Saturday, September 29, 2012

One West Coast Foodie's Culinary Bucket List for the East Coast

I'd like to think I'm too young for bucket lists.  But, every year I seem to come up with more or different things I'd like to do.  Something about being middle aged has caused me to realize there is no time to procrastinate.

Since our latest vacation took us to all things east coast what better opportunity than to start tackling the list.

Eataly's Butcher Counter
Waiting to retire to experience the more expensive on my list would not be prudent on a retiree's budget.  Do some of them now?

Predictable I know, The Gramercy Tavern and Babbo Restaurante e Enoteca have been top NYC restaurant choices on my list.  To ensure we'd have a table, I planned ahead.  Remembering a piece I read on Eater's site about the difficulty of landing a table at the most desired restaurants, I had to be on the phone or on-line at the appointed hour exactly one month prior to my targeted reservation.  Talk about competitive, the best table I could get on the evenings we would be there was 9:30pm! So be it.

Gramercy Tavern's amazing floral arrangements

The experience itself?  Gramercy delivers on whimsical decor, a cool vibe and well-considered cuisine.  Most memorable on the price fixe menu were all the textures they struck on each course.  A diner can easily appreciate the thought the chef put into creating the meal.  Babbo (Mario Batali's) is a gem buried deep in the Village.  The flavors were so pure.  Nothing disappointing about either experience except perhaps the bill.

Working up an appetite, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to finally experience Brooklyn style pizza (in person).

9/9/12, looking towards Manhattan

The views and everlasting love lockets are all along the bridge
 The journey to get to the destination equaled (maybe even surpassed) the goal.

The famous Grimaldi's served up what we were more than ready for after our hike across the bridge.

Culinary bucket lists in my world don't just include restaurants.  New York provided me so much more.  In search of the perfect house warming gift for our friends we were going to visit later in the trip, we scouted out New Yorker's favorites Whisk and Fishs Eddy.

Everything a home cook could want is in this store

Fishs Eddy, a palace of anything dishware
Inside Fishs Eddy
Housewarming gift found!

I'm not a big baker.  But if I were, this would be a must visit.

New York Cakes & Baking Supplies
The owner preferred I not take pictures inside, but I assure you every possible mold shape, cookie cutter and every color in the spectrum for frostings and sprinkles are here.

The West Side's Zabar's never disappoints...

For all Italian food finds including shopping and dining, a relative newcomer in town is Eataly across from the Flat Iron Building.

I own my share of cookbooks.  But one can never have too many; especially out of print ones.  There are only a very few bookstores in the country which cater to the likes of me.

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in the Village is worth figuring out her hours.  Overwhelmed with choices and collector items such as a first edition of MFK Fisher's, How to Cook a Wolf, I ended up purchasing my first edition Julia Child book as well as Marion Cunningham's well endorsed Breakfast Book.

Since my man cooks for me on passed on these collector's items

Moving up the coast, we made a stop in Portland, Maine.  Based on a recommendation, we lunched at Duckfat.  Lesson here...listen to your friends!

Of course everything they make is good for you ... or make that good tasting.  The fries are to die for.

Portland is a foodie mecca making a restaurant choice for dinner difficult.  We wisely chose the rustic Street & Co.

The view from our table
We shared a sizzling iron skillet of fish and vegetables, ending the meal with in-season blueberry pie Ala mode, of course.  Both were simple and delicious.  A perfect example of less is more.

Our final destination is Rockland, Maine to visit friends.  They showed us some of the best the area as to offer.

A scenic drive along the Mid Coast across to the Blue Hill Peninsula we came across El, El Frijoles on Route 15.

You did know Maine is home to LL Bean didn't you?  Leave it to a couple from California to move to Maine to get away from the craziness of Oakland only to realize the area desperately needed Mexican food.  They modeled their Mexican food solution after taquerias found all over California by converting their barn behind their house into a kitchen.  They mastered soft tacos and quesadillas with the Mid coast's abundant seafood supply.

Our most magnificent experience was back at our home base in Rockland.  Almost in our friend's backyard is Primo Restaurant.

I'll let their description from their website set the stage,

What started with a garden, a few hens and a couple of pigs has now become an evolution of food; an endless pursuit to accomplish more. Primo is much more than a restaurant, it is about love and respect for food. It is also about creativity. Produce is grown & harvested here and the animals are raised on the property. Nothing is wasted – everything has its place. It is a continuous cycle that occurs throughout the restaurant with, the kitchen, the animals and the gardens. The kitchen uses and savors every little piece. Seasonal to the moment, it is actually the farm and the garden that make the incredible ever-changing menu.

The chicken coup

Just one of many examples of their sensational food

We ended our visit on a high note in Belfast, Maine with a vegetarian breakfast at Chase's Daily.  Restaurant in the front and mini-Farmer's market in the back.  The breakfast here is worth the lengthy wait.

I would have never imagined I would experience the best huevos divorciados (half red/half green chili sauce) I ever had.

Now that we are back home, we are extending our morning walks and I'm back to yoga.  We have to work it off for whatever new items will land on my bucket list.    Any suggestions?
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