During my short trip to New York City, I kept a notepad in my bag to record all the great things I ate. My friends were quite amused. I filled up several pages so I’m going to record my gastronomical journey around Manhattan.
My friends and I arrived in NYC shortly before lunchtime, so we dropped our bags at the hotel (in Chelsea) and hit the streets heading toward Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. I figured it would have a ton of restaurants to choose from, so there was no real plan. Unfortunately, what I didn’t know was that all the great restaurants were a street over but we were starving when we finally happened upon Manatus. I had a light arugala salad with walnuts and snow peas that was good, but a tad pricey. My friends weren’t terribly impressed with their food (meaty stuff–I didn’t pay attention to it), so it wasn’t the best way to start off our trip. But the patio was nice despite having been yelled at by a passer-by who apparently does not approve of “ladies who lunch.” I decided not to argue with him and his assertion that I’m “lazy” and “don’t know how to cook.”
I didn’t fill up at lunch, because I knew that just down the way, there was a cupcake waiting for me at the Magnolia Bakery. It’s listed as a must in lots of guidebooks and was apparently made famous due to an episode of “Sex and the City,” though I don’t recall that episode. I queued up in line and waited my turn to go in and choose my cupcake. I got a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting plus a chocolate drop cookie and toffee cookie. Here’s the scoop: the cupcake was dry. The frosting was good but sweet. Almost too sweet. Cupcakes aren’t rocket science, so I was surprised by the dryness. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it and the cookies were divine. My friends also got cupcakes as well as a huge slice of coconut cake that was quite good. Funny thing, earlier that day, we were looking at a map when an older lady approached us and offered help (one of many nice people I met in the city) and when we told her where we were going, she said, “Oh, no you shouldn’t go there. My 12-year-old granddaughter makes better cupcakes than that place. You should go to the Buttercup instead.” We didn’t heed her advice that day, but we just happened by the Upper West Side location on Friday and, indeed, it was a great place. It had a much better selection (see photo) and I had a bite of my friend’s red velvet cupcake (I was holding out for our next stop) and it was excellent. And it’s very difficult to make a red velvet batter that’s not dry. Read about the cupcake wars in New York here. It’s interesting.
The sugar buzz propelled me through an afternoon of wandering around the Village and SoHo, but I was certainly ready for dinner that evening. I’d gotten several recommendations and also consulted CitySearch and settled on a Venezuelan restaurant called El Cocotero. It took a little convincing to get my friends to try it, but I think they could tell it was important to me and they knew they wouldn’t be forced to eat vegetarian food. El Cocotero is quite small and it took some work to squeeze into our table, but it was actually okay being that close to other people while eating. The pitcher of sangria might’ve helped. If you look at their menu, you’ll see it’s large and not your everyday tapas fare. It was a hard decision to choose a few dishes, but I went with the
1) chiquinquira arepa (guayanesa cheese, avocadoes, and tomatoes stuffed in thin white corn pocket (similar to a pita, but so much better having been made of ground white corn)
2) tequegnos (a cheese stick wrapped in some kind of bread and deep fried)
3) cachapa con queso (a stack of cripsy small corn pancakes with cheese–everyone’s favorite dish of the evening)
4) Tajadas (sweet plantains)
I can still conjure up the taste of the cachapa in my mind. It was so good. A similar, yet vastly inferior version was a popular treat at Bonnaroo this past year, I believe.
Sadly, the plantains had to serve as dessert because I was far too stuffed to have the tres leches. Next time. Next time…