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Copenhagen food and drink – a wonderful Danish culinary tour

(This post was originally published in August 2019, and has been reposted now due to technical issues).

Nyhavn, Copenhagen (picture – PJ Soans)

Copenhagen food and drink – Denmark’s capital is stylish, architecturally enthralling, and hosts a really thriving culinary culture. If you haven’t visited yet I would heartily recommend you do. We certainly plan to return in the very near future for more sipping and dinning…

I like to think of myself of being moderately (gastronomically) well-travelled.  I’ve sipped bubbles in the reflected gleam of Sydney Opera House, sampled the culinary delights that New York, San Francisco, and even Las Vegas have to offer – check out Hot and Juicy Crawfish, it’s splendid.  And I’ve had some fantastic meals across much of southern and western Europe.

However, there’s a gap in terms of pins on the dining-related world map of places JML and I have visited. For, until recently, I was someone in their 50s who has never visited Scandinavia.  A shameful omission, I know.  Yet thanks to a surprise birthday trip I am Scandi-deficient no more, as this July [2019] JML and I spent a wonderful, wonderful (sorry) long weekend in Copenhagen.

Not having visited the Danish capital before, I really didn’t know what to expect in terms of the quality and range of food and drink that would be on offer.  Well of course it is THE place that started the Nordic food revolution thanks to the establishment of “the world’s greatest restaurant” there, in the form of Noma, and the subsequent inventive fine dining eateries it has inspired.  However, irrespective of it being a birthday visit we couldn’t secure a place / afford to dine there – we did inadvertently walk past it mind, resulting in my going a bit weak kneed.

I’m happy to report however that Copenhagen has a captivating culinary scene, with a few components I wasn’t expecting.  For anyone else planning a visit here’s what we discovered and enjoyed about eating and drinking in Denmark’s capital.

Continue Reading…

¡Viva Barcelona! – A foodie homage to Catalonia’s capital

Tomatoes in a market in Barcelona
Terrific tomatoes – Mercat Santa Caterina.

Oh Barcelona, how I have missed you!  It’s been over ten years since we last experienced your cultural, architectural, and − possibly most importantly  − culinary delights.  As I have previously eluded to on Scrumptious Scran, it was Barcelona that ignited my love of Spanish cuisine, and probably made me realise how it was possible to cook really good food with simple ingredients purchased from a market just hours previously.

So visiting once again over a decade on, would Catalunya’s capital still be so alluring?  And what new food and drink-related experiences might be awaiting discovery?  Here’s what I found…

Tapas, cava, and vermut

Pa amb tomaquet, fried fish, Bormuth, Barcelona.
Pa amb tomaquet, fried fish, Bormuth, Barcelona.

Like everywhere else in Spain, Catalunya seems to have an obsession with the myriad of bite-size morsels that constitute tapas, and this possibly reaches an azimuth in Barcelona.  Even when wandering down the most insignificant back street it would be almost improbable not to encounter a diminutive neighbourhood bar offering at least five or six choices of tapas to accompany a cold glass of caña (draft beer).  Yet the city abounds with numerous venues that succeed in turning simple small plates of food into a culinary art form, whilst still maintaining an air of unpretentiousness.

A case in point is Bormuth in the now achingly trendy, but still utterly charming, El Born/La Ribera district. Seemingly always bustling, it’s little wonder that punters frequently crowd outside this compact bar/restaurant to feast on tapa stalwarts such as the utterly moreish croquetas laced with Ibérico ham, and the oh-so-simple, but totally delicious pescadito frito – literally little fish fried – which is a superb Iberian take on whitebait.  They also turn out a splendid version of the Catalan staple of pa amb tomatoquete (more of that later).  But also available are new twists on what might be thought of as a tapa, such as char-grilled peppers combined with goat cheese in a mini gratin.

Salmorejo, La Mar Salada, Barcelona.
Salmorejo, La Mar Salada, Barcelona.

