So we went on vacation! Sort of! We stayed in NYC and did all the exploration we hadn't gotten around to in the year and a half we've lived here. Shockingly enough, NYC has lots of awesome to go around.
For instance, Carroll Gardens has some pretty exciting resources. For instance, we went to Mazzola Bakery and bought a loaf of their apparently famous lard bread, which turned out not only to be made with lard but also stuffed with bits of peppery sausage throughout. Let's just say that the neighborhood pigeons know where to hang out for quality crumbs. We really need to get that sourdough culture started so we can make massive sandwichy rolled breads stuffed with all kinds of exciting things.
This same neighborhood also hosted the best restaurant experience of the vacation by far: Frankie's Spuntino. OH. Ok. We went early, so as to avoid any sort of crowd situation, and found the restaurant already a quarter full at exactly five on a weekday. That's pretty telling already; the food is exponentially more so. This was the perfect instance of simple, well-done Italian food. The menu was really seasonal--our antipasto plate included a chef's choice of roasted cauliflower and carrots, for instance--and well-balanced, with a menu approximately 3/5 vegetarian. They don't market themselves as anything but a quality Italian place, however, which is clearly the correct strategy.
Notable food: the aforementioned antipasto veg and excellent tiny purple olives, John's gigantic escarole salad with the thinnest possible slivers of red onion and bits of crunchy nuts, my completely simple but perfectly executed gnocchi with marinara and a pile of fresh, awesome ricotta in the center of the plate. John also had a very exciting plate of sweet potato ravioli in parmesan broth. While food of this fancier category is often prone to screwups like overseasoning, it was just as perfectly executed as the gnocchi. Well, it was just as perfectly executed as the entire dinner. It's probably good that we don't live any nearer, because we would end up eating there once a week.
Next up: Greenpoint, where apparently you can find a selection of excellent pierogi and all else Polish. Of course, we ended up at Papacito's eating real tacos instead. Fish tacos with pickled cabbage and lime for the win! It's also super vegan-friendly; John was very into the shredded seitan tacos. All you California people crying for your tacos: here they are. Ok, they have everything except carnitas, which I admit is a problem. They do have two Other pork choices, however, and the prices are authentically cheap. (*LATE NOTE! Anjito pork actually = carnitas! Now I have to try those too.) Then afterward you can go down the street to Peter Pan Donut & Pastry, grab four sugar twists and an eclair from the window case, and try valiantly not to scarf down the entire bag while waiting for the subway. An excellent workaround: take them down the street to McCarren Park and eat them there. I have not actually wanted a doughnut in years, and yet the super quality and the obvious old-school coffeeshop vibe, much like Amy Joy in Cleveland, has compelled me in on three visits in the past three weeks.
Of course, we had to go to Manhattan and eat swank-for-real at least once. So, after spending a couple hours staring at all the exciting aboriginal art at the Met one day, we walked up the street to Candle 79. If you're vegan, this is pretty much fine dining Mecca. Of course, it carries the fine dining price, but that's no surprise. So. This was definitely a more elaborate and presentation-conscious place than I generally prefer. Flatly, I'm often fairly uncomfortable eating in restaurants, particularly upscale ones; the midscale ones just make me angry, since I can cook twice as well for a quarter of the price. However! For a special occasion restaurant, this kept me pretty happy. John had a massive amount of seitan, all of which was a better texture than any version I've ever eaten. My salad--half an avocado with a massive amount of quinoa, finely chopped crispy veg, and pepitas--was flatly impressive, and big enough for a full meal. The star, though, was the pasta of the day: wheat tagliatelle with morels, ramps, fava beans, and fiddleheads. The entire spring season was encapsulated in the bowl: insane! Also, awesome!
We didn't go to restaurants for the entire time, though. In fact, we spent a good amount of time eating straight up homemade salads and sandwiches. Of course, we also had many untraditional champagne cocktails that went a little like this: fill coupe halfway with dry champagne, top with tart cherry stomp from the farmer's market, and drink copiously. It was a quality vacation.