Food from vendors on the streets of New York has to be some of the most iconic in the world. I love the idea of grabbing something quick and easy on your way to and from work- and it is this which encapsulates the hustle and bustle of a working city which never seems to stop.
We all know about Hot Dogs, but a New York food guide would not be complete without an honourable mention. Sure, they aren’t the best quality in the world, but that is part of the charm. All we want is a warm frankfurter, in a bun, smothered in equal parts ketchup and mustard. I could point you in the direction of some pretty decent hot dogs here in Manchester, but I’m not. I’m going to send you over to Bunny Jacksons and suggest you get involved with the hot dogs they give away with every drink. Seriously, they do, and they taste just the one’s you get from the little fellas in the little carts on every street corner in NYC.
Sticking with junk-food, we have to talk about pizza. New York pizza is an entity on its own so do not expect the doughy, chewy goodness of Neapolitan style like that you would find at Rudy’s. New York-style pizza is stripped back- with a thin base, simple toppings and large circumference – so large that a slice of pepperoni you pick up on the street will quickly fill you up at lunchtime.
Fancy Italian pizzas are indeed in style, but nothing is like the stripped-back simplicity of a margarita pizza from the Big Apple. I think the closest thing you will find here in Manchester is probably Crazy Pedro’s both in style, size and substance. I would go for the pepperoni pizza with a few Bud’s on the side, naturally.
Not to be Xenophobic, but I think it is safe to say that Americans have a pretty sweet tooth, and it certainly applies to New Yorkers too. New York Cheesecake is known in every corner of the globe-and for good reason too. It is flavoured with vanilla (and sometimes white chocolate) and is baked in the oven which gives it this odd dense but also light-as-a-feather texture which, confusion aside, I cannot get enough of. Get stuck into the one from The Bagel Shop – you will never look back.
New York has a massive Italian population, and when they came over in their thousands in the 19th century, they brought Cannoli with them. This was always a word I heard on American TV shows when I was growing up and didn’t have the foggiest of what it meant. That was until I was in Salvi’s Deli a couple months back and I came across Cannoli’s.
They are essentially a brandy snap which is filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta centre. They originate from Sicily but have since become a staple in the New York food scene. You can buy them here at Salvi’s Deli, and they go great with a hot steaming cup of coffee.
Another thing we owe New York a great big thank you for is the Cronut. This delicious hybrid of a croissant and a doughnut is the brainchild of pastry chef Dominique Ansel. It looks like a doughnut (round with a hole in the middle) and cooked in hot oil but is made from delicate croissant pastry. And it doesn’t stop there – it’s then filled with flavoured cream or curd and typically rolled in sugar- got to get those calories in somehow I guess.
Basically, they are orgasmic and very, very naughty – and I suggest you get yourself down to Fress immediately and sample theirs – especially the Lemon Meringue ones they bring out on special occasions.
Italian and Jewish deli’s are a considerable part of the New York food scene. Anyone who has been will more often than not drone on about Katz’s Deli until your ears bleed – but the thing is that it IS actually worth banging on about, as are the bagels, and the salt beef, and the dill pickles and smoked turkey (…you get my point.)
A great place to start would be pastrami. Pastrami is made from beef that is cured in brine, seasoned with herbs and spices, dried and smoked for about 15 hours. Brisket or beef plate is the cut of choice and used for its high-fat content which warrants long slow cooking and preparation. Once it is cured and cooked, pastrami is cut into thin slices and typically served on sandwiches.
Pastrami on Rye Bread with mustard or Russian dressing (mayonnaise, ketchup, pickle juice, horseradish & herbs) and sometimes with cheese and pickles. I am not going to sit here and tell you that you can get pastrami like you’d find in New York – the point is you won’t. If you want to get your hands on the real, real thing, you’re going to have to get on the phone to Virgin Atlantic straight away.
That being said, The Bagel Shop by Eat New York is pretty close to the real thing. They make their pastrami and salt beef in-house, and it is mega. You can enjoy it on a few dishes on the menu, but I recommend the classic Ruben Sandwich – the meat is stacked about four inches high and packed between two pieces of bread with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. I’ll take ten, please.
Bagels have to be one of the most famous things to come from NYC. Bagels originate from the Jewish communities of Poland which have been appropriated over time into the cuisine of New York, and indeed the whole of America after the Second World War when many Jews sought refuge in the States.
Bagels are a bread product made from yeasted dough which is shaped, boiled in water and baked. The result is a robust, chewy dough with a soft interior and a golden brown top. In Jewish communities, bagels are traditionally topped with salt beef, chopped liver (which is a bit like pate) and Lox (smoked/cured salmon) and cream cheese. Bagels & Lox also include red onion, tomato, capers and black pepper and can be eaten at breakfast and lunch.
I can’t get enough smoked salmon, so this little dish has Kate Tighe written all over it. I make this as a bit of a snack on a poppy seed bagel quite often at home but I am also obsessed with the one from Federal at breakfast time for its liberal use of dill and lemon. Geshmak! (That’s “delicious” in Yiddish, in case you were wondering.)
It isn’t all about street food and excessive calorie counts when it comes to the food in New York. The city that never sleeps is also home to some proper posh dishes which you might not expect.
One dish you might not expect to hail from NYC would be brunch-time favourite Eggs Benedict. Like most dishes from New York, the story of where they were conceived is conflicted, but the consensus is that came about in the 1860’s at a restaurant called Delmonico’s in Lower Manhattan.
“Eggs Benny” Is made up of an English muffin (I to this day do not know what makes it English) topped with bacon, soft poached egg and hollandaise sauce. It can be varied into Eggs Florentine (with spinach), Eggs Royale (with smoked salmon) or Eggs Blanchard (with béarnaise sauce) to name a few.
Nowadays, Eggs Benedict and all its variations are a favourite on every brunch table across the world – so we definitely have NYC to thank for that one. You can get it almost everywhere here in Manchester, but I am particularly fond of the one from Thyme Out in West Didsbury- they use buttery duck eggs to make the whole experience that little bit more indulgent.
Another dish that is popular in this part of the world is Clam Chowder. There are a million different variations of this too, but the main ingredients would be fresh clams, vegetables, vermouth or wine and stock.
You can get a taste of traditional Clam Chowder at Randall & Aubin. This is cooked in the New England style with bacon and comes with a side of cornbread which is a revelation in itself. The Manhattan version adds tomatoes which gives it its distinct red colour which was supposedly inspired by Portuguese immigrants in the 1890’s.
There isn’t anywhere in Manchester which does this chowder explicitly, but if you are at Randall & Aubin anyway, order the Bouillabaisse as it is the closest thing you will find. Perhaps order both dishes and taste the differences.