The Thing That Ate the Lower East Side aka Billyboy Takes on Shopsin's/DP/Hester St. Fair!
Saturday May 29, 2010
- After hearing about and reading my Trip Report on the excursion that The Travelin' Man
and I took to Shopsin's General Store
last October, my GF had been jonesing to go there for brunch one day. Today was that day. We slept in and made our way over to the Essex Street Market
and found that there was no line (probably due to the holiday weekend). Score! We walked right in and were seated by the very pleasant waitress, who I think is Kenny Shopsin's daughter. Now I brought my camera which worried my GF as she thought we might incur the wrath of Kenny or his family. I told her I wanted to have it on hand in case I could get some shots on the down-low and we were making other food stops anyway. We noticed the 4-top next to us had the mac & cheese pancakes and ebelskivers on their table. I asked and they said that both were really good. I did notice one guy taking pictures (sans flash) without incident. We did see a couple come in to be seated and Kenny was not pleased and told them that they couldn't bring their own coffee into his restaurant. I'm really glad they gave us a window seat so we could watch the giraffes out on the Serengeti!
This is the one shot of the interior I was able to take. I do understand, to an extent, why they frown upon pictures. It really is a small place, with one 4-top, a 2-top and 3 seats at the bar inside and four 2-tops out in the hall. Cameras can be disruptive and not everyone has the common sense to know where to stop just short of that line. Shopsin's relies on a mixture of canned goods as well as fresh and frozen ingredients. I really do think some kind of alchemy goes on in back along with a whole lot of respect for the food because they do crank out some amazingly inspired and awesome dishes!
We started out with the Chunky Fried Potatoes. This was a pretty substantial bowl of them for $5 and they were absolutely perfect. How anyone can fry potatoes to that level of crispy crunchiness on the outside and still have creamy potato inside will haunt my dreams. While we did salt them a bit and tried dipping them in some ketchup these really needed no seasoning or condiments of any kind and were very addictive for both of us.
Dayna had the Apple Cinnamon pancakes. Another winner for both of us. Very light and tender, they were filled with slices of what I believe were Granny Smiths. No gummy apple pie filling here. Some of the apples were soft from the griddle while others were still some what crisp with a tart flavor. A very tasty balancing act. The cinnamon may have been cinnamon sugar which was applied with an even hand, giving them an assertive flavor while having only a slight sweetness to them. A mini bottle of pure maple syrup came with the order. I put a pretty big dent in these myself! At this point, Dayna's eyes were rolling in her head and phrases such as "religious experience", "I'd like to kick up my heels" and "I really want to give Kenny a hug" were uttered between bites. I stepped up and decided on dish I have admired from afar for some time, the Hatch, NM green chile cheeseburger sliders known as the "Bobcaters" (an homage to the Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe). White Castle sliders these are not! My apologies for not taking a better shot of the meat. I really didn't want to try to deconstruct this too much. Each one of these was bigger than a traditional slider and the meat was so juicy that it ran down my fingers and face when I bit into them. The combination of the fresh, pillowy potato roll, juicy, slightly pink meat, gooey cheese and abundance of very flavorful fresh (or possibly canned, see Ayersian's comment below) roasted Hatch chiles was nothing short of a fiesta for my taste buds! I definitely took my time savoring these and Dayna loved them equally. The dill pickles on the plate were good and I ate the bright salad greens in an utterly delusional attempt to convince myself that this was a healthy meal. And for dessert...ebelskivers! With origins somewhere in Scandanavia, I believe that these are the love child of a very sinful doughnut and a naughty, naughty pancake! I had heard from a few people that Shopsin's really excels in making these and after seeing them on the other table, I was sold. We went for the butterscotch variety. Warm, puffy, at turns pillowy-soft and crispy and coated in a sandy cinnamon-sugar, the real treat lies inside: The caramelized butterscotch filling! How much do I love these? If I may paraphrase my favorite news anchor, Ron Burgundy, " Ebelskivers and I are gonna get married on top of a mountain, and there's going to be flutes playing and trombones and flowers and garlands of fresh herbs. And we will dance till the sun rises. And then our children will form a family band. And we will tour the countryside and you're all invited!" (text from imdb.com) Yeah, I'm kinda sweet on them.
