Midtown Manhattan Lunches – Xian Famous Foods, ‘wichCraft, Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish

So when I last left off from my New York trip recap, I had mentioned my first lunch was at Bouchon Bakery Rockefeller. That still leaves a few other days of lunches to cover.

Thanks to my hotel refrigerator, I was able to eat dinner leftovers one day for lunch. Another day, I followed a recommendation for Xi’An Famous Foods. Not only was it personally recommended by another foodie (who got it from another foodie in Portland!), but it also made the Serious Eats guide of “Where to Eat Near Rockefeller Center“, among other good press. From reading beforehand I knew they accepted cash only, so I came prepared.

They often have quite a queue to get the food as well- on their website they actually list all their locations and if you click on each specific location, they have a real time store traffic-meter to show how busy it is! That’s awesome. I was lucky enough to get there right in time for a meal turnover- all the seats were full but were finishing up.

This was extremely lucky because there are only maybe a dozen or so little stools by counters in the back, and you can only hope that by the time they call your order # from that back window, a stool has opened up so you can eat. In theory the logic should be until you have food in hand you shouldn’t sit down, rather then letting luck of the draw of you standing by people vacating so you can grab a seat and others are left balancing their tray of food wondering how to eat it. While I was there, I witnessed one angered conversation when 2 girls tried to grab 2 stools and a woman ahead of them pointed out she had ordered before them. They relinquished the seats, others opened up, and 3 more actually opened up so I was able to get one next.

The stools and little bar to eat on are very low, the light is dim, it is definitely a feel of a questionable hole in the wall but that also seems very authentic to what often good Asian places offer- not much atmosphere and full focus on the food and good prices.

Xi'an Famous Foods, Midtown Location on 45th Street

I also knew exactly what to order thanks to my foodie friend- the N1 Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand Ripped Noodles, Lamb sautéed with onions, garlic, and scallions in Xi’an Famous Food’s secret spices, mixed with their original hand-ripped wide biangbiang noodles. I thought it was spicy but not too much (I have a medium-high spice tolerance), and definitely it is a multiple napkin meal from the dripping chili sauce, a mix of Muslim Chinese flavors that you will be hard-pressed to easily find, so I thought it was worth the wait. I didn’t order the Lamb Burger that Anthony Bourdain had so enjoyed on No Reservations, but I needed to save myself for dinner.

Do not wear a white shirt- I almost put on a light colored shirt earlier that day but realizing this would be my probable lunch destination, switched to a black top instead.
N1 Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand Ripped Noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods

When I left, there was a line out the door, and a line all along the wall of those who were taking food out. As I noted, remember it’s cash only, AND don’t be one of those people who doesn’t know what you want. They have a menu of 40 items which have pictures and numbers on the wall. Do everyone a favor and look online and pick out your item # and order by it (aka N1 for me). And if you eat there, do NOT linger over your food talking like 3 people I saw where 2 were done eating and still sitting there talking to the last person- there were lots of people just boring their eyes at them.

Xi'an Famous Foods on Urbanspoon

Also a few blocks down, by Rockefeller, I tried out ‘wichCraft, a craft sandwich chain of which one of the partners is Tom Colicchio. The location I went to at Rockefeller Center is a little hidden- you have to go downstairs (so it is at the same level of the ice rink) and it is tucked in the back of one side. This one didn’t quite fare so well. The tomato soup I had here with san marzano tomatoes, basil, sherry vinegar & parmesan was a poor comparison to the one you can get on the main street at Bouchon Bakery (as I wrote in my last post). I still clung to the soup to balance out the dry mushyness of the multigrain half sandwich with goat cheese, avocado, celery, walnut pesto & watercress. I’m pretty sure I can make a better version of what sandwich myself at home. So sad to waste money and calories that could have been enjoyed better with this lunch. At least I had great company (I met up with an old coworker- a complete surprise since she is usually in Seattle and we unbelievably ended up meeting in New York!)
'wichCraft, in Rockefeller Center 'wichCraft, in Rockefeller Center
'wichCraft, in Rockefeller Cente, multigrain half sandwich with goat cheese, avocado, celery, walnut pesto and watercress, with tomato soup with basil, sherry vinegar and parmesan 'wichCraft, in Rockefeller Cente, multigrain half sandwich with goat cheese, avocado, celery, walnut pesto and watercress, with tomato soup with basil, sherry vinegar and parmesan 'wichcraft on Urbanspoon

My last recap here is for Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish, which required me take a nice scenic walk that brought me by Grand Central and also the Library and Bryant Park. Is it wrong that I actually knew Bryant Park pretty well thanks to the Lego Super Heroes game, including the detail of Le Carrousel? I was disappointed that most of the park was under construction.
"Grand New York Public Library New York Public Library New York Public Library View of the moon at Bryant Park Le Carrousel Bryant Park Fountain Bryant Park

I was pretty determined to enjoy New York bagels while I was here though, so the brisk walk in order to get to the conference in time was worth it. For a little bit, I got a little taste of what it would be like if I a New York regular as I strided purposefully towards Zuckers among the rest of the downtown commuters. Zucker’s gets their smoked fish from Acme Smoked Fish which sounds like something from Looney Toons but is an establishment that has been in the family business for four generations.

