Adventures Around the East Village (and Elsewhere) in NYC
Over the past week, I've drowned my tax-day-anxiety with the usual meds: great food, good strong drinks (some with caffeine, some with alcohol, even some with neither), and long walks around neighborhoods near my home and office. Most stops I've made lately have been in and around the East Village, for some reason. Herewith, a few notes from there and elsewhere around NYC:
Artichoke Basille's Pizza: I walked in to this month-old pizza joint on 14th Street ready to not believe the hype, but co-owners Francis Garcia and Sal Basille's cheese-and-cream-slathered artichoke-spinach pie and crunchy Sicilian slices are worth the wait. (I stood around for nearly 30 minutes on a Sunday afternoon.) There's no place to sit inside, but the place gets packed all day with people just hovering until the next pie comes out of the oven (the pizzas sell out fast). They cut the slices big here, so the roughly $3 a slice is a pretty good deal.
Ippudo: How many ramen shops can the East Village hold? Lots more, I hope, especially if some of my favorites—Momofuku Noodle Shop and Rai Rai Ken—continue to be packed at virtually all times. Even the tiny, great and relatively unhyped Minca on East 5th between Avenues A and B was inexplicably full last Saturday at 4pm—but then again, if I was there in the off-hours, I shouldn't be suprised that others had the same idea. As for the newest—and most wildly buzzed-about—ramen spot in the hood, Ippudo (a branch of a huge Japan chain): I have to say it's not my favorite of the lot so far, but mainly because of the vibe inside. The Akamaru ramen broth I tried is rich and porky, and the sake cocktails (like one made with fresh grapefruit juice) are bright and zingy and lack the so-what factor of many sake concoctions. But the room—a little too large, unwieldy, and big-party-centric—is missing the jammed-in smallness of my favorite ramen shops.
Think Coffee: The new branch on the Bowery and Bleecker has sunny windows, a relaxing room to hang out in with a book or laptop, and aromatic brews from organic Porto Rico Importing Co. beans (including something called a Spanish Latte, made with condensed milk, which I was a little afraid to try but will next time my sweet tooth kicks in).
Insomnia Cookies: I gave this new late-night dessert-delivery service another chance, after my (or their) botched attempt to get baked goods to my apartment in decent shape—and within a reasonable amount of time. Last week I tried again, and this time, not only did Insomnia not run out of brownies: The brownies were gooey and chocolatey and tasty, and they arrived right on time (in less than 40 minutes).
Anthos: Way uptown—and a few blocks from the F&W office—is the perpetually outstanding Anthos, home of F&W Best New Chef 2008 Michael Psilakis. The other day I dropped in for lunch and had the grilled octopus—easily the juiciest, fattest octopus I've tried in recent memory (about the thickness of a bicycle inner tube, but perfectly cooked so it's supple and has a nice char from the grill). The freshly made pomegranate-lemonade added a pleasantly tart note. Who needs wine (at lunch, anyway)? Unless, of course, it's tax day.