April 14, 2010

The Travelling Gourmand

Upper West Side, New York - to be filed under the "work doesn't always have to suck" category, a few months back a couple of us went to New York on an officially sanctioned boondoggle to gourmet shop hop. Spending my days around food coupled with my not-so-well-kept desire to operate an epicurean-mart of my own, the jaunt up and down Broadway to a few of New York's artisanal shops was just the tonic I needed to kickstart 2010.

First stop was Zabars, a 70-year old staple at 80th that stimulates nearly every sense at step one through the doors, starting w/ the open olive buckets and then with the fresh cheese shop. It was morning, and the beauty of catching a place like this before 10a is that you're able to enjoy the undisturbed portrait of all that a neighborhood market can offer.

Outside of Westside Market I caught this asymmetrical reminder that citrus season was in full stride. Next was Citarella, ever-humbly billing itself The Ultimate Gourmet Market, and with a charcuterie like the one displayed in the window I had a hard time arguing the point. Lastly we strolled through Fairway Market, which by 11a was overflowing with patrons. Their assortment was outstanding and the prices, truly by any standards, were incredibly reasonable. Our trusty chaperone said that shopping here enabled her to justify getting a bigger apartment. That should be their marketing campaign: Shop Fairway and you can finally get that elusive second bathroom!

What amazed me about every place, maybe w/ the exception of Citarella which at least seemed to have a little more real estate (or maybe fewer things cluttering the aisles), was the incredible use of space. Call it a war of necessity, but it's hard to imagine more being done with less.

Having worked up a sufficient appetite and at the insistence of our personal guide, we cabbed down to the East Village for lunch at the six-seat Porchetta, which dishes up its namesake on ciabatta and a couple of sides if one is so inclined. Porchetta is well seasoned - typically with herbs, sage, rosemary, fennel - pork rolled and roasted for hours, and the result is a complexly flavored meat interlaced with crackling, the crispy, fatty skin in which the meat has been encased (also known as a pork rind w/ the skin left on). Once your sodium hits the level at which the nearest doctor starts to write out a prescription for Lipitor, head down the street to McSorley's, where you pay in cash and one beer - light or dark - equals two.

More foodie adventures await.

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