I ordered the Zucker’s Traditional, with Nova Scotia salmon with plain cream cheese, Lucky’s tomatoes, red onions and capers, on a their hand rolled kettle boiled malt sweetened baked daily in their store Everything bagel. The bagel was exactly everything everyone always talks about, incomparably chewy but soft, crackly-crusted with the lightly smoky Acme Nova lox, cool thick generous 1/2″ schmear of cream cheese, crisp beefsteak tomato and red onion, capers providing an extra pop of brine.
Zucker Bagels & Smoked Fish's Traditional, with Nova Scotia salmon with plain cream cheese, Lucky's tomatoes, red onions and capers, on a their hand rolled kettle boiled malt sweetened baked daily in their store Everything bagel

If I lived here I would definitely be a regular here. This location I went to downtown on Lexington doesn’t have the old world atmosphere of their Tribeca flagship location with its pressed tin ceiling and subway-tiled wall, but the bagels are still beyond.

Zucker's Bagels & Smoked Fish on Urbanspoon

In the next New York trip recap post, I’m going to share the best bagel sandwich I had during my trip- and my progressive eating day, yes a single day that included that bagel sandwich breakfast followed by lunch at Chelsea Market (plus there was a break for dessert at Milk Bar, but I covered that previously in a Momofuku post) and then a dinner at the Todd English Food Hall!

Which of the 3 lunch places I tried out would you have also picked out to try? Or did I miss a Midtown Manhattan lunch spot that you want to tell me about for next time?

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How to put together a Food Crawl

Disclosure: This experience was sponsored, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

I was lucky enough to be invited to an awesome food crawl that was being organized by Little Green Pickle. For $40, the Little Green Pickle food crawl (heretofore dubbed LGP Food Crawl) included 4 stops of small plates and cocktails, and a karaoke bus to transport us between those 4 destinations!

I was actually a bit pleased to see that this was something with a ticket price- so although LGP organized and sponsored this event, it felt more like being with peers with the LGP ladies because I was a contributing party and not being fully hosted. If you do the math it’s only $10 a stop that includes food and a beverage at each stop, so still a real steal and still sponsored, thus still needing disclosures.

#LGPFoodCrawl Levant stop #LGPFoodCrawl The Bent Brick experience

I took this as a great opportunity to be able to try new food, be it at new restaurants that I hadn’t made it to yet, or even ones I had visited but perhaps with new dishes to sample. I was not disappointed.

There were 12 of us on this little journey, with 9 of us being food bloggers, several who have already covered with fantastic photos the food we enjoyed at each of our destinations at their blogs, and I think everyone has stuff posted on Twitter and Instagram under the hashtag #LGPFoodCrawl.

So I wanted to focus more on is how YOU can put together one of these events!

Guest List

You want to have enough people so that you can share several dishes and get 3-4 bites. At the same time, you don’t want so large of a group that the various restaurants cannot easily accommodate you.  I would recommend 6, 8, at the max 12.

The larger the group, the sooner you want to get this on everyone’s calendar and the RSVPs set so you can plan knowing how many you have on board. LGP signed us up 3 weeks ahead of the food crawl date!

Ask those signing up to tell you food restrictions because of allergies or preferences upfront now so they can be accounted for in the planning stage.

Remember- you only need a few bites of each dish- otherwise you won’t have the capacity to keep eating for the full Food Crawl! One alcoholic drink per place is probably best too- you don’t want to ruin your palate before you’ve gotten to all the stops. What you do at the last stop is up to you.
"It's You can only have a few bites of every dish on a Food Crawl, or your stomach won't last the Food Crawl!

Don’t feel like everyone has to already know each other- one of the great aspects of a food crawl like this is that you will not be seated in place for the entire meal. You will be moving from place to place, which provides an opportunity to change up who is sitting with who, so you can rotate through multiple conversations with guests.

And, because each location is a short stop, and everyone is trying out new food, you already have something in common to start the conversation and you will surely not run out of conversational material before the next rotation! Probably similar to me, you may feel that you wish you had MORE time to chat with the various other guests even though you just spend 4 hours at this event together!