Yet the food is not the only attraction of Bormuth, as a wee tangential consideration of the name might suggest. For this is a fantastic place to enjoy a glass or two of the traditional, now voguish, tipple that is vermouth.  Mention vermut (as it is referred to in Catalan) to Brits of a certain age, and memories of Great Aunt Maud’s sickly-sweet festive tipple are often invoked.  We are not talking about mass-produced, Italian brands here, however.  Whilst Sherry may be king in southern Spain, it’s maybe surprising to learn that northern Spain has a long-standing tradition of producing fortified wine infused with herbs and other aromatics.

Traditionally, vermut was consumed as an aperitif, especially before Sunday lunch. Thankfully, these days, locally-produced varieties of the drink can now be enjoyed at any time across Barcelona with glasses often being theatrically poured from large oak barrels nestling behind the bar.  At Bormuth I enjoyed a couple of glasses of the superbly aromatic Vermut de Falset (produced close to Tarragona, in southern Catalunya) which combined honeyed sweetness with lovely herby notes and a great balance of earthy-bitterness. Fantastic with tapas and a bargain at just €2.60 for a generous glass.

Confit of cod on a bed of samfaina, La Mar Salada, Barcelona.
Confit of cod on a bed of samfaina, La Mar Salada, Barcelona.

And whilst speaking of drinks that are natural companions for tapas – or indeed the reverse – no visit to Barcelona should be complete without a ‘copa’ (bowl like champagne glass) of cava. This superb sparkling wine – whether in white or rosé form – probably needs little introduction, given its massive popularity in the UK, but nothing can compare to consuming a really good vintage in the region it was produced.  And if you get the chance, do try and sample cava in one of the bars that specialises in serving it in combination with a delightful tapa or two.

El Xampanyet located in the El Born barrio looks as though it has scarcely changed since before George Orwell was paying homage to Catalonia in the 1930s.  Even the house cava served here is excellent, especially when combined with a plate of delicious boquerones – anchovies in vinegar – or pintxo of tuna loin with padron pepper – a word of warning, the ‘picante’ version is ‘muy picante’!  Authentic though El Xampanyet is, given the popularity with tourists of the area in which it is located you may struggle at times to hear a word of Catalan or even Spanish being spoken amongst the clientèle.  So for possibly a more authentic experience seek out Can Paixano secreted in a lane heading towards Barceloneta.  Reminiscent of the neighbourhood bars that used to abound around the old port area, this is frequently a standing room only venue – albeit you’ll be standing under a forest of hanging Serrano hams – thanks to its excellent rosé cava and selection of tasty plates of charcuterie, cheeses and tinned (yes that’s right) produce tapas.

Flam (flan), La Mar Salada, Barcelona.
Flam (flan), La Mar Salada, Barcelona.

A final mention in terms of tapas has to go to a great bar located in the Eixample district that, despite being round the corner from our hotel, we only discovered on our final evening. Kserol is a trendily-relaxed neighbourhood venue with a tapas menu that’s a wee cut above – this is the Eixample, after all! Salt-cod (bacalao) croquetas are sublime, the stalwart that is patas bravas is creatively flavoured with rosemary and paired with a sophisticated spicy sauce. However, the simplest of Catalan tapas that is pa amb tomaquet – quite literally bread and tomato – is simply superb at this place. Beautiful sour-dough lightly toasted and rubbed with a garlic clove, then rubbed again with acid-sweet tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with sea salt. So straightforward, just so delicious.

Menu del dia

Curd cheese mousse, rosemary ice cream, honey, La Mar Salada, Barcelona.
Curdcheese mousse, rosemary ice cream, honey, La Mar Salada.

For those not familiar with the idiosyncrasies of dining in Barcelona – or even more widely in Spain – the menu del dia (literally ‘menu of the day’) may be a neglected culinary delight.  For lunchtime has customarily always been when the main meal of the day is consumed, thanks in part to the continuing – and extremely civilised – tradition of a one and a half to two hour lunch break (the Spanish working day does extend into the evening to compensate).  In order to attract hungry workers seeking lunch, historically restaurants began offering a pared down, three course menu which changed daily depending on what ingredients were available.  Accompanied by bread and often a drink, the menu del dia frequently offers excellent cooking at an extremely reasonable price.

