Whilst in New York, we decided to give a food tour a go. It’s something we really enjoyed doing and found some places we will definitely be eating at, when we are next over there. Not only are you shown around by someone local, who can add that extra bit of information, but also it lets you try a variety of places in a couple of hours without having to research your self.
Candy was our host for the afternoon and after a potted history of New York and the East Village, we started on our way. First stop, McSorley’s Old Ale House. This is the oldest bar in New York, with Abraham Lincoln visiting back in the day and not much has changed. It remains as it always has been, sawdust on the floor and all. Offering food (we didn’t try any here, but the menu looked good) they serve two beers, dark and light. We tried some of each and both were genuinely very good, refreshing without offering too much sweetness or too much bitterness, making it very drinkable. We could easily stay here for a couple of hours, sharing stories with a group of friends.
The first ‘food’ stop was a Ukrainian place, in a basement opposite the Ukrainian Catholic Church. With no signs up, we would never have been able to discover this place just walking past and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. We had pierogi served with fried onions and the traditional sour cream. They were brilliant, perfect for a cold wintery day and just the fried onions alone were so good. The restaurant is actually owned by the church and offers traditional Ukrainian food to the locals in the neighbourhood. We would strongly recommend trying to find this place, as on a cold December day it was just what we were after.
Next stop was for some Californian tacos. New York always had a poor reputation when it came to finding good Mexican food. Although when compared to California it may still come up short, you can now find some good spots around the city. The taco place we visited had freshly made corn tortillas with a choice of fillings. Josh went for the pork cooked, in a similar way to a Doner kebab, on a spit with a pineapple at the top and then sliced off. Emily went for the chicken and although it was very juicy, it did lack a bit of punch. The sauces were all first class, from the green tomato sauce to the smoky chipotle. We wouldn’t make the trip downtown just for this place, but if you’re in the area it’s worth a look and just proves that you shouldn’t overlook a cuisine in a city, just on poor reputation.
Chinese hand pulled noodles
Next stop was for 2 dishes at a Chinese noodle place, who hand pull and freshly cook all their noodles. In fact they even have a notice up, recommending that customers getting food to take out try some before they leave, as it wouldn’t taste as good by the time it has travelled. The majority of dishes we get here in the UK tend to be Cantonese dishes, where as this restaurant brings flavours from west China which borders Nepal, Pakistan and India. This is reflected in the food, with spices such as cumin (pronounced kumin or Qmin… answers on a postcard please) playing a big part. Both dishes were great, a cold, vegetarian noodle salad and a spicy, cumin, lamb noodle dish. The lamb was very finely sliced with very long noodles, be careful as they are easy to drop down your front and splash back into the sauce! This was one of Josh’s favourite dishes from the tour. Watch out for our attempt coming soon.
We both like falafels, but these were completely different to the normal falafels you get. Really crunchy on the outside and bright green with herbs. They were really great with the tahini dip and the hot sauce. It was a slightly disappointing stop on the tour though, as it was just one falafel and although really good, it just didn’t feel like a dish. More like just tasting the patty at a burger place.
After all those savoury dishes, we were ready for something sweet. Next stop was a bakery set up by the owner ChiKa, following the success of her bar/restaurant offering some of the finest patisserie in New York. ChikaLicious opened and now offers take out cakes and is well known for its cream puffs. Similar to a profiterole you get a choux pastry ball, filled with rich vanilla cream and dusted in icing sugar. Would have been great with a mug of coffee and for those with a sweet tooth, definitely worth a look. Be careful when you eat them, as the cream filling tends to run down your fingers.
For an Italian (or more specifically, Sicilian) dish, these have become synonymous with the US and Italian Americans. A cannoli looks similar to a brandy snap filled with cream, but it’s actually a spiced pastry filled with ricotta and dried fruits. Think cheese cake in a tube, I know, amazing! The cafe was a proper Italian establishment, family owned for over hundred years and would be great place to share some coffee and cake with friends for a special occasion. If you get a chance, and you like cheesecake, definitely grab a cannoli.
Huge thanks to Candy for running such a great tour, would definitely recommend you check out http://www.foodtoursofny.com/
If you have done any food tours in other cities, let us know any good ones to check out!