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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Shake Shack, Tom Colicchio's Craftbar, Union Square Greenmarkets and Beecher's Cheese - New York City

grape tomatoes at union square greenmarket farmers market nyc new york usa

New York might be all hustle bustle - the persistent sound of honking car horns hits you as soon as you step onto the street - but there are patches of greenery and calmness throughout the city. Union Square Greenmarket is a welcome oasis among the skyscrapers, popping up on alternate days and offering city workers - and tourists! - a chance to mingle and purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and gourmet products.

shoppers at union square greenmarket farmers market nyc new york usa
Shoppers at the Union Square Greenmarket

The Union Square Greenmarket first started in 1976 with only a handful of farmers offering their produce to city folk. Today the market sprawls across the entire square. During peak season, there are up to 140 farmers, fishermen and bakers each day, travelling from the far reaches of New York, New Jersey, New England and Pennsylvania. In the summer months, they can expect 60,000 people browsing their wares.

strawberry punnets at union square greenmarket farmers market nyc new york usa
Strawberry punnets

I can never resist a farmers market, not just because it allows you to see what is in season and chat with the producers, but it gives such an insight in how people eat. Prices give you a benchmark on what is commonplace and what is luxury (or out of season), and then of course there's always the chance to people watch - and buy a few treats as well!

kale walnut nettle pesto at union square greenmarket farmers market nyc new york usa
Kale walnut and nettle walnut pestos

New Yorkers, it would seem, make no hesitation in paying for good quality fresh products. You can't help but be uplifted by the sight of bountiful produce: luscious ripe strawberries, straight and tall asparagus stalks, blooming florets of broccoli and teetering towers of shiny apples.

And look out for walnut pestos made with kale and nettles coming soon to a market near you!

fresh asparagus bunches at union square greenmarket farmers market nyc new york usa
Fresh bunches of asparagus

fresh broccoli at union square greenmarket farmers market nyc new york usa
Fresh broccoli florets

root vegetable rainbow radishes carrots beetroots beets at union square greenmarket farmers market nyc new york usa
Root vegetable rainbow: radishes, carrots and beetroots

The neat stacking of vegetables was also impressive!

strawberry season at union square greenmarket farmers market nyc new york usa
Strawberry season

DSC_4444-1306
Sunshine and shoppers


Beecher's Handmade Cheeses 

beecher's handmade cheese flatiron district nyc new york usa

We'd ended up in the Union Square / Flat Iron district of New York and found ourselves spending much of the day here - every place in this post is within six blocks of each other. Beecher's Handmade Cheese was on our list but the promise of the World's Best Mac & Cheese made us all stop in our tracks immediately.

cheese making at beecher's handmade cheese flatiron district nyc new york usa
Cheese production within the Beecher's store

Beecher's started in Seattle's Pike Place Market, expanding to New York eight years later in 2011. Before founder Kurt Beecher Dammeier started the business, he had no cheese making experience, just a long-held love of cheese. He attended a cheese making course and hired Brad Sinko, a former manager of his family cheese business, as his chief cheese maker. Over time Beecher's has acquired its own dairy herds.

fresh milk for cheese making at beecher's handmade cheese flatiron district nyc new york usa
Milk being pumped into stainless steel troughs

In both the New York and Seattle locations, the public can watch the cheese making process through glass windows. It's a fascinating view of steel troughs, white hygiene suits and glimpses of cheese in various stages of production.

fresh cheese curds at beecher's handmade cheese flatiron district nyc new york usa
Fresh cheese curds

Both facilities now make cheese 24 hours a day to keep up with demand. The New York facility can produce up to three tonnes of cheese a day.

raking up cheese curds cheese making at beecher's handmade cheese flatiron district nyc new york usa
Raking up the cheese curds

cheese curds stacked into moulds at beecher's handmade cheese flatiron district nyc new york usa
Curds being stacked into moulds

world's best mac & cheese at beecher's handmade cheese flatiron district nyc new york usa
Beecher's "World's Best Mac & Cheese" US$6.50

But we'd come for the World's Best Mac & Cheese, a title given by Beecher's themselves! It's a modest serve for US$6.50 but after a forkful we realise why - it's incredibly rich. The penne is swathed in a thick blanket of heavy molten cheese. They use two kinds of cheese in the sauce - their Flagship and Just Jack cheeses - which is melted into a bechamel sauce with garlic powder and chipotle chilli powder.

