Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NYC Gluten Free Vacation - Day Two

I woke up today realizing I'd get to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with actual New Yorkers for the first time ever. We'd been invited to visit Everybody Eats in Brooklyn for their company party, which several customers were also invited to. We'd be the only out-of-state guests there, and I was excited to finally to meet owners Bruce and Pedro, as well as the people who actually bake my favorite gluten free bakery bread - their French baguettes and deli rolls.

First things first though, we had pre-purchased tickets for the Gray Line hop-on / hop-off bus tour online, and wanted to do the downtown loop segment (there are four total) before having lunch and heading to Brooklyn for the party at 2 pm. After a short subway ride and a five minute walk, we arrived to the Gray Line office and exchanged our e-tickets for real ones. Another quick walk to the downtown loop bus stop and we were finally on our way to enjoy the sights the easy way -sitting down. It was a lovely sunny morning...beautiful blue skies...the perfect day for such a tour. We had seen most of the sites on this tour before but not from this perspective. One of the best parts was the tour guide - one of the most entertaining we've had ever, on any type of tour. He was a true born and bread New Yorker and was proud of it. We admired the passion and enthusiasm he had for his most fabulous city! I think we completed about 90% of this tour and decided to get out very close to where we were heading for lunch. This photo (which I took from the bus) is pretty much the scene in the etching print I bought at the artist market yesterday.

Remember Debra, the lady we sat with at the Meetup event? She told us to go to Mozzarelli's for pizza and to ask for David. When we arrived there it was peak lunch hour and the place was overcrowded to say the least. It's a long narrow space with limited seating capacity. There are a few tables and a long bar along the wall with stools. We lucked out and snagged as table when two patrons got up to leave. After going without restaurant pizza for over two years, it's a bit daunting to see four gluten free pizzas on the top shelf of the pizza line and have to pick just one. They sell it by the slice so we ended up with three of the four types of pie anyway. I think most people with Celiac would be worried about cross contamination but Mozzarelli's is doing their absolute best to keep the gluten free food truly gluten free. If you want them to explain their process to you, they'll be happy to do so - just ask. The first thing I noticed was that the gluten free pizzas were all rectangular, and the others were round. The gluten free pizzas were on top of the display - they could contaminate the gluten pizzas with crumbs, but not the other way around. You pick the pizzas slice(s) you want and they heat it up on foil - for gluten free slices you get a huge square that almost fills the paper plate they serve it on. At $4 a slice, it's quite the bargain indeed!

I started with the pepperoni pizza and my husband started with the sausage and pepper...I think. He immediately started raving about his and said it was the best gluten free pizza he'd had to date - then he quickly added that he meant except for the ones I make at home. Good try Sweetie but I'm woman enough to admit the truth. As good as my pizza is, it doesn't compare to Mozzarelli's - period. While I'm trying to savor every bite of my delicious pizza...gooey cheese and all - my husband scarfs his piece down and heads back up for another piece. I notice a couple to my left who seemed like tourists to me. It was clear that most, if not all of the patrons were locals, but this couple stood out. Then I noticed the lady picking up her pizza - it was square. She was a gluten free sister and so of course, I started up a conversation with her. She and her husband were there on vacation from the Midwest. She pulled out her list of places they'd either already been to, or were planning on going and we compaered notes. One place they absolutely loved was Lumi so that's on my short list for the next trip. We knew this place was excellent, but we could not go to every great place in one trip.

During our delightful conversation, the couple told us about their trip with Bob and Ruth's Travel Club for the African Safari. Oh my gosh - that's one of my my dream vacations - and now I know I can go on it gluten free! These people had the time of their lives on that trip and the husband said the gluten free food was so much better than the gluten offerings that after the first meal, he only ate gluten free and loved it! I've heard good things about Bob and Ruth's Travel Club but have not joined them for a trip yet. I'm going to have to look into that for sure now.

On our way out, I finally met the owner David, as well as Elan who made our tasty pizza (that's him in the photo below). I'd asked for permission to photograph the pizza behind the glass for my blog, and mentioned that Debra sent us. After granting me permission to snap some shots, David explained that they host a totally 100% gluten free day there once a month - always on a weekend day, when they are normally closed. They serve gluten free pizza, pasta and tons of other gluten free goodies - how fabulous is that?! Then David took me to the cooler by the front door. There he showed me some gluten free desserts in take out containers - peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip biscotti. Biscotti always reminds me of Italy so I picked up a container and went to pay for it. 'No - please enjoy it with our compliments' said the pretty lady at the register who might be David's wife. You know, New Yorkers are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet - and coming from the land of Southern hospitality, that's saying a lot! If you're ever in NYC, stop into Mozzarelli's and have some excellent, inexpensive gluten free pizza tell them TJ from Atlanta sent you. OK - they probably won't remember me but I'll never forget them and their fabulous gluten free pizza! Thanks Guys - for supporting the gluten free community - we appreciate it more than we can say!

After our informative and delicious lunch, we headed to the subway on route to Brooklyn. From the station, it was a quick three walk block to Everybody Eats but we did go the wrong way on one street. After our two minute detour and we got back on track and got to the building where we thought the bakery was...the address fit and we were on the correct street but the first door we entered was not Everybody Eats. However, they told us to go two more doors down and finally we got there. The bakery had been transformed to a party space - complete with a gluten free Mexican buffet! Of course, we were totally stuffed from lunch so we could not partake in too much of the food....or I should say I could not eat much. As usual, the husband always finds a way to fit more food into his 'thin as a rail' frame. Everything I did nibble on was delicious and I had the BEST guacamole I've ever had. The secret was smoked avocados...who knew?! Please don't ask me how to smoke an avocado though - I just enjoyed it - I didn't ask for the recipe.

