Grant Allen plans some down-home dining when he ventures to New York with Annabelle White.
Annabelle White and I often end up in "the naughty corner" when we catch up at various food events around town. In fact, we are rarely seated together now. We've been separated as we talk and laugh too much, distracting the other guests.
When I heard Annabelle is hosting a tour to the fabulous city of New York this year, I signed up. This will be no five-star dining experience. It will be about neighborhoods of the metropolis, diners and delis and down-home cooking. I can't wait to return to this energetic hub. It's an inspirational experience and no one leaves there without being changed in some way. They will get us there. New Yorkers love laughter and conversation and certainly know how to enjoy every inch of their great city.
Meanwhile, back in my kitchen, Annabelle arrived with some New York-style food to share.
While living in the United States as a AFS student at the age of 17, Annabelle became hooked on New York. She knows the city backwards and I can't wait to get some of her inside-knowledge. "It's going to be five days of grazing on iconic NY eats, exploring neighbourhoods. It's personalised travel," she says.
Synonymous with our preconceived ideas about this place are delis and diners. So, what's the difference? Diners conjure up the 60s and 70s, with booth seating, counter-eating, Route 66, meat loaf and mashed potato. They evolved in tandem with the increased use of the motor car. Roadside diners offered comfort food along the way. Today, nostalgic eating styles have seen them appear in more urban settings.
Delis are truly of the city. Major immigration from Eastern Europe saw the establishment of places that produced cold cuts, small goods, sausages and pickles and also offered them in a sandwich, with coffee. They have become institutions of the Lower East side of Manhattan and we will be eating there in April.
A note about coffee - New Zealand is spoilt by the quality of our brews. The same standards are not apparent in the rest of the world. New York coffee is "bottomless". You can drink as much as you like from the Cona, a "regular" is served with cream and sugar, but expect to line up for barista-style java.
Annabelle gave me her list of the five things to do in a New York deli.
1: Research online so you have some idea of what you might like. Not all delis have the same on offer.
2: Do not expect easy service. It's okay to bark out your order. Ask them to repeat it back. "You understand I mean I want toasted everything. Bagel with a smear, I said a smear of cream cheese, topped with salmon. You got that, okay?"
3: Don't be cautious about volume and talk to other people in the queue for ideas and suggestions. It's a verbal place.
4: It's customary while lining up in a New York deli for the servers to appear quite rude. This is just the vibe, give it back.
5: It's okay to share and totally acceptable to take away leftovers. If you can't make it on this trip, here are some of Annabelle's food ideas to try at home.
Be generous. American style is about more; their steaks are bigger than Texas, there's no "pussy-footing" around with mini anything. Everything is bigger and better in the USA and that's the message Americans will impart while you're there.