After we finished eating and Dayna's hands stopped shaking (she was so loving this whole experience), she said again that she wanted to hug Kenny. I cautioned her that this could have negative results, but she asked him as he passed by and his response was absolutely hilarious! I'm not sure I should print it here, lest anyone be offended. TTM, what do you think?? We ended up talking to Kenny outside for a bit after we left and Dayna got her hug and I shook his hand. I have a new respect for him and the motivation behind why and how he does what he does. The whole breakfast with tax and tip came to $53.00 for us and while expensive, I would happily pay it again for that experience and that quality of food. Not regularly though as I probably couldn't afford it. There was not a single misstep in any element of any of our dishes and as I have had time to reflect upon it, this meal was, in every way, time, money and calories well spent. Even after 7 years in Gotham, I have never had a better breakfast anywhere else in the city.
Naturally, after all of that rib-sticking food, I needed a tide-me-over snack in the 3 block walk to the fair! Luckily, the Doughnut Plant was on the way there. I was hoping there would be a flavor I hadn't yet tasted. And on the board were Caramel and Peanut Butter glazed Blackberry jam filled. A lucky boy am I! As I sit here typing this in my brand spanking new Doughnut Plant t-shirt, I'm transported back to an earlier time, this afternoon to be exact, when I bit into my first Caramel doughnut and savored the teetering on the edge of burnt subtle caramel flavor and soft yeastiness of a perfectly fried pastry.
The only way it was improved was after I bit into this doughnut below. First, I picked off a large piece of peanut and could taste it's darkly roasted essence. The pronounced peanut butter flavor and freshness of the blackberry jam filling made this finger-licking good!
A little over a month ago, I ended up getting "Travelin'-Manned" (along with Dayna, Chris and Amy) when I failed to check the start date for the Hester Street Fair. I was not to be denied on this day! Prior to going, I texted TTM to let him know about Shopsin's and he told me he was having meal with none other than Buffetbuster and Cousin Johnny! I made sure he told them about my green chile cheeseburgers and that I was on my way to having some Root Beer Cream pie at the fair! This Sat./Sun. open air fair began in April and features clothing, jewelry, food, artwork and other goods from local purveyors. After reading the food list online, I couldn't get here fast enough. ***I've been having some difficulty getting pictures to remain in this post, so I'll add more later. Time for sleepy!*** Our first stop was Luke's Lobster. We could only manage half a lobster roll by this point. I did think that $8 was a bit steep, but... I really love this sign. ...they didn't skimp on the lobster. This was very, very good and a bit of a curious hybrid. It was a combination of hot and cold lobster rolls. Firstly and correctly, they buttered and toasted the bun (sorry you can't see it in the pic). They applied a squiggle of mayo into the bun and then loaded in a heaping pile of cool lobster chunks, followed by a sprinkling of a garlic salt/celery salt mixture and finally and generous ladle of warm melted butter over the meat. We both wished we had gotten a full roll. When I think of $14 for a full roll it doesn't seem too out of step for local prices and when I think of how much lobster they pile in, it is a pretty reasonable deal. Our next stop was Kumquat Cupcakery for some bite-size cupcakes. These are Orange-Poppyseed with Strawberry frosting. Red Velvet Lemon with Lavender frosting Chocolate with Peanut Butter frosting
And the four we brought home. I did like the flavors of these and I thought they were all tasty, but I wasn't mad about the texture. I bit dense for my taste. I'd definitely try them again though.
Next up was Xiao Ye and their Kim Jong's Ill Noodles These were really good, but I wished I had gotten them with chicken as they had marinated it in what I believe was a kim chee based sauce. As an added bonus, they gave me a dollar off for being a Red Sox fan (when they saw my Boston hat). FINALLY, some love for the Red Sox Nation in the Big Apple!!
One of the big reasons for coming here was to try out Allison Kave's First Prize Pies. I have been reading about these on a couple of blogs of some time and flavors such as Shoo-Fly, Root Beer Cream, Spicy Hot Chocolate, Bourbon Ginger Pecan, S'Mores and Chocolate Peanut Butter pie (with a pretzel crust!) had definitely piqued my interest. Upon walking there in the 70 plus degree heat, I had a feeling there wouldn't be any cream pies. My fears were confirmed as Allison had tried it before, but without any refrigeration to keep them cold, they wilted outdoors. I consoled myself by picking up a S'Mores (in the middle) and Bourbon Ginger Pecan (on the right) mini pies. The one of the left is the Rhubarb Frangipane pie. At $6 a piece, the mini pies are rather pricey, but the quality of ingredients and love put into them is definitely obvious. This pie had a nice buttery graham cracker crust, rich chocolate ganache and a wonderfully toasted and gooey marshmallow topping. This one really won over Dayna and I. The crust was homemade all the way while the crunchy pecans and sweet, gooey ginger-tinged center got better with each bite. This I might pay $6 for again. While Allison doesn't have a storefront at this time, her pies can be bought online, at the fair, at her mom's awesome chocolate shop, Roni-Sue's Chocolates, and starting on June 20th, at the God Buns Market in front Fatty Crab, the restaurant where her brother, Corwin is Executive Chef, on select days. I spoke with Allison for a bit about baking and different pie socials/contests and she was a delight.
