111-115/1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die
More eatin’ and photographin’ around NYC!
Hash — American (111)
Per Mimi, “From the French haché, meaning “to chop,” hash may be the world’s most delicious way to use up what are often leftover bits of cooked meat and poultry.” I disagree. Make a pot pie. I was not a fan of this corned beef hash I had at a café in my neighborhood. Of course the meat was happy which was (ethically) great, but the dish was salty and bland, even after I put hot sauce on it. Mimi says that hash can be topped with a fried egg, which never hurts anything, but was not on offer in this particular case. It probably would have helped. I don’t foresee myself ordering much beef hash in the future.
Couscous — North African (112)
You know what IS great, though? Couscous. Especially when shared with a friend. In this case, with Kate, at Café Gitane in Nolita. Mimi tells us, “A must-have dish in any Moroccan restaurant, and in many French bistros as well, couscous is really an event, as much about the elaborate preparation as the serving and the eating.” Couscous itself is tiny rice-sized pellets of semolina flour, traditionally formed by hand, and cooked in a steamer basket over a simmering pot of vegetables, spices and meat; the stew’s fragrant steam cooks and fluffs the grains. Then, the cooked grains are doused with the broth and studded through with the meat and veggies. Traditionally, couscous is eaten by hand, but Kate and I are pretty classy (and also I didn’t know that), so we ate with spoons. It was a good night. It was a great cous.
Mille-Crêpe Cake from Lady M — American (113)
Did you ever want to eat A WHOLE BUNCH OF CRêPES? Like, more than seemed reasonable to eat at one go? Lady M Confections in NYC has heard you, and delivers unto you the mille-crêpe cake. I didn’t get a very good photo, because it took me and Danielle way longer to make it across Central Park in the dark to the Upper East Side than I thought it would, and Lady M was closing as we arrived. They did agree to sell me a $10 (for real) piece of their cake, but made me take it to go. No worries. It was still INCREDIBLE when I enjoyed it at home later. I chose the marron variety (seen below), which is flavored with roasted chestnuts. There are many varieties of mille-crêpe, but all of them are created thusly, per Mimi: “The pile-up of twenty or so silken, golden-edged crêpes… layered with a lusciously airy crème St-Honoré — vanilla custard pastry cream aerated with whipped cream — [makes] for a cool and towering enticement.” Worth $10 a slice, and the bum’s rush? Yes. It was pretty damn delicious. The French traditionally enjoy this gâteau de crêpes on Candlemas, which is February 2nd. Something tells me I’ll be back for another slice around 2/2, maybe a little earlier in the day.
Pâte Feuilletée (in a mille-feuille) — French (114)
And speaking of multi-layered dessert treats, you can also find this one in NYC, at the helpfully-named Mille-feuille Bakery Cafe on the Upper West Side. The actual foodstuff that Mimi said I had to eat is pâte feuilletée — what we call “puff pastry” — and the form I found to complete the task was a vanilla mille-feuille dessert (which we call a Napoleon around here), the best-known use of pâte feuilletée. Puff pastry is, Mimi informs us, “a standard lesson in any serious French cookery class and an art worth mastering … Rolled out flat and baked, the dough flakes into parchment-thin leaves as the butter melts between the layers, resulting in 1,458 to 3,645 leaves, the final count depending on the number of turns made.” These thin golden strips (“mille-feuille” literally translates to “a thousand leaves”) are just sturdy enough to hold fillings, and should be crunchy, not soggy, when you push your fork down. Other iterations of the dessert include gâteaux mille-feuille, pithiviers, palmiers, and papillons. Delightful, howsoever you slice it.
Soft Pretzel — American (115)
There’s not much that says “NYC street food” like a big soft pretzel (seen here: me having a “working lunch” as I race through Times Square). You can find them on pretty much every street corner below 125th street. But, I hate to break it to y’all, the very VERY BEST soft pretzels are found in Amish country, specifically at Countryside Road Stand in Ronks, PA. Seriously. Check out that TripAdvisor page and just scroll down through the comments about the pretzels. They basically melt in your mouth. They are made of magic. Nothing else comes close. Mimi doesn’t actively recommend the Ronks, PA pretzel over the NYC street-corner variety, so I have to assume she’s never done a real comparison. But she does admit that German brötchen “traveled to America via the Palantine German immigrants to Pennsylvania, now known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, with the first commercial pretzel bakery in the U.S. opening in Lititz, Pennsylvania, in 1861.” Unsurprisingly, pretzels were first sold on the street in Philadelphia, but can now be found in major cities across the US. But don’t eat a city pretzel and think you’re done. I beg of you. Eat an Amish pretzel before you die. That’s the spin I’m putting on Mimi’s recommendation. I have been to the mountaintop. It’s delicious up there.