Over the past year, I’ve fallen in love with New York for a lot of reasons. But if I had to pinpoint what has really stolen my heart it would be the food scene and the fascinating quilt of neighbourhoods that make up this city.
So, a couple of weeks ago Blake and I soaked up my two favourite things on a walking food tour of the West Village. Lucky for us, the day we chose had perfect summer weather – warm but not too hot – which was ideal since the tour lasted three hours.
Our guide started off the tour with some facts about the West Village and then took us to the first food stop, Faicco’s Italian Specialties. Our group sampled arancini (Italian fried risotto balls) and soppressata (an Italian pressed sausage).
Both foods were delicious, but it was the perfectly crispy coating and creamy inside of the golf-ball sized arancini I’m still thinking about.
After our stop in Italy, we made our way to the Caribbean via a little place called Havana Alma de Cuba. Our guide led us to a private room where we enjoyed a sit down tasting of beef empanadas and mojitos (the drinks were optional at an extra cost). The empanadas were not only big and filling, but tasty too.
Next, we stopped for a New York City classic: bagels. New York’s version is considered by some to be the best because of its deliciously chewy texture. At Hudson Bagels, we devoured Everything Bagels smeared with a thick layer of cream cheese. I loved the taste of the salty herby seasoning mixed with the tangy cream cheese.
So, why are New York bagels so good? Some people credit the city’s soft tap water as the secret. But the American Chemical Society says that while the water plays a small role, it’s the production process that has the biggest effect, including refrigerating and then boiling the bagels before baking them.
Along the way, our guide pointed out famous homes. We saw Bob Dylan’s first apartment, Washington Irving’s house (author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) and the building used for the exterior shots of Monica’s apartment on Friends.
He also took us by Cherry Lane Theatre, which describes itself as “New York’s longest continuously running Off-Broadway theatre,” and through beautiful Washington Square Park.
Our next stop was at Mamoun’s Falafel where we tried their famous falafels: fried balls of ground chickpea, parsley, garlic, onion and spices. They were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and full of flavour.
Like bagels, pizza is a quintessential NYC food, so Blake and I were thrilled to be visiting one of the city’s best pizzerias, Artichoke Basille’s Pizza. We noshed on their Artichoke Slice, which comes topped with a decadent mix of cream sauce, artichoke hearts, spinach and cheese. It was delicious but rich, making a few bites all we needed.
For me, a food tour needs to include something sweet so I loved ending the day at Molly’s Cupcakes, a winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.
We got to design our own cupcake, so I chose carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles on top. And it might just be the best carrot cake cupcake I’ve ever had. The cake was moist and the icing was the perfect ratio of sweet and tangy.
Overall, I really enjoyed this tour and would recommend it to other foodies. I loved learning fun facts about one of my favourite neighbourhoods while eating a variety of delicious food. And although the servings were small, after six of them we walked away with full, happy bellies.