May 26, 2016 - 6:56pm
Exploring a new travel destination through its food is fun and exciting. But in a city like New York, which has a lot to offer, where does one even begin? While one can look up celebrity chefs and popular restaurants, the best way is to eat like a local, to discover new tastes and old traditions with the help of a local food expert.
Famous Fat Dave is the food guide who literally hand held us through the various boroughs of New York city on a walking food tour, enlightening us with snippets of information on local food and culture, as we munched and sipped local treats and specialities. He may be called Fat Dave but he kept a brisk pace and was keen to introduce us to as many local foods as possible.
Our tour began in a century-old butcher shop in Soho. After a few slices of dried sausage and saying hello to the folks behind the counter, we were on our way to our next pit stop. We dug into a platter of sliced lamb shawarma and fresh vegetables in Mamoun’s Falafel shop that had people lining up even at 4 p.m. We tasted marinated fresh mozzarella and a variety of pickles on a stick before stepping into a bakery for scrumptious cannolis in West village. Cannolis are crisp pastry tubes filled with flavoured fresh ricotta. They were light, not overly sweet and made a perfect little snack.
Having learnt that we had already tasted New York-style pizza and Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, Dave said, “Let’s try upside-down pizza.” Our destination was Prince Street Pizzeria in Little Italy but, as the walk was long, we grabbed a lemon-and-poppy seed doughnut on the way.
Dave explained why the walking food tour is a good way to taste a city. “When you sit down for a nice meal in a restaurant, you feel stuffed by the end of it! Whereas here , you eat, you walk and then you eat some more and walk again.”
From Little Italy, we headed to China Town to get a taste of stuffed pancakes that Dave said were a local speciality and found in just one restaurant. The sesame-crusted pancakes with delicious duck and pork fillings had us craving for more. Dave gave us an insight into how Chinese immigrants settled down in New York; owing to this, a list of delicacies can now be devoured in this area.
When we were thirsty, Dave picked up a glass of exotic Morir Sinando — a refreshing concoction of freshly squeezed orange juice with a hint of vanilla, sweetened with condensed milk — from a Dominican restaurant. Across the street was a candy store that stocked candies for all ages and was a treat for everyone in our group, from the 40-year-old to the eight-year-old.
Our next stop was at Ray’s Tuck shop, a local landmark for over 40 years. Ray’s sinful treats included deep-fried Oreos and flavoured egg creams. By now, we were all feeling pleasantly full and wondered what more we could eat.
Just then, Dave recommended Porchetta, pork loin enclosed in pork belly and baked to perfection. One store in Soho specialised in porchetta; the lone dish on their menu. The meat, with a sprinkle of Tuscan salt, just melted in our mouths and had us salivating for more.
We decided to conclude our food tour on a sweet note, and headed to Viniero’s for a taste of New York-style cheesecake. This local speciality is a crust-less one. Although many variations of it were available at Viniero’s, we went for the classic, and it vanished in no time.
It was time for us to say good bye to Dave, as we couldn’t possibly imagine eating another morsel of food, no matter how enticing or delicious it sounded. We walked away with our tummies and hearts full. Yet, it felt like we had barely scratched the surface of the culinary adventures New York could offer.