I’ve been in New York, city and state, doing some eating (among other things), sometimes eating high, sometimes eating low, often a combination of the two. Now, my opinion is that even in the world of food blogging (perhaps especially in the world of food blogging) nobody wants to hear what a totally fabulous time you had on your vacation, and about all the bloody wonderful gourmet treats you consumed. I think people are far more interested in the curiosities, the missteps, the failures, the disappointments, and so …
ONE: THE DISAPPOINTING SMOKED PIG’S HEAD TERRINE
The Loved One had been obsessing about the smoked pig’s head terrine at Craftbar at Broadway and 20th, ever since we were there earlier in the year, about six months ago. Back then the terrine was rich and soft and loose, and it fell apart as you tried to spread it with a knife. When we had it this time however, it was decidedly gelatinous; all the pig parts were set in some sort of (I’m guessing because the menu didn’t say what it was) port-flavored aspic. It wasn’t at all bad, and if we’d never had it the other way, maybe we’d have thought it was great, but as it was, by comparison with the previous occasion, it was a definite disappointment. This is how Craftbar looks when there's nobody in it:
TWO: THE MOST GENUINELY AWFUL THING I ATE IN NEW YORK
This was the twice sautéed pork from Sammy’s Noodle Shop on 6th Avenue. Twice sautéed my arse (as we like to say in England), because the thing is, it really doesn’t matter how often you sautéed your pork, if you then serve it in some miscellaneous gooey sauce with a bunch of vegetables and – wait for it – slices of tofu. Tofu!! You might as well just label it “crappy pork.” The restaurant did have a nice enough neon sign though.
THREE: THE MOST CURIOUS WINDOW DISPLAY I SAW IN A NEW YORK EATERY (THOUGH I’M SURE THERE ARE CURIOUSER)
It was a Mexican place named Tortaria, on University Place, their motto: “Fiestas to Stay.” The sides windows were lined with shelves and on them were various preserved fruits and vegetables. Thus:
Certainly they were labeled, but the labels didn’t leave me very much wiser. I now know that guayaba is in fact guava, and a morita is a variety of chipotle chili (although morita is also Spanish for a certain kind of mulberry). Perhaps I should have known this already.
If you stepped inside the restaurant it became clear what effect they were working for, this:
But from the outside it was definitely a bit like seeing medical specimens in formaldehyde.
FOUR: THE MOST IMPROBABLE CONCEPT FOR A NEW YORK RESTAURANT
And I still can’t decided whether this is a great idea or a really terrible one: Pota-topia – a chain restaurant, with just two links in the chain, one in Manhattan, one in Edison, New Jersey, restaurants that serve potatoes cooked in various ways, French fried, baked, even mashed, then covered with some sort of glop.
They have a mission statement, naturally. Their website reads, “Potatopia (yep, the name sometimes appears different ways even within the website) is about choices. We have a wide selection of all-natural quality gourmet ingredients and a distinct approach that will change the way you think about potatoes. Create your own meal or enjoy our most popular combinations, all of which feature natural cut potato styles, fresh toppings, flavorful extras, and signature sauces to create a perfectly balanced meal. There’s something here for everyone.”
One of the “signature” meals is named the Comatoser: “Skin Chips, House Salt and Pepper, Cheddar Cheese, Asiago Cheese, Pepperjack Cheese, Green Onions, Red Onion, Garlic, Cilantro, Jalapeño, Broccoli, Bacon, Melted Cheddar, Roasted Pepper and Ranch.”
“Skin chips” is great, isn’t it? Sounds like something from the Saw movies? And “house salt and pepper” – as opposed to what? Outhouse?
FIVE: A REMINDER (THOUGH HARDLY NEEDED) THAT NEW YORK IS NOT A PLACE FOR THE OVER-OPTIMISTIC OR THE GULLIBLE.
This sign outside Wood and Ale's Bar & Grill: evidently it used to be called something else, but they didn’t want to spend money on a new sign. Alice would have disapproved: jam tomorrow, never jam today.