For the last 2 years at the ICC, we've made a point to eat at a 'nice' restaurant. This year we decided to hit as much casual food as possible. This wasn't due to any current industry trends, but more of a reflection of our finances and having to fund our entire journey out of our own pockets. No matter how small or uncomfortable our hotel room was, no matter the fact that we became more subway savvy to avoid cab fares, and no matter what big name chef's food we didn't get to try... this was one of my best years ever. I felt lucky, moreso than before, to be in attendance and for the chance to get the information firsthand. The chefs that attend the ICC aren't full of ego. The vibe is incredibly friendly and everyone seems happy to meet new chefs and make new friends. I just wish we could have found that Will Goldfarb BBQ truck also.
Here were my 'down and out' casual food memories...
Best pizza ever in my life. Guillermo at Motorino in Brooklyn gave us the hook-up, but for a short subway ride from Manhattan and a fair price, I highly recommend the visit. We (our group of 6) dined out back with olives and amazingly fresh salads before moving onto Guillermo's brick oven baked flatbreads, calzones, and pizzas. The best pizza was... brussel sprouts and speck. The flavor of the char on the edges of each brussel sprout leaf balanced out the flavors perfectly.
The hands-down best way ever to make pizza. There's something about a wood-burning brick oven. I've been obsessing about building one for some time now. Hopefully, I will have the time, motivation, and money to fulfill this destiny once we close on our house. The backyard is screaming for one... ok, maybe I'm the only one who can hear it screaming, but it keeps me up at night.
The late-night subway crew (2 Argentinians & 3 gringos)... Guillermo, Zilla, Chef K, Fabian, Mark. Guillermo used to be our friend Alberto's (with us but not in the picture) pastry chef in Miami. He moved back to NY to become one bad-ass pizza-meister. If you want to open a brick oven restaurant, it only makes sense to hire an Argentinian to run the oven. These guys learn to manage a fire before they can walk. Being a pastry chef on top of that just makes him even more perfect for the job.Fette Sau. Although someone said it's been rated among the top 10 BBQ joints in the US which seems ridiculously outrageous to claim, it's not bad. This place was fun. Get your meat by the quarter pound on a half sheet pan, pick your drink up at the bar, and live the dream in Brooklyn.
Baoguette at the Congress. Although I don't know where the original store is, the word in NY is that this place is hot. $8 for a banh-mi seems like Vietnamese blasphemy, but I can say from experience that this slightly untraditional sandwich is the best banh mi I've ever eaten in my 15 years of banh mi-eating history.Di Palo's Italian Market. We met the coolest NY Italian behind the counter at Di Palo's. Aside from the incredible porchetta, focaccia, and asiago that made for our last NY meal, he shared a few other tastes with us in his shop. Check out this gigantic Swiss crucolo that we were lucky enough to watch being cut during our stop.
Here's a close-up of that rip. The cheese is being crushed by it's own weight.
Golden King Bakery. A Chinatown hole in the wall. Being an early riser and having this place right across the street equals coffee and congee every morning. After nights of heavy alcohol consumption, a light congee with pork and thousand year egg gets you ready for another run. I'd love to stay in Chinatown again next year, but for a much cheaper room rate... thanks, UN convention!
Flying out to Venezuela on Thursday for 3 demos over 3 days. Looking forward to every bit of the trip except for the kitchen we had to prep in last year... not ideal at all. It's like some Top Chef nightmare.