BEFORE: Fresh lobster
Every July, Florida boaters and wannabe fisherman flood the coast during mini-season, a two day free-for-all before the eight month regular lobster season. Since 12:01 a.m. locals have been making runs back and forth to their favorite traps and stakeouts filling their live wells with Florida lobster.
My hometown resides in Monroe County, so my family was only allowed to catch six lobsters per person per boat. Luckily, I'm Cuban and there are a whole lot of us--plus all my cousins that came down from Miami.
I didn't get to enjoy these tasty treats, but my mom made sure I knew just how delicious, tender and buttery they were. The mini-season ends tomorrow at midnight and doesn't re-open until August 6. I'm sure I will have many more jealous pangs for home until then.
AFTER: Grilled lobster
There are thousands of pizza places in New York City, but the best late night stop is definitely Artichoke, a hole in the wall pizzeria on 1st Avenue. It's the primo place to stop for a slice on the way home when you're having a late night out.
No matter what time of day, you can always tell you're close when you start to see the massive crowd of people milling around on the sidewalk. I've never been there when the line wasn't wrapping around the chain link fence, the only light coming from the warm glow of the restaurant that's seeping into the street.
The word restaurant may be a bit of a stretch. Inside is extremely small with a miniscule counter, display case and condiment area. You'll make fast friends with the people waiting next to you in line, I promise.
What makes Artichoke different from other New York pay-by-the slice restaurants is their toned down selection. They only have four choices of pizza: Artichoke, Margarita, Sicilian and Crab.
The Artichoke Pizza is so creamy and melt-in-your-mouth good that you can literally taste the fatty richness. Each bite is more savory than the last, and the crust is fluffy and soft. It feels like a sin to eat (and probably is with all those calories), but it's totally worth cheating on your healthy eating.
The Sicilian is just as good and cut into an easy to manage square. Although it's a completely different kind of sauce, the tomato is just as flavorful and delicious as the cheesy cream sauce on the artichoke.
Want your artichoke served up by itself? Get it stuffed and savor the toasty flavor.
Courtesy of Amazon.com
Courtesy of Amazon.com
No matter what anyone tells you, the best thing to have in New York is a good foodie friend. Luckily, Anthony Derico is not only willing to eat anything, he knows all the best underground eats an inexperienced New York food connoisseur like myself will love.
From the outside, Momofuku Ssäm Bar doesn't look like much. Located on an inconspicuous corner on 2nd Ave., I almost walked right past the place without a second glance. Once inside, however, the place was packed to the brim with eager restaurant-goers.
We parked ourselves at the bar and decided to order some of the more adventurous items on the menu. You only live once, right? Of course neither of us was equipped with a camera, (I know, I know, I fail.) so Anthony very sweetly agreed to use his iPhone.
Santa Barbara Uni
Instead of ordering the same 'ol oysters from the Raw Bar, we chose the Santa Barbara Uni. The oyster crema, crisp root and wild sea beans proved to be quite an interesting combination. I don't know why I expected the dish to be served hot, but I was definitely thrown for a loop when the cold oysters touched my lips. When you put all the flavors together in one bite, the flavor palette and texture combined to give your tastebuds a real treat. If they didn't, however, the dish could have an overwhelming fishy flavor.
The great thing about Momofuku? The menu is seasonal. The only thing on the menu Anthony had tried before were the Steamed Buns.
Made with pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers and scallions, the Steamed Buns were my favorite dish of the night. The pork was so tender and moist I swear I couldn't stop sighing with pleasure. Adding a little sriracha sauce to the inside of the bun was the perfect spicy kick that left my mouth tingling. Before I knew it, the entire thing was gone and we already had another dish ready and waiting for us.
Sweet & Sour Crispy Pig Ears
I guess we must have been in the mood for pork, because the next course to arrive contained lots of little piggy Babe. The Sweet and Sour Crispy Pig Ears, topped with wild sorrel and white poppy, definitely had a unique texture. The first bite was a bit chewy, but the flavors slowly seeped onto my palette and I didn't want to put my chopsticks down.
Shaved Dry Age Sirloin
Okay, so I'm not going to lie, I totally wanted to try the Shaved Dry Aged Sirloin because it had faaaaaaaavvva beans (said like Dr. Hannibal Lecter). In a verbena broth with rhubarb and lemon, the color of the dish was the first thing I noticed. The juicy broth made the sirloin tender and filled my mouth with flavor. It was definitely the moistest meat I've ever tasted.
Thai Iced Tea Parfait
We almost didn't get dessert, but I'm really, really glad we decided to change our minds. I loved the deconstructed plating of the Thai Iced Tea Parfait. The texture of the lemon mascarpone and almond tea crunch added to the playfulness of the dish, and the parfait was the most interesting sweet yet tangy flavor.
Two of my absolute favorite things in life are a good glass of vino (preferably Chianti or Pinot Noir) and chocolate (any kind). I have the worst sweet tooth ever, and have been known to eat chocolate anywhere, anytime. The same goes for wine. I'm pretty good at slugging a whole bottle back all by myself.
When Ashley Ross , a fellow Gator and J-School alum, invited me out to Ayza, a wine and chocolate bar on West 31st, the answer was a no-brainer. The inside was pretty packed when we arrived, but we were able to get a small table outside by the entrance.
Hot Artichoke Hearts
We each ordered a glass of wine to sip while perusing the menu. The Asian Steak Tartare made us salivate immediately. Unfortunately, the filet mignon with sesame soy wasabi marinade and creme fraiche wasn't available. Instead, we opted for the complete opposite end of the spectrum-- Hot Artichoke Hearts. The irish cheddar cheese and ripe tomatoes were the perfect compliment to the warm, rich artichokes. Whether eaten by itself or paired with the fresh pita, the artichoke fell apart in my mouth in a burst of creamy flavor.
White Truffle Pizza
Since Ashley and I both agree that anything with truffle oil is simply divine, our next appetizer, the White Truffle Pizza, was an easy choice. The dish made pizza feel fancy with a garlicky cream sauce, beef bresaola and white truffle oil. Not too greasy, the crust was satisfyingly crunchy. I rationalized that the small personal sized portion couldn't possibly be THAT unhealthy. Hey, a girl can dream.
The restaurant's fresh handmade chocolate by Martine's are two for $7-- how could we say no? Ashley went for the Piano, milk chocolate filled with soft butterscotch caramel, while I ordered the King Tut, dark chocolate filled with hazelnut paste and chocolate. So rich and delicious, the small portions were the perfect way to end the meal.