See, I have this friend in Brooklyn who is my go-to for my food adventures and early last year we stumbled upon the brilliant idea of eating our way around the breads of the world, right here in New York City. The rules were simple: eat from as many different countries as possible, try to stay away from the obvious choices like pizza, eat something bready or breaded or at least starchy at each spot, and expand our palettes! Of course this idea coincided beautifully with us both wanting to lose some weight, but fortunately our priorities were correct and the bread came out on top. Because really, what is life if it is all carb-free and skinny and lettucy and sad?
We didn’t end up hitting nearly all the spots on our ambitious list last year, but my goodness, we certainly had a lot of fun with the ones we did try and we found some new favorite local digs! Want in on the ride?
First stop: Venezuela/Columbia
Arepas are a pre-Columbian corn patty, originating from tribes in Columbia and Venezuela, stuffed with any number of delicious meats and cheese, perfect for our bread wants. Camille and I found a spot in Astoria and picked up a few stuffed with our favorite pork and black beans and cotija cheese and trundled them to Roosevelt Island for a spring picnic, over a nifty little footbridge we didn’t know existed.
Here’s the thing. They were delicious. Everyone should try arepas, and everyone should also try a picnic on Roosevelt Island in the spring when the sidewalks are carpeted with clouds of fallen cherry blossoms, which float up in swirls as you walk through them under the newly lit lamps. The abandoned smallpox hospital is deliciously creepy in the spring gloaming and if you listen hard enough, you can almost hear the whispers of adventures and tragedies within its walls.
I first tried Malaysian food in Chinatown and absolutely fell in love with the airy clouds of roti which one tears into pieces and dips in a curry bursting with flavor. So after I raved at great length to my compatriot, we tackled a little Malaysian place in my Queens neighborhood and alas and alack, my expectations thudded to the earth with a resounding thump.
Don’t let my cheerful pre-tasting face fool you- the food was barely edible. The roti and curry was alright, if not spectacular, because it’s hard to truly mess up anything chock full of curry powder, but my pineapple fried rice (which I got for obvious reasons) tasted like it was on the verge of spoiling, and Camille’s thick and saucy noodles were only a little better. I guess that’ll teach me to order anything served in a pineapple just because it sounds awesome.
Takeaway: definitely try Malaysian food but read the reviews first.
This wasn’t an official stop because Camille wasn’t with me, but it was too delicious not to share, and we have eaten Ethiopian food together before, so I think it should count.
My first experience with Ethiopian food in Asheville, NC was not fantastic, but I sure am glad I persevered, because after trying it at a legit place, it has quickly found its spot in my top handful of favorite cuisines. The fermented injera is perfect for scooping up the curried lentils and red beets and unbelievable goat and beef and turmeric potatoes. Just take care, because if you happen to have gotten a milky pink manicure the day before you eat all this turmeric, you may leave your meal with one pink hand and one yellow. I know.
We tried, we really did! We scoured the menu for anything resembling bread, and when we tried to order the one item that seemed like it might count, they were out. So we just ordered what we wanted and enjoyed it thoroughly. And besides, pasta could be called bread if you stretch the rules really far, right?
My friend got the spaghetti liberally coated with basil sauce and a steak that just popped with flavor, and I got the ceviche in tiger’s milk, because how could I not? Sadly tiger’s milk is not milk from a tiger, but rather a citrus-based, spicy marinade used to cure the fish in ceviche. I’m not much of a ceviche connoisseur, but even months later I find my mouth watering, looking at this photo and remembering the lemony tang. Do try it.
G’day mate: Australia!
Perhaps it was the airy and beautiful atmosphere, or perhaps it was just that it is hard to find fault with good eggs benedict, but this turned out to be a favorite for both of us. There were plenty of bread options for us, and since I love eggs in nearly any shape or form, I got eggs benedict atop a healthy portion of pulled pork. And oh boy, it was delightful, as was the red beet salad on the side.
I would definitely go back here, and I would take guests.
Another Oops: The Himalayan Yak
Again, my friend wasn’t with me, but how could I not add this sample plate from the Himalayan Yak restaurant with rice and a crispy bread and all manner of pickled and spicy sides, enjoyed with sips of savory yak milk tea. It may be one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever tasted, but I could actually see it growing on me with time. Plenty of time. Lots and lots of time. 🙂
Not the kind of place I’ll be going back to every week, but certainly a fun foray into something unusual.
Now, before you come at me with pitchforks, let me hasten to say that I have tried Georgian khachapuri before and just loved it, and since it’s the very definition of a bready meal, of course it made our list. But unfortunately we accidentally chose a kosher restaurant, which meant that they didn’t even serve khachapuri! However, we were so very hungry, so we settled for baba ganoush with pita sides, a knockoff not-real-khachapuri, and some chicken kebabs.
I’ve had remarkable baba ganoush before, but this plate wasn’t even markable, much less remarkable. And how sad is something that looks like khachapuri and has no cheese?
Pass. I’m still hungry for some proper khachapuri so I may have to try again at a location with plenty of eggs and meat and cheese. Any recommendations?
Ey: NYC (yes, I’m counting it as a country)
This very unlovely photo is from a very lovely day in which this same Camille, who is always game for an adventure, agreed to hike the length of Manhattan with me. We started in the Bronx and at this point we had walked all the way down to Harlem, where we refreshed our hot and tired selves with large iced coffees and the most delicious bagels.
The hike is a story for another day, but “Bread Around the World” wouldn’t be complete without at least a glimpse of NYC bagels, would it?
Tak! I think it must be the proximity to Germany, because the Polish food tasted like home to me even though I have never set foot inside Poland. I got pickle soup because I couldn’t imagine it could be good and just had to know, and we split a platter full of stuffed cabbage, pierogies, latkes, and a plate of rustic brown bread with lard. That’s right, lard.
First of all, the pickle soup was unexpectedly delicious. I mean, I love pickles, but I would never have thought of making a soup dedicated to them! This is why I love trying new cuisines- I stumble upon all kinds of things my little imagination wouldn’t have thought up. Everything else was tasty too, (although it couldn’t top the soup, and even the lard on bread was surprisingly good once I got used to the idea of eating straight up seasoned lard.
Definitely would recommend.
And so ends our year of “Bread Around the World”, plump and happy and with several new favorite spots I want to hit up again and soon. Now, how should we “challenge” ourselves next?