Tuesday, 11 May 2010

New York

So the three people who regularly read this blog may have noticed that I've not been updating with my usual regularity. This is because I've been eating myself unconscious in New York, and my fingers are now too fat to type accurately.
I shan't bore you with a separate post for each of the 2,000 restaurants that we ate in, merely provide you with an overview of the high- (and low-) lights.
Since we were in the big 'apple', we made a solemn yet unspoken vow not to eat any fruit for the duration of our stay. Instead we insisted that almost everything that passed our lips was either deep fried or coated in sugar, or both.

Kicking off with a pizza the size of Jupiter, our arrival on the culinary map was well and truly marked for our poor weak British stomachs. Starved and exhausted after a long flight, a curtailed tube (subway?) journey and the effort of dragging two suitcases around the streets of Manhattan for half an hour, we arrived at our hotel and flopped onto our beds. Realising that we needed sustenance immediately if not sooner, we headed out with resolutions to just 'go to the first place we see and eat everything they sell.' The first place we saw was a pizza place called Sal's which apparently George Dubbya has eaten in. We purchased the last pizza they had, demanded that they sprinkle sausage all over it, and returned to our hotel. It became clear that the reason this was the last pizza in the shop was because all of the families of twelve, football teams and morbidly obese grease-chuggers were in bed or had dined elsewhere. We could probably have fed six with our table-sized pizza, but instead we decided that it would make a fine breakfast and boxed it up for the morning. Keeping it classy...As a first New York meal, it was pretty faultless and did the job of expanding our stomachs for the gastronomic onslaught of the week to come. The base was light but chewy and the toppings were neither overwhelming nor underplayed.

After trailing around in the rain all day, peering at skyscrapers obscured by fog and cloud and shivering in our 'summer' jackets and flip-flops, we treated ourselves to dinner at the Grand Central Oyster Bar to cheer ourselves up. This was only really effective in the short-term. Whilst I enjoyed my oysters, even without dipping them in KETCHUP like my fellow diners (really, who does this?) and the mountain of fist-sized scallops DEEP FRIED IN BREADCRUMBS (we had to keep up the 'vow of the fried food' somehow) I emphatically did not enjoy the vomiting, hallucinations, cold sweats and other ahem, side affects which saw me languishing in a pool of my own sweat on the bathroom floor at 3am crying and praying for death.

Despite this brush with death (dramatic, me?) I have not been put off oysters, I see them as a sort of extreme food, and the risk of illness only really makes them more exciting for me. Every mouthful is a terrifying dance with dysentery, but that's a risk I'm willing to take. Christ I'm daring.
Fully recovered but planning a low-key day food-wise; dry bread, plenty of water, the odd piece of fruit or maybe a plain muffin, you know, the sort of thing that people recovering from near death situations exist on so as not to enrage the beast that's taken residence in their stomach who insists of rejecting everything that enters his realm in the most violent and unpleasant way.

This did not last long as Polly and Ceilidh wanted to visit Katz's deli, made famous by that scene in When Harry Met Sally, which apparently gives them leave to charge eye-watering prices for bagels. We took our seats next to a wall crowded with photos of famous folk buying salami and so forth at the legendary deli, and ordered ourselves some pastrami bagels. Just a light little thing for my delicate constitution you understand, I really couldn't cope with anything heavy or rich...
Thick wedges of pink pastrami glistening between the black sides of pumpernickel bagel and enormous pickles set us on our feet for the day, which was fortuitous since we were very nearly knocked off them when presented with the bill...

Following a dogged day of sightseeing and endless pavement pounding, we found our tired arses at Madison Square Park where we were delighted to see the Shake Shack, a mecca for burger lovers, a contingent which we certainly count ourselves amongst. The fabled queues were not super long and within about 15 minutes we were squealing with delight as our buzzers vibrated and we rushed to collect our burgers. Foolishly we had opted for mere single patties, a mistake rectified when me and Polly returned two days later and went for the full double experience. Coupled with a 'concrete' - a solid ice-cream milkshake full of peanut butter, cookies, sauces and all manor of cavity inducing 'mush-ins' our cholesterol was sky-rocketing but our hearts were contented. Sitting on the little tables in the sun-dappled park with the Empire State Building soaring into the sky behind us was one of my warmest memories of America.
Following a fraught journey on the inscrutable underground system, Polly and I arrived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where we promptly deposited ourselves in the nearest 'pub' Spike Hill and ordered some strong liquor and a bottle of wine. We repped our nation admirably in the drinking stakes that night, which saw us through post-game drinks in a dive bar, swing dancing in a speak-easy and vodka in our hotel room. Brits on tour. Apart from the life-giving cocktails, we shared the biggest bowl of olives I've ever seen, some very good home-made houmous and a heavenly pulled pork sandwich which was one of the best things I ate on my trip. Sticky smoky shredded pork in a bun with barbecue sauce and coleslaw, I would eat this every day if I had the metabolism for it. 
What else did we gorge on? Honourable mention must go to my friend Diana who cooked us a beautiful Puerto Rican meal of chicken, red beans, plantains and rice despite being dead on her feet from two weeks of Grand Jury duty, a full-time job AND a university course. She is a miracle in tiny human form for the energy that she manages to maintain despite existing on about two hours sleep a night, I'm delighted that she's soon to marry my friend Jamie, a Londoner who moved to Brooklyn five years ago.
On Diana's recommendation we went to check out Cafe Habana for some Cuban food and ambrosial frozen cocktails - I won't forget the Morita in a hurry, a lethal combination of mojito and margarita. I went for pulled pork (again) but this one was casseroled in a citrusy marinade and served piled high with yellow rice and black beans. Having never tried Cuban food before, I'm now searching desperately for somewhere in London where I can feed my new pork addiction. Speaking of which I bought a hilarious recipe book called Pig: King of the Southern Table which I will report on in the fullness of time, probably when I’m back eating solids rather than salads in a bid to return to my pre-holiday weight.
Between these mammoth meals of fried meat and carbs we managed to squeeze in a couple of cupcakes from Magnolia and Sugar Sweet Sunshine respectively and a mother load of Reese's peanut butter products, for which I have a special weakness. Owing to my peanut butter addiction, it would have been remiss of us not to visit the Peanut Butter cafe, which serves The Elvis, a deep-fried peanut butter, maple syrup and banana sandwich with optional bacon. I balked at this, but ordered a maple peanut butter and bacon sandwich which was not deep-fried, and can report that it is a fine if slightly alien combination. We left with a couple of jars of flavoured peanut butter (cinnamon raisin and maple syrup) with which I think I will be making cookies from. Actually it's more likely that I'll just be eating spoonfuls of it from the jar. 
 You’re probably feeling a little nauseous just reading this litany of food with which we abused our waistlines, so I shall leave you. I must pop out to buy more elasticated-waist trousers, or sweatpants as my American friends would have it.

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