Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Food Tour of Greenwich Village: Off the Beaten Path

On the lookout for a delicious way to experience Greenwich Village while in NYC, we signed up for the Original Greenwich Village Food and Culture Walking Tour, a great way to get acquainted with the West Village’s unique culinary, cultural and architectural history. Limited to just 16 people, the three hour tour led us through the neighbourhood's winding streets, hidden gardens and specialty food shops, as we explored the neighbourhood's rich history and sampled small tastes along the way. We began the tour at Murray's Cheese Shop, an homage to fromage 
in the heart of Greenwich Village. Founded in 1940 by Murray Greenberg, Murray's has been part of the neighborhood’s rich food history for almost 75 years and is a New York institution. Initially a wholesaler of butter and eggs, it's evolved into the city's leading cheese shop, displaying an enormous selection of over 250 cheeses, fresh breads, dried fruits, olives, antipasti and charcuterie.

Amy's Breads on Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village, 
where we started our morning with a wake-up double latte and croissant

Amy's fabulous breads

Just in time for Easter — a whole wheat bunny bread at Amy's 

Murray's Cheese on Bleeker in the Greenwich Village

The incredible selection of salami, prosciutto and smoked meats

Plus steaks, sausages and more

The cheese tasting with Manouri white sheep cheese, Ewe-Phoria Gouda and Thumbleweed

The next stop on the tour was Faicco's Italian Specialties, a landmark in the Village that's been serving high-quality meats, sausages, imported Italian specialties and prepared foods for over 100 years. Edward Faicco, who immigrated from Italy in 1896, opened the store on Thompson Street, which in those days formed the heart of a heavily Italian neighborhood home to pushcart vendors and cobblestone streets. Edward's son, Joseph, moved the successful store to 260 Bleecker Street when he bought the building in the 1940s, and today, Joseph's grandson Eddie runs Faicco's. The narrow storefront is packed with every conceivable ingredient one would need to prepare an authentic Italian meal, from aged imported cheeses to canned San Marzano tomatoes to extra virgin olive oil. One of their popular specialties are Arancini, sold at $1 each and served as one of our tour tastings. A mixture of rice, cheese and deep-fryed to golden perfection, it would have been too easy to order a dozen to go and wobble our way through the rest of the food tour, however moderation prevailed.

Warm and cheesy arancini from Faicco's Italian Specialties on Bleeker

Nest stop, Joe's Pizza, for a slice of New York style Neapolitan thin crust pizza, then on to Milk & Cookies Bakery, nestled on a lovely tree-lined street off 7th Avenue and tempting passersby with the intoxicating small of fresh baked cookies. We continued to Palma, a wonderful restaurant on Cornelia Street, where I dined many years ago and had the opportunity to sample their Cavolfiore Palma, a delicious cauliflower dish in their charming coach house in the back garden of the restaurant. After walking through the village we ventured on to Rafele Ristorante for homemade Eggplant Rolotini followed with the grand finale, Cannoli at Rocco's Pastry Shop on Bleeker Street, back in the village. Wonderful.

Joe's Pizza, home to the Village's best Neapolitan pizza

A slice of Joe's most popular Marinara pizza

Milk & Cookies Bakery in West Greenwich Village

The interior of Milk & Cookies with trays upon trays of fresh baked cookies

Milk & Cookies oatmeal chocolate chip cookie made with steel oats

The popular cookbook offered for sale in the bakery

O&Co which features french olive oils, truffle-infused salts and other flavoured oils

After a short talk about the nature of olive oil, we were treated to a tasting of O&Co olive oils

A tasting of warm popcorn with olive oil and truffle-infused salt

Palma, a lovely charming restaurant in the village

Palma's Cavolfiore Palma

The sous chefs at Palma, who created our delicious Cauliflower dish

A private court in the Village where new arrivals to the city once lived, 
but now are posh private residences

Bedford and Commerce is the heart of historic Greenwich Village

Ristorante Rafele where we enjoyed Eggplant Rolotini stuffed with Ricotta in marinara sauce

The Rolotini is then cooked from the heat of the wood fired oven

The Eggplant & Ricotta Rolotini with warm focaccia

 We enjoyed a glass of red wine with our tasting

The finale — a cannoli from Rocco's Italian Pastry Shop on Bleeker

Cavolfiore Palma
Serves 4-6
Recipe courtesy of Palma

1 small spanish onion, diced
1 head cauliflower, broken into tiny florets - no stems
1 oz pine nuts
1 oz black currants
pinch salt and black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp toasted breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 380°F. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and allow it to caramelize, about 10-12 minutes, then set aside. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 3 minutes, watching them carefully so they don't burn. In a preheated skillet, add the cauliflower florets and caramelized onion, stirring constantly, then stir in the currants, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Once the cauliflower starts to brown, add the remainder of the oil until the mixture becomes nice and crispy. To serve, pout the cauliflower into a large bowl or platter and top with the toasted bread crumbs.

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