Welcome to New York
Like most of the New World, the New York area wasn’t discovered until 1524 when it was claimed by France, followed by Spain; then by the Dutch in 1609 and the English in 1664. And New York was the first capital of the new United States. If you’re looking for exciting world travels, knowing some background won’t hurt.
In a world of Bigger, Better, Brasher, few destinations stand out like New York City. It’s Bigger because over eight million residents live and work here. All these people are distributed over a land area of about 784 square kilometers. Where do they all fit?
It’s the Best for food tourism, culturally diverse cuisine, and fine dining. And the Brashest? Well, just look at Times Square, “The Crossroads of the World”, and the brightly lit epicenter of Broadway. Could it get any more Brash than that?
New York is the biggest and most ethnically diverse American city. There are over 800 languages spoken here. The idiom “melting pot” was used to define New York’s closely packed, immigrant neighborhoods of the late 1800s. Today, over a third of its population is foreign-born. Guyana, China, Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, India, Ecuador, Italy, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic are the sources of the majority of foreign-born citizens of New York.It is has the largest Jewish community outside Israel and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. It’s home to Native Americans, Koreans, and the largest Asian Indian population in the Western Hemisphere. New York City also boasts the largest Russian American, Italian American, African American, and South American communities in the United States. The second-largest Hispanic community in the United States is found here.
All this cultural diversity, adds layer after layer to an already vibrant food scene. Originally, European and Italian immigrants made New York famous for bagels, cheesecake and New York-style pizza. Today’s quirky, tiny, “customer-centric” neighborhood eateries boast loud music, full tables and inspired chefs. How these multitudes of eating establishments stay afloat amid fierce competition can only mean the food is exceptional. Not many cities in the world can lay claim to more than 12,000 restaurants! But New York is a varied, exciting dining destination where serious food doesn’t always mean white tablecloths and silver service.
Old time favorites forever associated with the city include Bagels, New York Cheesecake, Black & White Cookies, New York City Pizza and Manhattan clam chowder. A Deli Sandwich has everything to do with the cured meats in each deli and a Delmonico’s Steak is more about the cut of the beef than a recipe.
What’s Hot, What’s Not… in 2013
Chinese and other Asian restaurants, burger joints, Italian restaurants, diners and coffee shops are ever-present along with the ubiquitous deli. But hey, you can zero in on what you want to try and turn your visit into a nomadic tasting tour of New York city.
What’s trending now are Loaded Nachos at Pork Slope. Another food that rocks is Ramen. Try these places for the best noodles: Hanjan, Dassara, Ramen Yebisu, Jin Ramen, or Ganso, all offer outstanding interpretations.
Fancy seafood? The Oysters Bolognese at the M. Wells Dinette at MoMA, will knock your hat into the creek. If you’re up for something sweet, try Breads Bakery for their Chocolate Babka, combining Nutella and Belgian dark-chocolate chips.
What would a visit to New York be without that stalwart of American cuisine, the burger? Excuse the pun but burgers are hot right now. Find the best at Pork Slope (again), the tastiest new bar burger in town. For Cocktail-Bar Burgers, go to the Beagle for a terrific West Coast–style cheeseburger that gets the balance and proportions just right.
Parish Hall offers a superb Patty Melt, rich, juicy and delicious. Served with grilled onions and farmstead cheese on grilled, rye bread, it’s sublime.
At Reynard, you’ll find the ultimate Grass-Fed Burger, juicy, succulent and topped with a heap of melting Gruyère. Dedicated vegetarians will appreciate the Veggie Burgers at Birdbath and the City Bakery, featuring a delicious chickpea, bulgur, and pumpkin-seed patty.
Find a very New York take on the Deli Burger at Mile End Sandwich and try the Smoked-Meat Burger, a loosely packed beef-and-pastrami patty, well browned on the griddle, and add a side of poutine.
Then you mustn’t forget the lively street food culture! Street food is a big part of exciting world travels. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find one of the 4,000 mobile food vendors licensed by the city. While falafels and kebabs from the Middle East are popular, traditional hot dogs and pretzels are still favorite New York street food. As a warming winter snack, roasted chestnuts are available from street-corner vendors.
