I often compare great food to a three-hour Bruce Springsteen concert. It always leaves you wanting more, even after hours of great music fulfill almost every desire. A great menu is like a great playlist from the concert—you anticipate the next song, the next pasta dish, the next life-changing experience--whether it is an encore of Thunder Road or a cannoli oozing sweet, creamy ricotta and zest of orange. (There is always an encore, and sometimes more than one.)
Now picture my analogy as a dream come true: Three Springsteen concerts in four days--two in Jersey and one at Madison Square Garden. Four nights and five days or eating Jersey’s finest pizza, bagels overstuffed with lox, cream cheese, onions, tomato and cucumbers (oh, but I still miss H & H on the Upper West Side). And just like Springsteen, who kept playing those surprise favorites like Trapped, Candy’s Room and Badlands, the culinary hits kept coming as well.
There was Peking duck at Mr. K’s in Midtown before a shopping splurge of baguette, cheese, salami and pate from Murray’s in the Village to tailgate with before concert No. 2. Standing on your feet for three hours while singing and rocking out requires some fueling, and Manhattan did not disappoint. (Did I mention the Italian pastry known as a lobster tail we ate as during our late-night concert reflections? Did I miss confessing about eating ricotta pie and a slice of New York cheesecake as well?)
Needless to say, on the off day of concerts we set our sights on Chelsea. Smart move to be within walking distance of Eataly, the brainchild of Mario Batalio and the ultimate rock-and-roll Italian food festival and market. It was Italian nirvana for all five senses. We tackled six restaurants within three-and-a-half hours, which, like a Bruce concert, left us craving more, even though we were loosening our belts from the richness of the experience.
Here's our playlist from the Ultimate Food Crawl:
Two bowls of pasta, the first with sweet sausage with tomatoes, Parmesan, Reggiano, Pecorino and bitter greens--my favorite. The second was spaghettone with salumera biellese--hubby’s favorite. In fact, I believe his comment was “Even if I didn’t love you already- I love you now!" (I think that's a compliment.)
Next we sauntered over to the Salomé counter for crostini (three, with assorted toppings--not my favorite) and an incredible radiccio-arugula salad, definitely ranked among the best salads I've ever had.
Then it was time for fish. Il Peche was the destination, and a whole roasted branzini (Mediterranean sea bass) not only melted in our mouths, but could be on the list of best fish ever thanks to its preparation. Delicate and fresh, the tender fillets melted in our mouths, with the fish's cheeks adding that encore feeling of moist succulence.
Next came the health-conscious part of our visit: the vegetarian restaurant for roasted cauliflower on a bed of farro with lemon zest and fresh white anchovies. A miracle dish of flavor and expertise as far as respecting each ingredient on the plate.
By now my copy editor is rolling her eyes at this lengthy blog, so I'll sum up the rest in a paragraph:
Rooftop: Grilled squab and roasted king mushroom with olive oil drizzle and soft poached egg(hello!); the sun shining; the place packed at 2:30; foamy craft beer and a belly screaming from an overload of deliciousness thanks to three-and-a-half hours of eating lunch--consider this a culinary revival. If Bruce Springsteen leads us to the Promised Land by night, Eataly certainly brings us there by day.
Still hungry? Read more about my NYC eating splurge in May on www.flavorsandmore.com.
What's your favorite meal before or after a concert?