Oh my poor, sad neglected blog! I could blame a weekend in NYC for my absence, but even then I managed to try out WordPress’s mobile blogging app for one post. No, it was a cold-induced lethargy that made stringing together coherent thoughts seem far too challenging last week. Happily, I have emerged from my Sudafed-aided stupor and I’m ready to attack the posts that were languishing as ‘saved drafts’ while I was consuming plenty of fluids and watching old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (seriously, my brain was not functioning).
So, like I said, last weekend Adam and I were hanging out in Manhattan. While the main focus of our trip was visiting with friends who we don’t see nearly often enough, I did get to fit in a little New York food fun. Here’s a look at some weekend highlights, by the food:
photo from the Market Basket website, not my S.T.J.
Now, normally, I would never mention New Jersey in a post about New York City. I know that New Jersey is not “pretty much New York.” But Adam’s parents live 30 minutes from the city, so a trip to NYC mandates a trip to Bergen County. And, of course, a trip to Bergen County isn’t complete without a stop at The Market Basket. So for lunch on Friday we met up with one of Adam’s high school friends and enjoyed delicious sandwiches. I have no picture of the amazing S.T.J.(smoked turkey, melted Jarlsberg and creamy honey mustard on a croissant) that Adam and I split, but it was delicious enough to warrant a shout out. Market Basket, you make me dislike Jersey a little less.
fried calamari- good for soaking up alcohol
From Jersey we headed to Shivani‘s apartment on the Upper East Side. Friday night involved a couple of midtown bars: dinner at Opal (a trio of sub-par sliders: chicken cordon bleu, angus beef, and “portobello ‘shroom”) was followed by drinks/fried snacks at a bar whose name escapes me- the evening was clearly not memorable for the food. In the morning, however, we got homemade blueberry pancakes- necessary preparation for a day wandering the cold, snowy streets of Manhattan.
I'm not used to someone else making pancakes for me!
I only had one thing on my to-do list for the weekend: get steamed pork buns at Momofuku. Before we got to New York, I had checked in with one of my favorite Frederick tweeps who had been to NY recently, to see if there were any food places I just couldn’t miss. The response was quick: “Momofuku,esp SSam Bar/Milk Bar(get there near 5),Halal carts,grazing @ Chelsea Market.Meat to bring home from @themeathook Brooklyn.” I’m so glad I thought to ask for suggestions- I had completely forgotten that I’d been meaning to try Momofuku for more than a year- basically ever since I moved back to the DC area. I’d had my fill of Halal carts while living up there, and we didn’t make it out to Brooklyn this trip (sad, because I’ve really been wanting to try Liddabit Sweets) but now it was my weekend mission to try those steamed buns.
The tweet had immediately reminded me of an NPR story that necessitated a phone call to Maggie- that’s how amazing these buns sounded. I think it was this line, from chef David Chang, that really got me: “It has a burst of fat flavor from the salty pork belly, and then it’s got this cool, crunchy texture from the pickled cucumbers and the sweetness in the hoisin sauce.” Salty and sweet, yet still light and crunchy? This was something I just had to try.
I was not disappointed.
The menu states, "We do not serve vegetarian friendly items." As if the buns weren't enough of a reason to love this place!
The steamed buns listed on the menu are filled with pork belly (brined and roasted, based on recipes I’ve seen that attempt to replicate the legendary snack), scallions, cucumbers, and hoisin sauce. I’d only had pork belly once before and the experience was not a great one: the meat was kind of chewy and flavorless. I couldn’t believe that this was the same cut of meat! The meat was perfectly cooked and full of flavor, like an amazingly subtle, soft, yummy piece of bacon. As a whole, the elements balanced each other beautifully, just as Chang had promised on NPR.
As if that wasn’t enough, there was a ‘special’ bun: crispy pork belly with avocado, radish, basil and a spicy mayonnaise.
the 'special' Momofuku bun
Once again, the texture of the meat just blew me away. This time the pork belly was more reminiscent of bacon, since the ‘patty’ had a nice, crispy crust on it. That texture had a nice contrast in the creamy avocado, but this bun was a little underwhelming for me as a whole. The flavor of the supporting components didn’t have enough punch of its own to suitably complement the pork belly. (Maggie went a few days later and got beef brisket buns as the special- I would have loved to try those!)
I have to say, these steamed buns are going to be a new frequently-craved food for me. Maggie and I had recently been having a conversation about how much we wanted duck pancakes from Chinatown: these buns have pretty much all the same elements- perfectly cooked flavorful meat, crispy refreshing greens, and a sweet tangy sauce. Luckily, it seems that many other people have this obsession, so there are plenty of recipes for when I decide I need to attempt this myself.
Speaking of crave-able foods…
Having indulged my desire to try Momofuku, the rest of the weekend was about hanging out with friends (and satisfying some other NY-centric food cravings). After watching the Ravens lose, Baltimore-native Sam was especially in need of some sugary comfort. The closest available cupcakes were at Magnolia Bakery‘s Grand Central location, so we headed there for a little sweet treat.
So many choices!
I’m not a huge Magnolia fan (I think their cupcakes are just too sweet: by the time I finish one I’m sweating), so that wasn’t really the most satisfying snack for me. On the way home, though, I got what I’d been waiting for all weekend:
New York pizza!
I just can’t get enough of the salty, tangy deliciousness of a slice of New York pizza, even if it does send a trail of bright orange grease running down my arm.
And finally, on our way out in the morning, Adam and I stopped to stock up on bagels, smoked whitefish salad and olive cream cheese. Weekend accomplished!