Note from The Girl:  Truth.  I wrote and almost finished this blog post yesterday afternoon and then promptly (and accidentally) deleted it!  That did not make me happy particularly because it was late in the day and I was really happy with the post so I couldn't face starting over then.  So, albeit slightly late but back nevertheless...here is this week's blog post.
As most of you know, I was "out of the office" most of last week.  I was in NYC, well, because I love it.  Not just because my older daughter lives there and I was there to start my milestone birthday festivities, I love the dynamics and "beat" of the city.  There also happens to be a lot of great restaurants so I get to spend most of my time "researching".  What better way to kick off the birthday season?!
When I hit town, my daughter's friends are anticipating some sort of get-together where "Mama Mer" cooks up a storm for them and this trip was no different.  First full day/night in, a party.  My daughter rounded up an apartment in Williamsburg (in Brooklyn, if you haven't been) that some good friends were kind enough to share.  So with a diverse group of about 15, we had a party filled with some of my favorite appetizers.  Simple and straightforward because let's face it, apartments and kitchens in NYC are not huge plus young, working couples don't cook a lot at home.  We made it work (of course) and it was tons of fun.  Lots of ingredient improvising because there were only so many things I could find at Whole Foods.  The same but different from our stores (and really expensive, I mean, it is NYC after all!).  Here are some pics from that night...

And, I know that looks like Billy Joel but it's not.

With the cooking out of the way, we proceeded to eat and drink our way through the city.  Before the party, we stopped into a great little pizza place (most restaurants in NYC are very small, by the way), Emmy Squared.  And, guess why it's called that?

Yep, because the pizza is square, er, rectangular, well it has square edges.  This is known as "Detroit-style" but having never eaten pizza in Detroit, I can't verify that.  The good part is that it is delish!  The crust looks like it would be heavy but it is light, crispy and airy even though it is thick.  Emmy Squared in Williamsburg has a variety of red and white pizzas and is also known for it's amazing burgers.  I saw one sitting next to me and it was impressive!  Next time...

The following day...GREEK!  I think you all know how much I love Greek food.  At Village Taverna, it is authentic all the way down to the Greek servers.  This was a lunch stop where we enjoyed their spanakopita (yes, we make this in class, well, not exactly, but close) and saganaki as well as lamb and beef gyros with super garlicky (and I love it) tzatziki.  Pita is, of course, house made and served with briny, salty Greek olives.

Spanakopita (lots of spinach and dill) and saganaki (no flaming, this time)

Spanakopita (lots of spinach and dill) and saganaki (no flaming, this time)

Gyros with Greek salad and yes, French fries because who wants rice with lunch?

Gyros with Greek salad and yes, French fries because who wants rice with lunch?

Dinner was another of our favorites, L'Artusi in the West Village.  Italian, what else?  Well, okay, Greek.  But we hit mostly Italian.  Anyway, the food is exceptional and slightly more refined in presentation but still with a homey quality.  Take a look...

From the top, beef carpaccio, gnocchi, ricotta with buttermilk crackers, and finally, veal sweetbreads.  This was my first time to try sweetbreads as we don't see those on many Tulsa menus but when prepared properly (and these were), they are both creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside and so rich!

Speaking of rich, how about a little Spaghetti Carbonara from our all-time favorite, Locanda Verde.  No trip is complete without spending half the day at this beautiful TriBeCa jewel in the crown of Chef Andrew Carmellini (or AC as he is known in the "biz").  AC doesn't do a lot of the cooking at Locanda (he spends his time opening new restaurants) so he leaves the kitchen in the very capable hands of Chef de Cuisine, Damien Franquiz, who was nice enough to finish this luscious carbonara for us.  Traditional carbonara is infused with the flavors of pancetta or bacon...this one was redolent with lamb pancetta.  And, yes, it was as rich as it looks.

Spaghetti carbonara with lamb pancetta (and lots of freshly ground black pepper)

Spaghetti carbonara with lamb pancetta (and lots of freshly ground black pepper)

Also on this seasonal menu, lumache with veal bolognese.  I say, seasonal, not only because that is the focus of the restaurant and the philosophy underlying its menu but when they are in season, we get lots of truffles.  In this instance, white truffles "shaved" over the pasta.  The inherent earthy funk wafts through the restaurant every time the chef pulls out the mandoline and starts sharing them.  Here you can see the generosity followed by a cute pic of the three of us.

To finish off this preliminary birthday milestone adventure, we met up for coffee with one of the best people I have come to know and cherish as a friend in the city, Chef Claire Handleman.  We first met in 2014 at this very same coffee shop, La Colombe, and became fast friends.  Claire is a classically trained chef who has worked with the likes of Jean-Georges and has been a culinary producer for TV shows, think The Chew.  At that time, she had recently won Chopped and was preparing another trip to Thailand with intent to open a restaurant in NYC to address the lack of authentic Thai food...I know, hard to believe that it isn't there.  But over the last two years, her course has changed and is considering doing her own take on a cooking school in LA (where she is from and her family still lives).  So, who knows, kids, I may be doing a guest spot in an LA cooking school before long!  To find out more about Claire click right here to check out her blog.

A re-creation of our first photo at La Colombe in 2014.

A re-creation of our first photo at La Colombe in 2014.

So that wraps up a relatively short trip to one of my favorite spots and yes, it was a "birthday" trip as I am celebrating my 60th milestone this year!  I hope you enjoyed the "food porn" and can see why NYC's restaurant scene can be so inspirational and delicious!

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