May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016
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This is what heaven looks like. But it’s at Barney Greengrass. All photos: © tablehopper.com.

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The counter at Barney Greengrass.

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Russ & Daughters bagel sandwich.

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My bagel and nova tower at Sadelle’s.

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The welcoming dining room (and fish counter) at Sadelle’s.

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The Mooch at Baz Bagel.

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The bagel (and flagel) selection at Baz Bagel.

During my time here in New York, of course it’s OPERATION BAGELS AND NOVA, like, all the time. Here are some favorites so far.

Barney Greengrass
I am so glad I finally had the time to hit this venerable spot on the Upper West Side. Since 1908, people! All hail the Sturgeon King! The soul of this place runs deep, so old-school New York. It has the same DNA as San Francisco’s beloved Swan Oyster Depot, with salty guys in white jackets, snappy conversation, decades of patina, and fantastic seafood.

I went with a friend for a late Sunday lunch, and after rubbing my eyes, I was absolutely bedazzled by the options (eggs and smoked fish! smoked fish platters! Barney’s special scrambles!). I went for scrambled eggs with a side of nova and sturgeon ($20.75), which comes with a fantastic bagel (reportedly from Davidovich Bakery) or a bialy that you can slather with some super-thick and creamy cream cheese. A breakfast fit for queens and kings, I tell you. Everyone needs to make a pilgrimage to this place. Often. It’s the real deal—and still family-owned. Open Tue-Sun 8am-6pm. 541 Amsterdam Ave. at 86th St., 212-724-4707.

Russ & Daughters
The other beloved New York classic, this family-owned appetizing shop has been in the Lower East Side since 1914. It makes your heart beat with anticipation as soon as you see the case stocked with pink jewels of salmon in more variations than you knew existed (Gaspé nova, Western nova, Irish smoked salmon, Scottish smoked salmon belly lox…) although your heart can sink a little when you see the insane line this place draws, especially on the weekends. Take a numbah!

They recently started making their own bagels, which has really upped their bagel sandwich game. And even though I was more than a little peeved when I discovered my counter guy got my order wrong—and after a 30-minute ordeal of waiting to order—it’s the kind of thing you can move past, because in the end, getting an expertly sliced Gaspé nova salmon bagel sandwich with cream cheese is a rather magical thing for $12, even when it’s wrong. Ha-ha! I look forward to a do-over—and finally visiting their Russ & Daughters Cafe next week, where you can actually sit while enjoying a full-tilt platter of smoked fish delights. Shop hours: Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-7pm, Sun 8am-5pm. 179 E. Houston St. at Orchard, 212-475-4880.

Sadelle’s
This spacious spot in Soho, with brick walls and a vaulted ceiling and mezzanine in the back, fortunately can seat a bunch of people during a busy weekend brunch, because there’s a rather strong draw here: incredible hand-rolled bagels that are boiled and baked on-site (right in the middle of the restaurant!) by baker and co-owner Melissa Weller (Per Se, Roberta’s). They are beauteous, full of flavor and with a satisfying texture. At the front of the space at the fish counter, you’ll see dowels poking out from the wall, where the fresh bagels cool and await their next customer.

And then there’s the carefully sliced array of smoked and cured fish, which will be served in a tiered caddy like you’re at high tea. It’s high fish! There’s a lot of care that goes into the accoutrements, too—I noticed my sliced tomato with chives was already seasoned. Nice.

There are decadent egg dishes (salmon eggs Benedict, anyone?), and caviar service, and classic sandwiches, and matzo ball soup…it all has an old-school/new-school New York/Jewish appetizing shop vibe. Love the vintage-inspired plates, and the staff in their Sadelle’s jackets, aprons, and bow ties. Sure, it’s fauxstalgia, but it works. (I just wish they’d put their prices on their website, hate that.)

The owners (Major Food Group’s Rich Torrisi, Mario Carbone, and Jeff Zalaznick) transform the place into a candlelit brasserie at night—a friend said I should check it out for dinner. On it! Hours here. 463 West Broadway at W. Houston, 212-254-3000.