The secret, Dammeier says, is to slightly undercook the pasta before adding the bechamel, allowing the pasta to finish cooking to al dente in the oven. If you want to experience the cheesy goodness yourself, you can find the Beechers "World's Best" Mac & Cheese recipe here.

milk pail seating at beecher's handmade cheese flatiron district nyc new york usa
Milk pail seating



Craftbar

craft bar by tom colicchio top chef judge flatiron district nyc new york usa

Only a few doors down the road we find Craftbar, one of the more casual restaurants run by Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio. The voice of reason, the guy who pulls no punches, the quiet onlooker who puts more doubt into contestants' minds with one raised eyebrow than anything he could voice, has always been one of the best things about Top Chef. Recipient of five James Beard awards, Colicchio knows good cooking and good chefs.

We press our noses up against the window, check out the menu, and vow to return for an early dinner.

dining room at craft bar by tom colicchio top chef judge flatiron district nyc new york usa
Craftbar dining room with pig portraits

At 6pm there are several people propped up at the bar but we're the first people in the dining room. There's a relaxed and comfortable feel to the place that puts us at ease straight away. Service is warm and attentive, and although there's no linen on the table, the stemware gleams and the cutlery is heavy.

chicken liver pate at craft bar by tom colicchio top chef judge flatiron district nyc new york usa
Chicken liver pate with strawberry compote US$10

Suze and I had both been lusting after the chicken liver pate and it's a sensuous turret of delight. There's a heartier and meatier taste to this offering, an oomph and gutsiness I prefer over the light and airy mousse we'd eaten at Bouchon. The liver has been roasted and pureed with shallots and bourbon, and the stronger flavours of the pate are countered well with mustard seeds and a bright and zingy strawberry compote.

croque monsieur at craft bar by tom colicchio top chef judge flatiron district nyc new york usa
Croque Monsieur US$15

Is there any surprise that Suze ordered the Croque Monsieur? I love that the offerings here seem to carry through what Colicchio often implores contestants - to not overly fancify food but deliver what is promised, and deliver it well.

It's one helluva Croque Monsieur, with good quality bread that's been basted with butter and then grilled until the surface is outrageously crunchy. There's a generous huddle of country ham and dijon mustard but it's the oozing puddle of melted gruyere cheese in the middle that will make your day.

croque monsieur melted cheese at craft bar by tom colicchio top chef judge flatiron district nyc new york usa
Melted cheese

The homemade kettle chips on the side are brilliant too - sliced just the right width so they have an earth-shattering crunch but thick enough to provide a sense of substance.

buttermilk fried young chicken at craft bar by tom colicchio top chef judge flatiron district nyc new york usa
Buttermilk fried young chicken US$27
with BBQ heirloom beans, Anson Mill white grits and braised escarole

And did you expect me to order anything but the buttermilk fried young chicken? It arrives in its own Staub oval cocotte, heaped with a pile of golden fried chicken. It's got everything you're looking for: juicy tender flesh and a sheath of crunchy fried batter that you just can't stop eating.

anson mill white grits at craft bar by tom colicchio top chef judge flatiron district nyc new york usa
Anson Mill white grits

The barbecue heirloom beans are hearty, with a toothsomeness that comes from cooking dried beans from scratch. Under the chicken is a bed of sauteed escarole - from the endive family and slightly less bitter.

But it's the Anson Mill white grits that are the groundbreaker. Thick and fluffy, buttery and rich, it's a lightbulb moment akin to eating stove-cooked porridge made by an Irish grandma. All other grits I'd eaten so far on this trip pale in comparison to this one. The texture is creamy, the grits swollen with butter, and you can feel it sticking to every rib on its way down. This stuff is awesome.

bowl of popcorn ice cream dessert at craft bar by tom colicchio top chef judge flatiron district nyc new york usa
Bowl of popcorn US$10
Buttered popcorn ice cream, cherry, hot fudge and caramel corn

We share dessert. A bowl of popcorn that turns out to be a buttered popcorn sundae, scattered with real cherries and clusters of caramel corn, all drizzled with hot fudge sauce.

confit duck painting at craft bar by tom colicchio top chef judge flatiron district nyc new york usa
Confit duck art

I love the irreverent approach to the artwork here too.

Shake Shack - Madison Square Park

shake shack hamburgers at madison square park nyc new york usa

And you can't visit New York without visiting Shake Shack. We'd heard so much about the burgers - and the queues - we knew to arrive extra early to beat the lunchtime crowd.

