Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New York, New York

Last weekend I skipped town to visit some of my favorite college friends in New York City. Being from the northeast, I've been to the big apple a bunch of times with my family, but I'm only now getting to know the city on my own. As a theater fan and food fan, I had to sample some of the best the city has to offer in my short time there. I got in late Friday, but Saturday it was off to the races. My friend (and self-proclaimed Broadway addict) Elizabeth got up early to snatch us half-price tickets to the matinee show of Equus, the acclaimed revival of Peter Shaffer's 1975 psychological thriller (or as many know it, the play that Harry Potter gets naked in). But before we went to watch a two hour show about a troubled teenager who blinds six horses in a seemingly inexplicable act of violence, we needed to get something to eat.

It was just about lunch time, so I suggested we hunt down a 'wichcraft. Perhaps the "lowest brow" of Top Chef Tom Colicchio's family of New York eateries, wichcraft is a network of quick, in-and-out gourmet sandwich stands and kiosks sprinkled all throughout Manhattan. We ended up at one in Bryant Park, and munched on delish warm sandwiches while we watched the crews set up giant white tents for New York's winter Fashion Week.

It was an unseasonably warm winter's day and the sunshine was bright and crisp. Here's a shot of the 'wichcraft kiosk in Bryant Park:

And here's a shot of my sammie: gruyere and caramelized onions on rye.

After lunch, it was off to the theatre. I haven't been to see a really good play in quite some time, and my laziness is purely to blame - each and every day I slog past one of the country's most prolific theatre companies - The Steppenwolf - on my way to work, yet I rarely get it together to set foot inside. Equus, which we caught on its last weekend, was a total sensory and emotional knockout - the kind of play that really moves you, challenges you, and makes you think.
Daniel Radcliffe, as well as fellow HP actor Richard Griffiths (who you may know as "Uncle Vernon), delivered powerful, expertly nuanced performances as the troubled protagonist and the unconventional psychiatrist attempting to unravel the reasons behind his crime. Also turning in an unexpectedly delightful performance was Kate Mulgrew, who you may remember as Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager. From first line through the shocking conclusion, I was rapt. I left the theatre with goosebumps and a promise to myself that I need to go see live plays more often - there really is no match for it.

Here's a shot of Erica, Elizabeth and I outside the theater. Not pictured: the crowd of teenage girls at the stage door hoping to get a glimpse of the wizard himself.

All that emotional catharsis helped us work up an appetite. After wandering about the Broadway / Times Square area for a bit, we hopped a train down to popular East Village eatery Momofuku Noodle Bar. I wanted to try momofuku because it's one of the much-mentioned favorites of my favorite New York food blogger, The Amateur Gourmet. We got in just before the evening rush and were seated quickly. Momofuku, brainchild of celebrated NY restauranteur David Chang, is inspired by the ramen noodle bars of Japan. There's a bar with seating and a number of communal tables, and with a short menu and prompt service, it's designed to get you in and out and on with your night.

We started with 7 spice potato chips:

I then got the chicken ramen, probably the most basic, signature dish of the establishment. The chicken was perfectly seasoned and stir-fried, the noodles were fresh and eggy, and the broth was delightfully saltly. Fresh ingredients DEFINITELY beat the stuff you get at the store any day.

After dinner, we wandered a bit more and ended up cruising over to another David Chang establishment: Momofuku Milk Bar & Bakery. This hopping little storefront offers a variety of frozen and baked desserts, as well as different flavors of milk. Following The Amateur Gourmet's advice, I went for the banana cake, and it was just about as good as he said it was. It was too dark to get a good picture, but T.A.G. has a good one here. The cake itself was a little too dense & heavy, but the delicious custard layer, as well as the caramel and peanut accents, made this slice one to remember. Why don't people combine banana and toffee / caramel more often?!? Seriously. One of the best flavor combos EVER!

After that we were stuffed silly and, having spent through a good chunk of change already, we grabbed some cheap wine at Trader Joe's and decided to lay low at my friend's apartment for the rest of the evening.

The next morning, I only had time for brunch before jetting off to the airport (well actually, the 90 minute train to the airport). Well loved Murray Hill brunch spot Penelope. Although it was about a 40 minute wait (we showed up at about 10am), it was well worth it. Unique sweet and savory dishes with delicious fresh ingredients make this a worthwhile place to spend $20 on brunch. I got a bottomless coffee and this dish: eggs scrambled with grilled asparagus and feta cheese, wheat toast and hand cut french fries. Perfect for curing the wine hangover. Elizabeth and Nicole got breakfast sandwiches and also reported rave reviews. I'd like to go back and try some of their "sweet" offerings sometime!

And with that, I bid a sunny, unseasonably warm New York a good bye... or rather... a "see ya later". Once I save up a little more change I'm sure I'll be back soon enough.


Carolyn B said...

This makes me so hungry. Great tales and pics. I want a Sammie!

Hope you're doing well, 'Bise'!

Ben Woo said...

I love momofuku - next time try the braised lamb belly, but just make sure you schedule an appointment with a cardiologist well ahead of time