Monthly Archives: June 2011

Momofuku Noodle Bar and Milk Bar

Serious foodies will probably have heard of David Change, of Momofuku fame.  Chang has four places to eat in NYC, and I hear he is soon to open up a place in Sydney (hurrah!).

On my first morning in NYC, I decided to head to Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village (First Ave between 11th and 12 Streets).  At 11.57am, there was already a crowd lined up outside the low key exterior.  Everyone shuffles in at 12noon, and I put my order in as soon as I can to avoid the rush that the other 20 orders is going to create.

I started with the steamed pork buns with hoisin sauce, a dish that Momofuku is famous for.  The bun is soft and reminiscent of the bun on a yum cha/dim sum steamed pork bun.  The pork, though, is plain pork belly, generously loaded in.  It’s not all that crispy and is a little too fatty for my taste.

My next course is the Spicy chicken soup, which is loaded with noodles, crispy and tasty chicken, and other goodies on top, including a perfectly poached egg.  The egg, once stirred in, lends a beautiful creaminess to the tasty broth.  This dish is a sensation.

Cakes, pie, cookies at Milk

After the savoury courses, I hoof it a block West to 2nd Avenue and a few blocks up to 13th Street, where David Chang’s Milk has recently relocated.  The new site is cramped and the original venue (just across the street and next to Momofuku Ssam Bar), had much more room.  Importantly, only two flavours of soft serve ice cream are on offer.  Where did the sampling plate I tried last time get to???  Flavours include the cereal ice cream (literally, it tastes like milk poured off your cereal), and they also offer actual milk bottles in this flavour (I wonder what it tastes like if you pour it on your cereal).

Milk offers a number of pretty pricey pies, cookies and cakes, including the famous “Crack Pie”.  I’ve tried some of these, and think that the cake balls – or “cake truffles” are worth a look (and can travel home with you provided you keep them in the fridge for as long as you can and don’t dilly dally in scoffing them). 

However, in my mind, Milk has gone backwards since last time I visited.  Boooooooooo.


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Lower East Side / Doughnut Plant

When tourists visit New York, particularly the first couple of times, they become stuck on the usual roundabout of “must do’s” and miss some of the really special things that this place has to offer.  They line up for hours to go see the Statue of Liberty and shoot to the top of the Empire State Building, arrange shows and spend time gawking at the awful Times Square, hit the main museums, probably the Met and MoMA being at the top of their list.  Perhaps they zip around the city on one of those red double-decker buses and get a sense of the geography.  Some go on the Sex and the City tour or a Movie tour and are reminded of some of the many famous NYC locations from film and TV.  Probably they visit Bloomingdales, and maybe Soho or the Meatpacking District for shopping.  Without a doubt they visit Central Park.

Don’t get me wrong: all these things are essential, and some of them even I still take time out for (Bloomies and Central Park are NOT to be missed!).

But it’s when you manage to scratch below the surface of the city that you start to discover other areas.  One of the neighbourhoods worth seeing is the Lower East Side.  Like many areas, it used to be gritty as anything (hey, the Hell’s Angels still have their HQ here) but it’s becoming very worth a visit. 

Doughnut Plant...what luck! Today's offerings include mango donuts!

One place that may take tourists to the LES is Katz’s Deli, arguably the most famous deli in NYC, and home of that scene from When Harry Met Sally (one of my favourites).  It’s also home to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, a museum housed in former tenements (buildings of no more than 6 stories) built cheaply and into which numerous immigrants were stuffed to dangeous levels.  A human and moving look at New York’s past.

But the foodie set really needs to visit the LES.  One of NYC’s “best” restaurants, WD-50, is here (I have eaten there; it’s a mecca if you are into foams and “clever” food.  Give me Union Square Cafe or Gramercy Tavern any day).   Although Magnolia Bakery is renowned for its cupcakes and attracts the tourist set, Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery is a favourite of many New Yorkers, who claim their cupcakes are the best in the city. 

I'll of everything, thanks. To go.