A case in point is La Mar Salada (roughly translating as ‘to sprinkle with sea salt’) which is a jewel that stands out amongst the throng of – not so cheap and sometimes less than cheerful – tourist-orientated  restaurants located along Barceloneta’s  Passeig Joan de Borbó.  As the name eludes to, the place specialises in serving seafood dishes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Michelin-listed establishment, so at €18 for a three course lunch their menu del dia represents incredibly good value.

I absolutely love the classic cold tomato, garlic and bread soup that is salmorejo, but at La Mar Salada this simple entrée was inventively enhanced by the addition of white shrimps and a quenelle of goat cheese ice cream, taking it up a couple of notches. Equally superb was JML’s starter of fresh fusilli pasta with baby broad beans, asparagus, roast cherry tomatoes, and courgette and rock squid tagliatelle.

Empadrat, Casa Amalia, Barcelona.
Empadrat, Casa Amalia, Barcelona.

Fish and vegetables were excellently paired in the ‘segonds’ (mains courses), consisting of confit of cod served on a bed of samfaina – a sort of Catalan ratatouille – infused with Ibérico ham; and megrim (a type of flatfish) deep fried and set atop artichokes bathed in suquet – Catalan fish stew – and shrimp broth.  Pudding (postres) may have been deceptively simple-sounding, but a mousse of cottage cheese paired with fragrant honey (and I am usually not of fan) and rosemary ice cream was subliminally excellent.  Flam (flan, or crème caramel) was sumptuously gelatinous and creamy, all bathed in a dark, bitter-sweet caramel sauce. An excellent example of, what is possibly, Spain’s national dessert.

There actually wasn’t a day during our trip when JML and I didn’t avail ourselves of the menu del dia, not least because it is often an excellent way to discover local dishes.  I have Casa Amalia – a bistro that nestles in the shadow of the Eixample’s Mercat de la Concepcio and is renowned for offering uncomplicated and tasty Catalan cuisine – for introducing me to ’empedrat’.  A quick search on Google translate indicates this equates to “pavement” in English! Fear not, as there is not a flagstone in sight with this delicious, and deceptively simple combination of tender haricot beans, bacalao (salt cod), tomato, olives, and onion, all beautifully dressed to form a starter ideal for al fresco dining.  And then there is ‘arroz a la Cubana’.  Eaten in many Spanish speaking countries it’s a combination of rice (as the name suggests) with a rich tomato sauce, plantain, and topped with a fried egg.  Uncomplicated, certainly, but definitely tasty.

Squid and potato salad, Rosa Pinky, Barcelona.
Squid and potato salad, Rosa Pinky, Barcelona.

Heading to the quaint and character-full Gracia district we happened across a delightful restaurant Rosa Pinky, nestled down an unremarkable side street, and (bar ourselves) seemingly entirely populated by Barcelonans.  This provided another menu del dia insight into how reasonably-priced food, composed of a few simple ingredients, can be really flavoursome.  Combine steamed potatoes with parsley, garlic, paprika, olive oil and octopus and the outcome is a super salad which is certainly greater than the sum of its constituent parts.  Similarly the simplicity of perfectly baked dorrada (a fish not often found on menus in the UK), confit potatoes, and red peppers roasted until soft and sweet was uncomplicated but a really great dish as a result.  So the moral of the story is, if you are in Catalunya  – or even elsewhere in Spain – eat like a local and make lunch your main meal, reserving the evening for grazing on tapas.  You certainly won’t regret it.

Mercats (markets)

Jamon, Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona.
Jamon, Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona.

If you love food, you will find the markets in Barcelona utterly wondrous.  When I last wrote about the city I made mention of the place’s biggest and most renowned ‘mercat’ – La Boqueria located halfway down Las Ramblas.  It offers food retail on an almost industrial scale, and the range of produce to be found there is unimaginably diverse.  There are, however, some mumblings that – like a lot of places in central Barcelona – it is becoming overrun with tourists, who food gawk rather than buy something for dinner.  So for a somewhat less crowded experience – especially if you are looking to fill your shopping basket – there are a number of smaller, yet equally impressive, market venues that are certainly worth checking out.

