Sometimes you don't get the true feeling of a city just from wandering around. Since we live in New York City, friends that visit are always asking me what's the best thing to see or do. I have the usual suggestions, but I would love to have some better or more creative ideas. My friend, Cindy, is a tour guide for Foods of NY Tours and has been bugging me to take one of her tours. It was only a matter of time before I took her up on it. The weather was beautiful the day we finally worked it into our schedule. It's no secret that I am a huge fan of food, so I started the tour with high hopes and an empty stomach. Our tour was titled the "Original Greenwich Village Tour".
We met up at Murray's Cheese Shop. Cindy was out front passing out waters and guides and generally being the life of the party. (Seriously, the group collectively decided she knew everyone in NYC by the end of the tour). Once we were all met, there were 16 of us, we headed around the corner to Famous Joe's Pizza. It was tough to leave Murray's without going inside, but we knew we were coming back later.
The first thing you notice about Joe's is how ordinary it looks. It's a very small shop with a counter in the front and if you didn't know this was one of the premier places for pizza in the city, you might walk right by it. Luckily, it was our first stop and it did not disappoint. There happened to be another food tour stopping by, this one a tour that focused exclusively on pizza, and Cindy and their tour guide had a playful pizza knowledge test of wits while we waited for our slice. (I'm not sure who won the battle - maybe we should call it a draw.) The pizza itself was well worth the wait. An iconic NY pizza slice – chewy thin crust, just the right amount of sauce, and a healthy portion of cheese. "Famous" is certainly an earned title for Joe's Pizza.
Next stop was O & Co., an international specialty food shop with some really terrific selections of olive oil and balsamic vinegars. (They definitely helped me out with some of my Christmas shopping.) Their very knowledgeable staff gave us a crash course in quality olive oil selection and of course, we were afforded a few samples. The ladies at Oli and Co. gave us a quick crash course in how to select the best olive oil (did you know olive oil isn't regulated in the US and sometimes you are actually buying canola oil?) and gave us some great things to try. My favorite was some fresh popped popcorn with truffle infused olive oil.Usually I am a huge fan of butter on my popcorn, but they have converted me - I'll definitely try popcorn with flavored olive oil again!
We headed to the corner for a little history and a rice ball (arancini) from Faicco's. This ooewy gooey risotto like ball of heaven really hit the spot. Cindy was a fountain of information and gave us all kinds of insider info about the neighborhood; it's history, it's people, and it's architecture. My husband and I are New Yorkers (I can say that now, we've made it passed our 10 year anniversary!) and I work nearby. Even so, we learned a few new things about the neighborhood and tried some yummy new food. It also helped that it was also a nice walk through one of the more beautiful neighborhoods of Manhattan.
Off again - this time for a meatball from Fish (which - since their specialty is fish you wouldn't guess would be good but it was excellent) and then a cookie at one of my husband's favorite spots - Milk and Cookies Bakery. We had seriously good oatmeal cookies, made with pat flour/wheat flour mix. If you find yourself in the Village, look them up. Totally worth it.
Second to last stop was a sit down stop for some wine and eggplant Parmesan at Rafele.We had earned our drink by this point and nearly everyone had a glass of sangria. I'm usually not a fan of eggplant anything, but this eggplant Parmesan was light, melt in your mouth goodness that showed me eggplant isn't something to fear (hey, I may be a self proclaimed foodie, but I have my limits).Not only was the food yummy but the staff was playful and it's a safe bet that everyone had a good time.
At this point I was feeling pretty full (and extremely happy I didn't eat lunch before the tour) but there was still more. We headed out to a truly iconic landmark in Greenwich, Murray's Cheese Shop.At Murray's - you'll find a stunning assortment of cheeses, breads, spreads, pastas - you name it. As their name suggests though, the feather in their cap is cheese.They make and age their own (it used to be done at the Greenwich location but the cheese cave was moved to Queens).When we plan a party or just need some good cheese, Murray's is a must stop.
Ok, I lied before. Rafele wasn't our second to last stop.After Murray's we stopped across the street for a cannoli at a fabulous Italian bakery - Rocco's - It was the perfect wrap up to a fine afternoon.
All and all - this little food tour was just what the doctor ordered. My husband and I had a blast and Cindy was a lot of fun. If you find yourself in NYC, this tour is certainly worth your time.
Foods of NY Tours - Original Greenwich Village
Just for fun I've added one of my favorite pizza dough recipes. Enjoy!
Roberta's Pizza Dough
Ever so slightly adapted from Cooking.nytimes.com. Mostly I just adjusted the directions slightly.
I strongly reccomend that you weigh all of the ingredients. This recipe works so much better when you weigh the ingredients as opposed to using measuring cups or spoons.
- 153 grams (1 cup, 1 Tbsp) 00 flour
- 153 grams (1 cup, 1 Tbsp, 2 tsp) AP flour
- 8 grams (1 tsp) fine sea salt
- 200 grams (about 1 cup) lukewarm water
- 2 grams (3/4 tsp) active dry yeast
- 4 grams (1 tsp) extra-virgin olive oil
- 24 grams (1 Tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours and salt.
2. In a smaller mixing bowl; stir together water,the yeast, and the olive oil. Add to the flour mixture. With a gloved hand, mix the dough until until it pulls into a dough and then knead until well combined, approximately 3 minutes. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
3. Knead the rested dough for 3 minutes on a floured surface. Weigh the dough and divide into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Place on a heavily floured surface, cover with a damp cloth (that has been throoughly wrung out), and let rest and rise to at least double - 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. (If you refrigerate the dough, take it out 30 to 45 minutes before you shape it on pizza day.)
4. To make the pizza, preheat the oven with a cold pizza stone to 475 degrees. Let the pizza stone preheat for at least 30 minutes before adding the pizza.
5. While oven and stone are preheating, place each dough ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it into a circle or a square.
6. Move the prepared dough to a pizza peal that's been lightly dusted with corn meal. Brush the top of the dough with extra virgin olive oil and top with favorite ingredients. (Be careful not to let any of the olive oil drip onto the stone - stick to the edge. If you do the pizza will stick to the stone.)
7. Using the pizza peal - move the pizza to the oven, directly on top of the pizza stone. Bake for 6 minutes.
8. Using tonges, very carefully spin the pizza on the stone to make sure it doesn't stick and continue to bake until desired doneness, checking every 2 minutes.
9. Let it cool on a cooling rack for about 2 minutes and serve.'