Our party hosts were Bruce and Pedro - the owners of the bakery and they are as delightful as I'd imagined they would be. Their employees Iris and Arturo were just precious - a young married couple shown in the photo below. There were pinatas hanging up and colorful decor galore. Bruce even went to the trouble of making a gluten free pinata with cornstarch and water. He learned the hard way that you have to boil the mixure in order for it to work as a!

from left to right: Pedro, Iris, Bruce, Arturo

In any event, his project turned out great and it certainly looked like something you'd find in a store that sells pinatas. I'm sorry to say I somehow left without a photo of it. We had Cinco de Mayo music playing on a very impressive stereo CD gadget I've never seen before, run by a laptop. Pedro got most of the ladies (even me once) to dance and everyone had a most festive time. We met so many wonderful people - from Andrea Meyers Catering was Chef Andrea Meyers and her cooks Billy and Rick, from Choice Cooking Co. next door was Chef Ryan Brown, cook Andres and dishwasher Felicita and I think that Margaret from Funny Girl Catering ltd. was the one who made the oh-so-tasty guacamole. One guy there used to live in GA - in Marietta, actually. Julie, a long time customer was going to Panama City, FL the following week to visit her Mother for Mother's Day. I was born and raised about 40 miles away in Port St. Joe, FL. What a small world it really is! Once the pinatas were busted (the cornstarch one was almost impossible to break) the party wound down and we had to say goodbye to our new friends. But we left with memories that will last a lifetime. Thanks to the Bruce and Pedro, the crew and friends of Everybody Eats in Brooklyn - we hope to visit you again one day!

It turned out that guest and loyal bakery customer Julie, lives on the UWS and she offered us a lift back into the city. How nice was that? We enjoyed a pleasant but brief trip back to Manhattan and strangely did not run into much rush hour traffic, even though it was around 5 pm. After sharing with us a couple of places she thought were worth trying for dinner during our visit, Julie dropped us about a block from our Inn, at the Westside Hwy. exit near 77th St. We thanked her for her hospitality and restaurant tips and headed to our little apartment with gluten free goodies from Everybody Eats. Though the bakery is only open on Saturday for walk in traffic, they were kind enough to let me pick out a few things I really wanted to try - ravioli, chocolate chip cookies and bagels.

We had not actually made reservations for dinner that night and so we called Bouley Upstairs to confirm they could accommodate us with gluten free meals and they said they could accommodate all allergies. Julie eats there often without issue but it's always best to check before you arrive some place new to you. Chefs do quit or get replaced and a safe place for us today, might not be good for us tomorrow. Since the place is tiny and they don't take reservations, I felt a little appetizer at our home away from home was in order. Spinach-Ricotta ravioli anyone? Knowing I'd have to eat the ravioli in NY since it's frozen, I'd already picked up a tiny jar of pasta sauce at Fairway. I've never seen such a small jar of sauce before but it suited our needs perfectly. At the party, Pedro had explained how to prepare the pasta correctly - boil it over medium heat for about 10 minutes, drain and add sauce. It was super easy but it tasted like something you'd be find while dining in it was made by hand with great care. That is of course, because that is how everything at Everybody Eats is made. To say the ravioli was great is a huge understatement. I have six packs of it arriving today - overnight shipping and all. If you ever try it, you'll be hooked for life so consider yourself forewarned.

OK - we've rested up a bit, had a scrumptious snack - in case we have a long wait for dinner - and changed attire. We head to the subway to get to Bouley Upstairs. Along the way, we pass the regular Bouley, the more expensive restaurant owned by the same person - Chef David Bouley - who also owns the Bouley Bakery, below Bouley Upstairs. It sounds confusing but it's not when you're there. We climb a narrow staircase to the restaurant to find we can be seated almost immediately. If we'd arrived about 10 minutes later, we would have been on the waiting list. The table where we were seated was next to (I mean touching) another table for two so I figured if someone else was seated there, we'd be pretty hard pressed to have any privacy. Next to us was a corner table and so when the couple there left, we asked to move over a foot to that table. At least now I had a great view of outside and the entire restaurant. I think by NYC standards, this place wouldn't be considered tiny but to us, it was exactly that. There was space for about 28 diners at tables, and maybe 6 at the Sushi bar. You could see the Chefs cooking and we enjoyed that.

I must say that our meals were exceptionally fantastic, truly gluten free (as all my meals of the trip were) and the artisinal cheese plate we had for dessert was the best we've had in while - it almost transported me to Paris. I ordered the Chatham Bay boat lobster dish and loved it but can't explain it to you. However, the cramped space and hearing everything being said at the tables next to us is just not our thing. Plus, when the server arrived at the table and I mentioned I'd need a gluten free meal, he looked like he'd never heard the word before, and then returned a moment later acting as if he'd written a book on it. He got our vote for the worst server of the trip and must be an actor trying to pay the rent. I'm sure a regular customer would enjoy the experience more, and be used to tight dining spaces. I'm sure we'd love Bouley next door but our budget would!

So - that in an extremely long nutshell - is the summary of our first full day in NYC. It was a most entertaining adventure - from the double decker bus tour, to another pizza lunch with strangers, to the party at Everybody Eats, to an amazingly delicious dinner. We finally settled into our little apartment and anticipated how great it would be to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary in one of the best cities in the world!

1 comment:

  1. That pizza looks so good!!!



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