When you work in the restaurant business everyone you know, everyone you know’s friends, in-laws and children, and everyone you’ve not met yet, comes to you for restaurant recommendations.
Needless to say I am extremely grateful that Chowhound also exists. For it gets quite tiresome to be absolutely everyone’s go to for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner suggestions. Especially when you consider I grew up in New York City, have lived in London and Napa Valley and the Bay Area is my permanent home.
All this being said, when I plan a trip to my old home, I very much look forward to what I will eat when I’m there. Will I visit the places where I know the chefs and pastry chefs? Will I haunt my old workplaces? Will I eat all my favorite foods? Will I shop and cook in my host’s kitchen? Will I eat at brand name places so that I have something to talk about when I get back or will I just eat in the places no one but real New Yorkers go? Will I eat solely for memory or will I want to try all the new things I’ve read about since I was there last?
The truth is that I eat foods in my old home that I can’t find in my new one. I’m fiercely loyal to old haunts, places whose menus I can trust no matter what the current trend and flash-in-the-pan hip happening thang is. I bring my money to the people I love and have the most respect for. Chefs and pastry chefs whose work is something that inspires me, fills me with hope that one day my California home town will embrace these innovations.
My upcoming trip to New York will look different from ones I’ve taken in more recent years. Because I met and be-friended some spectacularly talented people at the Pastry Chef Conference in May, I will spend some time eating and working with some of these folks. I’ll go to Daniel just for dessert and then with their pastry chef, Dominique Ansel, we will eat at Devi, pastry chef Surbhi Sahnhi’s post.
In the sweet theme, I’ll make it into Chikalicious at least once. And if I have time, Pichet Ong’s new place, P’ong. And then there’s always a detour to Il Laboratorio del Gelato on Orchard Street in the heart of the real Lower East Side. Maybe I’ll get a kasha K’nish at Yonah Schimmels beforehand so I can convince myself I’ve eaten dinner.
It’s not a trip to New York without one surprising dinner at the diminutive Prune on First Street. Whether chef/owner Gabrielle Hamilton is there or not, I like to bring her a California gift. This week I’ll be stocking up on jars of jam from newcomer Rachel Saunders so that I can present unique gifts to the people I love. Prune is my favorite restaurant in NYC.
But for the food I grew up with, there will be frequent visits to Veselka for pierogi, cabbage soup and a chat with my father and stepmother over blintzes. I always have to have one steamed lobster dinner at Pearl Oyster Bar on the tiny slanted street of Cornelia. When you grow up with steamers dipped in drawn butter and tasting of the chewy clammy sea, no nouveau California preparation of clams will satisfy.
It will be important for me to get sticky with coco helado on a street corner if it’s hot, and of course I’ll be noshing on my old stand by in Coney Island, ridged french fries at Nathan’s and a cone of pastel green pistachio soft serve with colored sprinkles on Neptune Avenue!
For a post Coney Island Mermaid Day Parade de-tox I might head over to my favorite macrobiotic restaurant Angelica’s. I have to get my fix of their kooky “cornbread,” carrot spread and one small Dragon Bowl. And if I make it to Harlem I’ll be going directly to M&G’s for fried chicken. And if I want to roll out of my bed the next day to stand in line, I might head to Danal for brunch.
Saving the best for last, I am over-the-top excited that this will be the first time I’m going to Gerry Hayden and Claudia Fleming’s restaurant The North Fork Table & Inn on Long Island. I used to work for Claudia Fleming at Gramercy Tavern in the Flatiron District. This will be my first time seeing her since I threw a party at Citizen Cake for her incredible book The Last Course, a must have for anyone who loves to bake seasonal desserts. The day I made the reservation to eat and stay at the Inn I could not sleep.
So, you can see, I will be eating well in my old hometown. Like most people, I tend to eat the familiar when I’m home. I have plans with friends and family, old lovers and new, bloggers, chefs and pastry chefs. I have adventures planned and I will be taking my feet to places they’ll go without direction.
If you’re looking for NYC restaurant recommendations, I still give them. But only if you’re willing to try what a real New Yorker eats…