the show, however, wasn't the toasted bagel with cream cheese. It was the plain bagel. Plain bagels to me are like cheese pizza. Meh. I want more happening. At least that's what I thought until I had this plain bagel. We had to wait because they were just about to come out of the oven (a small price to pay for the magic I was about to experience). I kid you not... I watched the man go into the oven with his big ole spatula thing and pull out our 5 piping hot plain bagels and toss them in our bags. When we got to the car, it was what I went for first because it was so warm, and I didn't want to miss this moment. Man oh man... this plain bagel was the best bagel I have ever had in my entire life. I don't know if it's because I've never had a fresh hot bagel like this before or what, but it blew my mind. The outside had a thin, tough layer with that slightly sticky texture, kind of like a soft pretzel (or a bagel done right). It wasn't too tough, but just a perfect firmness encasing the soft, hot and fluffy center of the bagel. My first bite squished it a little because it was still so fresh,  but it didn't matter. The bottom of the bagel was lightly browned with a touch of corn meal on it and was just a bit thicker with a little more crispness than the other sides of the bagel. I was in disbelief. Yes, that's the word. Utter disbelief. I couldn't believe a) how good a hot bagel was, b) how soft the inside was, c) how perfect the outside layer was, and d) that I felt this way about a plain bagel. It was literally a life changing experience. Never will I ever look at a bagel the same again. Thanks for such a great, short trip Harry!

Chicken Poblano Soup - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

     So I do have one recipe of my own in here I'd like to write about. I love pablano peppers but haven't had them in eons. Marc and I used to cook with them a lot, but I forgot just how good they are. I've had this Pinterest recipe for a long time for Chicken Poblano Soup and decided to make it one chilly weekend for meals for the following week. I found this on an awesome blog called The Fit Cook. It's such a great
resource. This soup definitely turned out a little bit more spicy than I expected, and I'm not sure if I'd make it again, but it's still great. I love the cilantro and poblano flavors together. It's really nice to mix in a little bit more yogurt when you serve it, to a) make it a little creamier and b) tone down the spice a tad.

Chicken Poblano Soup

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
2 small yellow onions, rough chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup fresh cilantro plus more for garnish
8 ounces plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, divided

4 cups Chicken stock

1) Cook the chicken breast in a large pot of salted boiling water or chicken stock for about 10 minutes. When the chicken is cooked through, transfer it to a cutting board and use two forks to pull apart the meat. Set aside.
2) Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, nonstick soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the peppers, onions, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.
3) Add 3 cups of your boiling water or stock to the pot and season with extra salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the peppers and onions are cooked through.
4) Using a blender or hand held blender, blend until the soup reaches a smooth, creamy consistency. Add in the yogurt and blend again. Finally, mix in the shredded chicken.
5) When serving, garnish with another dollop of yogurt and garnish with extra cilantro.

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