Logistics

You want to select 3 or 4 restaurants. You don’t want to do more than 4 because you will get pretty full even on sampling over the evening.

The first restaurant is for appetizers.

If you pick 4 restaurants then the second location is for small plates, if you pick 3 restaurants then this location is for mains (if you pick 4 restaurants, then the next location is mains instead).

Finally, the last restaurant is is for dessert.

#LGPFoodCrawl Dessert Extravagance at Urban Farmer

Ideally, the restaurants would be in walking distance of each other- so pick a neighborhood. You can do this with restaurants that are farther away if you have set transportation.

For instance, for the LGP Food Crawl, we utilized the excellent karaoke bus Old School PDX, which gamely chauffeured us to our destinations while also providing us the opportunity to sing along our merry way! As a plus, with a designated driver, we were able to also enjoy Hawks View Cellars Wine as we were singing!
 

You want to spend about 45 minutes at each restaurant, giving you 10-15 minutes in between to travel to the next (thus the desire to make restaurants either walkable or use designated driver transport so you don’t have to sweat over finding parking spots!). So as you can see, this is a 3-4 hour party!

Make reservations for your party based on this schedule. Weeknights or a Sunday are clearly better because the restaurants can be more accommodating in quickly getting you in and out with your food if they aren’t in the weeds.

Let them know what you are doing as well- being upfront means they can plan and execute accordingly. You might choose to pre-select all your food ahead of time- or work with the restaurants to figure out a budget for the number of people/course you’ll be having there and let them surprise you.

You need to make sure the following roles are taken care of by someone in your Food Crawl party- it can be 1 person, or taken care of by 3 lovely LGP ladies extraordinaire as well…

  1. One person who is the people wrangler- getting all the people committed to the date and time and location. They will need to have everyone’s contact information to make sure everyone is reachable in case someone gets stuck in traffic or gets lost between restaurants (thankfully this did not happen to us on our food crawl, but I was very aware there was someone taking care of counting us to make sure we were all there, no one is left behind!)
  2. One person should also have the address/directions and phone number of each destination to help navigate the party to each stop, and if things are running 5-10 minutes late give the next destination a heads up with a phone call. This person is likely the restaurant wrangler- the one who helps each restaurant know what the plan for the Food Crawl is and which course they are to make sure seating and food will be ready for the stop.One thing that could entice restaurants to help you is if you provide an opportunity for them to market themselves- be it examples of the menu, having a manager or chef talk about what they are trying to do, or giving a cheat sheet of all the social media tags!
  3. One person needs to be the official timekeeper, to make sure that everyone sticks to this schedule by watching the time and giving the 10 and 5 minute warning and ushering everyone out to the next destination. This person will likely be the one making sure the check is paid- and make sure to include tax (although this isn’t applicable here in Portland, yay) and TIP!

Now in our Food Crawl, the drinks were included. But, I’ve also heard of ones where all the food is pre-selected and included, but drinks are on your own. In that case, you have to make sure the restaurant knows ahead of time and see if they would agree to separate checks… or perhaps everyone can agree to split evenly and 1 drink each.

Try to not get caught in the nightmare of trying to calculate each person’s portion individually from a group check! I know there are check splitting apps out there Billr.me and Clever Bill Splitter on Android, maybe there are better out there), but it interrupts the fun when you have to do it several times because you are going to multiple destinations. The easiest, fastest options are separate checks are even split.

Now let’s see the stops that were put together for the LGP Food Crawl…

Stop 1: Oso Market + Bar

Oso Market + Bar, Stop 1 on the #LGPFoodCrawl Oso Market + Bar, Stop 1 on the #LGPFoodCrawl
We started out with Stop #1, Oso Market + Bar at 726 SE Grand. This was the only destination I knew of ahead of time, and was only told 1 week ahead of time! The other 3 stops, LGP kept secret as a surprise until we met up at that first location! This seems like an optional step in planning your Food Crawl- it was certainly fun to be surprised with where we were going! And, by not knowing ahead of time there was no peeking ahead at the menus to guess what we might have- instead we just enjoyed what we received.


We were greeted with a glass of bubbly cava. I heartily recommend this as a festive way to kick off the food crawl- a little sparkling always feels special and celebratory.

I was excited to finally step foot into Oso, as I had passed by it many times and adored the big bear but never been in. I’ll definitely be back to try more here. Oso is a mixed-use space that is bottle shop, specialty market with some enticing grocery selections, and neighborhood bar (they have sustainable and biodynamic wines and well as handcrafted beer and ciders that represent local and international breweries). They had pushed together two long tables for us so that we could all sit in a big square table all facing each other, though that meant we had to really reach across the tablespace to pass the platters around.

