Monday, November 15, 2010

NY and Momofuku

You know what has been the single most ubiquitous cookbook in my world for over a year now? Momofuku. I have seen the sneaky peach from that book's cover peek at me from shelves at numerous book stores, from the counters of a dozen different food stands and restaurants, and list upon list of this year's best cookbooks in magazines and blogs all over. That peach is literally everywhere, but unfortunately, the restaurant is in NY and I'm in Chicago. I was talking to my friend Joy a few weeks ago when the book popped up prominently displayed right by the register of Saigon Sisters inside the French Market, and her exasperated response was: "Momofuku! Momofuku! I'll give YOU Momofuku!" There may have been some swear words in there too, but I like to keep my blog PC. I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself here, let's start at the beginning.

Last weekend, the opportunity to go to NY for a family friend's wedding came up, and this being our first visit to the Big Apple, my sister and I decided to pack as much as was humanly possible into our two short days there. We ran through Times Square, packed with tourists and giant billboards all lit up. The Naked Cowboy was nowhere to be seen, but then it was kinda chilly.

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We did make a brief impression on the city via a live video cam on top of Forever 21. Just look for the goof doing the funky dance and me taking her picture:

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My sister barely survived an attempt on her life by the Cookie Monster. I'm telling you, that guy is vicious. He probably thought she had a cookie in her pocket:

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We zoomed past Rockefeller Center where my sister pretended she was a cast member from 30 Rock, past the giant Lego store, taking a short detour to split a Rockette Red Velvet cupcake and a glass of milk at Magnolia's:

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We made a point of grabbing a couple of hot dogs from a street vendor as well as a bag of piping hot roasted chestnuts, singing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" at the top of our lungs (no one paid us any attention):

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We popped into MoMA for a bit of culture, and stayed long enough to become part of the art:

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I mean really, what ARE those black canvases supposed to say?

And in a completely sober moment, I kissed a goat. That's right. There's proof and everything.

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We drooled over the dozens of amazing shops at Chelsea Market. I'm telling you, I wanted to buy a tent and a sleeping bag and move in there permanently. A dozen bakeries I'm sure you've all heard about were represented, including Fat Witch Brownies and Jacques Torres Chocolates. There was also a small but extremely packed shop called Buon Italia which had row after row of amazing european sundries, including this ginormous jar of Nutella that my sister wanted to smuggle back home and dedicate the rest of her life trying to slowly consume:

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My sister's friend met up with us at Buddakan in Chelsea for dinner and while I don't have pictures of the food, I have to say that stopping there is an absolute must. Pop into this gorgeous place, order up a glass of Fate (a lovely cocktail with St. Germain liquor, pineapple juice and a splash of Prosecco), and pull up the menu. The tuna tartare spring roll was a crispy shell that gave way to delicate tuna flesh, lightly soaked in ponzu sauce. The roast duck noodles and the Asian stir fry were pretty good, but the Glazed Alaskan Black Cod was the softest and most delicious piece of fish I've ever had. We finished things off with another round of drinks and the Honey Jasmine Cheesecake, which was almost mousse-like, but if you pile a bit of the moscato sorbet and carmelized pears on a bit of cake and stuff the whole thing in your mouth, the combination of textures and flavors taste just like fall. The interior was dark and elegant, so I couldn't get very many pictures, but if I find myself back in NY, I'll definitely be back for more.

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We ended the first day (yeah, that's all day one) with Avenue Q. The muppets were unexpected, neither of us knew what to expect, but we laughed nonstop from the time the curtains opened till the last of the actors were taking their bows. Amazing show, but not exactly kid friendly. Let's just say that muppet porn was an unexpected element and leave it at that.

The next day, we took our breakfast to go and spent the morning running randomly down trail after trail in our attempt to cover the southern half of Central Park. Did you know there was a castle in the middle there?

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This beautiful bridge has been featured in countless different romantic comedies set in NY so it was fun to walk across and pose for pictures on it:

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Skimming around the outskirts of the Central Park zoo, we were lured by the smells coming from this Belgian Waffle vendor:

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Do you remember this spread I told you all to run out and get a few months ago? Well, they had it, and spread over their freshly baked yeasted waffles, or Dinges as they called them, it was amazing. Lucky dinges indeed.

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Taking a quick jaunt through FAO Schwartz, past the Toy soldier made out of jelly bellys, past bin after bin of various candies, past a whole department full of muppets, and the famous giant piano, we headed south to Ssam Bar, Momofuku.

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Finally, I was going to see what all the fuss is about. We settled at the bar and right in front of us, nestled next to the row of wine glasses was "the book", as if it's been waiting for us to join it for lunch all along.

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All the talk and all the hype was definitely not for nothing. The meal was fantastic and this time I made sure to take pictures of everything. We started with a pair of mattaki oysters. I'm a huge huge huge oyster fan and these didn't disappoint. They arrived inside of a bowl of ice and tasted fresh and salty like the ocean. The cranberry halves were interesting, but I could have done without them.

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Next up were the hot open faced steamed pork buns. Each bun was soft and fluffy and brimming with tender pork slices that practically melted in my mouth. If I didn't have more food coming I would have definitely asked for seconds.

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My sister ordered the cotechino, which is a spicy sausage served with maitake mushrooms, tiny buttery brussel sprouts (which were almost good enough for me to start liking brussel sprouts...almost), and a green apple puree for a tart contrast. Each element complimented the others and we scraped that bowl clean with our forks, wishing we had some bread to mop up the juices.

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The roasted blackfish that I ordered was very good as well, but we were already slightly jaded by the cod we had at Buddakan the night before. Nonetheless, the soft sweet fish paired with tiny cubes of squash and peekytoe crab was delicious.

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At this point we were full and toying with the idea of skipping dessert, but in the end we decided that since we were finally there we may as well go all out and picked the light sounding apricot sorbet. It was very light and not too sweet, which is something I love in desserts. The crunch shortbread cookie, sage mousse and a tart tapioca provided a variety of textures and we kept trying to build spoonfuls with all the components until the plate was scraped clean.

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The rest of the trip made me happy to be a Chicagoan and I'll skip the drama, but I'm glad I was able to finally taste the wonder that is Momofuku and if I ever find myself in this great city again, I'll make sure to spend more time in Chelsea...I may need to bring an extra suitcase for all the loot I'm already planning to acquire.

3 comments:

Abby said...

What a fun trip! I haven't been to NYC in more than 10 years, sigh. I've never been with my sisters (I have two younger ones) but I think that would be fun (if we didn't kill each other in the mean time. Heh.)

Momofuku! I've always wanted to eat there to see what all the fuss is about, too.

Joy said...

I don't believe you actually remember what I said. Only you.

Truly Smitten said...

looked like a FABULOUS trip!! My hubbie and I are dying to try Momofuku! he even bought their book and tried to replicate some of the recipes...epic FAIL!