At the heart of the El Born / La Ribera / Sant Pere district is the beautifully stylish Mercat Santa Caterina.  The original market building was inventively renovated a decade or so ago by the architectural team behind the Scottish Parliament building and the sinuous roof-line and slatted timber façade they bestowed upon the building is just as striking as many of the city’s Modernista structures.  Or head to the Dreta de l’Eixample to find the beautiful, 19th century, wrought iron structure that houses the Mercat de la Concepcio, ornately fronted by picturesque flower-vending establishments.

Take time to wander around either of the above markets and you will find pretty much any type of foodstuff you might wish to cook with and consume.  Stalls piled high with great Spanish and international cheeses, a bewildering array of fish and seafood, tubs full to bursting with a multitude of different olives, the freshest fruit and vegetables, including a dazzling range of tomato varieties. I could go on and on…

Bacalao, Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona.
Bacalao, Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona.

Yet in any market in Barcelona there are two types of vendor I always seem magnetically pulled towards, because what they have on offer is so typical of Catalonia, and indeed Spain.  I’m always mesmerised by stalls serving a plethora of Ibérico, air-dried hams of various origins and appellations.  And I love the ghostly-white produce on offer at those stalls that specialise in bacalao – or salt cod, to give it it’s much less glamorous Anglicised moniker – both as bone-dry fillets, or re-hydrated portions that are ready to cook with.  Both are ingredients that lend themselves to inclusion in a plethora of dishes, especially crisply coated, silkily smooth-filled croquetas.

So a decade since my last visit, is Barcelona still a ‘must visit’ location for anyone who is a lover of food and drink?  The simple answer to that question is ‘absolutely!’  So if you have never ventured to the city before, or even if it’s a while since you have, do think about spending at least a long weekend there.  Wander round the wonderful architecture, lose an hour or two in one of the city’s superb markets, discover an unfamiliar dish courtesy of a menu del dia, and graze on excellent tapas accompanied by a chilled glass of vermouth or cava.  For it is true to say that for food lovers everywhere, Barcelona never ceases to be one of the best culinary destinations in the world.

This post is dedicated to families of all types, everywhere. Treat them with love, and never take them for granted.


Culinary-tale of New York – great bites (and sups) from the Big Apple

Manhattan from Staten Island Ferry.
Ferry to lower Manhattan.

New York food & drink travelogue – “After an adequate start to our Big Apple breakfasting, in a sparsely-populated Italian restaurant on the border between – appropriately enough – Little Italy and the East Village, Tribeca’s Gee Whiz Diner was a dream come true.  With its open kitchen, cosy booths and friendly/efficient/sassy staff, it could have been populated straight from central casting. 

Mention “The Big Apple” or “The City That Never Sleeps” and people instantly know of the metropolis to which you refer.  Glance out of the aeroplane window when landing at Newark Liberty airport and you are greeted by a skyline that has not only formed a central backdrop in countless films, TV programmes and novels, but has also greeted immigrants from across the globe who went on to build a nation.