Here, we had the perfect example of just small appetizer nibbles to get us started as we were doing our introductions to each other and meeting the Food Crawl crew for the evening. We had

  • Tails & Trotters Chorizo Stuffed Dates wrapped in bacon with cumin honey and sage oil. Seriously I could have eaten that whole plate by myself, and I’ll definitely make sure that is on the table for every future visit.
    Oso Market + Bar appetizer of Tails & Trotters Chorizo-Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon w/ Cumin Honey & Sage Oil Oso Market + Bar appetizer of Tails & Trotters Chorizo-Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon w/ Cumin Honey & Sage Oil
  • Baked Mortadella Montadito with tarragon mustard, peperoncini, and micro greens served on Little T focaccia
  • Bresaola Montadito with tomato-mint jam, Parmesan and basil served on Little T focaccia
  • Cremeux Montadito with fig, honey, arugula and balsamic reduction served on Little T focaccia
  • Ratatouille atop crispy polenta
    Oso Market + Bar appetizer of Baked Mortadella Montadito with tarragon mustard, peperoncini, and micro greens served on Little T focaccia and Bresaola Montadito with tomato-mint jam, Parmesan and basil served on Little T focaccia Oso Market + Bar appetizer of Cremeux Montadito with fig, honey, arugula and balsamic reduction served on Little T focaccia and Ratatouille atop crispy polenta

Notice how each of these are very small bites just to whet your appetite.

At the same time, I think this showcases some of the best of what Oso has to offer, which is great small plates to nibble on that take inspiration from local and global foods as you taste their excellent selection of wines by the glass. They also have sandwiches, salads, and charcuterie and some heartier dinner plates like wild boar bratwurst or steamed mussels with chorizo or bison shepherd’s pie, but this small sample captures their use of quality local purveyors to put together what is a simple appetizer concept (bacon wrapped dates, montadito/yummy stuff on bread) but yet create complex flavors. I can easily imagine how fun this would be to try with different wines to see how they compliment and contrast with different profiles in the wine.

Stop 2: Levant

Stop #2 Levant as part of #LGPFoodCrawl Stop #2 Levant as part of #LGPFoodCrawl Stop #2 Levant as part of #LGPFoodCrawl
Stop #2 was Levant, which offers French-Arabesque Mediterranean food. and located at 2448 E Burnside St that has an open kitchen with open hearth and a floor to ceiling L shaped bar with a library ladder. This is another restaurant that has been on my wishlist, but I had not made it to yet. We started out with being able to select one cocktail from their menu- any cocktail we wanted! I don’t know how the bartender whipped these up so quickly for us, hope his elbow is ok!

I went with the Cocktail of Root Down Daisy- Cognac, Ginger Liqueur, Carrot Reduction, Lemon, Egg White, Vanilla Salt. They had really cool individual kinds of glasses depending on what kind of cocktail you ordered. A couple others also ordered the same thing, and a few had a glass that looked like mine, others had a glass that was the same shape but had gold wheat etched instead.
Stop #2 Levant as part of #LGPFoodCrawl Stop #2 Levant as part of #LGPFoodCrawl, Cocktail of Root Down Daisy- Cognac, Ginger Liqueur, Carrot Reduction, Lemon, Egg White, Vanilla Salt

We were all in the private back room, which usually seats 8 while being surrounded by racks of cabinets of wine, but in a pinch was an easy cocktail location for our group standing up. This can work out well if it is for small plates only, and since the stop is only 45 minutes- something to consider when thinking about whether a restaurant you are thinking of can accommodate you.

Even on a weekday night Levant was hopping with diners and it would have been difficult to talk with the noise level in the main dining room, so it was nice that we had a space to just our group for this stop. Since this was a longer rectangular table, the group essentially split up into conversations based on the half of the room.

Here, we shared 3 items from their Sharing Plates section and 1 item from their Hot Starters section of their menu, almost buffet style since we each got one piece of everything from a serving platter. My photos from my phone do not do justice to how beautifully plated these dishes are- several of my bloggers were carrying the heavy artillery of DSLRs and got closeups with better lighting that will make you want to eat your screen.

