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EATALY is Awesome…and other New York Stories

The trouble with traveling to New York is, you’re usually with people who are under the impression there are things to do there other than eat and drink. – ELV

New York is the greatest restaurant city in the world.Daniel Boulud

Everyone knows ELV hearts New York City. He’s from Connecticut, lived an hour’s drive from mid-town for five years back in the 80s, and knows the restaurant territory there almost as well as he does Las Vegas’. Amazingly, after at least a hundred trips there, he still gets a tingle whenever he’s awakened from his red-eye slumber to see the sun rising over Manhattan (“Ah, civilization!” are the words and thoughts that immediately spring to his mind.):

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After checking in to the Gansevoort Hotel, smack dab in the middle of the meat-packing district, we considered polishing off our hunger at Pastis (right out our window):

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…but instead strolled over to Balthazar:

…where one of the world’s great croissants awaits. (The cinnamon bun ain’t nuthin’ to sneeze at either.)

We would advise you to also hit Francois Payard’s small shop on Houston Street (pronounced HOW-ston), but were shooed away by snippy attendants who barked “no pictures allowed sir” as soon as we snapped a couple. (Memo to famous chefs: The only thing worse than people taking pictures of your precious food is when no one does.)

After our faux-French fortification from Balthazar, we headed straight to Eataly …where you will find all of your Italian (food) fantasies fulfilled…and perhaps some other ones as well:

Eataly is like a giant candy store of Italian eats. Think of the world’s best Italian market with small (and not-so-small) bars, nooks, counters and full-service restaurants interspersed throughout — a veritable orgy of Italian indulgence. From salumi tastings to vegetable (verdure) counters, you name, you can probably eat it or drink it or buy it at Eataly.

We didn’t indulge much (a superb salumi/fromaggi platter and some wine), since there was still some serious drinking to be done at one of the most gorgeous rooms in Manhattan:

Eleven Madison Park

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…before meeting Uncle Alan (Richman) in Brooklyn at Fatty ‘Cue, where he poured over the menu like a rabbi scouring the Talmud, before ordering a variety of smoky meat flecked with Asian accents. After that, we forced him to go to a dive beer bar called Spuyten Duyvil — a place known for its Belgium ales — where he approved of our first choice (a tasty and tart La Moneuse saison), but pronounced the second (a Hassens Experimental Cassis ): “…one of the worst things (he’s) ever tasted.”):

Fatty ‘Cue was a dump — albeit a friendly one with decent ‘cue — much better than the barbecue we’ve had across the river — which always tastes exactly like you’d expect barbecue to taste like when made by a bunch of New Yorkers. Spuyten Duyvil (in spite of the Devil) was also a dump — albeit a dump with a fabulous beer list. Walking around Williamsburg, Brooklyn, ELV decided everything there is a dump — albeit a hip and happening dump, where you won’t feel comfortable unless you are: a) under 35; and, b) wearing a t-shirt. The whole of Williamsburg seems to be a hipster museum of sorts — which must cause the hipsters serious concern — although Alan said there’s  “… also a lot of old Jews still living here, but they don’t come out much after dark.”

Regardless, the neighborhood is also home to one of New York’s fabulous cheese shops…which was so groaning with fromage, we could’ve spent an hour (at least) in the tiny shop. :

The next day it was off to Kitchen Stadium, to be re-acquainted with some old friends:

The Chairman and Kevin Brauch

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…and a couple of fellow Iron Chef America judges:

Jeffrey and Kady

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Jeffrey Steingarten and Kady Huffman

Before an exhausting-but-crazy-fun-day judging two episodes of ICA. In between those episodes, we had time to drop into Le Cirque for the single greatest thing we tasted on the trip — a lamb lasagna with fava beans:

Lamb lasagna with fava beans

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Remarkably, after almost twelve hours in studio (and over 20 courses of food), we were still hungry. So, we decided to kick it old school at one of New York’s oldest Italian restaurants, Barbetta:

…where some cold minestrone, agnolotti, and braised rabbit was just the antidote to the creative cuisine we’d been consuming and discussing for hours. After a quick tour around Restaurant Row (46th Street), it was time to go visit a few friends:

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…then to Benoit for some beauteous profiteroles:

…before finally calling it a day.

The next day we were hungry, of course, so it was off to a West Village farmers market:

…before taking Scott’s Pizza Tour — and event already chronicled on these pages. After that, it was time for some libational lounging, first at Johnny’s Bar:

It wasn't and it isn't

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…then down the Chelsea street for some super suds a la Francais at Lyon:

…before heading to Jacques Torres for the world’s best chocolate chunk cookie:

…then cruising by The Spotted Pig:

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…before dropping by Spasso for some Spass-tastic stracciatella:

House-made stracciatella cheese

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House-made stracciatella cheese

The pictures above point out what makes New York’s dining scene so special. Spasso is hardly a famous restaurant. But it is small and well-appointed, with a thoughtful, manageable menu of Italian specialties and a well-chosen wine list with a number of Proseccos and Lambruscos by the glass. There are a hundred restaurants like it all over Manhattan, serving great food in a stylish setting at prices 25% less than we would’ve paid at Rosemary’s. New York has its Spassos; Las Vegas gets Nora’s…(sigh).

Finally, we cruised by some old friends (and one new one — The Dutch):

…before heading home into the setting sun:

Au revoir Big Apple

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6 Responses to EATALY is Awesome…and other New York Stories

  • Great report and wonderful food photos ELV. Yet I’m puzzled by the first photo showing you landing at sunrise in NYC. The photo makes it look as though you were seated in the coach section of the airplane just aft of the engine. How can this be true? A learned judge who sits on the court at Iron Chef America most surely travels First Class. Did you forget to add that in your contract?

  • ELV responds: We agree to travel coach only if supplied with a steady flow of Dom Perignon ’90 — to offset the bother of having to bump knees with the hoi polloi.

  • And those 1890 bottles are getting really scarce. :)

  • Mouthwatering.
    Eataly is very very high on my lists to visit.

  • I have been to Eataly and it is by far the biggest tourist trap in town for foodies and still is a must visit. Sure there is the ridiculously inflated prices like any Batali/Bastianich establishment and yet I could not help myself from being amazed by this place. The food and the stalls are very average with an above average price tag.

    P.S. John – Payard is overhyped and just barely above average. Lady M should have at the top of your list of confectioneries.

  • Enjoyed reading your report.Forwarded by a friend who lives in Vegas,I have to admit however living in northern NJ,you can get anything found in Masnhatten for fraction of the cost.Try Corrado’s in Clifton.

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