When last we saw the Roadfood Superfriends, they were slowly making their way out of the Hall of Pastrami after a very tasty and filing lunch. Doug, Marisa and Claude tapped out at this point (don't worry, ole Billyboy will train 'em good for the next tour!). Tony and his family drove down to the East Village to meet us at our next stop, Gem Spa
, for NYC egg creams. The rest of us walked down Broadway past the Ed Sullivan Theatre (home of the Late Show) and made our way to the 49th Street station to catch the R train to 8th Street in Greenwich Village.
Our plan came together and we arrived at stop #4 almost at the same time! I don't think this place has changed very much in many years. It's not a restaurant or soda fountain, just a small shop that sells hats, smokes, newspapers, magazines, lotto tickets and happens to make a proper egg cream. Really Billy? Are there eggs and cream in it and you drink it? Is it like eggnog? Well, no on both points.
An egg cream is a drink with three components: seltzer water, ice cold milk and chocolate syrup. A good egg cream really comes down to three key elements: quality ingredients (water must be fizzy and not flat, milk must be ice cold and depending on who you ask, the syrup MUST be Fox's U-Bet brand), proper proportions (being that there are only three ingredients, too much or not enough of one can throw it completely off balance: too fizzy, sickly sweet, over-abundance of milk muting the other elements) and finally, the right mixing technique (I had a caramel egg cream that wasn't mixed properly and all of the syrup was at the bottom resulting in massive separate doses of fizzy milk and then overly sweet caramel syrup). When it comes to egg creams, balance and harmony is the name of the game.
As we all know, Roadfooding is about more than just the food. It's the experience, the people we meet and share it with, the ones who make it for us and ultimately color our perspective and the overall atmosphere of the place in which it is served. Almost everyone I have spoken to in NYC who is of my parents' generation has fond memories of sharing an egg cream with their "best girl/fella" at the local soda fountain. I've been trying egg creams all over Manhattan in the past couple of years and while there are a few that are done right, the old soda shop atmosphere isn't as prevalent as it may once been. Gem Spa may not have the ambiance of those places in days gone by, but the man at the counter has been making them for 20 years and from our conversation and watching him, he takes a lot of pride in what he makes.
I think the gang enjoyed this rather light and uniquely New York stop.
They offer three flavors: chocolate, vanilla and coffee. I went for the chocolate. When he first poured the milk it looked really thick coming out of the container and for a second I thought it may have spoiled but it was just REALLY cold to the point that it was ice milk! This is a good thing. He swirled it around in the cup for a minute and broke down the ice crystals, gave about 3-4 pumps of chocolate syrup and then turned on the seltzer fountain and mixed his magic. The end result was a nice white foamy head and chocolaty brown underside that was at turns fizzy, chocolaty (without being too sweet) and creamy. After all of that corned beef and pastrami, this elixir was, in the words of Tony Bad and my friend Marisa, a Brioschi!
As we headed down to the Lower East Side, we happened upon Toy Tokyo
on 2nd Avenue and just HAD to stop in!
Change we can count!
You come in here, on the day of your Roadfood Tour, not asking me if I want to join in the fun? You disrespect me, Billyboy! - Don Vito Corleone
Missing that elusive Godzilla or Mothra action figure that will just COMPLETE your collection? Chances are they have it here!
This is just the tip of the iceberg of Star Wars collectibles they had. Loved it!
And for the "Laugh Out Loud" award of the day. While in the toy store, Tony and Anthony found these gems! The Mr. T version said things like, "Shut up, fool!! Grrr!". Sarah Palin said, "You betcha!!" I was really hoping for, "I can see Russia from my backyard!" Anyway, the one to the left of Palin is a "Reservoir Dogs In Your Pocket". Tony pressed a button and it spouted out, "Mr. Brown"? That's little too close to "Mr. Sh*t" rather loudly in the store. Tony took a pass on pressing any other buttons.
After our brief respite from noshing, we made our way to Houston Street and Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery
. 100 years young in 2010 and still going!
Michelle and Anthony picked up a chocolate cheese knish and had it warmed up. I tried a bite and while it was okay it just didn't work for me. Not sure what kind of cheese was in it but I would have preferred cream cheese. The chocolate was very good though. The dough was too heavy for me and I think a light, flaky pastry dough would have paired much better.
Karilyn, Matt and Heather bought a classic potato knish. I've had this one on a few occasions before and it was really god but today it seemed as though they had mixed the skins from the potatoes in the filling and their taste and texture seemed to distract from my enjoyment rather than add to it. Still worth coming back though.
Sixth on the hit parade was an unplanned but very welcome stop to Economy Candy
on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side. I'd like to take this moment to publicly thank the Annabelle Candy Company for its decision to use my college nickname for their popular candy bar. Ahh, the memories it brings back every time I buy one...
Next to See's Awesome Peanut Brittle Bar this is my favorite candy bar!
Yes! Goldenberg's Peanut Chews are still on the market. They are distributed by Just Born, Inc. out of Bethlehem, PA, the same as Chew-ets Peanut Chews. Just Born acquired Goldenberg's in 2003, so I'm not sure if they are making the same bar only in two different wrappers or if there is a different formula for each one.
A couple of harder to find classics.
Another fave of mine.
I don't ever remember seeing a DARK chocolate Clark bar and to be honest I really didn't see much of it once I got it disrobed from that bulky looking wrapper and quickly into something more comfortable
I love how compact and utterly, wonderfully cluttered this store is! I feel as though I find something new every time I stop in. Anthony found some really great candies, like a giant gummy bear the size of a softball and he regaled the group with his story of the time he ate the bubblegum from a pack of decades old baseball cards from here. You, young sir, are a braver soul than I!!
Thee more stops (including dumplings, pizza and rice pudding) to the finish line. Slow and steady eating wins the Roadfood race! Til then...
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