  • Fried Halloumi with honey and walnuts. I think I actually said “get out of my way, there’s cheese here!”
  • Fava Bean Falafel with zhoug (a hot chili paste- though I didn’t detect any fire but maybe that’s just me) and tahini
    Stop #2 at Levant on #LGPFoodCrawl, a shared dish of Fried Halloumi, Honey, Walnuts Stop #2 Levant as part of #LGPFoodCrawl, a shared dish of Falafel, Zhoug (a hot chili paste) Tahini
  • Feta and Armenian Cheese ‘Cigars’ with dried mint, garlic, lemon zest and Aleppo chili – again, I don’t remember it being spicy so no worries for you there if you are worried
  • Grilled Beef Kofta with barberries, pine nuts, herb relish and Sumac yogurt… wait, now that I think about it, I don’t remember getting a sample of this. Which one of you ate two?!
    Stop #2 was Levant #LGPFoodCrawl, a shared dish of Feta 'Cigars,' Harissa Yogurt Stop #2 was Levant #LGPFoodCrawl, a hot dish of Grilled Beef Kofta with barberries, pine nuts, herb relish and Sumac yogurt

So win with two cheese dishes! My cheese loving soul thanks you so much Levant. I think this is a perfect example of how with just a couple dishes, you can get an idea of a restaurant’s perspective, and I left still curious and wanting to know more.

Stop 3: Bent Brick

Bent Brick, a German style tavern with an American twist at 1639 NW Marshall St was where we had the main portion of our dinner. I had been here before, but only 1 dish was repeated so I was still able to experience Bent Brick in a new way.

We each ordered a cocktail off the menu- and the Bent Brick has fabulous cocktails it was hard for all of us to choose just one! The Fall Back cocktail sounded very alluring with its butternut squash whiskey, root, herbal liquor, and spiced syrup combination. That’s right, butternut squash whiskey. There was also a cocktail called l.g.p. with lettuce, ebb & flow gin, parsley oil- how curious?!

Then there is this lovely cocktail below on the right, the Smoke n’ Herb with rosemary, tito’s vokda, lavender, lemon, smoked Jacobsen’s sea salt. The one on the left wasn’t mine, but notice the cool herb ice there too: it’s the Bucket List cocktail, with vodka, cranberry-thyme shrub, and soda.
Cocktail at the Bent Brick, stop 3 on the #LGPFoodCrawl, Smoke N' Herb with tito's vodka, rosemary, lavendar, lemon, smoked sea salt Cocktail at the Bent Brick, stop 3 on the #LGPFoodCrawl, Smoke N' Herb with tito's vodka, rosemary, lavendar, lemon, smoked sea salt

We sat at two different rectangular tables here, essentially two groups of six. We dined family style here where 3 dishes were shared among every 3-4 people.

  • Meat Board featuring house made country pate, house made coppa rillette, wigwam and Finchville country ham with pickled vegetables
  • Deep Fried Beef Cheek with fried egg aioli
  • Rye Sourdough Spaetzle pan fried with mushrooms and caramelized onion, topped with Tabasco pickled shallots.
    At The Bent Brick, Stop #3 on #LGPFoodCrawl: >Meat Board featuring house made country pate, house made coppa rillette, wigwam and Finchville country ham with pickled vegetables At The Bent Brick, Stop #3 on #LGPFoodCrawl: Deep Fried Beef Cheek with fried egg aioli The Bent Brick, stop 3 on the #LGPFoodCrawl, Rye Sourdough Spaetzle pan fried with mushrooms and caramelized onion, topped with Tabasco pickled shallots

You may be intimidated by the sound of deep fried beef cheek, but let me assure you that it was tasty and rich. This was a case that I’m not sure anyone in the party would have ordered it off the menu, but because Bent Brick sent out what they wished (I assume for let’s say a set price limit), it pushed us to explore outside our regular boundaries. This item isn’t normally on their menu, but they do have a braised beef cheek in horseradish cream with sauerkraut and beets. This is typical of the Bent Brick, which celebrates locally raised meats and seafood served in unconventional ways.

It does bring up a good question though- should you order ahead of time specific dishes? Or, when you let the restaurant know ahead of time with reservations, and that you are doing a food crawl, if they could recommend/pick for you what to serve your group of xx people that fit within your visit time frame?

Ordering when you get there probably works ok for small dishes like appetizers that are usually fast anyway if the restaurant isn’t swamped, but when it comes to dishes that take longer to fire like mains it’s definitely something to consider.

Stop 4: Urban Farmer

We finished with amazing desserts at the modern steakhouse Urban Farmer. I’ve been to Urban Farmer before, but always filled up on starters, mains, and sides. It wasn’t until this visit with the Food Crawl that I tried dessert. I had no idea Urban Farmer and Pastry Chef Carrie Merrill were producing such exquisite desserts- I have already been back to Urban Farmer since this Food Crawl in fact to have dinner and a dessert experience where I didn’t have to share!

I also didn’t know until this visit that Urban Farmer has a barrel aged cocktail program, where their mixologists are continually barrel aging and creating new limited edition signature cocktails.
Urban Farmer has a barrel aged cocktail program, where their mixologists are continually barrel aging and creating new limited edition signature cocktails

At the other locations, you probably noticed there was a main serving platter that everyone then served themselves a portion onto a small plate. For dessert, hopefully you have all become good friends with everyone as you will probably be digging into the same plate with your spoons!

