eat. shop. love. nyc.

2nd annual Taste of 7th St returns

Last year, Scoop Street kicked off its inaugural Taste of 7th Street Festival with Luke’s Lobster, Butter Lane, Caracas Arepa Bar, Porchetta, and Xoom Smoothies. The weekend-long festival brought with it long lines and general foodie mayhem, but the eats were worth braving the crowds.

This year from April 20th to 22nd, the Taste of 7th Street Festival moves from weekend to weekday/weeknight  and is spread across three days instead of two (probably so it’s not as crazy as last year). For $18, you get to sample signature dishes from Luke’s and Butter Lane (2nd year veterans of the festival), and Scoop Street has added Wechsler’s Currywurst, Dumpling Man, and Cowgirl’s Baking to the lineup. No more Porchetta or Caracas Arepas – I suspect it’s because the lines got CRAZY long last year and it was kind of a nightmare. It looks like they’ve taken steps to smooth out the logistics, and I look forward to another fun and tasty food crawl – now with drink specials at Jimmy’s No. 43, Burp Castle, and Standings Bar.

Buy your tickets here!

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NYC to Maine gastro road trip Part III
September 2, 2010, 7:10 am
Filed under: Eat, Go | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

[tweetmeme]CONTINUED from My Magical NYC to Maine Gastro Road Trip Part I and NYC to Maine Gastro Road Trip Part II. I should probably try to be a little more creative with these blog titles. My apologies in advance – this particular entry is lacking in food porn. For that, you may want to revisit prior entries or skip to the next in the series (Part IV).

SATURDAY NIGHT: Brunswick > Rockport (1 hour)

I fought desperately to stay awake after our third lobster roll of the day, but eyelids… so… heavy… I didn’t want to leave our courageous driver awake alone, so I tried my very best to stay awake (but failed). It was only about an hour or so from Brunswick to Rockport, where we had booked what seemed to be the only free room that was anywhere near Rockland and didn’t run $200 a night for a 2-night minimum stay. We rolled into our lodging for the evening around 9 pm, food coma-ed and bleary-eyed.

The 7 Mountains Motel had had a cancellation, and proprietor Joyce Braley had called me back to let me know I could have a room for four with two double beds for $100 (plus $5 for the guv’nor) on Saturday night.

I guess I was super-excited to be in an honest-to-goodness motel. A motor hotel! Continue reading

Downtown NYC walk, shop & eat circuit

[tweetmeme]Some girlfriends are coming in from out of town and they are staying with another mutual friend in Union Square. I have plans to ride my bike to Brooklyn with other friends after brunching with them, so I wrote up an e-mail with suggestions of where to go and what to eat given that their home base is Union Square. What emerged was what I think is a great rough itinerary for a weekend day when all you want to do is eat, shop, and fall in love with NYC. My perfect Saturday (or Sunday – or any day you don’t have to work, I guess):

I’ve taken the liberty of drawing a walkable downtown Manhattan shopping map for you (with words). We can start with brunch in the East Village, the earlier the better bc then we won’t have to wait for hours. I would like to go to Cafe Orlin at 10 am so we can get in before the 11 am brunch rush, or we can do Cafe Mogador if you want slightly more ethnic (Moroccan and Mediterranean), but if they’re too busy, Paprika can be our backup backup. After brunch, I’ll be leaving you, but here are a few suggestions:

Recommended shopping (that you can’t get in DC)

East Village – walk down East 9th St. (very close to brunch) between Second Avenue and Avenue A to find a sweet collection of boutiques, clothing and otherwise. I like Cadillac’s Castle for jewelry and I picked up a gently used Alexander Wang dress there for $88. I like Think Closet as well and I think they’re having a sale, and there’s Roni and so many other stores on that stretch that are so cute but I don’t remember all their names. A great area to spend a few hours shopping. If you’re hungry after, head over to E 7th St between 1st and Ave A where there’s Luke’s Lobster for a lobster roll, Porchetta for a slow roasted pork sandwich, and Butter Lane for the most amazing FRENCH (not the American) vanilla buttercream on vanilla cupcake that you have ever had – seriously, the frosting is so good I want to rub it all over my body. I rarely feel this way about vanilla. One block up on St. Mark’s is Crif Dogs for a deep fried hot dog – I like the Chihuahua – or Xi’An Famous Foods for a lamb burger and some hand-pulled noodles. So many choices, so little time…

If you want a quick break from shopping and eating, swing by Tompkins Square Park on Ave A and 7th/9th. Usually there are musicians or sometimes concerts and festivals. You can just hang out on the green for a bit and rest your feet if you like, or just cruise on through.

