Bites from the Big Apple

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Bites from the Big Apple
A trip to New York is not the best time to watch your weight. Granted, there are plenty of healthy options, especially as more chefs embrace organic ingredients in their menus, but pizza and cupcakes are two indulgences to savor.
By Megan Eileen McDonough, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Alyssa Riley
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    Classic Pizza Joints and Beyond
    "The best pizza in New York" is a contentious topic. Grimaldi’s pizzeria in DUMBO and Lombardi’s Pizza in Nolita are classics; Louie and Ernie's in the Bronx has mastered the art of thin-crust and uses fresh mozzarella and meats from the local butcher. Artichoke Basille’s Pizza has six locations around the city, including Chelsea, Park Slope, and Laguardia Airport. Try their thick, creamy artichoke slice made with artichoke hearts topped with mozzarella and Pecorino Romano. For more than just pizza, try the simple yet elegant Italian fare at dell'anima or the urban Italian of Locanda Verde.
    Photo by Alyssa Riley
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    The Bounty of Farmers' Markets
    Despite an absurd number of restaurants to choose from, many New Yorkers shop for fresh ingredients to make their own food. The farmers’ markets are a fascinating place for foodies to browse. Most are open only on select days during the week, which can change seasonally, so it’s best to check ahead. The Union Square Greenmarket is buzzing with local farmers selling their products on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. In Brooklyn, Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket runs on Saturdays year-round. The indoor Essex Street Market is open daily—though not each vendor is there each day, and many are absent on Sundays—selling gourmet cheese, fresh fish, and other groceries. Organic foods and locally sourced ingredients are sold here as well.
    Photo by Fahri Nisa
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    Delis with History
    Meg Ryan’s performance in When Harry Met Sally helped catapult Katz’s Delicatessen to recognition beyond New York City. Katz’s keeps a rather low profile and uses a ticket system for ordering food. Customers can place their order straight from the deli, or opt for table service and examine the dozens of framed photos of celebrities who have dined here in the past. Pancakes and other breakfast items are on the menu, but this deli is best known for its hearty meat sandwiches, so come hungry. Carnegie Deli is another iconic deli; their pastrami sandwich is out of this world, and it's fairly typical to see a line of eager diners out the door.
    Photo by Ruddy Harootian
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    Eat Your Way Skinny on a Food Walking Tour
    New York was made for walking, and what better way to explore the city than through food? The Original Greenwich Village Food Tour run by Foods of New York Tours takes visitors to historic mom-and-pop shops like Pesce Pasta, Murray's Cheese, and the Olivers & Co. Mediterranean olive oil shop. A ticket includes six tastings on the go and one tasting in a restaurant. Sugartooth Tours hosts regular dessert walking tours—with at least six tastings—that introduce you to lesser-known bakeries, and the guides throw in tidbits about history and culture along the way. Their Downtown Village to Village Cupcake Crawl tour runs about three hours and includes six tastings. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes on all the tours.
    Photo by Trevor Dixon/age fotostock
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    Quench Your Thirst with the Local Brews
    Summer in New York feels like an oven and can get downright uncomfortable. In situations like these a cold brew does wonders for morale. The Standard Biergarten, in the Meatpacking District, is open year-round and serves domestic and international beers, not to mention warm German pretzels and other delicacies. It’s part of the Standard Hotel and so the dress code veers toward dressy-casual. One of the oldest taverns in the city is McSorley’s Old Ale House in the East Village. Alternatively, head to the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria, Queens, and pair a draft beer with something from the traditional Czech and Slovak menu. If a cold brew isn’t enough, tour the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg.
    Photo by Erin Young
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    Top-Notch Dining
    New York has plenty of high-end dining experiences. If you really want to go to town, dine at the Jean-Georges Vongerichten flagship restaurant in Trump Tower, just off Columbus Circle near Central Park. Executive Chef Mark LaPico runs the kitchen and stays true to the founder’s vision. Expect to taste influences from France, Asia, and America in your entree. Similarly, Nobu in West Village incorporates Asian, South American, and European styles and flavors into each dish. David Rockwell designed the interior to resemble the quiet beauty of the Japanese countryside. Eleven Madison Park is a grand New York dining experience, ABC Kitchen embraces the farm-to-table philosophy, and Marea presents a fresh twist on traditional Italian seafood.
    Photo courtesy of Francesco Tonelli/Jean-Georges
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    Hands-On Dining: Cook Your Own Feast
    Food trends in New York often focus on healthy eating, underrated ingredients, and blending tradition with modernity. People are therefore becoming more interested in where their food comes from and how best to prepare it themselves. Become a pro at making pizzas with guidance from Pizza a Casa. During the four-hour hands-on class students learn everything from the basics to the final touches that take a pizza from simple to satisfying. If chocolate sounds more appealing, you can learn the art of chocolate making with JoMart Chocolates. Owner Michael Rogak teaches this introductory course, which includes "tasting, hand-tempering and hand-dipping." He also teaches a Belgian truffle class in addition to offering private lessons.
    Photo by Joe Fox/age fotostock
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    Innovative Food Trucks
    The food truck craze started a few years ago and its popularity has only increased. Many trucks change location throughout the week so if you’re looking for one in particular check their website or Twitter account. Union Square, midtown, and Columbus Circle are all usually safe bets. Nuchas serves fresh, artisanal chicken, beef, veggie, and sweet empanadas that will make you feel like you’re in Argentina. Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream (which also has five shops around the city) uses hormone- and antibiotic-free milk and egg yolks to create a smooth, rich texture. Tacombi, which now has three locations in Manhattan and one in Mountauk, keeps the food truck mentality but brings it indoors for a real restaurant experience.
    Photo courtesy of Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
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    Hot Spots for Food and Drink Pairings
    In a sea of high-end restaurants, adding a hook like alcohol pairings can make all the difference. Take Maison Premiere in Williamsburg as an example. This hotspot combines cocktails and oysters to reflect the colorful cultures of New York, Paris, and New Orleans. Head Bartender Maxwell Britten works with a long list of liquors but has experimented with absinthe the most. Absinthe may sound a little extreme, but Britten’s strategy has proven a major success thus far. For an instant refresher in the summer, order a prosecco and ice pop combo at the Conrad New York's rooftop bar. The Spotted Pig is a gastropub that specializes in seasonal dishes and has two bars, and Momofuku Ssäm bar is known for its inventive cocktails and range of sake.
    Photo courtesy of Conrad New York
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    Gourmet Sweet Treats
    Those with a sweet tooth will feel like they’ve hit the jackpot in New York. With so much competition, each bakery needs to win its customers. Doughnut Plant handcrafts gourmet doughnuts daily in a variety of innovative flavors. Baked by Melissa sells bite-size cupcakes that match flavors you’d see at an ice-cream or candy shop, such as cookies and cream, cookie dough, and candy corn. Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC—better known as BabyCakes— bakes vegan, gluten-, soy-, and dairy-free cupcakes and other treats that are surprisingly delicious. For something more intimate, wine and dine at Sweet Revenge, a restaurant that puts an interesting spin on how you eat your dessert and specializes in pairing wine and beer with their fresh cupcakes.
    Photo by Ted Nghiem
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