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Iconic Food

Editorials New York City

Shooting Iconic Food of NYC for Lonely Planet Traveller, November Issue

October 13, 2013

In the first week of August, I got an email from the Photo Researcher of Lonely Planet Traveller magazine in the UK, asking me If I was available for a shoot. ‘We would like to do a New York story with a focus on iconic NY food and classic NY city scenes…It is for our November issue, so the turn around would need to be quite quick’. 

Of course I didn’t want to miss that opportunity. Even though I was quite busy with a different project, I loved the idea of eating my way through NYC…

Yes, I’ve been living in New York for 12 years now, but there is always something new to discover. And even though I knew the majority of the iconic food locations, I didn’t try the food in all of them. That was the perfect excuse and opportunity.

I’m kidding.

I love shooting my city and I’m honored to work with a great magazine, such as the Lonely Planet Traveller. It was an intense week of shooting in which I’ve been eating all kinds of foods I usually don’t eat and searching rooftops and views of New York, that I have always wanted to shoot.

In case you are traveling to New York soon and want some recommendations and locations (and you didn’t have a chance to get the magazine) here are some suggestions:

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory: When you get to Dumbo in Brooklyn and head toward the East River, you might see long lines of people standing outside what used to be a fireboat house back in the 20’s. Don’t get intimidated as these long lines will lead you to one of the mythological ice cream places in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Forget about rocky road, salted caramel or chili flavors. The factory has just eight classic all natural flavors: Vanilla, chocolate, vanilla chocolate chunk, strawberry, chocolate-chocolate chunk, peaches and cream, butter pecan and coffee. The cones are wrapped with a paper cone of the American flag and Patriotism never tasted so good.

Gray’s Papaya Hot Dogs: The combination of greasy hot dog and a papaya drink, is apparently a success combination for 41 years now in New York City. Mr. Gray, who first opened Gray’s Papaya in 1973, succeeded in making his hot dogs into a brand name in Manhattan. There are two locations in the city; one in the West Village and the second one in the Upper West Side (on 72nd and Broadway) which is opened for 24 hours and draws in the masses.  Gray’s does classic NYC frank: all-beef in a natural casing, which is grilled and served on a toasted bun with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard. It has the best price in the city.

Zucker’s Bagels: New York city is well known for its bagels. The combination of bagel, cream cheese and lox (thinly sliced smoked salmon) is a well known trademark here. It goes back to the early 1900 when Jewish immigrants in the Lower East Side used to sell the bagels from pushcarts. Few years later, the pushcarts in New York sell hotdogs, pretzels or halal food, and the bagel and lox is well sold in delis and special bakeries such as Zucker’s. During my shoot in the Midtown East Location, I had the honor to meet Matt Pomerantz, the owner and founder of Zucker’s, the authentic NYC hand-rolled, kettle-boiled bagel. He opened his first shop in 1994 after quitting his job in Wall Street to pursue the family business, a love of bagels and great food. He named Zucker’s after his mother, Roslyn Marilyn Zucker Pomerantz.

Dun-well Doughnuts: It’s an improbable fact that Homer Simpson is the inspiration behind a vegan doughnut shop in New York, but it is a fact, nonetheless. Watching an episode of The Simpsons one night, Christopher Hollowell badly craved a doughnut but he couldn’t find a vegan version anywhere in New York. He called his best friend and fellow vegan Dan Dunbar, and together they hatched a plan to open the city’s first dairy-free doughnut shop. They chose the bohemian, hipsterish location in Montrose Ave in Brooklyn and together they make more than 200 flavors in rotation, from traditional varieties such as glazed, chocolate and jam-filled to inventive concoctions such as root beer, tangerine basil and black liquorice. And I didn’t even mention the great coffee.

Roberta’s Pizza: ‘If you want to find the best pizza in New York, you should head to Bushwick and try out Roberta’s’ That’s what one of my friends told when I was asking around for the best pizza in town. Sometimes it is better to ask a man about a pizza. I was happy to discover that Roberta’s is in Bushwick, as recently this neighborhood is getting my attention due to the big graffiti scene there. When I got to Roberta’s, I have realized I passed through their door few times before, without knowing that behind the red curtain, there is one of the best pizza in town. The restaurant is located in what used to be a car garage and now it has a garden and a greenhouse which produces some of the restaurant’s herbs and vegetables. Indoors you can find the kitchen with the smoky, wood-fired brick oven which produces the divine pizza. Some of the slices you should try are The Bee Sting, a tomato, mozzarella and sopressata (Italian dry salami) chilli and honey or Carlos Danger, a parmigiano, squash, fresnos (chilli peppers), onion and chilli oil. That was my fave.

Katz’s Deli: I’m sure you are all familiar with the episode in “When Harry met Sally” when Meg Ryan’s faked an orgasm… Well, that was in Katz’s Deli, and Sally ordered the pastrami on rye. Katz’s opened 125 years ago in the Jewish area of the Lower East Side. ‘It was established on Ludlow Street in New York’s Lower East Side by the Iceland brothers. Upon the arrival of Willy Katz in 1903, the name of the store was changed from Iceland Brothers to Iceland & Katz. Willy’s cousin Benny joined him in 1910, buying out the Iceland brothers to officially form Katz’s delicatessen. Their landsman Harry Tarowsky bought into the partnership in April 1917. A move to the present side of the street was necessitated during this time by the construction of the subway system, although the entry remained on Ludlow street. The vacant lot on Houston (named after a Dutch emigrant of the same name) Street was home to barrels of meat and pickles until the present storefront facade was added in the period 1946-49’. The pastrami is cured the same way, using the same secret ingredients and is still cut by hand to order. Even the original storefront sign remained back from the 40’s and the archaic ticketing system; a ticket is given on arrival, food gets charged to it and a fine of $50 is charged if it is lost! This has been one of the most iconic locations in the Lower East Side and quite crowded most of the time.

Lady M Cheese Cake: One of the best things in this shooting assignment was to discover new places and try out the food. I first saw the Lady M Cheese Cake boutique during one of my lunch breaks in Bryant Park. I was taking a class at ICP on 43rd and 6th and lunch breaks are spent in Bryant Park. I have noticed the white-only interior and the colorful crafted cakes waiting for me to eat them. I was so happy to discover that Lady M Cheese Cake was on the list so I could have a closer look at the beautiful cakes and fanciful desserts that were presented like jewelry behind the counter glass. If you make it to one of Lady M Cheese Cake boutiques (there are two locations in the city, one in Bryant Park and one in the Upper East Side) I highly recommend and urge you to try the signature Mille Crepe; more than 20 crepes layered with pastry cream with gatueau fromage.

Clover Club Cocktail Bar: Named after a famous, late 19th century men’s club, the Clover Club in Cobble Hill Brooklyn serves fizzes, sours, juleps, royales and crystal bowls of punch atop its mahogany bar. The back of the bar is designed as a Victorian era saloon and it usually hosts private parties. One of the reasons to head to Clover Club is the head bartender, Tom Macy, who is well trained and experienced in making creative cocktails using fresh juices, house-made syrups and seasonal ingredients. The Clover Club Cocktail is a mix of gin, fresh lemon juice, house-made raspberry syrup and an egg-white mix to turn it from a fruity gin drink to something more grown up.