From East Village, you can make your way down south to LES past Houston, stop by Szeki on Rivington (she’s a doll!), Honey in the Rough, Pixie Market, Miks, Yumi Kim (sale section in back of the store), Foley & Corinna… If you want jewelry there’s also Hillary Flowers on Clinton St. By this point, you’ll probably be ready for a snack. I would recommend swinging by Baohaus to try the pork belly or beef brisket bao, or just get a Straight Frush between the three of you to share. If you are in the mood for sweets, go to Sugar Sweet Sunshine for a $1.50 cupcake and some bomb-ass banana pudding. Or swing by Meatball Shop for a $4 homemade ice cream cookie sandwich – ginger snap cookie with vanilla ice cream is the best.

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NYC to Maine gastro road trip (Part II)

CONTINUED from My Magical NYC to Maine Gastro Road Trip Part I.

SATURDAY LATE AFTERNOON: Georgetown > Brunswick (30-40 minutes)

We high-tailed it from Georgetown to Brunswick after whetting our appetites at Five Islands Lobster Co. Brunswick is home of the infamous Fat Boy Drive-In, which offers an absurdly low price of $6.25 for a lobster roll. Yeah. That’s right. I said drive-in.

You pull up in your shiny little rental car, park, and turn your lights on for service.

They bring you a menu, you order your food, and then they bring out your food on a little try that hangs off of the driver’s side window like so:

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NYC to Maine gastro road trip (Part I)

[tweetmeme]I had what was easily the best in-country travel experience of my life this past weekend. I road tripped from New York City to the magical state of Maine, aka The Way Life Should Be, for the 63rd Annual Maine Lobster Festival with three food-loving friends, eating our faces off along the way.

Five Islands Lobster Co., Georgetown, ME

Word of advice to those considering a similar road trip: reserve your rental car way in advance. The price differential for week-of car rentals vs. month-before car rentals is substantial. We paid $380 for an economy car (3 weekend days) from the Avis at La Guardia airport after booking it two days before leaving, but checking rates a month out, it looks like 3 weekend days will run you about $150 or so. You can take the train to Brunswick and then Maine Eastern Railroad from Brunswick to Rockland for about $220 per person round trip, which is ridiculously expensive and doesn’t allow you the freedom to pull over whenever and wherever you want = sux.

Second word of advice: get a GPS. Borrow it from a friend or rent one from the car rental company. You might think your phone can handle it, but I’m not sure how dependable it will be when you don’t actually have any signal. You’ll be super glad you have GPS when you’ve had your third lobster roll of the day and you are ready for dessert and need to figure out how to get to that one diner you read about with the famous pie.

Final words of advice: don’t forget the bug spray, the sunscreen, the corkscrew/beer opener, a mini cooler, and cash. Many of these famous seafood shacks are outdoors, accept cash only, and some are BYOWhatever. If you are going for Lobsterfest in August, make sure you’ve booked a room several weeks in advance as the lodging in the area fills up quickly. If you are going any time other than summertime, make sure the places you want to go are open, as many shut down in cooler weather. Also, print out all of the addresses of the places you would like to go for easy input into the GPS, and be prepared to go with the flow.

FRIDAY: NYC > Boston (4-5 hours)

It’s roughly 7 hours from NYC to Rockland, ME, home of Lobsterfest. Rather than wake at the butt crack of dawn on Saturday morning, we thought it’d be smart to break up the trip a bit and stay in Boston overnight Friday as Boston is right around the halfway mark to Rockland. From NYC to Boston, it’s about 4 hours. On Friday nights around 8 pm, it’s more like 5 hours and that entire additional hour of traffic is located right outside the city. Once you clear out of the city traffic, it’s smooth sailing. We arrived in Boston around midnight, where we had arranged to stay with a friend who happens to be from Maine. As Adam tucked us into our respective couches, he told us bedtime stories about this glorious wonderland where lobsters were $3.99 a pound, where weekends were spent sailing or kayaking, and where it felt like the most magical summer camp experience you never had, all summer long. Maine… our senses tingled with anticipation. We drifted to sleep dreaming of barbecues, lighthouses, salty breezes, and lobsters growing on trees.

SATURDAY MORNING: Boston > Portland (2 hours)

We got up around 7:30 and started the day with a tasty grilled cheese sandwich on buttery multigrain bread with some kind of gooey white cheese – havarti or fontina, maybe? Thanks, Adam! Since Adam was heading to Portland for the weekend, he hopped into our car with us and we took off for Magical Maine. During the car ride, he kept telling us about how good the food is in Portland, pulling up this NYTimes article on the high level of cooking in this 65,000 person town’s compact urban center, where chefs regularly eat at and critique one another’s restaurants farms and make ample use of local ingredients from nearby fishing grounds, dairies, apiaries, mushroom beds and smokehouses.

And so we headed for brunch at Harding Lee Smith’s The Front Room in Portland.

