Last week, I had the opportunity to take two different food tours in New York. Both tours were through the same company, Foods of New York. One was of Greenwich Village and the other was Chelsea Market. Two very different areas and interestingly two very different experiences.
Our first tour was of Greenwich Village and the area surrounding Bleeker Street was the main focus. Our guide was someone who had lived in the neighborhood and was well versed in the history of the area. She kept us moving, but allowed us to enjoy our tastings while she shared tidbits about the ingredients used.
We visited a combination of specialty food shops, restaurants and pizzerias. Our tastings consisted of half slices of pizza from Joe’s Pizza and Bleeker Street Pizza, which we found to be a nice contrast in flavors and style. We also enjoyed a cheese tray at Murray’s Cheese Shop, and a sampling of French olive oil and pesto at O & Co. In the middle of the tour, we visted Centro Vinoteca and were treated to a full-flavored faro risotto and were able to purchase a smooth and easy to drink glass of wine.
A memorable part of the trip was our stop at Milk & Cookies bakery where we were each given a large, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. Still warm from the oven, these cookies were amazing, which enticed us to purchase some of their packaged cookie mixes. The last tasting on the tour was Rocco’s which is a beautiful bakery where they gave us a perfect sample of a cannoli – they only fill them to order so the pastry stays nice and crisp.
The bonus to this tour was walking through the neighborhood and learning about the history of the buildings and the theaters. Many things I would never have known if I was just wandering on my own. This part of New York is truly a find and is not to be missed. We came away with a list of restaurants that we’d like to go back and try at another time. Even though we did not sample food in each one, we were able to get a flavor of what they had to offer from the tour.
After enjoying our first tour, we had another day available so we decided to try the Chelsea Market tour. Having never been to the Chelsea Market before, I was very excited to be visiting it. The market is only on the first floor and the upper floors are occupied by Food Network, Oxygen and MLB.com among others. Our guide was knowledgeable, but the tour itself was not impressive.
Touring the market was like taking a tour of a mall, only filled with food shops. Several would not allow photos of the shop or their items for sale. Our first stop was Eleni’s bakery where we were given a cookie that was filled with everything but the kitchen sink. I imagine that the cookie is popular with some, so I will not “knock” it here. We also sampled a small cup of chocolate milk from Ronneybrook Dairy, the milk comes from a farm that treats their cows humanely and does not use anti-biotics.
Our next stop, was The Lobster Place, which was filled with every type of seafood you can imagine. Our tasting there was a cup of soup, I tasted the Lobster Bisque which I found to be creamy and delicious. The sushi chefs were interesting to watch, but we were asked to leave the shop rather than actually look around.
The visit to Sarabeth’s Bakery was interesting because as you enter to receive your tasting of the biscuit with her fruit spreads, you can see into the bakery and the work being done. Next up, we went to Bowery Kitchen Supplies which has anything you could possibly need for cooking and at great prices. We were given a scoop of gelato which was tasty, however it was being given away free that day to anyone who came into the store. Buon Italia, an Italian grocery store, was an interesting shop and we were treated to a light tasting of Italian meat, bread, olives and an olive tapenade. It was tasty, but our guide was not well-informed on the ingredients/processes of what we were eating. This is a “foodie tour” and it would have been nice to learn a bit more about what we tasted.
Our last stop within the market was the T Salon which is all about organic teas and vegan snacks and desserts. The tea startled me because it was cold rather than hot, would have tasted better hot.
From there we took a walk outside and stopped briefly in Morimoto’s restaurant. The guide insisted that we check out the bathrooms, I couldn’t figure out why that should be a highlight of visiting that restaurant and opted not to “check them out”. We then took a quick look around Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich’s restaurant, Del Posto. Simply beautiful restaurant and walking in makes you feel transported to Italy.
The tour concluded after taking a walk around the Chelsea area and learning a bit more about the history. This part of the tour was very interesting and we enjoyed it. However, the knock for us on this tour was that it felt like we were touring a mall that just happened to have specialty food shops. It would have been a nice treat to have a tasting at one of the local restaurants beyond the market. This would give us a better idea if we would have wanted to return to the area.
Overall, the Greenwich Village tour was a lot of fun and we learned so much that we’ll be returning to the restaurants that were in that area another time. I would not recommend the Chelsea Market tour as I think anyone could do that without spending the money on the tour.