Next up were some samples from McClure's Pickles. I had heard a lot about these too, however, I found them to be a bit too salty for my taste. I think a second and third try is in order to experiment with other flavors. I think I may find one that I like. I realize I live in the land of the dill and the half-sour, but I would give almost anything to find someone making a good sweet pickle. Dayna and I spied some good looking bread from Pain D'Avignon. We picked up a Raisin Pecan mini and a Pane Francesca mini. I didn't get to taste the Francesca, but the Raisin-Pecan bread made for a most tasty breakfast this morning.
And Now For Something Completely Different... Apparently, there were many non-food vendors there as well. I bet I could rock that leopard print short jacket! I love these classic travel coasters and trivets. I saw this Archie trivet and couldn't help but wonder if those weiners that his dog stole were from the Wein-O-Rama in Rhode Island and that is the real reason they were closed?! Take your pick from a kaleidoscope of spices. When I was 10 years old, I BEGGED my parents for an Atari video game system. It seemed like everyone else had one. When I got it, I played such edgy games like Pong, Tank and Pac-Man and I was the bomb! I love this re-imagining of these cartridges! Classic. And now back to your regularly scheduled food programming... One of our last stops was to the Sigmund Pretzelshop. While the Truffle Cheddar and Caramel Pecan looked fantastic, we just wanted something simple after all we had eaten and I also wanted to try a classic soft pretzel. We both really liked this a lot. Warm, soft, chewy, salty and paired with some whole grain mustard, it was a real winner and though truth be told, it needed nothing. I do write this with sadness and a sense of hope. While I have been here for seven years and there are countless pretzel carts about town, New York really is not a soft pretzel town. This was the first decent soft pretzel I have ever had in NYC. I hope to see more in the near future.
To beat the heat, I cooled off with a fresh pineapple-mint popsicle from La NewYorkina. Loaded with lots of fresh mint and chunks of fresh pineapple, this was just the ticket. Sorry, I my lust to consume it, I forgot to take a picture. Guess I'll just HAVE to get another one!
Across from our apartment, I spied this one-man show riding down the street, radio blaring from his bicycle. It seems like there's always free theater on the streets of New York around every corner!
Hope you enjoyed the show!
Eating is an adventure, enjoy the ride!" - billyboy, 2010
1.) Shopsin's General Store (CASH ONLY)
Stall No. 16, Essex Street Market
120 Essex Street
New York, NY 10002
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2.) Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002
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3.) Hester Street Fair (open every Saturday & Sunday, April through December)
Corner of Hester & Essex Streets (LES)
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4.) Luke's Lobster
93 East 7th Street (btw. 1st Avenue & Avenue A)
New York, NY 10009
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5.) Kumquat Cupcakery
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No store at this point but can be found at the Brooklyn Flea market and the Hester Street Fair. Email ahead to confirm locations and dates.
6.) Xiao Ye - no store yet, but can be found at Baohaus at the address below:
137 Rivington Street @ Norfolk Street
New York, NY
7.) First Prize Pies (no store yet)
Website: " target=_blank rel=nofollow>http://www.firstprizepies...lt;/a></font>
Please see write-up for locations
8.) McClure's Pickles
Website: " target=_blank rel=nofollow>http://www.mcclurespickle...lt;/a></font>
No store, but click on the Retailers link on their site for a list of locations where they are sold
9.) Pain D'Avignon
Essex Street Market
120 Essex Street
New York, NY 10002
10.) Sigmund Pretzelshop
29 Avenue B @ East 3rd Street
New York, NY 10009
Website: " target=_blank rel=nofollow>http://www.sigmundnyc.com/</a></font>
11.) La NewYorkina (Mexican popsicles)
Website: " target=_blank rel=nofollow>http://lanewyorkina.com/H...lt;/a></font>
Can be found at the Hester Street Fair every Saturday and Sunday
post edited by billyboy - 2010/06/01 10:47:40