WordPress issues last night published this thing prematurely
Day 1 can be found here. Day 2 was interesting to say the least.
There’s something about spending the evening in NYC while knowing you don’t have to drive home soon. Although my favorite part is waking up in the big city. There’s this level of serenity, like the great calm after the storm. Beautiful young drunk boys and girls are coming home after their one night stands, one reminder after another that you went to sleep way too early last night, and you are just old. People talking to themselves without ear pieces, is another early morning phenomenon.
The best advice I can give a real tourist (as oppose to the fakes like me) is to skip the hotel breakfast option. Come out, explore, follow your nose to the nearest bakery, coffee shop, etc. A Frenchman walks into a bar with a toad on his head. The bartender asks “where the hell did you get this”, the toad replies “In France, they got a million of those” So is coffee shops in NYC these days, and bagels everywhere you turn. Squirrel seekers can even find a plethora of flat whites all over town these days. Instead of sharing a hotel dining room with sandal and socks wearing tourists, come out and eat where the locals eat, and meet some of them. Like Everyman Espresso around the corner from the Hyatt Union Square. Voted by the Daily Meal as one of the best coffee in America, where we enjoyed some fine latte and flavored muffins. A light little breakfast, to save room for a great lunch and dinner, is the way to go in NYC
We then checked out of the hotel and started walking toward our next destination, the one that crashed Trip Advisor. A trip without walking through Madison Square Park is a like a trip without sunshine. Its not only the squirrel capital of the world and the place to see unique art installations, but this is also the place where magic happens… Shake Shack. Well, the original one at least. Shake shack employees and a few squirrels joined together for a pre-opening meeting this fine morning. It occurred to me how large this SS operation really is.
Whenever we look for parking in that area with the kids, somehow, for some bizarre Freudian reason we find a spot right by the Museum of Sex. The kids are too shy and embarrassed to ask any questions about this, and we are too embarrassed and lazy to explain. Since wifey and I are now kidless we decided to pop in. Would you believe it if I told you that this was not only fun and unique, but educational? You got an interesting exhibit dedicated to Linda Lovelace. Funland, a playground for adults that features a new spin on Kentucky Derby horse racing, Grope Mountain climbing!, and a bouncy house where you are surrounded by inflatable fake breasts, some of which were more wrinkly than others I noticed! And who witnessed a German tourist breast suddenly pop out while bouncing? This guy! The educational part: Animals and sex. Very interesting facts and tales like about ducks raping other ducks after chasing and killing them. Another floor offers extremely interesting displays that I can not possiby describe here, and the first floor is a store offering among other things, new pasta shapes I havent seen yet. A new meaning to Al Dente (firm… get it?)
We proceeded to walk toward our first culinary highlight of the day, but first we pass Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop and it occurred to me.. I havent been here in 13 years since I worked at Forbes.com around the corner. That brought back memories. “Just browsing” I told the clerk, as I had brunch plans. This is not the place for browsing. You attack this thing with full force.
Add the burger at The Gander to the list of NYC growing must eat burgers. This beauty is priced well at $16, available for lunch/brunch only. 28 day dry-aged beef, cheddar – adding anything else to it except for the bone marrow mayo that comes on the side would be criminal. Juiciness level I haven’t experienced since college! Confit Duck Hash, Poached Duck Egg, Port Béarnaise, Duck Chicharrónes was very good, while could have used some acidity in the form of roasted tomatoes or something, but enjoyable nonetheless. Good drinks, great service, nice looking rooms (got filled up a few minutes after the picture was taken). Will be back for more at this 2 month old for sure
We then took a walk along 6th ave toward midtown to witness one of our great holiday celebrations… The Dominican Day Parade (special thanks to TER and ZTAKS from Trip Advisor for this suffering ;)) It was actually quite fun though a tad too crowded. We overheard one visitor ask a police officer if this was the American Independence Day parade.
A mistake on my part. Plan at this point was to walk all the way west to 12th ave, Hudson River. The 20 minute walk turned to be challenging due to the heat. And on top of that, the Citibikes in that station (12th and 40th) had problems with credit cards and 24 hour passes. I have an annual pass but Mrs Z doesn’t.
