2012.May.09 Wednesday · 2 comments

in Books & Other Media, Life, Restaurants

Bagel, Oysters, Pizza.

Kind of the new acronym for what to eat when hitting the ground in New York, at least within the first few hours. Uneventful flight, all the warnings about how bad United is to fly simply were’t true – the attendants were great, the seats were as comfortable or un, as any in coach class – a pretty normal flight. To save some bucks I flew through Houston, now that United and Continental are combined, it’s a hub, I would say that immigration there was a bit of a disaster. Three planeloads of international flights landing around 6-7 in the morning and there were only 8 agents on duty to process people, many, like myself, had connecting flights (luckily we got in a half hour early or I’d never have made it). And, their fingerprint scan system was down, which meant that all the non-US citizens and residents couldn’t be processed at all – which was probably also lucky for me because those of us who are, were processed through while them darned foreigners just had to wait – I gathered from conversations overheard that some of them had been waiting as long as an hour for the system to come back online. Interestingly, BA’s Ezeiza airport has now gone to the fingerprint and photo scan system, no more filling out those little forms while standing in line, and it was up and running and processing there was a breeze. After immigration, I had to retrieve my bag, had to recheck it, and then had to get across the terminal to my flight to NY – last person on the plane, and they closed the door behind me. LaGuardia was its usual chaotic self, SuperShuttle as well – why do I still bother to reserve a ride in advance? It doesn’t give me any priority, and it was still half an hour before they showed up, and the driver still seemed to wander aimlessly between dropoff destinations, no sense of doing it in an order that, well, makes sense.

A couple of days staying at Hotel 17, a little “euro hotel” in my old ‘hood. Clean, well kept, small rooms, but, other than sleep and sending out missives to you guys, what do I need in a hotel? Had errands to run, but food was necessary, a quick stop first at David’s Bagels, my old reliable spot, just a couple blocks away on 1st Avenue where I tucked into a toasted everything with lox spread – we’ll get to the real thing another day, this was a quickie on the run – and a large iced coffee. Iced coffee. Did I mention that? Iced coffee. Oh, and large.

Domaine Vin & Bar

Got all the errands run, including a quick trip to Long Island City, where I’ll be staying next week at the apartment of a friend of a friend (thank you Elizabeth for the contact!). I had a little time to spend and right at the subway stop was a cozy looking little spot offering happy hour oysters on the half shell at $1 apiece, and a couple of dozen wines by the glass – Domaine Bar a Vins, 50-04 Vernon Ave at 50th St – so I popped in and had myself half a dozen blue-points and a glass of interesting riesling, L’Unabelle 2007 Reserve. Great fruit and spice character, a bit of aged notes, could have used more acidity, especially with the oysters.

Then it was back across the river into Manhattan and to a book launch party – not mine I’m afraid – but the new Craig Claiborne biography by Tom McNamee. Tom had contacted me about a year ago because of the interview I’d done with Craig some two decades ago, and I was able to provide transcripts of some of the time I spent with him. Started in on reading the book over dinner and before bed, looks to be quite good – review when I’m finished. And, just for fun, turned out I knew, at least in passing, two people at the gathering (about 30 people in an apartment on the UES), Danny Meyer and Colman Andrews – the former remembering me and we caught up, the latter not, though recalled on reminder a recent twitter exchange. I threw back a deviled egg (not as good as mine) and a glass of DuBoeuf Regnie (meh), and then headed to meet a friend, who unfortunately had to postpone.

On my own for the eve, and two other friends whom I’d talked to about getting together with late (thinking after dinner, just to catch up), finding themselves working even later, I decided to strike out on my own, but here in the East Village area (getting tired by this point, you know?)

Gnocco - pizza tartufata

Sorry about the photos, I had left the camera back in the hotel and just had the phone with me for the afternoon/evening. I’d seen a couple of assertions from one foodie or another, including one whom I know, that the best pizza to be found in the East Village these days is not the much touted Motorino, nor Artichoke, nor… well the list actually goes on, and probably all of them serve great pizzas – but, the sites were set on Gnocco, 337 East 10th Street, on the north side of Tompkins Square Park. Now, it turns out this place has been open for 12 years – how the hell had I never heard of it living just five blocks away?

The menu looks great, a nice selection of pizzas and pastas and a few other dishes. The space is warm and inviting, the staff, young, bordering on but not quite reaching, hip – it’s all kind of like someone tried to cross the East Village with the Old Country and pretty much succeeded. The pizza, highly recommended by my waiter, was the tartufata, normally a mix of fresh mozzarella (no “pizza cheese” here), “truffle sauce” – which seemed to be a light bechamel with truffle oil, mushrooms, and speck. I’m trying to go a bit lighter on the red meat, so asked to leave off the latter and he told me the chef recommends substituting artichokes on this combo for the speck. The pizza – really good. The crust is near paper thin – I haven’t seen a crust that thin except on grilled pizzas normally and this may have even been thinner than those usually are. Beautifully charred. The toppings, good – the truffle oil was used carefully and didn’t have that chemical taste to it that sometime overuse causes, and the artichokes were indeed a great mix in with the flavors. If any complaint, a trifle underseasoned – maybe a few grinds of sea salt over the top and it’d be “excellent” rather than just really good. Salt on the table lightly added perked it right up, along with some grinds from a proffered pepper grinder. The pizza is big – a good 14″ or more platter, and could easily be shared by two, especially if you’re having other stuff as well, like antipasti, but, it’s so thin that I figure if you stacked up the six slices, it’d equal one Chicago slice in volume – I had no trouble polishing it off.

A complimentary glass of Ombra Prosecco, nicely balanced, nothing special, but a nice touch – and accompanied by the young lady who served it to me telling me that she knew I was a chef from Buenos Aires (no, my fame doesn’t precede me, I forgot that it’s in my OpenTable reservation system profile, but what the heck, use it, right!?) My glass of 2010 Venturini Baldini Lambrusco was a little disappointing – the wine itself was fine for what it was, but it would have been nice to know that it wasn’t a dry style Lambrusco, but a sweet one, when I ordered it – the listing of wines has nice descriptions of the flavors of each wine offered, but failed to mention that. And while the sweetness actually balanced off some of the earthiness of the truffles and artichokes, the latter being notoriously hard to pair wine with, I think I’d order something different – it would have paired better with their cheese or cured meat platters

Back to the hotel for some much needed sleep, up early, writing to all of you, and a new day awaits.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lambrusco Day May 9, 2012 at 23:36

Lambrusco style not noted: Unfortunately, quite common in the USA/outside of Emilia. Here’s a basic rule: If you don’t see the style noted on the wine list or the label, you can almost always assume that the wine is dolce/sweet, i.e. made to an importer’s specifications.

Here’s another example that is extremely confusing: http://www.lambruscoday.org/gary-vaynerchuck-on-lambrusco-617.html = The very same brand is ‘secco’ in Italy but ‘sweet’ in the USA/outside of Emilia.

dan May 10, 2012 at 02:12

I’d normally agree with you, but it was in a short list of dry Italian reds, clearly carefully selected to go with the food, and the description made it sound anything but sweet. Thankfully, at least, it wasn’t the fizzy style.

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