We just came back from a quick trip to NYC yesterday and I wanted to post about some of the great food we had while there.
Mocca Espresso Lounge: we stumbled across this while waiting for friends at Mike's Papaya on Church/Reade St. We had the absolute best cappucino we've had in the US to date here. Amazing, considering nothing has compared to those we sampled across Italy in October. Smooth, no bitterness, a compelling flavor. Coffee so rarely tastes as good as it's aroma here, but this place came very close. Our waitress said that it's the barristas -- Mocca has its coffee specialty roasted and has fancy machines, but we were told that all is for naught unless the barrista knows what he or she is doing.
Lupa: best meal of the visit. The ricotta gnocchi were heavenly -- pillowly, but with a slightly chewy bite, in an excellent sausage and fennel ragu sauce. The bucatini all' amatriciana was excellent as well, but didn't hold a candle to the gnocchi. Cappucino and espresso were terribly disappointing.
Mike's Papaya: I've been wanting to try one of the hot dog/papaya drink places that dot NYC and we ran into this place before a Gray's Papaya or Papaya King. I can't compare to Mike's to either of those, but we were pretty floored with how tasty the chili cheese dogs were here. They had snap, were hot off the grill and were the tastiest dogs I've ever had the pleasure of eating (of course, being from LA, I'm by no means a hot dog afficianado). The papaya drink was foamy, delicious and the perfect complement to the hot dog.
City Bakery: What can I say? The hot chocolate was everything I had hoped it to be. Thick, rich, with a homemade marshmallow melting on top -- almost as good as Angelina's in Paris. The salad bar went far beyond our expectations -- almost everything we tried was delicious -- the mushrooms, green beans, tofu skin, wild halibut, roasted fennel. I would definitely eat here often if I lived in NY. The cornbread, chile and cheese sandwich was also excellent, with the sweetness of the cornbread blending wonderfully with the chile and cheese.
Pastis: loved the decor, underwhelmed by the food. Croque Monsieur, steak sandwich, and chocolate cake were all ok. The calamari were probably the best I've had -- flavorful, no rubberiness, but I wouldn't come back for that.
Little Pie Co.: sour cream apple pie was good, but too rich for our tastes. The sour cream filling combined with the rich walnut crumb topping was too over the top for our tummies.
Beard Papa: cream puff was excellent, but I prefer the (cold!) ones from our local Japanese supermarket's bakery (Mitsuwa). The shell and filling blend together better. BP's was delicious, though, particularly the filling.
Kee's Chocolates: extremely fresh and delicate truffles. No creme brulee when we were there, so we resigned ourselves to green tea, sesame and white chocolate/coconut. I didn't find the flavors that were available that day to be particularly compelling, but the truffles were very good.
Vosges: unique, but overpriced. Pumpkin truffle was the best of the lot, with a delicate pumpkin flavor, which I really enjoyed with the chocolate. The taleggio cheese truffle was grainy and boring, and the pearl truffle (at $3.50 per piece) had a nice caramel filling (and crushed pearls on top), but was so expensive that I don't think it's worth the price. The Parisienne hot chocolate was good, but more cocoa-like than the hot chocolates of MarieBelle, City Bakery, etc. I still find that I like Chuao Chocolatier (based in Encinitas, CA with passion fruit, banana and strawberry/balsamic caramel truffles) my favorite chocolate store, along with Teuscher's champagne truffles.