New York in the spring can bring any kind of weather even snow, which was predicted for the day we left the city. The floral dresses and short sleeves of a few weeks ago were replaced for a day or two with basic black, puffy coats and umbrellas. Temperatures ranged from 70 to 38 with a little rain and wind for good measure. Our preferred mode of travel in NYC is walking, followed by the subway and bus when necessary.
A big part of the New York experience is food. Different neighborhoods, different ethnic inspired foods. What variety! It’s a true melting pot. The Lower East Side has been home to many immigrant groups, each contributing to the ever changing food landscape. Gentrification is occurring in the area (boutique hotels replacing tenement apartment buildings, skyrocketing rents) but some things never change. Or haven’t, yet.
We joined a group with Free Tours By Foot for a glimpse, actually a taste, of mostly Jewish Eastern European culinary delights on their Lower East Side itinerary.
First stop – Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery, a neighborhood staple since 1910, founded by a Romanian immigrant, who first peddled his wares in Coney Island. How does one describe a “knish?” Mashed potato wrapped in dough doesn’t quite do it justice. It must be eaten hot! Huge. Enough for several people. An egg cream chaser hit the spot. This favorite drink from my NY childhood has neither eggs nor cream. It’s a fountain drink that does not come in a bottle. Whole milk is added to chocolate syrup, followed by a careful addition of cold seltzer (soda water). Stir! Sip! Yum!
We stopped at Russ and Daughters, but did not partake. R & D was founded 100 years ago and is still going strong. The emphasis is on pickled and smoked fish but there are many other items on the menu. Believe it or not, recipes are on their website.
Judging by the crowds in Katz’s delicatessen, everyone who comes to New York eats there. It was a mad house so we didn’t stay to have one of their famous mile high pastrami sandwiches. This NY institution was founded in 1888. It’s where “Harry Met Sally.”
At The Pickle Guys barrels and barrels of pickled goodies (not just pickles) beckon. There were many pickle stores on Essex Street at the turn of the 20th century. Stanley Feld warmly reminisces about “Jake, the pickle man.” Today, there is only the The Pickle Guys.
C & C Prosperity Dumplings has branched out from its original location in Chinatown. The dumplings are made to order and include vegetarian options. Delicious!
As if we weren’t full enough we had to have a doughnut at Doughnut Plant, our last stop. It was hard to choose. There were filled (jam, cream, custard), yeast, Tres Leches, and Blackout, among them. We went with the Valrone chocolate covered. A gourmet doughnut!
The nice thing about Free Tours By Foot is that you only pay for what you eat, a little or a lot. A gratuity for the guide is appreciated.