NYC Food Adventure #1

My sister, Allison, and I decided to head downtown for a day of culinary exploration.  We had no real plan in mind… just a Holden Caulfield-style wandering, only this would be food nomadry.

Our first stop was a mozzarella bar, Obika, at Madison and 57th.  This outdoor-in-indoor space in the IBM Building atrium was a great place to step out of the cold, find a table, and share a panino. People were relaxing, playing chess, and enjoying a coffee in this light, airy space.

We shared a delicious caprese sandwich: creamy, almost liquidy mozzarella di bufala Campana in a crusty ciabatta with tomato and fresh basil.

Next we stopped at the Momofuku group’s Ma Peche/Milk Bar.  We shared a slice of crack pie in the lobby of the Chambers, the chic, mod hotel adjoining David Chang’s midtown eatery.  People go absolutely crazy for it; Martha Stewart even had a slice.  With its toasted oat crust and self-proclaimed “gooey” butter-sugar filling, it’s a decadent dessert.  I don’t quite go coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs over crack pie, but I get the hype (kind-of).

While at Ma Peche/Milk Bar, we also tried the compost cookie (made with pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, and chocolate chips), the chocolate-chocolate cookie (with chocolate crumbs), and the cornflake-marshmallow-chocolate chip cookie.  The cookies were all flat and thin with the thickest, softest part in the middle.  The compost cookie tasted strongly of coffee and wasn’t as awesome as I thought it would be.  Like many of the items at Milk Bar, it pits sweet and salty against each other like warring factions, and they fight for dominance in your mouth with a not-altogether-pleasing result.  The cornflake-marshmallow jammie, however, was absolutely bangin’! It had the salt thing goin’ on, but the marshmallow gave it a chewier texture.

We also tried the “volcano” (not pictured), a potato gratin sandwich with creamy gruyere and VERY salty, smoky pancetta.  This savory treat didn’t try to be at all sweet, and therein lay its success.

Next, we checked out the gingerbread houses at Le Parker Meridien.  This (free!) annual holiday event showcases artistic gingerbread creations made by local bake shops; viewers pay $1 apiece for ballots to choose their favorite, with all the proceeds going to City Harvest.  This year’s theme was New York-based movies. My favorite was Tribeca Treats’ Ghostbusters; my sister, the artist, preferred  Cupcake Cafe’s version of The Sweet Smell of Success, which she felt really embraced the medium.   CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT ALL THE PHOTOS OF THESE AMAZING CREATIONS FOR A GREAT CAUSE ON FLAVOR PROFILES’ FLICKR PAGE.

We stopped briefly at Dean & Deluca, across from Le Parker Meridien, and shared a pomegranate Doughnut Plant doughnut (yes, those are fresh pomegranate seeds on it).

We made our way down to Afghan Kebab House on 9th Ave (at 51st) for an absolutely incredible meal.

It was a narrow, intimate space with tables and chairs on each side and beautiful Aghan rugs and braided blankets under glass on each table.  Our waiter told us they’ve been around since the 1970s, which set us to speculating a bit about Afghan-Soviet history.

Firnee- a creamy pudding made with cardamom, rosewater, and pistachios (only $3!!!)

Sambosa- a stuffed fried "dumpling" (more like a flatbread) filled with ground beef, peas, spices, and mint and served with a delicious yogurt mint sauce (total:$3) Herbed, but not salty, it was delicate, unadorned, and maybe a little bland.

Combo kebab platter- lamb tikka with grated spices and herbs, beef kafta, and chicken breast with basmati rice, Afghan bread, and salad (total: $13)

We finished our conversation over hot cups of Afghan green tea with cardamom, a habit I could regularly partake in.  Then we headed across the street to Empanada Mama to bring home goodies.

The space was uber-narrow but filled to capacity with eager diners.  Shortly after we entered, the walkway (pictured below on the right) filled with folks waiting for a table.

I brought home “The Viagra” (a wheat flour patty filled with seafood stew with shrimps, scallops, and crab meat- $3.00) for my husband.  (Insert joke here.)  For myself, I got “The Veggie” (corn flour patty filled with steamed potatoes, carrots and lima beans- $2.40).  They were delish! There were tempting dessert empanadas too, but we’ll just have to come back for them.

Our last stop was Kyotofu Dinner & Dessert Bar & Bakery on 9th Ave between 48th & 49th.  Unable to decide on one flavor, I grabbed a sampler pack of cupcakes: chocolate souffle, sweet potato pecan (my favorite), vanilla yuzu (citrusy), and green tea (my 2nd favorite).  These were a nice snack on the train ride home.

Great color on the green tea cupcake

The day with my sister was an awesome treat.  Stay tuned for food adventure #2 when the weather warms up!  🙂

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