Unlike yesterday, today's tour was short on history and culture and long on food. We walked the East Village, so called because it is just east of Greenwich Village. The guide was a trained chef and she selected the stops to illustrate typical and outstanding examples of New York foods. Because the East Village has been a first stop for a variety of ethnic immigrant groups, this made each sample unique and interesting. We started with egg creams, a Yiddish drink that contains neither egg or cream. The origins of the name are murky, but the drink which contained chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer water was refreshing on a hot day. The purveyor, who had been selling these drinks for many decades, had modified his establishment from an ice cream & soft drink parlor to a news stand, but he saved the precious equipment for making the egg creams in one corner. He didn't start making them until we arrived, because he wanted them to be fresh.
The next stop, a butcher shop, was heavily patronized by more recent immigrants here - Poles and Ukrainians - and featured packaged goods with wrappings we could not read in addition to fresh meat. Here we sampled salami and cheese on rye. The salami was not greasy and tasted freshly made. The cold borscht we had next also reflected the Ukrainian influence and was tasty and refreshing and a vivid shade of pink.
The next two stops engendered much comparing for us Chicagoans, since we had pizza and hot dogs, comestibles that we also are famous for. The main difference in the hot dogs was the toppings; no celery salt here. New Yorkers make large pizzas and serve them by the pie shaped slice. They are big on wood fired ovens to give the crust a nice crunch. It was good, but no better than what we eat at home.
David Chang is a New York chef who has achieved fame on the Food channel and for his Momofuku restaurant. We stopped at an off shoot of his restaurant that featured trade marked, creative desserts. The cookie had some surprising ingredients such as potato chips and pretzels and the drink was supposed to taste like the milk that's left in the bottom of your cereal bowl. That is what it tasted like, but I can make it myself any morning for half the price.
The last stop was an Italian pastry shop and we had our choice of many mini taste treats. Luckily they were mini. We were feeling mighty full by then.
Because the typical New York apartment is so small, the kitchen is small as well and many locals don't bother to cook. Eating out or getting orders delivered in has been a New York institution, but lately people has gotten more interested in controlling the ingredients of what they eat. A farmer's market on the grounds of a church was heavily patronized by folks who looked ready to knock the cob webs out of their little kitchens.
While the East Village was not as historically interesting as Chelsea, eating our way through this neighborhood was fun and a good way to appreciate some of the ingredients in our melting pot.