Everything about New York seems iconic and familiar.  Yet take time to explore this fabulous city and you will find a diverse mosaic of differing neighbourhoods, cultures and architecture. Visitors may think they know NYC from the media, but it is more atypical and extraordinary than is sometimes imagined. And that is equally true of the city’s food and drink.
This is what JML and I came to realise during a birthday-celebratory long weekend in autumn 2015, encompassing Manhattan, Brooklyn and (briefly) Staten Island.  Our trip to New York wasn’t all about food and drink.  But as two lads who rarely pass up an opportunity to partake of a tasty morsel or alluring beverage, it played a pretty central part. So join us on our Big Apple culinary journey…
Beer in New York's Blind Tiger Bar
Beer at the Blind Tiger – tasty! (pic Courtesy of The Blind Tiger).
B is for beer, Brooklyn and breakfasts
Now I know that America’s national, alcoholic drink of choice is almost certainly beer.  And from our last visit to NYC, some eight years ago, it was apparent that that state-side brewing wasn’t all about the more insipid, mass-produced brands that now also adorn the booze aisles of UK supermarkets (thank you Brooklyn Brewery for that particular revelation).  Also, I have recently rediscovered home brewing (watch out for a post on this soon), meaning I have absorbed some the internet buzz that exists regarding craft beers emanating from the USA.  So an initial pint of pretty decent IPA procured from a food stand in Battery Park, and enjoyed whilst overlooking the Hudson River and a distant Statue of Liberty, was an unexpectedly welcome refreshment three hours after clearing immigration at Newark. However…
Even the most mundane midtown or Tribeca pub seems to have a bar adorned with an intriguing array of pumps offering tempting brews, each advertised with a branded, sculpted tap handle. Ales from the likes of Goose Island, Allagash, Lagunitasand Brooklyn jockey for attention.  And whilst not all of these could be considered “craft” beers, they are none-the-less very appetising.  Yet also dotted across NYC are veritable temples dedicated to real ale, such as The Blind Tiger in Greenwich Village.  Its unassuming entrance on Bleecker Street hides a smashing colonial-style dark wood and brick interior lined with blackboards displaying the plethora of brews currently on offer. And what a range…  IPAs, Belgian tripels, oatmeal stouts, saisons, porters, lambic ales, all sourced from New York and neighbouring states. To be honest, I could have stayed supping all day, but we restricted ourselves to a couple of quaffs. Oh and be warned – east coast breweries like things strong – Victory Hoppy Belgian-style quad at 13% ABV anyone?
Bait and Tackle Bar, Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Red Hook’s Bait and Tackle bar – in soft focus, naturally…
Beer also featured in our visit to Brooklyn – where two of our Edinburgh friends were ensconced whilst work had brought them to the City That Never Sleeps. Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighbourhood is what real estate agents describe as “up and coming”. Imagine the area around Leith Docks, and you have the picture of where our mates chose to reside.  And in the Bait and Tackle, we found this dockland neighbourhood’s answer to the Port of Leith.  If you ever end up in this bit of the smashing borough that is Brooklyn, do check out this eclectic former fishing supply shop-turned-bar.  And if you are carnivorous, or even if you are not, a trip to Prime Meats should certainly be in order.  A “farm to table” restaurant located in the Carol Gardens neighbourhood, its cuisine has a Germanic alpine influence that makes the most of local and fresh ingredients.  Treated by our friends to a tremendous dinner to celebrate JML’s birthday, starters of grilled octopus, and herb and gruyere spatzle were sublime.  But the mains stole the show: sukrut garnie – bone-in pork belly with German wurst and saurekraut was delicious, yet by the same token the steak frites, and dry-aged cote de bouef looked and tasted amazing.
Huevos Rancheros, served at Fort Defiance, Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Hearty huevos rancheros from Fort Defiance, Brooklyn.
What I didn’t mention above was the smashing, American wine that accompanied the meal. The copious, smashing wine. The copious, smashing wine that made us trust a certain smart phone navigation app that directed us along the quickest walk home, through a very “interesting” area of Brooklyn, where we were stopped by two members of NYC’s finest, concerned for our safety.  Do not fear, we made it back safely – to the Bait and Tackle  So the next, brilliantly blue sky-emblazoned, squinty-eyed, cardboard-mouthed, morning demanded a hearty breakfast. Cue Fort Defiance in Red Hook.  A subtly, yet beautifully, decked out restaurant that serves a heavenly “all-Amercian” (eggs any style, Nueske’s bacon, hash browns and toast), and an even more divine huevos rancheros.  Worth crossing the East River for this alone.  Wandering back to Manhattan through picturesque, leafy streets lined with brownstones, we decided there and then that our next visit to NYC would involve more exploring of Brooklyn and its inviting cuisine.

