Last weekend I was invited by Foods of NY Tours to participate in a walking food tour of NYC. I immediately jumped at the chance because for the longest time I’ve been obsessed with seeing my city through the eyes of a tourist. I’ve called Brooklyn home for almost 14 years and all of the landmarks that people oh and ah over I’ve seen a million times. I don’t marvel at their beauty, think about their history, what it took to construct them and how they define my city. It’s not that I don’t appreciate them, its just that I’ve taken advantage of them always being there. I ignore them with my fast paced New York style of walking while angrily darting around tourists who are causing sidewalk jams by looking up without stepping to the side to snap their once in a lifetime photos. That is the life of a New Yorker. I wanted to change that. For a day, I wanted to become a tourist in my city.
That’s why this particular invite was so special to me. They read my mind right at the perfect time. I took the tour with my mom on Sat, Nov 8 and my tour would consist of Greenwich Village in the area from 6th Avenue and Bleecker all the way to almost the Hudson River. It would consist of 9 tasting from 8 different restaurants and ran from 1-4pm. With all the slots filled for my tour this was going to be one excited afternoon…and it was.
The tour started on Bleecker in front of Murry’s Cheese and my fabulous tour guide Carrie Ann proceeded to take us to Joe’s Pizza. Located on 6th Ave. Joe’s is a staple for the neighborhood since 1975 and for good reason, the pizza is excellent! All of the ingredients are not only homemade but are imported from Italy. I’ve had pizza in NYC but nothing like this. It made my knees buckle. Its’ so good that I would drive from Brooklyn to get some.
Joe’s knows their pizza is good because that’s all they sell and you can only order by the slice or by the pie. That’s it. Quite frankly they could sell it wholesale and it wouldn’t be enough. If you have a pizza craving and are in the area they are open til 4:30am!! I mean you can’t get anymore close to perfection than that.
Or can you?
Around the corner from Joe’s is O&CO. (or Oliver’s and CO.) and there you’ll find olive oil. All different types from all over. Now I am the first to admit I am not a fan of olive oil unless it’s been cooked in my food. Drizzled over my bread or salad and I will ignore it. But, I was on tour and I should give it a taste.
I’ve obviously been partaking in the wrong kinds of olive oil because the small sampling of oil drizzled over bread from Amy’s (located across the street) was beyond good. The reason is O&CO. are the experts on how to make good and bad olive oil. Cold press, YES! Violently shaking olive trees, NO. Poor trees.
However, if my palate wasn’t ready the simple oil and bread it definitely wasn’t ready for the 2nd sampling. Truffle flavored popcorn. Your face may be twisted up saying, ‘nope’ but I assure you your tummy will say, ‘mm-mm good’. I’ve never had a truffle before so I didn’t know to expect. This was the most amazing thing ever. The truffle oils and sea salt made it nothing like you’ve ever tasted. Thankfully they know this and have a nice little prepackaged truffle oil and salt that you can purchase.
From there we moved on to Faicco’s Italian Specialties for a ‘rice ball’. It’s fried risotto. The moment I hear risotto I instantly think of Chef Gordon Ramsay screaming at a contestant for yet again screwing up the risotto. For me this ‘rice ball’ had a reputation that would precede itself.
I never had risotto so I was excited to get a bite. The only way that I could describe that first bite would be to say it was heaven in a lightly battered fried ball. I was insulted that I was only given one. They are my new favorite food. I plan on buying as many as I can before old man winter puts me in hibernation.
Afterward, we went to Trattoria a quaint little restaurant for meatballs. This is not your average meatball, this is the official Italian way of making a meatball. Like the rice ball, I was saddened that I was only given one. It literally melted in your mouth. It was cooked to perfection and served with a sauce that you knew was not from anyone’s can or a jar. This was homemade fresh and about as close to Italy as I was going to get without boarding a flight. This was my favorite restaurant on the stop as its the perfect place to meet with your partner for a romantic dinner or with your friends to catch up.
Because there’s a lot of walking on tour the next tasting stop was the longest to give you can give your feet a rest. But only your feet are resting your belly is having a party because we were on our way to Rafele’s.
Once settled inside we were served a thinly sliced stuffed eggplant. Were these restaurants ever going to stop knocking my socks off? And more importantly, how they get it so thin? They cut the eggplant with a cold cut cutting machine. If I didn’t see it with my own eyes then I wouldn’t have believed it. The cheese in the center was fresh and brought the entire dish together.
Next stop, Milk & Cookies. I’m mad that there’s a place like this in the city and I’m just finding out about it. Tucked away in a tiny store hidden from view off 7th ave is a den of sin for those like myself who have a major sweet tooth.
That cookie that was bigger than my palm and was cooked just the way I like them…crispy edge with a warm soft buttery center. Because I was around other people I ate my cookie as neatly as I could when all I really wanted to do was stuff the whole thing down my throat and pick crumbs off my sweater. While you can’t find these cookies on a supermarket shelf you can order delivery. Yes, they will deliver you cookies. Please take all my money. I’m glad I live far away otherwise I’d live in this shop and if you had one you’d live in there as well.
As we made our way back to Bleecker we stopped at our meet up point Murray’s. If you love cheese then this is the place for you. There’s cheese from the window to the wall. They have over 300 different kinds of cheese in there. That’s almost a different type of cheese everyday for a year. The store is huge with very nice private rooms upstairs for tastings and other events.
We sampled 2 types of cheese and the cheese puffs. If you eat a cheese puff from Murray’s I promise you won’t be able to eat anther cheez-it. They are light, airy and melt in your mouth.
And finally, the last stop on the tour, Pasticceria Rocco for some cannoli’s. This was the only food on the tour that I did not eat. I will be honest with you, I do not like cannoli’s. I have this thing about stuffed pastries. However, just because I didn’t taste them doesn’t mean that it wasn’t good. There was a collective, “mm-mm” as my fellow tour mates dug in. I gave mine to a woman who was part of a large fun group from Florida, but I think her husband ate it. You know something is good when its snatched up because someone wasn’t paying attention to leftovers. Rocco’s cannoli’s are made to order so you know when you order a batch each one is fresh.
As a whole the entire tour was phenomenal, so much so I plan to do all the walking tours next year. They’re a hidden gem in NYC and too good to pass up. There was so much information that I learned for one little section of the city. It has opened my eyes to want to learn about other neighborhoods around the city.
I didn’t mention what I learned on the tour with you because I want you to take the tour. I want to you hear the information firsthand and be wowed just as I was. You will not regret it. Trust me. Take you partner, your girlfriends or even a parents. It is so much fun. And don’t worry about not being a die hard foodie. Its not that kind of tour, sure there’s food but there’s so much more to be learned in addition to what’s being served.
Visit Foods of NY Tours online to learn more about this tour and many others.