One of my recent discoveries has been the Doughnut Plant.  This place, located on Grand Street, is attributed with starting the “gourmet” donut scene in NYC.  It’s an unassuming little place, but when you get in there and sus out the product, there’s no turning back.

Inside the magical peanut butter and jelly donut

The creme brulee donut is small, but packs a punch.  A toffee coating, filled with brulee custard, it’s the real deal.  And the square jam-filled donuts solves the jam donut dilemma of all the jam being stuck in one part of the donut and mouthfuls of dry donut dough…how did no-one think of this before? 

So, when you visit New York, make sure you leave aside a little time for the Lower East Side.

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Chelsea Market

The 9th Avenue entrance to the Chelsea Market

If you are a food lover, New York is like crack.  Around every corner, there are gourmet food stores, ranging from Zabar’s on the Upper West Side, to Wholefoods Markets with their aisles and aisles of healthy, scrumptious looking delights.

Decisions, decisions

If you love food and visit New York, you can’t miss Chelsea Market.  In fact, it could be worth you staying in Chelsea, the West Village or the Meatpacking District just so you can visit and pick up your supplies.  Located on 9th Avenue, between 15th and 16th Streets, it is a total haven of gourmet food from numerous different suppliers, and also boasts a fair few yummy places to eat.

If you are after fresh fruit and vegies, Union Square Greenmarket is worth a visit, but honestly it’s no more impressive than many fresh produce markets in Sydney (except on a Saturday when it would rival the Pyrmont Grower’s Market). 

For my money, the pick is Chelsea Market – not only for its variety and tremendous setting, but also for its cred.  It’s also the location of the Food Network – a 24 hour food channel that I’ve become addicted to whilst in the Caribbean.

The market itself is located entirely indoors, in an old building with beautiful exposed brickwork and the occasional fountain to keep things interesting.

Rather than keep raving, I’ll tell the Chelsea Market story in photos.  After all, a picture paints a thousand words ;-).

Amy's Bread and their selection of breads - these are in "strips" and they'll tear as many off as you want to try. Amy's most famous bread is the semolina, raisin and fennel. Simply divine.


Jacques Torres chocolates. Their spicy hot chocolate is gorgeous.


Fresh Italian foods. The store behind offers all things Italian - truffle pate, cheeses, hams, you name it...


One of the many cupcake offerings at Chelsea Markets.

Don’t miss the opportunity to use the bathroom…

Wet hand


Dryer set to the "blow hole in hand" operation

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Street Food

One of the "older" style mobile food places, offering bagels and breakfasts

Some countries, like Singapore and Mexico, are famous for their wonderful and inexpensive array of street food.

New York, too, has its own street food culture.  Back in 1989 when I first visited NYC, the street food scene extended only to dodgy hot dogs cooked on the pavement and, in winter, the smell of roasting chestnuts weaved its way into your nostrils, warming you right up.

One of the Halal sidewalk food vendors.

Soon after, I noticed the proliferation of silver boxes selling quick snacks like bagels and pastries. 

Then, a couple of years ago, I began to see middle eastern food “boxes” spring up.  They all seemed to have a similar menu, offering rice, falafel, kebabs and always seemed to be halal.

One of the scrappier looking food trucks, covered in graffiti and offering pizza. Didn't stop the line forming, though...

More recently, and this seems a phenomenon across the US, food trucks have made an appearance.  But gone are the dodgy days of suspect hot dogs and dubious taste.  These food trucks have become a legitimate source of gourmet food on wheels.  Often enough, they have their own fans and spread the word on their next location via twitter, and people flock to them.

At this time of year, there are plenty of food trucks offering the usual "Mr Whippy" style soft serve ice cream. This one, looking very appealing indeed, offered artisan icecream.

This visit I have been staying at Union Square, which seems to attract a lot of trucks, and people seem to genuinely enjoy the grub there.  It’s a pity that, each time I’ve passed one that looked interesting, I was either on my way to of from dinner and didn’t think I should scoff down an extra empanada or scoop of ice cream.

Ahhh, but when it comes to me and New York, there’ll always be a next time…

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