New Years in New York

This year I spent the holidays split between Toronto and New York.  This has been the first holiday season that I didn’t go home to visit family and friends since I had to work through most of the holidays.  I guess it is somewhat comforting to know that I am the only cog in the “Blue and Gold” machine that can do what I do but at the same time it also means I can never leave (at least until a computer program replaces me).  I had some friends around Toronto however to spend Christmas day with.  With warm words exchanged through a somewhat secretly placed Christmas card (I don’t think I ever thanked you for that) and the turkey juices flowing, Christmas, although quieter than most years, was a pleasant day.  New Years in New York on the other hand was a bit of a gong show.  With the combination of dinners, partying, daily site seeing and an unexpected trip to the court house, it was a pretty exhausting trip…well…for most of them.  I’ve done a lot of the site seeing in previous trips so I had very few items on my agenda.  Most of my the items, surprise surprise, had to do with where I ate.

First off, let’s talk pastrami sandwiches.  On my first free afternoon I made my way towards Katz Delicatessen on Houston near 1st and 1st.  This is one of those places you see in the movies and even upon entering, I was a little worried I had walked into a tourist trap.

The walls were filled with pictures of celebrities enjoying their meals and the place was packed from wall to wall.  I walked up to the counter and ordered a pastrami sandwich.  The guy behind the counter pulls out this huge slab of meat that was still be steaming.  He cuts off a small sample for me to try.  I give him the thumbs up and he began hand-cutting thick slices of meat and placed them on a plate with rye bread with a few pickles on the side.

After one bite, I had to say, this was a damn good sandwich!  The meat was juicy and flavorful.  It wasn’t too salty but was nicely spiced.  I ended up devouring the whole thing pretty quickly.  My only complaint it that I left a little hungry and the sandwich was $15.

A few days later I was out for pizza at Ray’s killing time before heading to the cigar lounge when a friend sent me a message saying he was going to Carnegie Deli.  “Hmmmm, can I fit in a sandwich?”  Clearly my answer was yes and I met them there.  We were seated at the back of the restaurant after waiting about 45 minutes in line.  Again, the walls were adorned with pictures of celebrities and the giant sandwiches the place served up.  Again, I ordered the pastrami to do a head to head comparison.  The sandwiches are massive!  Getting the whole thing into your mouth is a bit of a challenge and usually by the end there are pieces of meat everywhere.  The meat itself was pretty good.  It was a little on the dry side but was very nicely spiced.  In terms of value, Carnegie serves up a LOT more sandwich than Katz.  These days I’m leaning more towards quality over quantity (although there is a fine balance) so as far as this head to head eat-off goes, I’m going to have to side with Katz.  I also remember 2nd Ave. Deli being REALLY good but unfortunately (or probably fortunately for health purposes) I didn’t make it there this trip.

On another dinner outing we ended up at Carmine’s.  I don’t have any pictures and we ordered about 8-10 dishes so I won’t go into too many details other than saying: (1) all the dishes are huge (it’s a family style type of place), (2) most of the dishes are delicious, and (3) it reminded me of occasions growing up where I would go over to my Italian friend’s place when his extended family was over and they cooked these massive Italian feasts.  Comfort food at it finest!  Word of caution through, go with a big group so you can try a variety of dishes and actually be able finish all of them.  That could be the fullest I’ve been in a while.

For dessert one evening, after eating a few pizzas at Nick’s on the upper west side (I love that place…so small, so sketchy but so delicious), we walked over to Café Lalo.  Upon approaching the restaurant they display scenes of the movie “You’ve Got Mail”.  I guess this is the scene where Tom Hanks stands up Meg Ryan, sort of.

The place was packed but the seven of us managed to squeeze into a table at the back.  Around the table we ordered four pieces of cheesecake: two brownie chunk, one raspberry and one strawberry (which was my order).  The cheesecake was amazing!  The bites were soft and light but there was soo much flavor!  The strawberries were sweet and the texture was smooth.  I’ve had a number of cheesecakes in my life and I have to say, this one took the “cake”.  Okay, that was “cheesy”.  Okay…I better stop now.  Hope everyone had a happy holiday and good eating for the coming year!

~ by jlowjlow on January 12, 2010.

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