We managed to get bikes a block away and Mrs Z managed quite fine for her first bike ride in the city without any incidents. I chose the Hudson River Park as its flat, carless, and quite Obama-care friendly. We then parked the bikes in West Village and took advantage of the green space on that end of Hudson River Park, one of my favorite parks in the city overlooking the Hudson and Jersey City. Manhattan has pretty cool parks these days, something I wasnt able to say 10 years ago. We then walked all over West Village all the way to the hotel crossing the always vibrant Washington Square Park yet again
Although we already checked out of the hotel, we were able to use the facilities to make ourselves pretty, or make Mrs Z pretty for our dinner at Ma Peche with friends from Brooklyn. Cant say enough about this place, their new cart service, the fried chicken, and those addictively sick rice cakes (Korean gnocchi on crack) I constantly dream about. Highly recommend Ma Peche. Try the Seven Spice Sour cocktail if you go
We capped off the night at one of my favorite bars in town, the rooftop at Ink48. Glorious moon, glorious views, and another glorious day in the city I call home!
There’s very little doubt as to what is my 12 year old’s favorite store in the entire world. M&M’s World. Whenever we enter the store, her eyes bulge, and she’s not sure what area to hit first. She’s like a kid in a candy store! In a way, I felt similar symptoms when I found myself kidless for 9 days for the first time in 14 years. There’s only one thing I love more than exploring NYC with my beautiful daughters.. exploring without them. Although I normally feel free to eat wherever I want, this is a brand new level of culinary freedom, with endless wants and possibilities. Instead of skipping town, Mrs Z and I decided to stay put and play tourists. We wanted the real Australian tourist experience which includes staying in a trendy hotel, complaining about hotel A/C noise, and taking pictures of squirrels. Day 1 out of 4…
*****Mostly iPhone pictures on day 1 as I wasn’t planning to do this post. I don’t want you to think that I’m a terrible photographer. I am, but I don’t want YOU to think that.
My weakened eating adventure started the day before where I enjoyed a Don Antonio Diavolo pie and a shared this pizza Fritta, a giant fried calzone stuffed with mozzarella, tomatoes and salami. Don Antonio to me is the closest to eating pizza in Italy due to the style, ingredient quality, and female employees speaking with Italian accents
I work in Hell’s Kitchen, and ‘Disiac lounge off 54th and 9th is the place my coworkers frequent the most. I’ve seen the bar much more livelier than on this Saturday afternoon, but we did discover something important about us. We don’t like CAIPIRINNA, the Brazilian national drink. Getting mrs Z drunk – Failed! We did enjoy however in this Israeli owned bar, a falafel platter, with hummus, babaganoush, grilled pitas, and fine red Yemeni S’chug. My favorite Hummus in the area is still at Gazala’s however.
My hotel of choice was the Hyatt Union Square, a stylish boutique with ultra modern rooms (the ones where you can see yourself shower), comfy bed and pillows, a magazine rack in the bathroom with magazine! (for those not willing to spend extra for wifi!), valet parking (if it costs $65 is that still considered an amenity), and perhaps my favorite amenity in any hotel.. A Flat Screen TV! If there’s a flat screen TV in every single hotel in the world, is it still considered an amenity? Why not list “Bed” as well? But in all seriousness, this was a fine stay that would have been finer if they hadn’t put us next to the elevator.
We’ve been to Washington Square Park before many times, but never experienced it quite like this time. A giant Star Wars flash mob cock fight. It was quite a scene. We didnt stay late enough but at some point we were told that they got divided into groups to fight each other to the death. Or until their little Jedi swords broke, whichever came sooner. There were also the usual park musicians and art like sand displays, and a fake birds eating fake pizza showing.
We capped off the night at Casa Mono, one of the premier tapas joints in town. All 6 dishes including one dessert were quite good. I especially liked the duck egg with potatoes, Mojama and some ultra perfumy summer black truffles. The calamari like Razor clams were slightly overdone though still quite enjoyable. Nice skirt steak with Romesco, reminiscent of the Gato scrambled egg. Goat confit was expertly prepared with avocado purée. I can’t get enough goat lately. Perhaps my favorite dish however was the Fideo with chorizo and clams. I don’t understand why I so rarely see fideo on menus. The one big issue I had was the frequency of the dishes coming out. Started with two right away, and the next 3 came in at the same time pretty much. In a place like this where sharing is key you would think they would get it by now
A nice walk back to the hotel included a visit to Union Square Park where I saw the the youngest street performer I’ve ever seen (5 maybe?) among a group of many other dancers. Day 2 coming up! Any comments? Question? threats?
