Tuesday, 24 August 2010

that's how slamming they cook at margot

junot diaz's incredible loose-flowing piece for gourmet magazine about the best dominican food in NYC has got me salivating.

But if you want to see the real El Malecon, visit after midnight. When everyone is returning from a dance, a party, a drive, a long stretch of work. Past midnight is when you will see the community best. When all the impediments fall away and the X-ray of who we are is almost perfect. And yes, no matter what, order the vaunted rotisserie chicken. Sometimes you’ll catch a bad bird and it will be dry—well, my friends, dust off the middle-school Spanish and send it back for another. The juicy ones are worth enduring the rolled eyes of the servers and your inability to conjugate querer properly; the juicy ones, you see, are divine.

the names of the dishes themselves are enough: alcapurria, friquitaqui, majarete.

mind you, it's hard to eat badly in the big apple. as diaz himself puts it, "If you’re in upper Manhattan and can’t score a decent taste of Dominican cooking, either you’re trying real hard to screw up, or something’s very wrong with your luck."

for my greenbacks, the best food i've eaten in new york is at la esquina's diner-style van - the pescado a las brasas tacos were gorgeously zingy, fresh, and charcoal-y, smothered in green tabasco sauce. i ate it with salsa running down my arms and a lunatic grin on my face. incidentally, i was sporting a similarly lunatic grin a few hours later after a baker's dozen margaritas downstairs at their secret bar.

freemans was the cat's pyjamas, too, if a little too model-y for my appetite. kind of hard to knock off a whole bowl of luscious mac and cheese while surrounded by people whose last meal was a cigarette, but still.

the union square coffee shop is an institution, and i can't pass the first 6 hours in new york without stopping in for shoestring fries and beers, at least, although you'll be rewarded for more adventurous ordering, too.

we had amazing food at il buco, too, if twiddly italian is your thing (and it is verily mine) - i ate pulpo a la plancha and had to refrain from plate-licking because of the rather more well-behaved clientele it attracts. i think from memory they also humoured me sending back about 3 bottles of wine, so they get extra points. for more down-to-earth italian grub, you can't go past lombardi's - it's touristy, mio dio, but it was recommended to me by an italian-american born-and-bred new yorker so dispute her claim that it's new york's best pizza at your peril.

for beers, boisterous behaviour, and sturdily executed food, stop into fanelli's. you'll think you're just popping in until you leave 12 hours later, happily sozzled, giggling, and having accidentally befriended a clutch of locals.

this time around though, all the eating out planets aligned for me at marlow & sons. i couldn't say, hand on heart, that it was the best food in new york (brooklyn, in this case) but the food was delicious, the wine was beautiful, the place feels like a tiny secret, and i spent one of those golden afternoons there that you find yourself grasping to recall on grey days when your shoes are wet and everything feels wonky.

but ignore everything i've said here, because the true joy of being in new york is finding your own favourite corners, your own favourite friquitaqui, your own unexpected golden afternoons. take as big a bite as you can.

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