In an effort to exact my revenge on the throngs of out-of-town avid boaters and crafty people here for the Boat Show and Coconut Grove Arts Festival, I decided to skip town and bother the good citizens of New York City with skreechingly annoying questions like “which way is the Empire State Building?” and “what time do I have to get to Rockefeller Center by to be able to see Ann Curry up close?” Unfortunately, our hotel was in Midtown and I could see the Empire State Building from it and we woke up too late every morning to see the Today show taping. New Yorkers were saved.
In an effort to entertain myself more than in past weekend getaways to NYC I decided to try to have a theme for this trip. Since it was a surprise for my girlfriend I got to plan where we’d be eating (actually, even when it’s not a surprise trip I end up selfishly planning our dining picks, God bless her for her patience and understanding). For some reason I thought about a trip revolving around offal. Most major culinary destinations are well unto the offal bandwagon that started with Fergus Henderson at St. John (although the consumption of offal goes back thousands of years before Mr. Henderson served a bone marrow). Even though here in Miami we’re able to get offal fix from mondongos and callos a la madrileña, there are few non-ethnic restaurants serving up tasty innards (Michael’s and Michy’s are two that come to mind). So my quest began to hunt down offal in the Big Apple.
We started off at Momofuku Noodle Bar. There’s been a lot of talk and press about this place and I’m a little late to the party. Chef David Chang cranks out pan-Asian dishes with Western additions and techniques. Lunch started off with pork belly steamed buns. More like fluffy tacos, the sauced pork belly was wrapped in a light, doughy wrap that was like eating a cross between Wonder bread and Marshmallow Fluff. The next dish was the requisite offal. Fried sweetbreads were tossed in a light breading and served with a sweet chili sauce. The sweetbread nuggets (I hate that word, but that’s what they were) were light as clouds. Seriously, these were amongst the best sweetbreads I’ve ever had. Luckily there were two of us to make it through the order. Lastly were our entrees. Momofuku ramen was a rich, smoky broth with typical ramen accoutrements which included shredded roast pork and pork belly and rice cakes with oxtail ragu, the rice cakes rolled to resemble gnocchi, but a little heavier.
For dinner we decided to brave the cold and the 2 hour waits and hit the Spotted Pig. Known for better-than-your-neighborhood-bar bar food the menu contained tasty treats like calves liver and pig ears. Unfortunately the pig ears were off the menu the night we went, but the chicken liver toasts were there. We ordered them once, then again after our entrees arrived. The livers were left chunky and with minimal fillers (butter, cream, etc.) and tons for seasoning. Most excellent and perfect with the cask ales served.
Breakfast was going to be a challenge but I figured sausage counts as offal-eating since who knows what is in any particular link. Prune provided both my girlfriend and I a tasty, offal tinged breakfast of homemade lamb sausage (for me) and, in a dish I have to give props for originality for, the Hostel plate. It reminds you of food you ate when, well, you were hostelling around Germany and the Netherlands. The plate consisted of liverwurst and hard sausage along with various pastes in tubes along with grain breads and other accoutrements. Definitely some offal to be found somewhere in this dish. And great with Prune’s Bloody Marys.
Our last two stops didn’t offer as much offal as I though, but by then I’d about had it. Boqueria had great tapas and croquettes better than I find in Miami. And brunch at Clinton St. Bakery was all about every breakfast food excess.
So the offal weekend can be considered a partial success. A true measure would’ve been to check my cholesterol count before and after the trip, but insurance co-pays are getting excessive and I don’t like my doctor enough to see him twice in four days. And the fact that I’m thinking of going vegetarian for a few days makes me think that all that fat and cholesterol is still running around my system. But heck, at least I know I won’t be iron deficient for a while!