We ended with a cocktail here as well, but you might also consider ordering coffee, tea, maybe Irish Coffee…

  • Elixir Bianco cocktail, concocted with Pinnacle vodka, Calisaya, Cocchi Americano aged thirty days in oak barrels at/by Urban Farmer, and served up with a lemon twist. The Calisaya may look and taste like an imported Italian liquor, but is actually Oregon-made from Eugene although it is based on cinchona calisaya, a tree bark that actually made its way from Peru to Italy.
    Dessert Extravagance thanks to Urban Farmer, stop 4 on the #LGPFoodCrawl. Elixir Bianco, vodka, Calisaya, Cocchi Americano aged thirty days in oak barrels and served up with a lemon twist The Calisaya may look and taste like an imported Italian liquor, but is actually Oregon-made from Eugene
  • Butterscotch Sundae with warm brown butter blondie, cherries, praline and toffee chip ice cream. This alone already had me planning to return before I even left Urban Farmer that evening.
    "Dessert
  • Honeycrisp Apple Doughnuts with apple butter and rosemary ice cream
  • Woodblock Chocolate Pate with dried fruit compote and olive oil ice cream
    Honeycrisp Apple Doughnuts, with apple butter, rosemary ice cream. Dessert Extravagance thanks to Urban Farmer, stop 4 on the #LGPFoodCrawl Woodblock Chocolate Pate with dried fruit compote, olive oil ice cream, Jacobsen sea salt. Dessert Extravagance thanks to Urban Farmer, stop 4 on the #LGPFoodCrawl
  • Seville Orange Souffle for Two with creme fraîche chocolate sauce. I didn’t catch the dramatic pouring of the chocolate sauce onto the souffle, but Erin from Bakery Bingo did!
  • Candy Cap Crème Caramel with citrus, tamarind with candied candy cap mushrooms
  • Carmella Affogato with cremeux and Hairbender Stumptown espresso
    Seville Orange Souffle for Two with creme fraîche chocolate sauce. Dessert Extravagance thanks to Urban Farmer, stop 4 on the #LGPFoodCrawl Candy Cap Crème Caramel citrus, tamarind with candy cap mushrooms: Dessert Extravagance thanks to Urban Farmer, stop 4 on the #LGPFoodCrawl Carmella Affogato with cremeux and Hairbender Stumptown espresso: Dessert Extravagance thanks to Urban Farmer, stop 4 on the #LGPFoodCrawl

Want more?

Here are links to the other bloggers that were part of this adventure and that you should check out their recaps and their lovely photos!

Also, special applause, shoutout, hugs, and love to our LGP hostesses of Chloe (@chloe_pdx), Brooke (@brookeadamspdx), Frances (@frances_pdx)!

Disclosure: This meal was sponsored, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

Oso Market + Bar on Urbanspoon Levant on Urbanspoon the bent brick on Urbanspoon Urban Farmer on Urbanspoon

 

What neighborhood or what restaurants do you want to see put in a food crawl that you would participate in?

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Happy April Fool’s Day with a Strawberry Fool Recipe

I’m too nice to play tricks. Still, I had it in my head for a while I wanted to share a recipe for April Fool’s day. After lots of recipes that try to trick you by appearing to be one thing but are actually another, I found that I couldn’t bear to do them. If I’m expecting something sweet and get something savory, or vice versa, and it’s a whole dish, it just seems like a lot of work and too much disappointment because I really thought I’d be getting the sweet frosted cupcake (but get meatloaf instead),  a cake that looks like a BLT but is white cake and gummy fruit and Tootsie Rolls, savory slider and fries basket that turns out to be a cake and cookie concoction or mini chicken pot pie that is candy and pudding. Don’t even get me started on the cakes that look like kitty litter which I even refuse to link to.

Instead, I decided to go with a Strawberry Fool recipe, which has no trick at all to it. There isn’t any cooking involved even- just cutting and you literally whip it together!
A Nice April Fool's recipe with no trick- the Strawberry Fool A Nice April Fool's recipe with no trick- the Strawberry Fool

In fact, it’s super easy and fast to do, and very classic. The sweet Hood strawberries are not at the Farmers Market yet, but there have been sales of strawberries at the grocery store and F brought some home as a surprise for me. I’m suffering from a cold with a bad sore throat and cough, so having something creamy was a very soothing prescription to myself.
April Fool's Recipe with no Trick: Strawberry Fool Recipe is blended strawberries with the cut strawberries and the fresh whipped vanilla cream (Grand Marnier optional) April Fool's Recipe with no Trick: Strawberry Fool Recipe is blended strawberries with the cut strawberries and the fresh whipped vanilla cream (Grand Marnier optional)

