Charles Siskin: A Bite Out Of The Big Apple

Thursday, September 15, 2016 - by Charles Siskin

I was never aware of food courts until I made my first trip to London way too many decades ago. It was there I discovered the Great Food Hall at Harrod’s Department Store. Truthfully I’ve never seen anything comparable since. I have been privileged to visit lots of outdoor stalls and indoor markets in the Far East, South America, Australia, Europe and right here in this country, but there really is only one Harrod’s.

Nevertheless, I’ve never visited a food stall or market I haven’t found worthwhile and when I read recently that there was a new French Market in New York, Le District, I totally marked it as a “must”.  New York has the famous Eataly which is the well known Italian Food Market that, you guessed it, specializes in all things Italian. Now comes Le District which is the French petite sœur (baby sister) to Eataly.

Le District is located adjacent to North Cove Harbor at the foot of Wall Street. While not as large as Eataly, it more than met our group’s needs for perusing the various food stalls and landing at the splendid restaurant, Beaubourg nyc.  Beaubourg in Paris, of course, is part of the Marais which is one of hippest arrondissements (districts) in the city.  

All that aside Beaubourg nyc shares the same hospitable spirit as its Paris counterpart. We were fortunate to hit the most glorious weather in New York considering we had to wait an extra day before being able to fly out from our home base in the Florida Panhandle thanks to Hurricane Hermine.  

If I lived in New York I would be dead broke after a shopping spree at Le District, however in this case I was dead broke after spending the afternoon at the restaurant, Beaubourg nyc.  It was money well spent if for no other reason than the setting. We were seated facing  Pumphouse Park with the Hudson River off to our right. Not quite the famous Paris Tuileries Garden but quite lovely in its own right.

We were a diverse luncheon group that included my youngest daughter from Atlanta, my niece with her two young sons and my favorite New Yorker (my well informed sister-in-law) who has lived in the city all of her adult life. Later on our Uber ride up town she  gave us a running commentary on where the exceedingly wealthy gentry hang out in their gazillion dollar pied-a-terres.

What did we choose to share from the extensive menu? My long time companion (we’re coming up on our 50th year soon) had the mussels that demanded some of that crusty French bread –unfortunately none for her because of her gluten intolerance -  as did the escargot that my niece had that was redolent of garlic sauce.

I had the French Onion Soup served perfectly in a crock that was covered with melted Gruyere cheese. There was a salad with the tiniest baby beets and cones filled with lots of steak frites (French Fries). For the kids there were grilled cheese sandwiches. Those French think of everything!

The fun of  Le District was the opportunity to peruse the market while waiting for our food and afterwards as well. Le District is actually 4 districts including cafes and a market brimming with the most wonderful selections of fruits and veggies. There are beautiful French pastries at the Patisserie, of course, and exquisite cheeses at the Fromagerie.

The ubiquitous French Breads at the Boulangeire are enough to make you forget your daily carb count. You’re on vacation, right?

Plus a cookie bar with more cookies than I think I have ever seen assembled in any market. Oh, and a Creperie, mais oui, which you  would expect at Le District.

It was a memorable experience you could only have in New York including strolling along the Hudson and stopping at one of New York’s linear parks where the kids joined other children for an hour of what I would call strenuous exercise unless I was 4 or 6.

I should note that even the tasty food at the local luncheonette, corn beef hash, comes with a price. But also a great show as we were seated one morning at a table that faced on one of the broad avenues.  Our view was excellent as we watched nannies pushing strollers full of beautiful children, well dressed ladies and men with their messenger bags slung over their shoulders. Packing tip: pack everything black and you will blend nicely.

While I enjoyed the hash, a request by my sister-in-law of the chef,  I have to admit that back at the beach my favorite corn beef hash comes from of all places  Don Pedro’s which serves a pretty tasty version to the local gentry on Sunday mornings.

Yes, the Mexican Cantina that is so assimilated that you can have pancakes so large you can only have one or a traditional Mexican breakfast that might includes eggs wrapped in flour tortillas topped with a red sauce and some refried beans and maybe some slices of fresh avocado.

But for me a slice of the Big Apple was delicious enough.

Recipe for French Onion Soup

Google the name French Onion Soup and you will find there are numerous recipes. Some call for the more elaborate method of making your own beef stock and some suggest buying the can beef broth, which for today’s cooks makes totally good sense.

I think slicing up one medium onion, if making a small batch, and letting it cook slowly in butter until the onions caramelize is the way to go. Then add the beef stock or broth. If my wife did not have a gluten intolerance I would stir flour into the onion mixture, then add a pinch of thyme and a half cup of good dry sherry. Let the soup simmer slowly for at least a half hour.

Meanwhile grate up some Gruyere cheese and toast a small round of French bread for each bowl. Just before serving place the bread on top of your bowl and add the cheese then put under a broiler long enough for the cheese to melt.

This will be perfect for those brisk fall evenings or a really cold winter night, which down here on the Coast means 50 degrees.

Bon Appetit!

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