Sunday, May 4, 2008

A lovely New York day... and PHOTOS!!!

Today was a lovely day in good ol' New York City, and I was feeling a little weird. Not sick-weird, but just... I don't know, weird-weird. I had to do a little work early in the afternoon, and it was just so unsuccessful and frustrating that I knew I had to get out of the apartment. I made plans to meet up with one of my friends for mid-afternoon "tea." As I prepared to leave, I knew that what I wanted was to walk down to Chelsea market, about a half hour from my place, and wander around there.

Now, I know I live in New York so am not supposed to like Chelsea Market. It's touristy and it's home of the Food Network (which I also love...hmmm...); therefore, it's not a place New Yorkers are supposed to go if they can help it. But truly, I love Chelsea Market. It has so many cool stores with row upon row of everything I like-- baked goods, kitchen utensils, ice cream, dried fruit, cheese. Ooooh, the cheese.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for: the debut of PHOTOS on Life with food and drink! I decided to ease myself into taking pictures of food by taking pictures of my trek around Chelsea Market. Somehow I felt that's less obtrusive. Right?

Fruit and chocolate at Manhattan Fruit Exchange

My first stop was the Manhattan Fruit Exchange, which is a delightful little grocery store inside Chelsea Market. They have walls and walls of chocolates, candies, dried fruit, vegetables, fruit, spices, dry goods, and cheese. I usually go there for the dried fruit, and this time, they didn't disappoint. I picked up a container of dried apple slices and a smaller box of dried pears, which were moist and sticky-sweet. Their dried fruit is really top-quality and quite inexpensive.

After picking up my dried fruit, I wandered around the Exchange for a little while. Some of the veggies looked really appealing, especially the baby bok choy (one of my favorite veggies).

MMMMMmmmm, bok choyyyyy....

As I was vaguely in the market for something to make for dinner this evening, I really should have picked up some of this bok choy, which looked crunchy, leafy, and delicious... and cheap. Later in the afternoon I saw some less-lovely-looking bok choy at Gourmet Garage for $3.99 a pound. No go!

I also spent a few moments longingly ogling the cheese counter. Now, I love me a good cheese department-- not only do I love cheese, but for some reason the display of all those different options, the different colors and textures and smells... I can stand at a cheese counter all day. The Fruit Exchange's department, the first of several I visited this afternoon, was small but fulfilling.

Cheese at Manhattan Fruit Exchange

After a quick stroll through the spices and the dry goods, I paid for my dried fruit and pried myself away from the Exchange. On to the next stop: the Italian imported food store. I'm sure this store has an actual name, but I don't really know what it is, and in my mind it will always be known as the Italian imported food store. Here, I met my friend, and we wandered through the tightly packed aisles looking at the lovely imported foods.

Of course, there was another cheese counter, or several, actually. One had a alarming large bin filled with softball-size bundles of fresh buffalo mozzarella. Oh, man. If that stuff weren't about $15 a pound, I would have bought the entire bucket. As it was, I bought nothing. Ah, the cheapness of me. My friend purchased a few items for her dinner this evening, as I looked at the barrels of olives, various flours, chocolate, and candy.

Flours n' beans


On we went, reluctantly leaving the Italian shop. We wandered in and out of the Ronnybrook outpost, Ruthy's bakery, and the wine shop. Finally, we reached the end of Chelsea Market, and we decided to continue our walk outside. Wandering through the village, we stopped in Gourmet Garage, home of the overpriced Bok Choy, but also home of another lovely cheese department, this time with samples.

Piave Vecchio, one of my favorite cheeses of all time

After we left the Garage, we stumbled upon Batch, Pichet Ong's new bakery, to my great delight. I've never been to P*Ong, but I've wanted to see what he had to offer by way of baked goods. Turns out, it's this:

Cupcakes and more at Batch!

The baked goods looked really good, and on any normal day I would have bought one (probably one of the cupcakes), but I had something else up my sleeve this evening.

