I'm back! from the wintry wonderland of the East Coast. It wasn't really a vacation since I was mainly there for conferences, but I loved being able to see new places, rediscover ones I'd already visited before, make new friends, catch up with old ones, and eat new food!
The first stop was Pittsburgh, where I stepped right off the plane into real Winter. Snow! Snow is magical, I've decided.
For the first part of my time in Pittsburgh, I was mostly stuck in and around the conference hotel, and honestly, the food was not that notable: case in point-- at one meal, everything I ate was yellow and served in styrofoam. Gourmet, indeed. I did make it to Primanti's though. That was definitely an experience in greasy, late-night, artery-clogging, lick-your-fingers-clean pub food.
After the conference ended, I visited an old friend of mine from undergrad who's currently studying at Carnegie Mellon, where I totally got to geek out with people in the Language Technologies Institute for a few days.
By the way, the building that houses LTI is brand new and way cool and modern. And the chairs are amazing! Every floor has different chairs! I was a wee-bit obsessed.
Then, it was off to catch the last flight out before the impending snowstorm....
...and on to New York! Ah, mecca of good eats, how I've missed you!
Of course, the minute I dropped off my bags, I hopped on the train to the one restaurant that I've been hearing so, so much about: Momofuku Noodle Bar.
Ah man, was it good! I really, really liked the steamed buns, though I have to admit that I am partial to them to begin with because I adore the original Taiwan versions. But Momofuku's were truly delicious, with the light, airy steamed bun wrapping around ultra-tender meat, finished off with horseradish mayo and a squeeze of Sriracha from the bottle that the barman nonchalantly slid towards me. The open kitchen layout was fun, since I could watch the line of cooks calmly and meticulously create each plate of food. And it was awesome how the chalkboards on the walls listed the farms from which all of the ingredients were sourced. The one thing I wasn't actually that crazy about at the noodle bar was the ramen itself, but I think that's because I just didn't like the tanginess of the XO broth--all of the elements inside the bowl were great, and judging from what the guy next to me was eating, the regular broth looks much better. What I love most about traveling and trying new food is seeing all of the combinations of flavors and ingredients and tastes that I would have never thought of myself, and Momofuku was particularly exciting because of the wacky combinations they have that seem to just miraculously work together.
After stumbling out in blissful happiness from the noodle bar, I couldn't resist swinging by Momofuku Milk Bar. After all, it *was* right around the corner! I'd had the apple pie cake truffles with lunch at the noodle bar, and those were a delicious mix of apple cake and cinnamony apple chunks coated in a thin layer of white chocolate and rolled in a crumbly pie-like topping. (nom) Since I was so full already, I mainly wanted to try the famous cereal milk soft serve, just to see what all the buzz is about. Honestly, though, I didn't particularly care for it. The soft serve did taste like cereal milk, which is great and all, but I don't really like milk in my cereal to begin with, so I wasn't so excited about the flavor in the end.
The next few days in the city were spent alternating between conference-attending and restaurant-hopping!
I was fortunate enough to be staying just around the corner from City Bakery, so I stopped by on my way into the conference one day. Pretzel croissants! Such a New York thing, but oh so good. They're chewy pretzel wrapped in ultra-flakey croissant dough and topped with just the perfect amount of salt. They went perfectly with the thick City Bakery dark hot chocolate, with a gigantic homemade marshmallow. I hadn't seen hot chocolate that thick since Italy! It was so thick that I kept adding hot water to it throughout the day at the conference with absolutely no detriment to the actual taste of the drink itself. = Perfect conference food. :-)
I can't go through this recap of eating around NYC without especially thanking two friends, Amy and Maryam, who made it their mission to make sure that I was well-fed during my time in the city. Ah, we ate so much together, from s'mac (thanks to Wilde in the Kitchen for suggesting it!), where we lunched on buffalo chicken mac'n'cheese, to a full-on feast in the one block of NYC's k-town.
For brunch one day, they insisted that we *must* go to Shopsins, this tiny two-table stand with a menu that you need a magnifying glass and hours to properly decode and process. The main reason we had to go? Mac'n'cheese pancakes. Yes. *Of course* I had to try the mac'n'cheese pancakes! I know that they may sound weird, but trust me--they are delicious, especially when dipped in the special Shopsins hot sauce and maple syrup. The mini donuts were awesomely good, too: airy yet doughy, straight out of the fryer, and tossed in cinnamon sugar. The huge bowl of them might look intimidating, but we polished them off with no problems at all!
After the conference ended, the remainder of my days in New York were spent for the most part bakery-hopping: bagels from Absolute Bagels, milk bread and macarons and chocolate chip madeleines from Silver Moon Bakery, and raspberry bomboloni and amazing chocolate chip walnut cookies (that are more like scones!) at Levain Bakery. (Thanks to all of you who suggested Levain Bakery! soooo glad I went.) It was my first time having bomboloni, but after having Levain Bakery's version, I honestly don't think regular ol' filled donuts will ever be up to par again.
Somehow, I was able to make room in my stomach for a quick lunch at Shake Shack (the custard is super creamy!) and a pit stop at Grom gelato (get the crema di Grom), too.
Anyways, I have to say that despite all of the good eats and fun, it's great to finally be back (in a land with fresh salad and in-season fruits and vegetables!). After working through Christmas to prepare for this trip, I'm so ready for life to just go back to normal again. Or, rather, back to as normal as things get. :-)
Thanks again to all who suggested places to eat in Pittsburgh and New York. I really wish there'd been time to try all of them!