A little French chicken humor for ya to set the mood. The list is getting bigger, my sense of humor is getting smaller, here’s what I’m adding…
Pizza and Beer – Annabel. Just tried it a few hours ago (the things I do for you people. And for what?). Just opened last week. Kinda striking, woodsy space. Great Neapolitan like wood oven pizza with nifty toppings like ricotta, duck prosciutto, blueberry chutney, an even better looking craft beer menu on tap, fresh pasta and more. Cant wait to explore the rest of this menu. Behind the name is another cow story
Vietnamese – Co Ba 53. About time we get some decent Vietnamese here. Nice Pho (soups) and Bahn Mi and very affordable combinations for lunch. Try the Banh mi thit -assorted cold cuts, grilled honey plum glazed pork, house made pickles, cilantro, jalapenos, and mayo. For something a bit more exotic but really exceptional try the Bun Co Ba – Crispy spring rolls with grilled tiger shrimp, and honey plum glazed pork over rice vermicelli with fresh herbs, served with a chili lime dressing and peanuts.
Sushi – Ageha Sushi - So I went on a Sushi Sabbatical of sorts in the neighborhood and discovered.. new Italian bars that I’m very excited about! And yes, decent sushi can be found here indeed. At Ageha I felt most comfortable alone, and with a group. Sashimi is nice and fresh, and the Chirashi although not too traditional, was plentiful and very satisfying. For something slightly higher end looking but just as affordable consider Shimizu which also has excellent lunch deals.
Rotisserie Chicken – Poulette. Little French Chickens invading Hell’s Kitchen. Young French dude, quits his job in finance to follow his dream.. manufacture French style Rotisserie Chicken. Only a few weeks old. I tried the half with 2 sides which turned out to be a bit of a struggle to finish for a big eater like me, so a quarter chicken next time. This thing was love at first bite — Moist, delicious, coated with plenty of herbs which was the difference. Some of the best Rotisserie I’ve had. This is more of a fast food place. If you require more of a restaurant for your chicken needs, try Inti on 10th for Peruvian style Rotisserie chicken, and Ceviche.
Stay hungry my friends!
Pad Ped Moo Krob at Larb Ubol (above) – Everything I love about Thai food is bundled oh so nicely in this dish. Crunchy, well cooked fatty pork, sweet pleasant chili heat, green peppercorn galore, that wonderful curry paste, and plenty of veggie action including Thai eggplant which I cant get enough. Perfection on a plate, but not for the heat sensitive. Dont confuse this unassuming Thai on 9th/37th with the rest of the mostly mainstream Thai on 9th and 10th. This is Isan (North) cooking at its finest. However, if you still hesitant to trek to Hell’s Kitchen out of fear of being kidnapped by the Westies, Zabb Elee in East Village may do the trick
Rotisserie Chicken at Poulette - Little French Chickens invading Hell’s Kitchen. Young French dude, quits his job in finance to follow his dream.. manufacture French style Rotisserie Chicken. Only a few weeks old, and not in the Guide quite yet, but will be be very soon. I tried the half with 2 sides which turned out to be a bit of a struggle to finish for a big eater like me, so a quarter chicken next time. This thing was love at first bite — Moist, delicious, coated with plenty of herbs which was the difference. Some of the best Rotisserie I’ve had. This is more of a fast food place. If you require more of a restaurant for your chicken needs, try Inti on 10th for Peruvian style Rotisserie chicken, and Ceviche. Mrs Z wont allow me to quit my job and do what I do best… hard boiled eggs Al Pastor Tacos at Tehuitzingo – Midlife crisis is pushing me into a taco craze as of late. When I don’t eat out with my lunch buddies, I construct a little taco tasting in a neighborhood abundant with Taquerias and Bodegas. Tehuitzingo, a bodega turned Taqueria is always the last stop, and their porky goodness Al Pastor is second to none. When they closed, food tour leaders went on a collective hunger strike (only two meals a day), but not only they reopened, they multiplied (second branch on 9th/41st). Ceviche Mixto at Inti – Talking of Inti, why not feature one of their specialties. The Peruvians, I bet you didn’t know, invented quite a lot of things that keeps society ticking. Transportation systems, roped bridges, Pisco Sour, and yes they invented the ceviche. At Inti you get fresh chunks of fish, shrimp, octopus and calamari marinated in lime juice and mixed with red onions, cilantro and rocoto hot pepper, and served with sweet potatoes and baby corn. Good luck finding this in a Pio Pio near you. Ice Cream & Popsicles at the Brooklyn Kitchen – “Winter Is Coming” says Game of Thrones. Get the summer goodies while you can. Enter Gotham West Market, go straight, look down, deliciousness awaits. Amazing artisenal ice cream sandwiches, and popsicles from popular area vendors like La Newyorkina. No mass production stuff here. Small batches and high quality ingredients is key. You will not taste anything better than this
I Ziggy the II, bite my nails! I dont do it because I’m often nervous, gamble, or watch “The Bachelor” a lot. Its just a habit I developed as a child that never really went away. And after reading a report
on Twitter by a reliable source that, get this, people who bite their nails tend to have a stronger immune system & rarely get sick, I’m not stopping any time soon. I may even offer to bite other people’s nails if they suffer from this fetish. I do very rarely get sick. I also have this thing where I need to lick my fingers before using a napkin, no matter who I’m eating with, and where I am. Using napkins on saucy fingers just feels very wrong. I may have been also a tiny little bit stinky before this particular meal, after a 4 hour walking tour of Hell’s Kitchen I was conducting right before the meal. Not to mention the bike run to Tribeca for Nish Nush Falafel for lunch.