Finally, we wound up our walk in Union Square. I stopped in the Whole Foods to pick up some veggies for dinner. I was hungry, but I was still undecided as to what I wanted to eat later, something that rarely happens. I went downstairs to the produce department and picked out some asparagus (I am so, so happy that it's asparagus season) and some mixed greens. Then I went to the olive/cheese department (yet ANOTHER! So much cheese in this city...) and made a beeline for the antipasto bar. I picked out a small but choice assortment: a few sundried tomatoes, some glistening and plump olives, and one-- yes, just one-- tiny ball of herb-marinated fresh mozzarella. That, in combination with some leftovers I had at home, would make a fine dinner.

I hopped on the subway, and after my train dead-ended at 34th street (a fact the conducter announced only after a 10+ minute wait stopped at the station... arhghghghgg), I took the Q to 42nd and walked home from there. On the way back, I picked up a cold bottle of Sauvignon Blanc at the 9th Avenue Vintner, my favorite local wine store. Finally, after a sun- and cheese-filled afternoon, I was back home.

I tossed the asparagus in a little sesame oil, salt, and pepper, and threw them in a pan on the stovetop. While that crackled and spattered, I cut up some wedges of tomato, sprinkled them with a bit of rice vinegar and salt, and once the asparagus was done I put those in the pan as well just to warm and roast down a bit.

While the veggies cooked, I tossed the greens in a bit of olive oil and rice vinegar and plated them on a large white platter. I added a bit of shredded carrot and arranged my pieces of antipasto on top of the greens. I added a few dollops a hummus around the plate (a mediterranean salad, perhaps?), and I placed the warm asparagus and roasted tomatoes on top. All finished, my masterpiece looked like this:

Homemade dinners are so soothing.

I poured myself a glass of the sauvignon blanc, which was absolutely juicy and fresh. I could even smell passionfruit when I opened the bottle-- which I usually think is ridiculous (who actually smells passionfruit in wine?) but I swear, this wine smelled like passionfruit. If I may say so myself, this was a damn good dinner, something I'd earned after a long week.

But that wasn't all. After a bit of time to digest, it was time for... COOKIE!!! COOKIE COOKIE COOKIE!!!
Levain Bakery's finest

My friend Lawrence, a food blogger better known as NYC Food Guy, had oh-so-kindly brought over some cookies from Levain bakery the day before. Now, I've only had Levain bakery cookies once before, but this past Friday I was craving them so strongly I almost--ALMOST-- hopped on the subway and traveled all the way to the Upper West side to pick up a chocolate chip walnut cookie. Glad I didn't-- the cookie came to me less than 24 hours later.

If you haven't had one of Levain's petite masterpieces, you haven't lived. I'm not even a cookie lover; I much prefer cake, cupcakes, ice cream, pastries... lots of other sweets, actually (although I have a soft spot in my heart for black and white cookies, also known as half moons, but more on that later). Levain cookies, however, are a different cup of tea. These cookies are hefty and highly substantial, packed full with chocolate chips and the occasional walnut. The outer edges of the softball-sized confection are golden brown and crisp, while the inside-- an inch or two thick at the center-- is almost raw, with the most decadent cookie-dough texture. Oh my goodness. Needless to say, the entire cookie disappeared quickly, with the help of a few glasses of milk. What a great ending to a lovely day.


Lawrence said...

Wow. Just wow. Colors, beauitful, radiant, bountiful colors beaming from lovely photgraphs. A great first venture, vegetables, natures bounty, colors in their truest states. Excellent. Lovin it. I don't know if I could ever read this site again without photos. That cookie looks amazing by the way. Try using the macro (the tulip icon) on your camera to get really close, in focus shots.

If you went back to Chelsea Market and could have anything besides the baby bok choy, gastric incidences aside, what would you choose?

NinerNiner said...

Hmmmm, what would I choose? That's a good question. It might be a red velvet cupcake from Ruthy's... or it might be one of those softballs of mozzarella at the Italian foods store. Or a bottle of good champagne from the wine store. Do I have to pick just one?