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Thursday, December 08, 2005

K-nish? It's de-lish!

New York is one big rush. But it also gets hungry and like the vending machine drink havens found all over Japan, satiation is never too far away.

As I battled the crowds along 5th Avenue the other day, the stomach rumbled and the eyes lit up at the prospect of visiting a street vendor. The mobile silver carts here serve everything from pretzels to roasted chestnuts, gyros (yeeros) and hot dogs. The smell of caramelised peanuts beckoned but I only had eyes for a knish.

My first ever knish (say ker-nish) involved me nodding at the offer of mustard, and watching fascinated as the man unwrapped a foil package, plunged a knife deep into its core, and then squirted a generous slather of mustard within. $1.50 in quarters was handed over and after a series of discreet photographs on the street (of course!), I inspected my knish at close quarters.

What is it? A great big wad of mashed potato. Compacted into a squat tear-drop shape and coated in a thin layer of what seemed like breadcrumbs. Usually this Yiddish snack is encased in a light pastry dough, but this street version seemed to have been fried in breadcrumbs and the bottom was slightly burnt. But I like burnt, which just means overzealous caramelisation in my book, and the steaming hot parcel of portable comfort food was gobbled with shivering delight.

Have I mentioned the weather? 0C is cold. -10C is just plain ridiculous! That's 32F and 14F. Entering and exiting subways and shops means a removal of hats and gloves and the unzipping of oversized jackets. A lot of New Yorkers wear ear muffs which looks rather cute, and North Face seems to have the market cornered in black puffa jackets.

We checked out the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum which features the world's fastest aircraft, the A-12 Blackbird which can reach speeds of mach 3.6 (more than 3 times the speed the sound). Across the road we sampled blueberry bagels from the H&H Bagels factory. I weep for the bagel withdrawal symptoms I will experience back in Sydney.

H&H bagels are perfection. An almost tacky crust and a soft fluffy inteior which is divine eaten untoasted with just a smidge of cream cheese. H&H bagels are probably the priciest (US$1 each) but they are worth every divine mouthful. We were also intrigued to watch the baker shaping the bagels, stretching a mound of dough into a donut shape by poking his fingers in the middle.

We wandered through Hell's Kitchen now being re-marketed as Clinton. It's not particularly dangerous looking although I did notice a number of cars in the carpark doubling as housing. A community market garden had giant pumpkins growing and I became pathetically excited when I spotted a friendly-looking snowman in the corner.

We had lunch at Tehuitzingo, a much-appreciated culinary tip-off from Sean. A cluttered grocery shop out the front gives way to a tiny counter out the back that seems straight out of Mexico. I could not resist trying the huitlacoche quesadilla. Known euphemistically as mushroom corn, huitlacoche is actually fungus-infested maize, perceived as a pest by Americans, but much lauded by Mexicans as an expensive delicacy.

The corn was a disconcerting black colour, but the taste was nutty and slightly sweet. I would eat huitlacoche again, and the food here was a bargain too. My quesadilla was only $3 and we watched a Spanish version of Jerry Springer as we wolfed down our meal.

Tomorrow we head for Washington DC. Not known for its cuisine but the home of the free museum. Now we really like the sounds of that!

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4 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 12/08/2005 11:59:00 pm


  • At 12/20/2005 6:44 pm, Blogger Rachel said…

    Hi AG :)

    ahh yes k'nishes are a NY must have and I even had the luck to try a k'nish puppy when I was there, at a Jewish Diner nonetheless. (this diner was so authentic it had a "My sons becomming a doctor" party platter lol!) What is a k'nish puppy? well its a k'nish like how you described ut with a pastry casing and a hot dog sausage in the middle. It was delish with ketchup.

    Anyway I just had to tell you to try
    a Godiva hot or cold chocolate drink before you set foot off the US of A. It is really heavenly ! All the best with the rest of your trip and may you have a safe journey back to Sydney :)

  • At 12/21/2005 3:53 am, Blogger Rose said…

    Oh helen,

    It's so exciting to read about someone exploring my 'hood and eating the food of my peoples!

    And you're eating at my local joints! I guess I never mentioned Tehuitzingo in the comments I wrote. It is on my top ten list and one of my favorite places to eat near my home--in fact, I just ate there last night!

    The community garden is incredibly pretty in the summer as well. There's often yoga classes and other activities happening during the warmer months.

    I wanted to point out one thing though. Hell's Kitchen is not being re-marked as Clinton. In fact, both names were used throughout the area's history and both are used today. A good history of the area is found here:


    (I'm sorry to point it out--I'm a history buff and I really love my 'hood--I just want to make sure no one is misinformed :-(

    I look forward to more of your posts on NYC. It is so much fun to see the outside perspective of the city I love most.

  • At 12/21/2005 7:57 am, Blogger Robyn said…

    I don't remember the last time I had a knish! :| I got it from Yonnah Schimmel's Knishery, which a lot of people don't like...but I thought it was good. Naturally perhaps, I thought the dessert one, which is full of cream cheesy-esque stuff and not potato, was better than the potato one. ;D

    I've never had H&H. Ehoh! Uh. I don't do much NYC culinary tourism!

  • At 12/21/2005 12:06 pm, Blogger Kalyn Denny said…

    Oh, I am sad I didn't see this sooner because D.C. actually has some incredible restaurants. I got to eat there for five years (on an expense account even!) and discovered some wonderful places. Here's a short list: Filomena in Georgetown, East Street Cafe in Union Station, La Tomate in Dupont Circle, Olives near the White House or any of the Ethipian restaurants in Adams Morgan. You could find some blogworthy food at any of those.


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