Thursday, February 16, 2012

Big Apple, Part III: A cheesy afternoon delight

Way up on the list of things to do when visiting The Big Apple is eating. The lovely Miss Wendy and I keep our chowing down simple when visiting New York, mostly searching out kosher delis – well, at least kosher-style delis!

So it was that we spent some quality time at the Carnegie Deli over the weekend, a mere hop, skip and jump from our hotel in midtown Manhattan. I once again let my stomach call the shots and ordered a hot pastrami sandwich – it’s a whopping pound of meat and costs a whopping $17.

I spent a good minute or two savoring the feast that spread out before me – slabs of thinly sliced pastrami spilling out from under two tiny pieces of bread – before pushing aside half of the sandwich and pulling off at least half of the meat from what remained in front of me, all to be eaten later that evening.

I scarfed down the now-manageable treat, enjoying the rich and deep flavor of the pastrami, nicely blended with a mix of spicy mustard, tangy bit of pickle and crusty slice of rye bread. A perfect bite! There would be many more.

A day earlier, Wendy and I dined at Ben’s Kosher Deli, an expansive restaurant with an expansive menu of Jewish treats. Yet again I feasted on a hot pastrami sandwich, but also enjoyed a steaming hot bowl of mushroom-barley soup. Yummy! Since Ben’s is actually a real kosher restaurant, Wendy ordered a brisket sandwich – moist and tender with just enough fat to tickle the taste buds.

It’s worth noting that we had breakfast at a few specialty diners in midtown and the upper west side of the city each morning and noshed on some dee-licious sweets from bakeries around Times Square most afternoons. All of this was a nice and classic way to eat over our long weekend holiday; but I was also hankering for something a little different and, ah, cheesy!

Late last year, while clicking through the cable channels on the tube, I came across a program on the Food Network focusing on a little specialty restaurant in Manhattan. It’s called S’Mac and its cooks – it’s way too small to have chefs – focus all of their culinary talents on one dish – Mac-n-cheese!

The 30-minute program left me drooling and promising myself that the next time I was in The Big Apple I’d be making a pilgrimage to the East Village. So it was that on a frigid afternoon in early February, Wendy and I found ourselves just east of Union Square in a gritty little space filled mostly with teens and young adults.

A dozen or so tables were spread about the room and a dozen or so people were waiting in line to place their orders. A large menu was on display across one wall, detailing the many ways S’Mac pulls together cheese, pasta, veggies, meat and spices.

Wendy and I kept it simple. I ordered the 4 Cheese Delight, featuring Cheddar, Muenster, Gruyere and a touch of Pecorino. Wendy opted for the Garden Lite – Cheddar, Parmesan, roasted cauliflower and portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic, broccoli and scallions. We weren’t disappointed!

Meals are presented in skillets nestled in wooden serving dishes, the cheesy tops still bubbling away amidst a heavenly aroma of cheese and spices. There’s a fine crunchy topping of bread crumbs that easily gives way to a euphonic blend of robust flavors.

It’s all so simple and fresh, and a perfect way to spend a chilly afternoon in The Big Apple. S’Mac – the full name is Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese and you can find its website right here – is a happening place; cheesy in just about every way possible. We’ll be back!


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  2. Good Gawd, I'm glad I didn't know about S'Mac when we were in New York back in November... might not have been able to resist. And the Carnegie Deli? Don't get me started... oy.