While we waited for our table to open up, I took in the warm, wood paneled interior, the friendly hosts (is everyone from Maine this nice? – the answer is yes), and ordered myself a lime and raspberry rickey to start off my morning in style – housemade raspberry puree, fresh lime juice, seltzer, and vodka – while catching up with an old friend from LA (also a Maine native, now Portland resident). While all of the food was very good, the clear winner was my potato gnocchi with spinach, bacon, two poached eggs & hollandaise. The gnocchi was unthinkably pillowy and light, the thick chunks of bacon were savory and toothsome, and the hollandaise was rich and decadent. And for just $8!

The Front Room
73 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101-3661
(207) 773-3366

After an hour of unsuccessfully trying to convince the Maine natives to join us on the second leg of our road trip (they already had plans to kayak all day, throw some steak and $3.99/lb lobsters on the grill in the evening, and go sailing on Sunday), we moved on. Continue reading

Taste of 7th Street was SO worth it

I finally got the chance to try some of places on 7th St. that have been on my to-eat list for quite some time: Caracas Arepa Bar, Luke’s Lobster, and Porchetta. I was already familiar with Butter Lane’s delicious little cupcakes and Xoom smoothies were new to me. For just $18 each, I bought tickets to the Taste of 7th St. food festival and it was worth every single penny.

We started off on a slushy Saturday afternoon at Porchetta, where they seemed to have the mass service thing down to a science. The line moved quickly and we got our snack size porchetta sandwiches almost immediately. We ate them outside while we waited in line for Luke’s Lobster, and Michele, an Italian native, told us that porchetta (pronounced porKETta), a savory, slow cooked, moist and fatty pork roast, is typical street fare in Italy. According to Wikipedia, the body of the pig is gutted, deboned, arranged carefully with layers of stuffing, meat, fat, and skin, then rolled, spitted, and roasted, traditionally over wood. Porchetta is usually heavily seasoned with garlic, rosemary, oregano, fennel, and or other herbs. The porchetta sandwich at Porchetta NYC was pretty oregano heavy and stuffed between crusty Italian bread. I’d take this street food over hot dogs and halal carts any day.

We finished our porchetta sandwiches and made it to the counter of Luke’s Lobster, where we were handed snack size lobster roll of cool, lightly seasoned knuckle and claw lobster meat (no fillers!) stuffed inside a warm, buttered slice of toasted bread. Phenomenal. The lobster was perfectly succulent, and while two of our crew prefer warm lobster, we all thoroughly enjoyed the rolls. It was definitely the highlight of the food crawl! Easily the best lobster roll I’ve ever had: succulent, lobster-y, and unadulterated, just the way I like it.

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Gorge yourself at Taste of 7th St. foodfest Feb 27-28 for $18

I’ve been meaning to try some of the most raved-about places on 7th St. in the East Village (Caracas Arepa Bar, Luke’s Lobster, Porchetta, Butter Lane – this one I know well and love, Xoom), but somehow I just haven’t gotten around to getting myself out there. Thanks to the good folks over at Scoop St., I now have the chance to try them all for just $18. Buy advance discounted tickets here through the weekend only.

The scoop features nearly half-off the best signature menu items of 7th Street’s constellation of culinary delight! A mere $18 with this Scoop St. exclusive gets you $35 worth of the following sweets and savories at a discount that’s the chance of a lifetime (with an added bonus of $1 off beers from select bars!)

First, Caracas Arepa Bar’s authentic Venezuelan pocket sandwiches, considered the Latin sloppy Joe, will have you dreaming of the Carribean coast. This scoop gets you one De Pabellón arepa! Tucked inside these golden, soft-pocket corn arepas, is a magical world where you can build a pyramid of deliciousness– starting with a base of black beans, white salty cheese and building up to flavor-infused shredded beef and layered sweet plantains!

Next, get a lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster! With the minimalist mentality of a true Maine lobsterman, only the sweet knuckles and claws lie atop these grilled buns and embellishments strictly include a squirt of mayo and a pinch of celery salt. The sheer simplicity at the lobster shack is its forte, and these irresistible rolls are considered the “Holy Grail of crustacean cuisine.”

Thirdly, devour one of Porchetta’s mouthwatering pork sandwiches, where you will feel like you’ve wandered into the finer food stalls and butcher shops of Rome! With a plethora of different textures, you can opt for the moist, fine grained loin meat or the chewy, fatty type that melts in your mouth.

Fourthly, get two cupcakes at Butter Lane, made with pure ingredients like real vanilla beans, pure cocoa, rich darkchocolate, and fresh fruit that will fill your tummy with yumminess! Butter Lane’s treats prove that the homestyle wholesomeness from your mother’s kitchen can be found in New York’s urban jungle. Sink your teeth into delectable frosting flavor classics like key lime or blueberry or, for the more eclectic tastes, flavors like cream-cheese or grapefruit ginger frosting. Continue reading