Baz Bagel
Back in February when tablehopper turned 10 (!), I happily enjoyed a late brunch at this friendly counter in Little Italy, which has a charming luncheonette vibe, but also feels like it’s in Florida, with soft pink walls and palm frond wallpaper. Again, the staff here was SO NICE. The owner is Bari Musacchio, formerly a GM at Rubirosa—Baz is her nickname.

A lot of care goes into the traditional hand-rolled bagels they make, which are fermented overnight, and they make some mean flagels (a thin, pressed bagel) too! There are some clever cream cheese options, like beet and horseradish, or nova and chive (because, really, you want both!). They source their fish from the revered Acme Smoked Fish, and cure their own gravlax. There are about 10 bagel sandwiches to choose from, and my pick was the Mooch ($16), which satisfied my desire for Scottish salmon AND sable at the same time. Yes. Thanks for that.

You can get bagels to go, but if you have the time, really, come by and hang out. Breakfast all day. You’re in good hands here. Mon-Fri 7am-4pm and Sat-Sun 8am-4pm. 181 Grand St. at Mulberry, 212-335-0609.

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The wines of Vinho Verde. Photo: Erin Conger.

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Penang laksa (a noodle dish with a tamarind fish base). Photo courtesy of Aux Epices.

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Chef Mei Chau of Aux Epices. Photo courtesy of Aux Epices.

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The beautiful Aux Epices on Baxter Street. Photo courtesy of Aux Epices.

I am so excited to host my first tablehopper event in New York! Coming up on Tuesday June 7th is the second in my series of Asian family-style dinners featuring wines from Portugal’s Vinho Verde. I asked chefs to cook their soul food and favorite dishes they enjoy at home for these special events in New York and San Francisco. We’ll be at New York Vintners, known for hosting all kinds of wine tasting and food events at their great space in Tribeca.

Our chef for this event is Mei Chau (Aux Epices), who has a charming French-inspired Malaysian restaurant on the edge of Little Italy and Chinatown (you’ll want to move in). For our event, chef Mei will be cooking dishes from where she grew up, a small fishing village on the eastern shore of the Malay Peninsula. Prepare to taste dishes you won’t find on her restaurant’s menu (or many others for that matter!), and she will tell us the background of the dishes and Malaysian cuisine and ingredients too.

We’ll be pairing many refreshing and versatile wines from Portugal’s Vinho Verde, and sommelier Betsy Ross (recently at The Progress, San Francisco) will be sharing insight about the wines and region. (So excited to have SF in the house!)

Chef Mei’s menu includes an array of starters: Chwee Kuah (steamed rice pudding cakes topped with salty pickled turnip), Sotong Sumbat (stuffed squid with spiced potatoes and spicy sambal sauce), and Pulut Kuning (turmeric sticky rice with coconut pulled pork), paired with two wines from Vinho Verde.

Next, we’ll enjoy a laksam course, featuring homemade steamed rice noodle rolls topped with mixed herbs, bean sprouts, and julienned cucumber, served in a coconut milk and minced fish soup, with wines from Vinho Verde. (Mei is known for her many laksa dishes at Aux Epices.)

The main course is a double play, with Otak-Otak (steamed fish mousse in banana leaf with coconut milk, curry, lemongrass, galangal), served with purple rice, and Daging Masak Serai (slow-cooked lamb with lemongrass and spices), paired with two wines from Vinho Verde. And for dessert, the finale is Bingka Pandan, a custard cake of baked screw pine (pandan).

These unique dishes should be pretty unfamiliar to most, and Mei is going to be bringing the flavor. I can’t wait to learn more about these dishes, and Betsy will have plenty to teach us about Vinho Verde!

Vinho Verde wines are like no other in the world. Located in the northwestern part of Portugal, the lush green landscape lends itself to the production of young, refreshing wines that are extremely versatile partners for all kinds of food, which is why we wanted to show you how well they will pair with a multitude of dishes. Best known for white wines, Vinho Verde also produces reds, rosés, and sparklers—all of which offer one of the best wine values on the market. Get ready to discover something new!

Tickets are $80, and you can purchase them here. This is a sit-down dinner, and there won’t be a reception, so please arrive on time at 7pm!

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