Michelle and I just got back from six delicious days in New York City.
Although we had some great meals—more on that below—I was actually more excited about the amazing produce we spotted in all parts of the city. From Rockefeller Center and City Hall Park to the famed Union Square Greenmarket, we were never far from a farmers market.
In Chinatown, where we stayed, the stores and street carts were loaded with mysterious green vegetables, tropical fruits, and bargain seafood (sea scallops for $5.99) that rivaled any of the farmers markets for freshness, color and variety. Bunches of longan—a sweet, pulpy tropical fruit that I’ve eaten in Asia and Puerto Rico—were going for $3-$4 a pound.
But I didn’t recognize the thin, two-foot long, tubular vegetable that appeared to be some type of string bean, or the bright pink, spiky ovals that we eventually learned were dragon fruit. “If only we had a kitchen to cook in,” I moaned to Michelle.
On our way down to the city, I picked up a copy of New York Magazine, which conducted a fascinating taste-test of heirloom tomatoes. After reading the article, I couldn’t resist buying a Paul Robeson tomato (which placed #4) at Keith’s Farm Stand in Union Square Greenmarket.
Named after the famed black singer and social activist (who knew Paul Robeson had been honored with a tomato?), this beauty has a lovely purplish skin and deep red flesh. Sadly, by the time we got our specimen home, the skin had split and we had to throw some of it away. Even in its battered condition, it had a robust, earthy flavor that would have been lovely with fresh basil and some good olive oil.
Speaking of good oil, just down the road from our Chinatown hotel, we found a great Chilean store, Puro Chile, that sells food, wine and handicrafts. We picked up a bottle of avocado oil for only $4.25–delicious with all those heirloom tomatoes–and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of Carmenere for our room.
At our New York friend Dana’s suggestion, we had a lovely dinner at Jane Restaurant in Soho, including a garden fresh gazpacho and a yummy seared Ahi Tuna with caramelized cauliflower, shitake mushrooms, baby spinach, and lemon-chive butter. Jane serves nice food in a comfortable, relaxed setting that made me feel right at home.
After a lovely twilight boat tour around Manhattan, we hurried across town for a late dinner at Chinese Mirch, a Chinese-Indian restaurant in Murray “Curry” Hill suggested by my sister Louise. Chinese Mirch is a small restaurant and very popular, so we had to wait for a table, even at 10 pm. Although neither Michelle nor I are big on okra, we ordered the fried okra that one reviewer raved about, and we were not disappointed. Lightly battered and flash fried, the okra had a light crunch and a bright flavor that made us fight for the last piece. I wish they’d made our salt and pepper calamari the same way, because it was coated in a much heavier batter and was too greasy. Our other dishes also failed to hit the mark.
On our last night, we wanted to stay in our neighborhood. Since Little Italy was only two blocks from our hotel, we strolled down to Mulberry Street, which is lined with dozens of traditional Italian restaurants and is only open to pedestrians at night. We sat at an outdoor table as twilight fell, watching hundreds of couples, friends and families passing by, taking equal enjoyment in the beautiful summer night. While my tri-colore—romaine, endive, and red lettuce—salad and eggplant penne were, shall I say, rather pedestrian, the setting, the evening, and the company were so romantic that I barely paid attention to the food.
New York is a great place for a pescovegetarian. I’m already looking forward to our next trip.