This simple recipe is from Mark Bittman in the New York Times and yields 4 servings supposedly but it was also enough for just the 2 of us in my household of F and myself.
April Fool's Recipe with no Trick: Strawberry Fool Recipe is blended strawberries with the cut strawberries and the fresh whipped vanilla cream (Grand Marnier optional) April Fool's Recipe with no Trick: Strawberry Fool Recipe is blended strawberries with the cut strawberries and the fresh whipped vanilla cream (Grand Marnier optional)

Strawberry Fool

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or to taste), separated into 1/4 cup and 1/4 cup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:
  1. Hull the rest of the strawberries, then wash them. Reserve a few of the best looking strawberries for garnish, and chop the rest into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Toss with 1/4 cup of the sugar, and wait at least 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they give up their juices. Isn’t macerating so easy and magical?
    Strawberry Fool recipe- hull 1 pint of strawberries Strawberry Fool Recipe- 1/4 cup sugar with the hulled, 1/4 Strawberry Fool Recipe- 1/4 cup sugar with the hulled, 1/4
  2. Place half the strawberries and all the juice in a blender or food processor and purée, though you can also choose to just mush them however and with whatever you have. Pour purée back in bowl with other half of still chopped strawberries.
    Strawberry Fool Recipe- blended strawberries with the cut strawberries
  3. Whip the cream with remaining 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla until cream is stiff and holds peaks easily. Fold berries and almost all the cream together, setting aside a bit of the cream aside as topping if you’d like. Cut the reserved strawberries from before in half and top. Serve immediately in small bowls or in wine glasses, or refrigerate for up to two hours and then serve if you would like it more chilled.
    Strawberry Fool Recipe- blended strawberries with the cut strawberries and the fresh whipped vanilla cream (Grand Marnier optional) April Fool's treat with no trick, a Strawberry Fool Recipe- blended strawberries with the cut strawberries and the fresh whipped vanilla cream (Grand Marnier optional)

I have tweaked this recipe sometimes- for instance, using honey instead of sugar for the maceration, or throwing in a teaspoon of Grand Marnier! If you’d like, garnish with some fresh mint. This also can work with any berry- raspberry, blueberry, marionberry, or you could try rhubarb or a lime or lemon variation, the list goes on. Instead of topping fresh whipped cream, you can go healthy and go with yogurt instead. You really can’t go wrong here.
April Fool's treat with no trick, a Strawberry Fool Recipe- blended strawberries with the cut strawberries and the fresh whipped vanilla cream (Grand Marnier optional) April Fool's treat with no trick, a Strawberry Fool Recipe- blended strawberries with the cut strawberries and the fresh whipped vanilla cream (Grand Marnier optional)

Are you doing anything for April Fool’s Day?

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Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm Tulip Festival

Today kicks off the beginning of the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm’s Tulip Festival 2014! Of course, this coincides with a big rainy week in Portland right now, but don’t worry. The festival lasts March 28-May 4th, so you have time. I kept checking the weather until I found one that suited me. I also advise you to go early if you can if you want to get shots like this where there are less people in the background.

These photos are not from this year, but I thought it would be a nice summary of what you might expect to see there. Unfortunately my visit was on a semi-clear day so I couldn’t get any gorgeous snow capped mountains in the background, but maybe you can! You can also check the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm site because they often post with a little report of their current field conditions.

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm Tulip Festival (previous year visit)

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm- Tulip Festival Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm- Tulip Festival Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm- Tulip Festival
Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm- Tulip Festival
Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm- Tulip Festival Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm- Tulip Festival Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm- Tulip Festival Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm- Tulip Festival Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm- Tulip Festival Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm- Tulip Festival Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm- Tulip Festival

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Bouchon Bakery Rockefeller

As I started telling you in my previous post, I was recently in New York for a conference/training for 6 days. The first day, Saturday, was essentially a travel day. Then, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I was at the conference from 9-5, with a 1 hour lunch break from 12:20-1:30. That limited my comfort level of where I would be able to go to lunch and return in time to not miss anything at the session.

So how did I find lunches in Midtown Manhattan?

One way to do this is to first, search your current location on Google Maps. In my example below, my conference was at the Sofitel New  York (I stayed at a separate hotel to save money for my company). Then, when you click on the location, click the link for Search Nearby, which will expand this menu to include a field to use.
First, search for your location (in this case, Sofitel was my conference hotel). Then I clicked on Search Nearby link, which opened a section below for me to use keywords to search around the area

You can use this field to search for what you need- happy hour, lunch, pizza, bagel, tacos, etc.

