Eating New York: Pumpkin and non-pumpkin highlights

Our first 24 hours in New York we manage to walk 25 kilometres around downtown Manhattan. Which is lucky because we also eat half of Manhattan, perhaps as an apology to our stomachs for the digestive hostage situation that was the Qantas in-flight menu.

Tip: if you’re ever on a Qantas plane and they offer you a ‘Roast Beef salad with grilled seasonal vegetables’, it’s not actually roast beef but rather strips of some devon-like mystery deli meat, pink-rare, served with vegetable cuttings Qantas filched from my worm farm without me knowing. And yes, you could opt for the fish option instead, but really – seafood on a plane? A scarier  prospect than snakes.

But the food in New York has more than made up for it . The highlights so far:

Georgian food at Old Tbilisi, Bleecker St

This was our first meal in New York. Maybe it was that we hadn’t slept (or eaten anything that wasn’t served in a pre-heated foil container) in about 30 hours, but we loved everything here. Delicious little soup dumplings filled with minced beef and herbs, spicy grilled mediterranean vegetables, and the pork kebab; a long porky-sausagey thing wrapped in flatbread, topped with paprika and served with a tomato-based sauce.

Game of Thrones Pumpkin Beer

The official pumpkin beer of the Seven Kingdoms, served in a pub called The Half Pint close to NYU. It was a bit dark-side for me, but if you enjoy a stout I have it on good beer authority that it’s very tasty. We also smashed our first American burgers here before heading back to the hotel and passing out from combined food coma/jet lag.

Game of Thrones Beer Tasting

A Game of Thrones beer tasting

Pumpkin Pie

The fact that it’s Halloween/fall (autumn) means pumpkin is huge here right now. There’s pumpkin everything; beer, pie, pancakes, donuts, coffee, you name it. Last night I finally tried pumpkin pie for the first time while we waited to get into the Hudson Valley Pumpkin Blaze (5,000 carved pumpkins, 50,000 people without any perception of personal space). I wasn’t expecting much because I invariably find out-of-context vegetable ingredients distasteful (you can’t tell me that tomato juice isn’t just cold tomato soup). But pumpkin pie: holy crap. We shared a piece topped with whipped cream while sitting on hay bales, freezing our arses off. You don’t get much more Halloween than that.

New York dietary staples: Hotdogs and Pretzels

Part of our 25K Manhattan marathon includes an excursion on the Staten Island Ferry with hundreds of other exhausted tourists. To keep our energy levels up and keep the hangry at bay, Clegg grabs a typical New York hotdog (complete with gherkin relish) and I go for a salted pretzel. So fried. So salty. So delicious.

Tapas at Txikito, Chelsea

We come here for dinner late in the evening after a night at the McKittrick Hotel’s Sleep No More interactive theatre experience. Reviews describe Sleep No More as ‘a film noir shadow of suspense, immersive theatre at its best‘ . I describe it as what you’d get if you staged ‘The Shining’ in Ikea; scary and interesting and beautifully coordinated/visualised, but dear God could they make it any harder to find an exit and/or a bathroom? Anyhow, after a couple of hours inside the show we leave and walk to Txikito, a packed hole-in-the-wall restaurant nearby, for a late dinner of authentic Basque tapas, including devilled crab on toast (amazing), spicy spare ribs with paprika, creamy croquettes and lots of dry, still cider, which has Clegg geeking out.

Other edible mentions so far: smoked applewood bacon (the kind of thin, crispy American-style bacon you see in movies and cartoons. There’s no going back after this bacon) and G&Ts at the Gallow Green rooftop garden in Chelsea (any drink tastes when you’re watching the sunset in a rooftop garden bar overlooking the city). The lowlight: the coffee. We’re still hopeful, but as yet we haven’t had a decent coffee since we got here. The closest we came was Cafe Reggio in Greenwich Village, but they still thought a double shot meant the same amount of coffee with twice the amount of water. The search continues, but in the meantime here are some pics from the first couple of days.

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