Italian Connection omelette - Gee Whiz Diner, New York.
Italian Connection omelette – Gee Whiz.
Now, back to breakfast. It might be a cliché, but I have always had a mental picture of a trip to New York having a compulsory requirement involving sitting in a traditional diner, pouring over the menu, deciding how the bacon should be served and whether the eggs should be “over easy” (I’m still to learn exactly what that means).  After an adequate start to our Big Apple breakfasting, in a sparsely-populated Italian restaurant on the border between – appropriately enough – Little Italy and the East Village, Tribeca’s Gee Whiz Diner was a dream come true.  With its open kitchen, cosy booths and friendly/efficient/sassy staff, it could have been populated straight from central casting.  The brunch menu is expansive, service is very “New York”, and the food tasty and substantial. I love omelettes. The one with brocoli and cheese was great, the “Italian Connection” (mushrooms, prosciutto, spinach, tomato, mozzarella, basil) was superb.  As was immortally uttered in Katz’s Diner, “I’ll have what she’s having”…

Pumpkins at Unions Sq Green Market, New York.
Plump pumpkins at Union Sq.
C is for celebrations
Ostensibly, our trip to New York was to celebrate JML’s birthday – but truth be told, we hardly needed an excuse for our visit! However, the special occasion warranted some marker.  So after wandering through the cultural and architectural tapestry the comprises China Town, Little Italy, and The East Village, we paused close to the Flatiron building at Union Square Green Market.  This is a substantial get together of local food producers, and the amount and variety on offer would certainly eclipse many of our farmers’ markets in the UK.  If only I had had access to a kitchen in NYC, I would have gladly left with bags packed with delicious produce.  Great as the Union Square Market was, this wasn’t our ultimate foodie destination on this gloriously sunny Saturday.
Even though now based on the western side of the Atlantic, the culinary skill of chef – and fellow former native of Birmingham (West Mids, as opposed to AL) – April Bloomfield had crossed my foodie radar.  Having earned her gastronomic stripes at such London legends as Bibendium and The River Cafe, together with business partner Ken Friedman she was responsible for opening New York’s first gastro pub – The Spotted Pig – in 2004, which soon went on to earn a Michelin star, as did the pair’s second restaurant – The Breslin. In 2010 the duo of eateries became a trio, as the oyster bar and seafood restaurant that is The John Dory opened for business. And what a restaurant this is.
John Dory restaurant, Manhattan, NYC.
Stylish & sumptuous dining at The John Dory.
Located on the corner of Broadway and 29th Street it is a beautifully conceived space, lit with huge picture windows that bounce light off shimmering tiled walls and floors. Exposed steel roof beams hint at an industrial past, but most obvious is the interior’s extremely stylish nod to midtown’s Art Deco heritage. If the architecture is alluring, the food is just as splendid.  Being lunchtime on a Saturday, we dined from the brunch menu, which is a slightly pared down version of what might be expected at weekday lunch, but no less impressive.
Shellfish plateaus comprised a sumptuous carnival of molluscan and crustacean treats of all kinds.  Want to go minimalist, and just slurp back an oyster or six?  Not a problem, as the “raw bar” (something I certainly hadn’t ever encountered in Edinburgh!) offered not just an East Coast – West Coast choice of these iodine-infused bivalves, but a state-by-state inventory. Yet our appetite was ultimately piqued by The John Dory‘s intriguing selection of plates – “ración” style portions that allowed for the maximising of a flavoursome experience.
Squid stuffed with chorizo, John Dory restaurant, NYC.
Splendid squid stuffed with chorizo.
Baby squid stuffed with chorizo was a superb take on surf and turf, elevated further by the accompaniment of a smoked tomato vinaigrette. Unexpectedly, oyster pan roast turned out to be a luxurious version of chowder, comprising a salty broth concealing meaty molluscs, set off by a super uni (sea urchin roe) butter-laden crostini.  Kedgeree, made with basmati rice and beautifully cured smoked haddock, did its Scottish-Indian origins proud. Yet for pure extravagance, it had to be a lobster tail roll.  Smothered in – but not dominated by – a rich take on Mary Rose and tucked into a super-fresh brioche bun, who needs thermidor?! Return, we shall.
