Winter Carbs in Manhattan

pancakemonth.pngThere was supposed to be snow in Manhattan while we were there. Washington got snow. Philadelphia got snow. New York? Horizontal snow at 4AM that added up to an inch, melted by morning. Sigh. Then it snowed wildly the day after we left. Double sigh. No snow dose for me. It was bejesus cold though and that means comfort food.

In the interests of full disclosure, I collect comfort food all over Manhattan even when it’s 85 degrees outside and the thought of carbohydrates repels your average resident. Freezing winds and grey skies just make me look less crazy while I’m going about my usual business. And it convinces R to join me, which is always nicer.

First stop, Clinton Street Baking Company for pancakes. Their pancakes are already reviewed as the best in New York but every February they take it up another notch by declaring Pancake Month and offering different over-the-top pancake confections every few days. Like pancakes with fresh blackberries, pecan streusel and warm apple butter or chocolate and blood orange pancakes with candied orange glaze. Sadly, all these tasty offerings + cold weather make getting a table well nigh impossible. One hour and 45 minutes wait in 12-degree weather? Forget it. (I have less and less patience with popular places that take no reservations. The least you could do is offer some of the tables up for people who think ahead. Stupid pancake people.)

So we cabbed over to Momofuku Noodle Bar for some ramen goodness instead. Not that waits there are often much better, but we got lucky, hitting the sweet spot between the early eaters and the late lunchers. Momofuku gets a lot of press already, so I don’t need to tell you what a hot ticket their pork buns are or their ramen or just a seat in any of the locations in general. David Chang’s East Village empire consists of the Noodle Bar (er, noodle specialties), Sämm Bar (oddly ham-focused + oysters), the Milk Bar (take-out bakery and small savories), and Ko (newest posh destination, impossible to get in, voted Best New Restaurant last year by Time Out). He’s opening Má Pêche downtown later this year.

pork-belly-buns.jpgThe menu can be off-putting for a non-foodie, featuring a lot of words like “belly” and “tendon” and “skate” and other things that don’t sound either edible or yummy, but push on: nothing looks like what it is and everything is ultra-flavorful, so it’s worth a little courage. The house ramen is indeed delicious, a big bowl of slightly chewy noodles nestled in a rich broth with a perfectly poached egg, pork, seaweed sheets, scallions. The ginger scallion noodles, albeit broth-less, are equally comforting and have a little more kick. You can’t go and not get one of the buns and if you’ve never been, you should start with the pork ones, two to a serving. They’re not the doughy blobs you get on the street in Chinatown. The soft steamed bun is a partial wrap around super-tender slices of pork, scallions, crunchy pickled cucumber and a ridiculously tasty hoisin sauce. They’re legendary and deservedly so.

If you don’t like crowds, are toting bags, a baby or your bushels from the farmer’s market, you shouldn’t hit Momofuku until you’re over it or unburdened. Seating is at bar tables or shared tables, period. We sat sandwiched between two mid-40s ladies trying to lunch and two guys who turned out to be chefs themselves. We talked to the chefs. One is a side man at Morimoto (you know: Iron Chef Morimoto) and the other is the executive chef at Seasonal, a one-Michelin-star midtown restaurant specializing in modern Austrian cuisine. I know, right? What the hell is modern Austrian? Here’s the thing: Austria is a huge hospitality industry machine. They have hotelier schools, excellent restaurants and lots of great hotels. Think of Wolfgang Puck. And this guy, Eduard Frauneder, is all up on the entrepreneurial food thing too. The food looks amazing and we’re definitely going. Anyplace that serves spätzle State-side has my vote.

crackpie_kirk_mckoy_latimes.jpgAfterwards, we braved the wind for a couple blocks to collect crack pie, strawberry milk and a cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookie at Momofuku’s take-out Milk Bar. Breakfast cereals provide the base and inspiration for a lot of the offerings, like the cereal milk soft serve, which is fine by me. Predictably, I can’t get enough of the crack pie which is essentially just pie base without the interfering fruit or nuts: sugar, butter, eggs in a chewy layer over crumbly cookie crust. It’s a good thing Momofuku’s so far into the East Village or I’d be stopping by there all the time like the addict I am. I thought about buying a whole pie, but at $40 it’s a commitment. (You can tell I’d make a really bad crack addict.) I might have to serve it at my wedding though.

I love New York in winter even if I can’t have my snow.

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Categories: Eat, NYC (there)

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