Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Good Things to Eat While Traveling

I like to travel within New York City, to explore the far away neighborhoods, and the not so faraway. There are so many ridiculously good things to eat here, we really are very lucky.

Just look at this bowl of Bun Rieu, the Vietnamese crab paste soup with vermicelli noodles that I recently ate in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. At Thanh Da, this soup is served with fried tofu, chunks of pork rib, tomatoes, and lots of mint. Pure savory satisfaction.

Not too long ago a good friend and I went on walkabout to explore the Forest Hills Gardens section of Queens. This is a neighborhood designed by Frederick Law Olmstead's son, and its streets are privately owned. They have their own garbage collection and security services, if I'm not mistaken. Anyway, I couldn't help but point out to my pal that Rego Park was within walking distance, and its incredible Bukharian restaurants.

We ate a memorable and very large meal at Restaurant Salute (108th street and 63rd Road). This is a kosher restaurant owned by Uzbek Jews. We began with a gorgeous plate of expertly made pickles, and two kinds of dumplings.

These are Uzbek dumplings called manti, filled with ground meat (lamb?) and spices. I love them at Salute. If they remind you of certain Chinese dumplings, that's because there was a lot of mixing of food and technique as people traveled along the silk road a long time ago.

On the Salute menu these are called "Juicy Crimean Dumplings," and I think the real name for them is Cheburek. They were delicately spiced with cumin, and were indeed very juicy and delicious.

We ate pilaf, rich with chunks of lamb, carrots, and cooked onions. Not a powerfully flavored dish, but savory and very comforting.

And we ate kabobs, of course, a skewer of lamb ribs and another of ground lamb and beef spiced with cumin. Both were expertly grilled and a with a little bit of the "sauce for meat," made of plums, dill, onions,, that's just good stuff.

I love to have a pot of green tea at Salute. Beautiful colors, delicious tea, and another reminder of how complicated the mingling of food and culture is all over the world.

Get ready for this last bit because if you live in New York, you're going to freak out a little. I was in Chicago recently and a colleague who lives there took me to a place for dinner in his neighborhood, called Humboldt Park. He had no idea that I'm into wine, he just likes this place called Rootstock. Whoa - what a find! This place simply couldn't exist in New York. There would be twice as many tables squeezed into the same space, and everything would need to be at least twice as expensive.

The food was delicious. A salad topped with pickled squash and sunflower seeds ($8) was refreshing and bright. I guess Portland and NYC are not the only places where anything can be pickled.

Chicken liver mousse with pickled cranberries and pink peppercorns ($6.50 !) was truly excellent, although served with rather uninspiring bread. But the mousse was so good that it almost doesn't matter. And that bottle you see is the 2009 Alzinger Riesling Steinertal, and it cost all of $60 on the wine list!! This is a wine that typically costs more than that at a retail shoppe in NYC, if you can find it. The wine list was excellent, really really great. There were so many things that I wanted to drink, and the prices were great, from my NYC viewpoint. This is a place that serves Bernard Baudry Chinon Blanc by the glass. There are loads of interesting beers to try, the shelves were stocked with great spirits, and to top it off this place serves Sherry by the glass too - Gutierrez Colosía's lovely Oloroso called Sangre y Trabajadero, and El Maestro Sierra's Amontillado. I mean really, folks, this place is a gem and I would go back 10 times.

And by the way, the Steelhead Trout with lentils and grilled scallions ($13 !!)...not bad with Steinertal, not bad at all. Yes, it's probably 15 years too soon to get the most out of this wine, but a good decant and two hours in, this was singing a lovely tune.


jason Carey said...

that's because new york restaurants are a complete ripoff for wine.

Fillay said...

Shhh! It's already hard enough to get a prime time table at Rootstock. Seriously, I'm glad you made the effort to seek that place out. They're totally confident in what they're doing, aren't interested in being like someplace you'd find somewhere else, and attract a friendly crowd of like-minded people. I've made it a personal goal to drink their entire stash of '08 Thomas-Labaille Cuvée Buster. Next time you're in town you'll need to reach out and let the locals show you a good time...

Anonymous said...

looks like a clubhouse for Chambers Street folks. Wish there were something like it in Rhode Island!

Maki said...

Great now I'm hungry..