Halloween pumpkins on Greenwich Village brownstone steps.
Halloween in Greenwich Village.
T is for tourism – food tourism
A friend who had recently returned from being state-side recommended that a “must do” for any foodie visiting New York had to be the sampling of the city’s vibrant and diverse culinary culture in the form of a walking food tour.  A bit of internet searching later, and amongst the many choices on offer we decided to explore the food and drink to be found in Greenwich Village, courtesy of Foods of NY Tours. Given that the area around Bleecker Street – which lies at the heart of “the Village” – is a veritable cornucopia of gastronomically-focused retailers of all kinds, the tour had to rate amongst the best three hours I have spent in NYC. And what certainly made the event such an absolute pleasure was the wit, wisdom and unbridled enthusiasm of our guide, RJ – a native New Yorker who knows the food, drink and culture of this particular bit of the city like the back of his, cannoli-clutching, hand.  Here’s just a sample of the delectable delights our walking culinary adventure introduced us to:
Joe’s Pizza – a Greenwich Village institution that has been around for decades, its offering had been named “the best pizza in NYC” by New York magazine.  Having tasted a slice of their “plain cheese pie”, I can understand why. Just the best ingredients, expertly cooked, and the secret (apparently) is that the base borrows heavily from the recipe for bagel dough.
O & Co – If it’s a good thing to know one’s onions, being intimate with one’s olives – or more accurately, the oil they produce – is blinking fantastic. Drop in this boutique to get a proper handle on the very best of cold pressed, and oil so good it’s “extra virgin” on the ridiculous (sorry). Plus, they really provide the low down on why some “vintage” balsamic vinegars may not be all they first appear…
Faicco’s Italian Speciality Shop – the name says everything about this superb purveyor all things edible and Italian, offering ingredients such as sundried tomatoes, homemade sausages and mozzarella you will want to rush home and cook with, and morsels such as arancini – way more than just rice balls – you will certainly want to wolf down there and then.
New York food tour guide with cookies.
RJ cookie-ing up a storm!
Palma – glance through the picture windows of this redbrick-housed, organic, Italian restaurant and you will be hooked. It is the sort of place that welcomes you in, even before you smell and taste the food. Yet, we didn’t get a chance to perch amongst its white stucco walls and wooden tables, oh no. Instead, we found ourselves in the occluded farmhouse secreted at the back of this eatery – a relic of the original Dutch settlement of the south of Manhattan.  Huddled around a kitchen table, in what resembled my Grandma’s kitchen, I sampled one of the most fantastic cauliflower dishes I have tasted, in the form of Cavolfiore Palma. Simple and delicious. Do the tour, get the recipe!
Murray’s Cheese Shop  – A village stalwart since the 1940s, under its current owner it matures and stocks a sea of wonderful cheeses from Europe (as might be expected) AND superb, varied fromage produced in the USA.  Our guided, mini-master tasting class certainly demonstrated just how accomplished American cheese making (and mongering) has become.
Milk & Cookies store, Greenwich Village, NYC.
Milk & Cookies – delights within…
Milk and Cookies – Now even though I maintain not to have a particularly sweet tooth, it was impossible to resist the alluring aroma and “just out of the oven” taste of these high-end biscuits – OK, OK, “cookies”.  The shop’s premises may be diminutive, but its baked offerings certainly rate amongst the best I have tasted.
To be honest, the above synopsis hardly scratches the surface in terms of the wide culinary variety and sheer, unbridled enthusiasm for all things gastronomic encountered on the Food of NY Tours’ enthralling guide to Greenwich Village. It really was a microcosm – or perhaps metaphor – for the absolute pleasure New York has to offer in terms of eating and drinking. Visit NYC and expect the culinary unexpected, be prepared to discover something delicious round every corner, and sometimes even in the most unlikely of places. But most of all be enthused by, and be sure to share in, the utter joy and passion New Yorkers exhibit when it comes to their food and drink!

 (This feature article stems from our visit to New York in late October 2015).      

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