This usually is what I do when I travel for work, but since I was in Manhattan there are lots of little dots that pop up of places to eat (this isn’t true of many other places I ended up going). So what now?
Searching for restaurant lunch options by Midtown Manhattan from my Sofitel Hotel in New York City

Fortunately, because New York is such a foodie town, I did a search of “Best lunch in Midtown Manhattan” and got several website articles to peruse. Usually, in smaller towns, I might only find a link to some old Chowhound board discussions, but that has also paid off to read and pick something out that sounds appealing. I picked the Serious Eats guide of “Where to Eat Near Rockefeller Center” as a reliable source, and combined this with other things I remember reading or being recommended.

For instance, that Bouchon Bakery has been on several lists for their grilled cheese sandwich- I had once upon a time pinned the list from Food and Wine for Best Grilled Cheese in the US and Bouchon’s was on it, as was it on the Serious Eats New York 17 Great Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. The name Thomas Keller also means something to me- the lunch I had at French Laundry quite a few years ago is still very memorable to me.
Bouchon Bakery in New York City, right by Rockefeller Plaza Bouchon Bakery in New York City, right by Rockefeller Plaza Bouchon Bakery in New York City, right by Rockefeller Plaza

So this was my first lunch for the trip. It was so crowded at Bouchon Bakery Rockefeller that a group of ladies was braving sitting outside on their patio, but the crowd comes and goes. I awkwardly put my bag and coat down by a stool I saw by the corner between 2 groups after putting in my order, but when the order actually came up, there was a huge section of countertop that had opened up with seats. People here tend not to linger long.

Bouchon Bakery in New York City, right by Rockefeller Plaza Bouchon Bakery- example of offerings

The Bouchon Baker Rockefeller menu (which is annoyingly not on their site but you can get a gist at UrbanSpoon or the New York Mag for a menu) are light lunches of sandwiches, salads, cheese plates, soup, and of course their fabulous baked goods of macaroons and cookies as well as others like croissants, scones, etc. Below, the Smoked Salmon with herbed cream cheese, pickled red onion, and peppercress on brioche and the Roasted Sweet Potato on almond focaccia with brown butter aioli sounded tempting too.

Not so much the dog biscuits admittedly, which by the way are enriched with foie gras and chicken stock. One story goes that the dog treats came about because the Bouchon Kitchen in Yountville always had leftover random pieces of fois gras scraps so they used it this way so they wouldn’t go to waste and were still enjoyed.
Bouchon Bakery- example of offerings Bouchon Bakery- example of offerings Bouchon Bakery- example of offerings

I came to Bouchon Bakery twice. The first time was exactly for that grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. It is not just a plain grilled cheese or plain tomato soup, of course- it’s a san marzano tomato soup that is tangy and intensely tomato-y, perfect for a dip here or there with the gooey fontina & gruyère cheese sandwich whose thick pain au lait (milk bread) manages to be both crusty on the outside but soft and doughy buttery richness inside.
Bouchon Bakery San Marzano Tomato Soup, perfect with their pain au lait grilled fontina and gruyere cheese sandwich Bouchon Bakerypain au lait grilled fontina and gruyere cheese sandwich is perfectly crispy on the outside but soft doughy rich butteryness on the inside Bouchon Bakerypain au lait grilled fontina and gruyere cheese sandwich is perfectly crispy on the outside but soft doughy rich butteryness on the inside Bouchon Bakerypain au lait grilled fontina and gruyere cheese sandwich is perfectly crispy on the outside but soft doughy rich butteryness on the inside

On my second visit, I had decided to eat leftovers from previous meals, and brought that from the hotel. However, I still used my lunch stipend to get a few treats to keep me sugared up on the plane (this would pay off since my flight would be delayed and I wouldn’t reach home until 4am NY time or 1am PDX time!). These treats kept me in a good mood, instead of a bad hungry mood. These included a croissant, the Tko Thomas Keller Oreo, the Nutter Butter cookie, and the TLC (The Laura Cunningham) Oatmeal Cookie. She didn’t like dried fruits and picked them out of typical oatmeal raisin cookies, which I totally agree with, so this cookie substitutes pecans for raisins! After the Nutter Butter the TLC was my favorite cookie.

Bouchon Bakery croissant Bouchon Bakery Tko Thomas Keller Oreo Bouchon Bakery Tko Thomas Keller Oreo Bouchon Bakery Pistachio Macaroon Bouchon Bakery Pistachio Macaroon Bouchon Bakery Nutter Butter cookie Bouchon Bakery Nutter Butter cookie Bouchon Bakery Oatmeal cookie

Which treat would you have gotten from Bouchon Bakery Rockefeller?

Bouchon Bakery on Urbanspoon

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