Sycamore Smyth On Tour
In which I visit New York, go leaf peeping and eat the best noodles ever...
Apologies for the radio silence. I’ve been away. Visiting my brother - overachieving Heal Minor - and his family in New York. Our American cousin was in town too so it was the nicest week, hanging out, catching up, playing with the kids and generally eating our way round Manhattan and Brooklyn. We even made it out to the Hudson Valley for a spot of leaf peepin’.
Here, in no particular order are some of things I ate:
Classic Bagel from Russ & Daughters. Loved watching them hand-carve the salmon (which was delicious and not too smoky - you could really taste the fish) but it was the bagel itself which was the revelation here. Soft and chewy, although less dense than, for example, the famous Brick Lane version, and with a light but pronounced crust which wasn’t like anything I’ve had in the UK. Perhaps I just haven’t been to the right places though? Bagel recommendations appreciated!
I also paid my respects to that other Lower East Side institution Katz’s, stopping in for a Pastrami Reuben and to gawp at the table made famous by *that* scene in When Harry Met Sally. It was huge and delicious but I’m afraid no photographic evidence exists. Incidentally, you don't see Sally's order in the film but this article calls it as a turkey sandwich with Russian dressing on the side (where else?).
My brother and I went for dinner at a Mexican place called the Black Ant, it’s name not just a whimsical tribute to the Oaxacan insect but a straight-up menu preview. Their house guacamole was some of the best I’ve ever tasted, super creamy and garnished with chopped tomatillos which provided contrasting little bursts of sweet acidity. It was topped with “black ant salt” which was, as the name suggests, salt mixed with crushed black ants. Slightly tangy and genuinely delicious. We also ate some yucca-manchego and grasshopper croquettes which I was less enamoured of. Pretty tasty but if the cheesy centres hadn't been spun though with wiry little pieces of grasshopper, I'm not sure they would have lost anything... But eating insects is the future, right? Probably best to get on board now. This was the least gimmicky and most appealing argument for arthropod delciciousness I’ve come across yet.
Possibly my favourite NYC plateful was the Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodles at Xian Famous Foods. Broad, study-yet-silky wheat noodles and incredibly fragrant, savoury meat, all slick with chilli oil. We all ate way too much, way too quickly and then went to see magician Derek DelGaudio’s moving magic show In And Of Itself which I can also highly recommend. Those noodles though! I've been actively pining for then since returning home and will be attempting a recreation as soon as possible.
Another thing I’m definitely going to make at home is Momofuku Milk Bar’s famous Crack Pie. A slice of this oaty-buttery sugar bomb and an espresso kept be going through a stinking cold on a great but possibly-ill-advised 15-mile walk I undertook on my first day in the city. They helpfully provide a recipe on the website so now I just need an appropriate occasion. That and their Cereal Milk Softserve which also contains the trademark Milk Bar hint of salt amongst all the sweet.
On my last day we went to the last Smorgasburg food market of the season in Prospect Park to try as many "must-eat" dishes as we could whilst watching hipsters Instagram things served in coconuts. The stand out for me was a Taiwanese-style scallion pancake from Outer Borough, stuffed with popcorn chicken (I think there was Szechuan pepper in the slightly spicy batter) and garnished with herbs and pickled chillies.
That’s by no means everything I ate, just a few of the highlights. The great thing about being a chef is that this all counts as research! Hope you’re all well. I'll be back again soon...