So here I was…slightly stinky, tehina smelling, unmanicured fingers, on our anniversary dinner at the oil tycoon section of 2 Michelin Star Marea. Being surrounded by big glamour, and wealth I felt as comfortable as watching a Cialis commercial with the kids. But,
after 2 drinks it didn’t take long until we settled down and enjoyed another fine meal at one of New York’s finest. By the way, I did shave for this one. I’m not an animal!
Crudo trio – Pretty forgettable overall. Exhibit A: I don’t remember much of it. Tried the razor clams, langoustine, and snapper. The snapper (Dentice) had the most flavor, and the Razor Clams not nearly as good as little sister Costata.
Astice – I was totally wowed by this a few years ago, but not this time. This dish if you recall won a spot at the ultra coveted EatingWithZiggy Best dishes of 2012. This time I felt the supporting cast.. the basil seeds and eggplant forgot their lines and stumbled on their faces. All I was tasting was the lobster and your average burrata. Nevertheless it was still far from terrible, and a dish I recommend targeting for first timers. After the initial impression I was just expecting way too much
Octopus – (above) Outstanding! Some of the most tender, flavorful octopus I’ve ever had. Loved the accompanying smoky potatoes and the salad (onions, radish, chilies). I twitted this dish after the meal and a response from Marea followed saying this was on the menu from day one
3rd Course – Both half portions:
Agnolotti – (half portion) Stuffed with milk braised veal these pillowy ravioli simply exploded with flavor as properly made Agnolotti should. Enjoyed this one a lot even though I was disappointing by the little tiny cube thingies they call “Porcini”. We are from the amazing Porcini we had in Siena
Strozzapreti with Crab and uni – (half portion) One of their classics which they mistakenly excluded from the online menu at the time of this dinner. So if you don’t see it on the online menu, don’t believe it. Perfectly al dented, chewy “Priest Stranglers” with the Uni dominating in a very good way. The sauce seems a little different this time around than two years ago but still quite lovely
Fusilli (full portion) – Of course I had to have this again. This is one of the most celebrated pasta dishes in town and I may have enjoyed it even more now. Generous amount of octopus, perfectly cooked Fusilli but the red sauce with the bone marrow is as addictive as red sauce can be. A joy with every scoop
Halibut – I wasnt too sure about this one. I mean its a freakin halibut (firm, mild, dries quickly), and very often for us after all those rich primis, fish just doesnt deliver much. This one did! Halibut cooked nicely, not too dry, but what made the dish was the Fregola Sarda, little bubbly Israeli couscous-like pasta. With a little pleasant heat the pasta worked very well with the mild fish.
Aria Mascarpone – very good sponge cake with pistachio cream and an excellent robiolina (cheese) gelato. After two meals and having some of the their most popular items like the Bombolonis I still dont have a solid dessert recommendation. But, cant recommend Marea highly enough. Just make sure to shower
240 Central Park S
Recommended Dishes: Astice, Octopus, Agnolotti, Strozzapreti, Fusilli, Halibut
I will make this one nice and quick, just like a lovely lunch at Danji in Hell’s Kitchen. Photos this time courtesy of the Iphone 5 with semi sweaty palms. Spring was cancelled this year in case you haven’t noticed, so we went from winter straight to sweaty palms
Danji, the only restaurant in the world that owns both a Michelin Star and a spot in Ziggy’s Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide. No one else can claim this
dubious distinction. Hakkasan, the only other Michelin Star establishment in Hells Kitchen, tried but failed. Maybe next year Hakkasanians. Don’t know how Daniel and Masa alumni Hooni Kim feels about this accomplishment, but my gut tells me he probably doesnt even know. I mean seriously, how many people you know even heard of Michelin Stars! Certainly none of my Korean American friends.