We head to Madison Square Park, home of the first ever Shake Shack, originally set up as a temporary hot dog cart in 2001 to provide snacks for visitors to a temporary art installation. In 2004 they won the bid to open a permanent stand, designed by architecture firm SITE Environmental Design. It's an impressive facade, deliberately designed to be harmonious within the park, and the hanging fairy lights overhead give a festive, almost magical, atmosphere.

pickup counter at shake shack hamburgers madison square park nyc new york usa
Shake Shack pick-up counter

At 11.30am the queue is manageable, with only a dozen in queue. By the time the clock hits 11.50am, however, the queue has exponentially swollen to a hundred. There are office workers, uni students and tourists all patiently waiting in line. I notice a couple of lunch couriers re-packing orders for deliveries all over town. Impressively the Shack Shack site also boasts Shack Cam with live videostreaming of the current queue.

double shackburger with cheese fries at shake shack hamburgers madison square park nyc new york usa
Double ShackBurger US$7.20 
with cheese fries US$3.70 and Shack-made lemonade US$2.50

Lunch is a Double ShackBurger, a double patty cheeseburger with special Shacksauce. I love how the slices of tomato peek out just beneath a fringe of lettuce. There's not much bun here, dwarfed by the patties which are super soft - perhaps eerily so - and layers of melted cheese. Overall I'm more of a fan of In-N-Out burgers but the fries are better here.

melted cheese fries and double shackburger at shake shack hamburgers madison square park nyc new york usa
Glorious melted cheese

Even without the hot lava of melted cheese across the top, the crinkle cut fries are addictive, with crunchy outsides and fluffy innards. The cheese sauce - a mix of cheddar and American cheeses - just makes it even better.

outdoor seating at shake shack hamburgers madison square park nyc new york usa

Beecher's Handmade Cheese
Flatiron District
900 Broadway, New York, New York
Tel: +1 (212) 466 3340

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 11am - 9pm (cafe closes 8pm)
Beecher's New York Cafe on Urbanspoon


Craftbar New York
900 Broadway, New York, New York
Tel: +1 (212) 461 4300

Opening hours:
Lunch 
Monday to Friday 12pm - 5pm
Brunch 
Saturday and Sunday 10.30 - 4.30pm
Dinner 
Monday to Wednesday 5pm - 10pm, Thursday to Saturday 5pm - 11pm,
Sunday 5pm - 9.30pm
Craftbar on Urbanspoon


Shake Shack - Madison Square Park
Madison Square Park, southeast corner near East 23rd Street
11 Madison Avenue, New York, New York
Tel: +1 (212) 889 6600

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 11am - 11pm
Shake Shack on Urbanspoon


Union Square Greenmarket
Union Square, Manhattan, New York, New York
Tel: +1 (212) 788 7476

Opening hours:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 8am - 6pm


>> Read the next USA 2013 post: Carlo's Bakery and Doughnut Plant
<< Read the first USA 2013 post: Cronuts at Dominique Ansel Bakery, NYC


Related Grab Your Fork posts: 

USA 2013
Austin - BBQ tour - Franklin, Ruby's, Green Mesquite, Salt Lick & La Barbecue
Austin - Gourdough's bacon donut, Hoover's, Whole Foods and Biscuits + Groovy
Chicago - Deep pan pizza, Al's #1 Italian beef & Cheesecake Factory
Kansas City - BBQ: Gates, Oklahoma Joes & Arthur Bryant's

LA - Animal Restaurant
LA - Boiling Crab
LA - Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery
LA - Donut tour of LA's best: Randy's Donuts, Bob's Doughnuts & The Donut Man
LA - In-N-Out, Roscoe's Fried Chicken & Waffles, Kogi food truck & Pink's Hot Dogs
LA - Mexican: Loteria Grill, Tamales Liliana's & El Flamin Taco
New Orleans - Willy Mae's fried chicken, Felix's Oyster Bar & beignet

NYC - Cronuts at Dominique Ansel Bakery
NYC - Doughnut Plant, Carlo's Bakery, Baohaus, Lobster Joint & Clinton St Bakery
NYC - Jewish food tour: Katz's Deli, Russ & Daughters, knish and bagels
NYC - Momofuku Noodle Bar fried chicken, Ssam Bar & Milk Bar
NYC - Motorino brussels sprout pizza, Best Pizza and Big Gay Ice Cream
NYC - Shake Shack, Tom Colicchio's Craftbar and Union Square Greenmarket

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/02/2013 02:05:00 am


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