For my 21st birthday, my incredible boyfriend got me a New York City food tour through xperiencedays.com. We have done a few things now from Xperience Days and I am pretty impressed. The “xperiences” they offer are vast, affordable, and well-executed. The great thing is that you can give the gift as a reedemable certificate and the giftee can decide what date works for them! The only downside is that they sometimes have strange reservation policies — it must be made two weeks in advance and they can cancel on you, but you cannot cancel on them or you lose your money.
A few weeks ago, we finallyyyyy went on the food tour and it greatly exceeded my expectations. The tour guide was not only entertaining, but also a trained chef. We met up with the guide and our group of eight people in SoHo and immediately started to head towards Little Italy where our first stop was DiPalo’s Fine Foods, an Italian specialty store. We tasted fresh ricotta (both plain and with a drizzle of honey) as well as cow, sheep, and goat’s milk cheeses. Let me tell you — the ricotta was to die for.
Next, we went to a scary looking little Chinatown pastry shop (I forget the name). Initially, I questioned going to Chinatown for the pastries, but we each got something called a Pineapple Bun and, wow. Again, expectations were surpassed. Pineapple buns do not, in fact, contain any pineapple at all. They are a fluffy little pastry with a light layer of crispy crumb topping. Mike was pretty obsessed with the Pineapple Bun. After we ate it, he wanted to go back and get a whole bunch more before leaving the city, but we were simply too stuffed at the end to even consider looking at more food!
Next stop was a Vietnamese deli (again, apologies for forgetting the name). We tasted a Banh Mi sandwich. This was probably the most questionable tasting. A Banh Mi sandwich traditionally consists of a french baguette with grilled pork, sliced pork pate, mayonnaise, pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro, and jalapenos. As you can tell it is a combination of French and Vietnamese ingredients. …It’s interesting to say the least.
The Banh Mi was redeemed when we had extra time to stop at papabubble where edible glass is made. Apparently, the New York location is the only one in the United States! This was one of my favorite visits because behind the counter is referred to as the “candy laboratory” and is decorated just as you would picture a candy laboratory. I had a really awesome picture of the “lab” and a grapefruit flavored candy but unfortunately all my pictures got deleted, so I apologize for the lack of my own images.
Picture taken from: papabubblenyc.com
Next stop was Oro, a bakery and bar. This is where I tasted the most delicious brownie I may ever taste in my life. All their food is handmade on the premises and each brownie is baked in an individual pan so that every customer gets both the crispy outside and gooey inside!
Second to last was Broadway Panhandler, a store which can meet all your kitchen needs. We got a short knife tutorial, which I was hoping would be more hands on. Nevertheless, it was informative.
Finally, we crossed the street to ‘wichcraft which was one of the stops I was most excited about. This is one of Tom Colicchio‘s restaurants. Here, we did a taste test where each of us tasted five things and whoever got the most right got a prize. The contest consisted of: candied fennel seeds, flax seeds, smoked paprika, unsweetened cocoa nibs, and dried chickpeas. I was proud to have gotten the last three right and tied with another guest to win a nice little metal peeler! We then got to taste the gruyere and caramelized onion sandwich on toasted rye — like french onion soup on a sandwich! So good!
Overall, the tour was such a great experience — Mike and I really, really enjoyed it and I would recommend it to anyone who likes to eat! (Who doesnt!?) My least favorite tasting was the Banh Mi sandwich and my most favorite was definitely the brownie at Oro followed by the gruyere and caramelized onion sandwich at ‘wichcraft.
I will leave you with a recipe for homemade ricotta cheese (obviously inspired by the fresh cheese I tasted at DiPalo’s). The process is incredibly easy and the results are more than worth it! I will admit it was not as good as DiPalo’s, but it was a hundred times better than the kind you buy at the grocery store.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
- 2 quarts whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
In medium saucepan, heat the whole milk, cream, and salt until surface becomes foamy and steamy. Do not boil. Add the lemon juice (you can also use vinegar, which will leave less of a taste) and stir gently just to distribute. The mixture will start to curdle immediately. Let sit for an hour.
Line a large colander or sieve with several layers of cheesecloth and set in a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the milk mixture into the colander and let sit for at least a half hour. Excess liquid can be squeezed out of the cheesecloth. The longer you let the mixture sit, the firmer, thicker ricotta you will have!
Ricotta can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Recipe adapted from Maria Helm Sinskey via Food and Wine
Traditionally ricotta cheese is made with whey (liquid remaining after milk curdles) from making mozzerella cheese (ricotta translates to “recooked”), but since you’re not making cheeses all day everyday, the milk and cream works!