New York City In Winter: Beyond Smoked Fish

I came from unpacking; my cousin came from working. Clearly, he wins the best-dressed award.

One cannot live on smoked fish alone. Well, maybe some people can, but as much as I love the stuff, I need some variety. Plus, I had other people to see, and that meant checking out a couple of new (to me) New York City restaurants. 

After a long morning of unpacking (“Oh look! Your other air mattress!”), a lovely jaunt for a middle-eastern lunch, and even more unpacking, it was time for… no, not dinner. It was time for the Sixth-grades basketball game. We interrupt this unpacking to watch a bunch of twelve-year-olds play basketball.

Anytime I get a plate full of mushrooms, I am a happy camper.

Following the four intense, 7-minute quarters, I headed downtown to meet my cousin and his wife for dinner. Impressed that after not living in New York City for over sixteen years, I still remember the best subway route to get where I was going, I settled in for a smushed-by-door, evening rush hour ride. Along the way two young women get in, talking about the dinner one was planning on cooking for the other. After many details of this tasty curry, she admitted that she was unsure of what vegetables to use. Much back and forth between them resulted in no clear winner, so I chimed in with a suggestion (eggplant), which turned out to be the solution they needed. They went on with their cooking project, and I headed over to see my cousins.

Mmmm…. garlic bread.

We met at Hearth, on First Avenue and 14th Street, enjoying the warm atmosphere, semi-open kitchen, and unique menu. I did the happy dance as someone else took control of the wine list and food suggestions. The idea of ordering many things and sharing them all appeals to me. Otherwise, there is no good way to try several dishes. Starting with the ribolita, a warm bread and vegetable soup, a fricassee of wild mushrooms and garlic bread,  the meal was off to a great, if carb-filled, start. The soup is a favorite of my new-to-the-family cousin, and though she proclaimed that she loved it too much to share, I managed to sneak in a spoonful or two. (Delicious.)

We moved on to gnocchi in a sage and butter sauce, meatballs, and a bone marrow dish. The soft, pillowy gnocchi were outstanding, in a sauce reminiscent of one we had in Bologna several years ago. Light (you know, for a butter sauce), and full o flavor, those little dumplings did not need anything else. As for the bone marrow? I heard it was good, although not terrific. Other foodies would surely mock me for my lack of bone marrow indulging, but it is one of those things I just can’t stomach.

Outstanding gnocchi.

Stuffed, warm, and happy, we left the restaurant in search of dessert, because, why not? A stroll through the East Village brought back all sorts of wonderful memories and shocking revelations that places that sucked in the 1990’s are still around. (Plenty of good places are still around, too.) We ended up at Spot Dessert Bar, a tiny, basement place with a line out the door, even on the cold, rainy night we were there.

Golden toast, with absurd amounts of butter. Yum.

Spot offers “dessert tapas” that are meant to be shared. It would be easy to try them all, but alas, we just had dinner, so we shared three desserts while crammed at a table meant for 2. The upside is that we were so close to the people next to us, they barely noticed when I started taking photos of their desserts, too.

Golden Toast is a buttered toast (heavy on the butter) served with condensed milk ice cream, whipped cream, and strawberries. Despite – or maybe because of – the abundance of butter, I enjoyed it immensely. Chocolate Forest, a chocolate mousse cake covered in pistachio crumbs, served with pistachio ice cream was only okay. The cake looked better than it tasted, but the ice cream was delish. The last dessert was some sort of pretzel and crumb covered cake topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Forest.

The desserts capped off an enjoyable evening, as we parted in the rainy, cold, New York streets, waiting for ubers.