A culinary tour of NYC, Part III.

Believe it or not, I saved the best for last. Don’t miss Part I and Part II.

Shake Shack — Madison Square Park/Flatiron (multiple locations)

There used to be only one Shake Shack location. I think it was also only open for certain months, and it was so popular that you could easily wait an hour or more in line for its legendary burgers, fries and milkshakes. I attempted that line once or twice, but I just never made it through. Now, there’s a Shake Shake on every corner in NYC. I’ve even heard they’re expanding to locations in London.

At the close of another full day of eating, we ended up at the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. The line was short, and there were tables aplenty. Perfect. Except that it was slightly north of freezing — a bit chilly for eating outside. I was quite happy, though, to tuck into a classic cheeseburger with ShackSauce and crinkle-cut french fries doused in this light, creamy cheese sauce. None of that neon-orange, gloopy, chain/stadium-style stuff here. Shake Shack’s selling point is quality — and you can taste it in the freshly ground meat and homemade sauces. My only regret is that it was too cold outside and I didn’t fell well enough to order a milkshake. So, guess I’ll have to go back. Poor me.

After so many years of waiting, I’m glad to report that Shake Shack lived up to the hype. It was dee-licious.

shakeshack

burger

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A culinary tour of NYC, Part II.

My culinary tour of NYC continues. Don’t miss Part I.

Sunday Brunch — Harlem

You’d think that since I’m southern, I would know soul food. And I thought I did, until I went to Sylvia’s in Harlem. It was years ago, but it’s still the best fried chicken and red velvet cake I’ve eaten anywhere, including in any southern state. Sorry to betray my roots with truth. So I was excited to get my Sylvia’s fix again this trip. We attempted Sunday brunch … but here’s the rub. Sylvia’s is so good that it’s in demand. (Read: constantly packed and touristy). On this rainy Sunday morning, we could barely squeeze in the front door. And since we were on a bit of a schedule, that wouldn’t do.

Instead, we walked across the street to Corner Social, which was unknown to us but had a great look and an even better-looking menu. I spotted exactly what I wanted before we even sat down — an item that had long evaded me, even earning a spot on my official culinary bucket list: chicken and waffles. Well, in this case, it was chicken and pancakes. (Close enough.) I find crispy, savory fried chicken over fluffy pancakes drowned in maple syrup a genius combo. It’s sweet and salty. Soft and crispy. The perfect marriage of opposite, yet complementary, flavors and textures.

chicken-pancakes

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Cooking Spree: Homemade Applesauce

It’s a question that paralyzes me every time. That summons the angel to one shoulder and the devil to the other.

“Would you like chips, bread or an apple with that?”

I try to behave when I eat at Panera Bread, and choose that apple to accompany my meal instead of more bread (delicious!) or potato chips (decadent!). But, instead of keeping the doctor away, I just collect a lot of tiny apples that I never eat.

Then last week I came home with a bag of apples someone brought my family from a nearby orchard. So I stared at those, alongside my Panera stash, perplexed. What do you do with such abundance?

I could have made a tart or a pie, but I was trying to eat decently healthy. Continue reading

Culinary Bucket List: Rhubarb

Somehow in my more than 30 years (ahem) on this planet I have missed (escaped?) a run-in with that lithe, fuchsia vegetable known as rhubarb. Sure, I know what it is and what it looks like. I know people bake with it, and that it is often married with strawberries and featured in things called “slumps” and “grunts,” or more familiarly, crumbs, crisps and pies. I’ve never actually had the pleasure (?) myself, though.

I sort of despise celery, unless it’s well cloaked in soup or sauce, so avoidance of rhubarb in its resemblance to pink celery could have been unconscious. That certainly doesn’t endear me to it.

But people seem to speak of rhubarb with a certain reverence — as a plucky little vegetable that transforms from a crunchy and bitter stalk to a tart, soft compote. It creates desserts that we associate with our heritage, like those old English puddings and American-settler era fruit crisps. I’ve heard rhubarb described as “what tart would smell like, if tart were a smell.”*
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Culinary Bucket List: Chicory Coffee

One of the horrors of my life so far is that I haven’t been to New Orleans. Nope, I’ve never strolled the French Quarter past the wrought-iron trellises as jazz wafts through the air. And now I’m way too old and modest to road trip to Mardi Gras to drink hurricanes, flash my goods for beads and stumble around Bourbon Street. I kind of regret that I didn’t visit before Katrina, though now the city gets to show off its pluck and battle scars, which can only give it more character.

I’ve always thought New Orleans would have the same sensibility as Savannah, since they share deep historical roots, stifling humidity, a dark undercurrent of voodoo and mysticism and a general style of “elegant decay.” This is shameful to admit, but a lot of what I know about New Orleans is only pieced together from scenes in The Pelican Brief, those Zatarain’s commercials or The Real World: New Orleans. But I hear it’s a great foodie town. And that brings me to the next item on my culinary bucket list.

Today’s Eatocracy blog has a nice roundup on traditional New Orleans fare, and there are a lot of things listed that I’ve never eaten. I’ve never tasted true filé gumbo, sucked the brains out of a crawdad, enjoyed a shrimp po’ boy or a mouth-searing dish of jambalaya. I am confounded by something called étouffée, but I do enjoy saying it over and over again. Of all those foodie experiences though, my number one goal is to someday enjoy a cup of chicory coffee. Keep reading »

Culinary Bucket List: Durian

I’m sure we all have a bucket list — whether on paper or just in our heads — and it contains a variety of important items. (Actually, I hate the term “bucket list” but I use it for lack of another. It’s the “things to do before you kick it” list.)

I have several lists … one for travel, books to read, general life accomplishments. But I also have one for culinary adventures. Things I have to eat before I go. Keep reading »