As a foodie, you’ll want to mix it up. Sample the little neighborhood bistros and coffee shops, and the best of the delis and bakeries. Don’t leave out those quirky little hole-in-the-wall places where all the adjacent neighbors come to eat. And even if your budget doesn’t stretch to Michelin starred dining every day, a meal or two at one of the top restaurants should feature on your to-do list.
Check out the online recommendations from folks in the know. The New Yorker Magazine does a “Top 50 Restaurants in New York,” list with a pretty good mix of price points and styles. Research the reservation policy of your pick and book well ahead. Weekends will be madly busy, and cozy bistros with no-booking policies will require careful timing or extreme patience.
What to Try, Where to Explore
Hire a bicycle to explore the 843 acres of thriving greenery that is Central Park. After your bike ride, stop at Sarabeth’s Central Park South, where you can refuel with goodies like lemon-ricotta pancakes or pumpkin waffles.
Take a stroll in the West Village, a picturesque neighborhood of charming brownstones grouped along cobblestone streets, lined with trees. When faced with the crowds outside Magnolia Bakery, resist the lure to join them (they’re only waiting for cupcakes). Just two blocks to the west, you’ll find the Spotted Pig, a lively gastropub with a great vibe, one of those Top 50 restaurants in New York City.
For a nostalgic trip back to old-time New York, go to Grand Central Terminal. This was Grand Central Station but don’t call it that now. The Campbell Apartment, an elegant lounge, was the private office of early twentieth-century tycoon, John W. Campbell. Weekends are the best if you want to avoid the commuter crush. The Oyster Bar downstairs is legendary, a great place to down some Blue Points.
Pizza is one of New York’s most iconic foods and Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, along with Lombardi’s and Di Fara’s are the frontrunners for the best pizza in town. If you only have time for one of them, go for Grimaldi’s, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.
A Gourmet Experience
So many iconic New York foods, thousands of wonderful restaurants, fresh produce markets, European style bakeries, coffee shops, cafes, diners… The list just goes on. To sample everything, you’d have to move here and it would still take a lifetime. As Alistair Cooke once said, “New York is the biggest collection of villages in the world.” New York City, the Biggest, the Best and the Brashest gourmet show on earth. At Exciting World Travels, we like to help you get in the mood for your vacation. Try this recipe for a classic New York Cheesecake. If this looks daunting, don’t stress. It’s really simple, just take it step by step.
So what’s a New York Cheesecake? Well, it’s always made with cream cheese (not ricotta, or cottage, or any other cheese) and some cream or sour cream. And it’s always flavored with vanilla or maybe a hint of lemon.
Empire State Cheese Cake
1 pack cookies – for crust – graham crackers, shortbread or any plain, hard cookie
45 ml (3 Tbl) melted butter
30ml (2 Tbl) sugar
900 grams (2 lb) cream cheese, softened
375 ml (1 ½ cups) sugar
Juice of one lemon
30 ml (2 Tbl) flour
10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla
500 ml (2 cups) (1 pint) thick cream
7 eggs, at room temperature, separated
2.5 ml (½ tsp) cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 400.
Using a food processor, pulse cookies until fine. Add sugar and melted butter and combine. Press into bottom and sides of a 25 to 30 cm (10- 12 inch) spring form pan.
Bake for 5 minutes to set. Remove and cool
Reduce oven temperature to 350.
Cover base of pan with foil, extending up the sides (to prevent leaks when using hot water bath).
With an electric mixer, cream together cheese and sugar well (one of the secrets to good cheesecake).
Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add flour, mixing well. Then lemon juice, mix, then cream and vanilla, and beat some more.
In a clean bowl, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Fold egg whites into cheese mixture with a spatula.
Pour batter into crust-lined pan leaving a 1 cm (½ in) space from top of pan.
Put a roasting tin in center of oven. Put the cheesecake in roasting tin and gently pour boiling water to reach half-way up the sides of the pan.
Bake at 350 for 65 minutes.
Turn oven off and leave cheesecake in the oven for 30 minutes without peeking.
Open the oven door, have a sneak peek, and leave it for another 30 minutes or longer.
Sometimes if it cools too quickly, the cheesecake will develop cracks. It still tastes awesome. Just cool it down slower next time.
This article was written with great assistance by the expertise of Cari Mostert.