Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe the festive season is all but over (is it just me or did it zip by quicker than usual?) Once the eating, drinking and being merry have settled down a tad, I like to take the opportunity to reflect on the year that was.
Scouring through the thousands of photos I took over the last 12 months, I am yet again taken aback by how incredible 2014 was for me in so many ways…I only wish I had shared these experiences with you as they happened!
One of my wildest dreams came true for me in May last year, when I travelled to New York with my parents and sister. Almost 8 months later I’m still pinching myself. Wow. Just…wow. Talk about expectations exceeded – all the songs, movies, television shows and travel programs about and set in New York can’t prepare you enough for its sheer awesomeness! Rather than spend 1000 words gushing about it (it’s entirely possible to do so), I wanted to share one of the many Food Tourist highlights this trip offered.
On a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon while my dad and sister explored the Intrepid, mum and I spent a leisurely three hours traipsing through the West Village, enjoying New York Food Tours’ Ultimate New York Food & Culture Tour™, which I had booked before we left Australia.
Our friendly guide met us on Bleecker Street (possibly my favourite New York street so far), and we followed her on one of the tastiest journeys I’ve ever been on, with each step taking us to new heights in deliciousness.
Stop 1: Faicco’s
One can only dream about having an Italian deli like this in your neighbourhood, with its tins, packets and jars of delicious produce and pasta piled high and wide; freshly made ready-to-heat gourmet meals; and a cold cabinet teeming with succulent meats, exotic sausages and dreamy, creamy cheeses.
TASTE SENSATION #1: Arancini balls
What a way to start the tour!
An abundance of gourmet delights
Stop 2: Murray’s Cheese Shop
Cheese? Yes please! We didn’t have to go too far for our next stop – in fact, we just walked next door! While our next tasty morsel was being prepared, we had an opportunity to explore this cheese-lover’s heaven, which is roughly the size of a small supermarket and filled with cheeses from all over the world, plus a selection of gourmet bread and other deli delights. I was just about to succumb to the temptation of buying a giant wheel of vintage cheddar and magnum of red wine, when we were called – our snack was ready (just in time, phew!)
TASTE SENSATION #2 – Gourmet Three-Cheese Grilled Cheese.
Somebody stop me…
So much temptation
Fancy a bit of bread with your cheese?
Best cheese sanger…
Stop 3: Joe’s Pizza
Just around the corner, it was time to enjoy a New York institution. It goes without saying that a trip to New York is not complete until you’ve had a true slice of NY pizza. I must admit, despite being in New York for almost a week by that point, I still hadn’t – this would be my first.
TASTE SENSATION #3: NY Pizza slice
No introduction required
Now you see it…
…now you don’t
Stop 4: Popbar
Once again, we only had to venture next door for our next treat. And what a sweet treat it was! Popbar offers a wide range of refreshing iced yoghurt, gelato or sorbet flavours on a stick, which can be dipped, half-dipped or covered with a number of yummy crumbly, crunchy and/or gooey toppings. As soon as I saw ‘coconut’, I was sold.
TASTE SENSATION #4: Coconut PopGelato half-dipped in chocolate and covered with coconut.
First choice – gelato, sorbet or yoghurt?
Second choice – what flavour?
Third choice – what do dip it in or top it with?
Stop 5: Washington Square Park
Believe it or not, this tour was not just about finding tasty treats around the West Village – our lovely guide also provided a lot of interesting and insightful information about the history and culture of the area. On our way to the next food-stop, we passed through the delightful Washington Square Park; due to the absolutely sparkling conditions – blue skies, temperatures in the mid to high 20s (about 80 degrees Fahrenheit) – the place was positively teeming with families, couples, students and street performers happily making the most of the spring sunshine.
It was wonderful to learn the story of ‘Larry The Pigeon Guy’ and watch him playing with his marionette alter ego that had been especially made for him by puppeteer/entertainer Ricky Syers (you can find an image of them on the Humans of New York Facebook page). And I finally learned the location of the iconic Arch that I’d seen a million times watching Friends!
A lovely way to spend a spring day
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen this watching endless re-runs of Friends
Free advice, anyone?
Stop 6: Mamoun’s Falafel Restaurant
Macdougal Street is a melting pot of every kind of cuisine you can think of – I can’t wait to return to New York one day and sample everything it offers. Lucky for us, we had the opportunity to indulge in some Middle Eastern cuisine from a Macdougal Street mainstay.
TASTE SENSATION #5: Falafel balls
The amazing Macdougal Street
Exotic, spicy falafel with an even spicier chilli dipping sauce
Stop 7: Molly’s Cupcakes
Back on Bleecker for our next stop. I just love the story behind Molly’s Cupcakes. This iconic bakery was established in honour of the founder’s third grade teacher who would bake delicious cupcakes each time a class member had a birthday. Not only does he continue her tradition of creating beautiful, decadent sweet treats, but donates part of the stores’ profits to schools in the local community. What a treat it was to sit down and indulge in one of their award-winning cupcakes!
TASTE SENSATION #6: Red velvet mini cupcakes.
Be still my beating heart…
Luxurious red velvet cupcake
Maybe just one more…?
Some of the cool classroom memorabilia decorating the restaurant
Stop 8: Pasticceria Rocco
Yes, there’s more! After Molly’s I wasn’t sure if I could fit in another decadent treat, but as soon as you enter Rocco’s, you are drawn like a magnet to the glass counter where you are welcomed by rows and rows of indulgent Italian pastries, tortas and pies and all is forgotten. After enjoying one more dessert, together with a lovely coffee, we bid farewell to our guide. All that was left to do was decide which cake to take on the subway back to our hotel…
TASTE SENSATION #7: Pistachio cannoli
I could live here…
Pistachio cannoli – hello, lover!
P.S. The New York Baked Cheesecake won…
We bought a plain cheesecake…
…topped it with a selection of fresh berries and a drizzle of warmed jam…
…and ate it with glee!
(Did I mention that I LOVE New York?)
I’m determined to spend more time ‘confessing’ this year, so stay tuned for further highlights from this trip (and more)…!
My pick for LaChouett’s Pick the World (USA) event.