Chef Adam (Executive Chef & General Manager for Epicurean at Sports Authority Field at Mile High) and myself recently we had the honor of visiting New York City as part of a culinary research & development (R&D) trip with the owner of Epicurean Group, Larry DiPasquale. It was our first time in NYC and we were ready for a fun filled, research packed trip. Although the trip was fast and furious, we immersed ourselves into the fabric of the city.
The city that never sleeps is a true metaphor for this amazing concrete jungle. There is always something to see or do or eat. Skyscrapers of metal, old brick buildings, eclectic neighborhoods, packed restaurants on every corner; amazing.
We made our way through many neighborhoods on our first night. Starting in Little Italy, we were invited into a number of restaurants and markets. The butcher shop that has been there for 50 years, the new restaurant in an old fire house, and the classic Italian outpost where one could imagine the ‘Godfather’ to hold court. Every bite of food and staff story told was inspirational.
From there we meandered towards the West Village, seeking risotto. Around the corner was a fabulous, closet-sized restaurant; jam packed and moving fast. It was a risotto restaurant, yes they served pizzas and salads and such, but the risotto was the star of the show, rightfully so. Perfectly cooked risotto, a wild smattering of flavors, and giant breadsticks to scoop up the last bits of flavor; who would have thought that it was a completely gluten free restaurant. Every baked treat, pizza dough, and breadstick was gluten free, and was so amazingly tasty; they probably fool all sorts of guests. We walked off our risotto bellies by stopping into a few more markets and cheese shops in the West Village. Lest not forget the French macaroon shop and the gelato treats!
The city is so inviting and gripping that you just want to keep seeing what is on the next corner or street or menu. It is mind boggling how all of these amazing places and people co-exist in such small quarters. It is a city in constant motion being directed like a seamless orchestra where all the moving pieces are in harmony.
Let’s talk about Brooklyn, a short cab ride over a bridge or a subway tunnel under the East River and you’re in a different realm. Still bustling and vast, there is a different feeling here. The ‘suburbs’ of the city is what most people coin Brooklyn as, but truly it is a makeup of mini neighborhoods each with their own style and confidence. Williamsburg was where we spent most of our time. Beginning at a local butcher and then finding a gem of a kitchen store, the Brooklyn Kitchen. A housewares store that offers local food items and teaches cooking classes daily. We met great locals who told us about some ‘must see’ places. From here we ventured to Fortunato Brothers, a traditional Italian bake house with the best cappuccino of the trip. A few more great stops before we ended our Brooklyn visit by crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot. It was quite the feeling to be up on the bridge with so many others and look out upon the vast sprawl of the Manhattan sky line.
A New York City visit wouldn’t be complete without a slice of pizza, or three. We visited Don Antonio’s pizzeria near Times Square for our first dinner, that’s right; it was a two dinner kind of night. First dinner was comprised of house made truffle burrata, a few types of salads and two napoleon style pizzas. Another restaurant that was packed to the gills. We weaved our way through Times Square and all the lights, billboards, and people. Then it was off to second dinner. Il Buco Alimentari e Vinera. This place had it all, a packed dinning room, a market, house cured meats, delicious food, and a wonderful ambiance. The menu items were simple and concise; presentation and flavor were on point, the best meal of the trip.
The last day of the trip centered on the piece d’ resistance of the NY food Mecca, Eataly. Eataly NY was founded in 2007 and is best described as an Italian marketplace with multiple restaurants utilizing the most fresh and local ingredients. What a beautiful place! From the coffee shop to the marketplace to the multiple restaurants and the rooftop beer garden; if you need food, travel, or life inspiration, this is the place. The deli cases are filled with fresh produce, fish, pasta, meats, and breads. Their bread house runs 24 hours a day. They bring in fresh shrimp and sea urchin on a weekly basis. Their pasta station produces all the pasta for the seven restaurants in the building. Eataly is the epitome of full food utilization and efficiency. They do a wonderful job of teaching the consumer how to shop fresh, local, and organic. Clearly, we stayed for quite some time and are making plans to travel back there as soon as we can.
At no point in my life have I been so over indulged by such great food, people, spirits, and energy. We were so thrilled to be part of this culinary R&D trip! Cheers!
(Submitted by Nikki Olst, Executive Sous Chef / Pastry Chef, Sports Authority Field at Mile High)