On Monday morning, we woke up ready for adventure. Cold air was on its way out and warm air was on its way in, so it was foggy, but we walked to the Empire State Building and took in the view anyway. Because of the weather there were no lines and the view literally opened up for us as the sun broke through and the fog burned away.
We walked a few blocks away to Mario Batali’s Eataly market. It was a bustling maze of food shops, meat and cheese counters, a pizza and pasta restaurant, bookstore, gelateria and more. Overwhelmed by the selection, we chose the slightly more formal sit-down Manzo and had lunch at the thick, white marble bar.
To start K ordered (and I pilfered from) a special of fried softshell crabs with shisito peppers and remoulade. The crabs were briny and salty, hot and crisp — with an oddly satisfying papery crunch. The creamy remoulade was the perfect foil for the brackish crabs.
For his main dish, K chose the crispy sweetbreads with truffled mushrooms (funghi trifolati). The sweetbreads were super crisp with that trademark slight grittiness and the truffled mushrooms (and sauce) offered a creamy, earthy partner.
And then Eric Ripert walked in. Just breezed in around the corner and waved to the person he was meeting for lunch. You know you’ve chosen a great place for lunch when Eric Ripert walks in and eats there too. Still in awe, we walked through the market and shared a scoop of incredibly fresh raspberry sorbet and I bought some tiny pots of honey (one of my favorite things on planet Earth).
The weather was a sunny 72 degrees so we walked past Rockefeller Center (where people were still skating on ice under about an inch of water) and explored Central Park. We walked miles and miles that day. Our feet hurt and we were exhausted. But we made it back to Murray Hill and cleaned ourselves up for dinner at chef Anita Lo’s Annisa in the West Village.
Annisa is a lovely restaurant. It has only about 12 tables, but still manages to seem open, spacious and airy. The lights were dim and the walls danced with candlelight. Our server was delightful and felt like an instant friend.
K is a great lover of pork belly so to start, we ordered its more exotic cousin — braised wild boar belly with unagi, apple and daikon. The meat was crisp on the outside and positively buttery tender on the inside. On the accompanying spoon was the braising liquid, perfectly encased in one little bubble. K generously let me have the bubble of liquid perfection and it was meaty and rich and a burst of roasted wonderful.
K ordered the Long Island duck three ways — roasted, as a rillette and as a kind of pate — with herbs, papaya and cashews. While I didn’t have a taste of his dish, he said the duck was earthy, robust and refined.
But our most surprising dessert was in the form of a cold soup. Chilled pink grapefruit, elderflower and fennel soup with almond milk jelly. The soup was ethereal with a light, tart citrus flavor mixed with wild flowers. The almond milk jelly was cool, nutty and creamy. We couldn’t stop raving over (or eating) this soup.