Anyway, Danji is the type of place you take your sexy new coworker for lunch to introduce her to the neighborhood. I cant think of a better culinary introduction to Hell’s Kitchen, even though Danji is not located on the prettiest block (ugly industrial looking office buildings + an army of people waiting for a table at Totto staring at their phones). Reservations arent accepted for parties less than 6, but I never had any trouble getting a table for 2 and something 4 for lunch. The menu, which you will find in a drawer under your table is full of a Korean inspired fancy bar food. Mostly small plates.
After several lunches with family, friends, loved ones, here are 4 dishes that will make your taste buds go Gangnam style
Tofu W. Ginger Scallion Dressing soy vinaigrette – Creamy interior, crunchy exterior, delicious all around. One of the best tofu dishes I ever had. EWZ historians claim that this is the only recommended tofu dish on EWZ
Spicy ‘K.F.C.’ Korean Fire Chicken Wings honey, garlic, four chilies – These are simply some of the tastiest wings you will ever have in NYC. Plenty of heat, plenty of joy, and plenty of finger licking followed by Gynecologists convention like finger smelling session
Bulgogi Beef Sliders spicy pickled cucumber and scallion salsa – One of Danji’s specialties. Small and explosive
Kimchi Pork Bibim-Bop satur farm vegetables, jidori egg, and aged kimchi w. pork – My latest discovery (top picture, below mixed). Mix in all the goodies with the sauce and you got a beautiful medley of textures and flavors. Note, my vegan friend, lets call her Phoebe (because thats her name) really liked the veg version. Bring your vegan friends here.
Warning: Some of these images may be disturbing. They may include large crowds, pictures of alcoholic beverages, tender grilled octopuses (yes, octopuses is not only acceptable but rolls off the tongue better.. try saying it a few times.. Octopuses) and ways in which we can cheat the system and walk around holding an alcoholic beverage on the streets of NY. They may also include scenes way too familiar to the average NY food festival goer including pictures of Shish Kebab, corn, and strange looking dudes sporting cats and giant beer bottles on their heads.
I’m also taking this opportunity to award the first ever ZAG award to the vendor showing excellence via most palatable eats. The ZAG (Ziggy Against Gyros) goes to Empanada Mama and their terrific Brazil and Spicy Chicken Empanadas. Congratulations guys.
Some changes to the Hell’s Kitchen Bodega scene prompts me to make quick changes to the guide.
A bodega, for those who dont know, is a Mexican deli or mini market that often serves food (tacos, burritos, etc) as well. Its sort of a NYC thing, and a good way to experience authentic Mexican in a city not exactly known for it
Hell’s Kitchen theses days is suddenly packed with all sorts of exiting Mexican in different price points. That includes some of the best bodegas in town. Unfortunately, one of my favorites Guelaguetza now appears to be closed, and I wish David and his family all the best. I already miss munching on their terrific burritos while watching Dora the Explorer with their kids. And it was the good stuff, with Diego around.
But thats no reason to cancel your holiday if you ask me. Lately I’ve been on the hunt for some good tacos (midlife crisis Stage IV) all over the area and the undisputed winner is Tehuitzingo. Their tacos are so good they are now multiplying, opening yet another Taqueria on 9th and 41st while at the same time renovating the original to look more like a Mexican disco than a bodega. Try the Al Pastor taco, roasted marinated pork.
A few additions to the guide…
Dessert (about time eh?) – Kee’s Chocolates, Little Pie Company
Doner/Turkish – Adding Turco (needed some convincing) over Hansi (need more convincing but lunch deal is good)
Farm to Table – The Marshal. A solid Addition to the neighborhood
Pizza – Capizzi. A nice alternative to Don Antonio
Best HK dining that’s not actually in HK – A new category for theater goers and those who want to experience some of NY’s finest just outside the area.
Tried other candidates which fell short. Spent a lot of time at Gotham West which saw its first casualty already (Little Chef). “An exciting replacement” according to a GWM rep will be announced soon. In case you missed the recent post on Gotham, here it is. Also added links to the recent “top dishes” posts.