The Modern Love Machine and I pledged to keep our summer travel a little smaller than the 11-day trips we’ve been in the habit of taking every summer with the idea that we might save a little more money to be put into our leaky house. While the money saving may not have happened quite as we hoped, we’ve corralled our travel into bite-sized chunks, with a couple of trips to Memphis and a jaunt to Atlanta — all done very cheaply — and a far more budget-busting skip up to NYC.
The MLM had never been to NYC, and yet was interested in only one thing: food, and specifically the fine-dining establishments that seem to be on every corner of the city. So we planned on a culinary tour of the city. As we spend most of our weeknights on the couch with dinner on our laps and Chopped on the TV, the gastrotour had a Food Network flavor to it (we looked up every last one of the Chopped judges’ restaurants and had a hearty debate over whose would make the cut).
Side note: I inadvertently almost scored us a drinking date with Chopped judge Chris Santos, thanks to a random exchange I had with him on Twitter earlier in the month. He apparently trolls Twitter for mentions of his name, and now I’m going to assume he’s reading this blog post for the very same reason. Hi, #drinkingbuddy. Sorry we missed you.
The first place we hit was Scott Conant’s restaurant, Scarpetta, which was the last addition to the gastrotour based on a few reviews we read. We figured it would give us a chance to decide if Scott really IS the Italian cuisine authority that Ted Allen claims he is and if he has the right to be such an asshole to Chopped contestants. Because we had been thinking about our trip for so long, we we ready to go balls to the wall on this meal, which we did by way of ordering the tasting menu. We may have to foreclose on the leaky house to pay for that meal, but the MLM and I agreed that of all the insanely amazing meals we’ve had together, this one was the most insanely amazing.
Because we managed to land in NYC when it was a million degrees there (ok, 100 degrees, but it was legitimately 100 degrees at least two of the days we were there, and 100 degrees in NY is like 150 degrees everywhere else), we inhaled a lot of ice cream and other frozen treats: olive oil gelato at Scarpetta, sour cream ice cream at Gramercy Tavern, the Salty Pimp at Big Gay Ice Cream and a shake from the Shake Shack. The savory gelato and ice cream are two things I intend to duplicate somehow now that the MLM has an ice cream maker attachment for ye olde Kitchen Aid stand mixer. The Shake Shack shake was ok, but the Salty Pimp? I cry thinking about how indulgently good it was.
allow me to introduce you to the Salty Pimp: vanilla soft serve, caramel drizzle, sea salt and chocolate magic shell. i could not eat it fast enough, but then, that may have had something to do with the 100-degree weather.
Another highlight was Marcus Samuelsson’s place in Harlem, Red Rooster. This was the No. 1 spot on the gastrotour. The MLM has cooked Marcus’s fried chicken recipe before, and it’s pretty dang good, so I expected even more in person. I can’t say the restaurant totally knocked me on my feet, but it was still pretty good — so good we needed an entire afternoon of wandering MoMA to work it off, and then some. The even bigger highlight was seeing Marcus Samuelsson in the flesh in a very Marcus Samuelsson-esque outfit of a flower-print T-shirt and bright blue jeans and hearing his Swedish draw from a mere 5 feet away. We never got a chance to say hello as he was constantly disappearing and reappearing and disappearing again, but the MLM still snuck a blurry photo on the sly.
there wasn’t just fried chicken. there were buttery mashed potatoes and cornbread so thick and sweet it tasted like cake. and there were swedish meatballs. as for the photo on the right, it’s blurry, but it’s him — i promise
There were other meals: a yummy (and cold!) corn soup from Gramercy Tavern, those Momofuku pork buns, a tasty brunch at Acme and some better-than-expected Mets game tacos. There was also an inexcusable lack of cheap Chinatown noodles, drinking and brunching at the Stanton Social (again, with the lack of Chris Santos) and treats from Dominque Ansel’s bakery, but in our defense it was too dang hot to walk to Chinatown or SoHo and stand in line for cronuts or frozen s’mores.
The heat kept us inside more than we would have liked, so the trip was — both literally and figuratively — just a taste of vacation. Thank God the Modern Parents sprung a surprise, albeit very short beach trip on us for Labor Day weekend, or I might feel shorted on my summer vacationing. In the mean time, it’s off to the gym for me.