Daily Archives: June 5, 2014

New York City Food Romp

A few months ago, during an impromptu visit with a friend in Lancaster, PA, we were enjoying some wine and cheese when we came up with the idea to celebrate our week apart birthdays together in New York City.  We immediately picked the weekend before Mother’s Day and began planning the trip which largely revolved around food and wine.  And thus began our recent, fun food romp.

As the weekend came upon us, we made dinner reservations for both evenings and formulated a loose itinerary based on new adventures we wanted to try.  While I do like to frequent my favorite places at times, I also like to try something new here and there, and I decided this weekend would be full of only new experiences for all of us.  We invited a few more friends to join and I even posted on Facebook to invite anyone who was already in the city to join at any point that was convenient.  It turned out to be an amazing and delicious weekend where a group of varied strangers with mutual friends met and formed friendships over food.

Steak Tacos at Pampano
Having taken Friday off from work, we headed into the city early planning to arrive in time for lunch.  After checking into our midtown hotel, I was in search of some tacos due to a week-long craving, and suggested a highly recommended taco stand in a food court of a building on Third Ave.  My friends however wanted to sit down and have margaritas (the fun was going to start early) so we opted to visit the restaurant by the same owner, Pampano on 49th St.  Pampano is a rather large, friendly place which specializes in coastal Mexican cuisine.  I ordered the steak taco appetizer to keep lunch light.  I let my friends enjoy their margaritas, which incidentally were made with one of my favorite tequilas, Chinaco, and stuck with water

instead.  My tacos were delicious.  Everyone else also was very happy with their food, including a tuna tartare which I tasted and was delicious.  While we were happy with the food at Pampano, it is a rather expensive restaurant and not something you would pop in for a quick lunch.  Save this one for a special occasion.

View from our Hotel Rooftop
After our lunch we walked around the city for a while.  Some of us separated to shop, while others went to find a bar or do a bit of work.  I decided to treat myself to a manicure and pedicure.  After my nails were dry, I headed back to the hotel to freshen up and start meeting some local friends at the rooftop bar at our hotel.  It was a beautiful evening to sit on a rooftop and just enjoy fun conversation with all those that were able to join us until we had to leave for our dinner reservations.

Friday dinner was planned at Café D’Alsace on 86thStreet.  I chose this restaurant because they specialized in a cuisine of France from a region not often found and also because they had a beer sommelier.  After an interesting limo ride (couldn’t find a cab) to the restaurant we were promptly greeted and seated.  The atmosphere was lively and fun and we all instantly liked this place.  We ordered some cheese and charcuterie for the table along with some house made sausages.  I accompanied mine with a glass of Alsatian Riesling which was excellent.  For my entrée I ordered the short ribs with Brussels sprouts and parsnip puree which was delicious.  I also tasted some of the other entrees and we didn’t have a single unhappy person at the table.  Even the tomatoes in the salad were declared as “good” by a person claiming to be a tomato connoisseur, settling a bet among a couple of people in our party.  We really liked Café D’ Alsace and I would definitely go back again.  We walked back to the hotel and a few of us decided to finish up the evening with a glass of wine at a balcony table off the hotel bar while watching the late night hustle & bustle on 57thStreet.  The first day of the romp had been a success.

Seared Tuna at Cafe D’Alsace
Scallops at Cafe D’Alsace

The weather on Saturday was nothing short of spectacular.  After the long, cold winter here in the Northeast, we welcomed the warm sunshine and knew it would be perfect for our planned trip to Smorgasburg in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.  None of us had been there before (I have been to the one in DUMBO but the vendors are different) and were very excited to see what foods we would get to try.  Those completely new to it weren’t quite sure what to expect.  After a subway ride and short walk, we arrived at the open area near the riverfront lined with food stalls of cuisines from all over the world.  We decided

to be strategic and walk through the entire market first before deciding which stalls to revisit for food.  We also opted to share our food so that we could try more things including dishes from Vietnam, India, Middle East and some good old fashioned chicken and waffles.  Everything was quite delicious and it was definitely an adventure worth taking.  Our appetites satisfied, we left Smorgasburg to search for something to quench our thirst and wound up at the Hotel Delmano.  This is not a hotel at all but a cool bar with outdoor seating and great cocktails. 

Cocktails at Hotel Delmano

We proceeded to order some cocktails and were eventually joined by a friend who is local to the area and suggested trying out some of the beer gardens in the area.  And so we continued on to the rooftop at Berry Park and then Spritzenhaus where we even played a game of Jenga which was a lot of fun. 

When we could eat and drink no more, we headed back to Manhattan and our hotel to relax and get ready for our dinner at Ma Peche of the David Chang Momofuku chain.

The sky looked ominous as we returned but we decided to meet at the rooftop bar of our hotel again and sure enough the rain had begun by the time we arrived for a pre-dinner cocktail.  Thankfully, the bar has awnings and we were able to enjoy the outdoors and stay dry too.  After a short taxi ride, we arrived at Ma Peche and were seated promptly.  I had been looking forward to this dinner for weeks and must say that while it was good and we had a lot of fun, the experience did not blow me away as I had expected.  It was nothing special and not a place I would consider revisiting.  Service was slow and it took our server 30 minutes to get our drink order which arrived in spurts so that by the time the last person got their drink, the first person was ready for the second.  It seemed like we were constantly needing to flag her down for everything throughout the meal and then had to wait too long.  The dim sum style cart service is cute but I’m not sure I’m a fan, though I must admit I’m not a fan of dim sum either.  The food was good but the portions are rather small for the prices (yes, I know I was in NYC but this was a bit much).  The grilled asparagus were very tasty and about the only truly memorable dish of the evening.  The wine list is extensive and offers a good variety by the glass.  Overall we had a great evening but it was more so because we made it fun and not so much the restaurant experience.  Unfortunately this is generally my experience in these type of high end, well known restaurants so I’m always a bit wary of them, often preferring the unknown neighborhood places like Café d’ Alsace.

Tired from our weekend of romping 
we called it an early night and headed back home after breakfast the next day.  Being the early riser that I am, I managed to get in an early morning walk through Central Park and along Park Avenue before the streets began to fill with traffic and people.  It was the perfect way to reflect on the past two days and plan my future food adventures.  After all I already had trips to Portland and Chicago planned.

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