Emma Freud recalls the highlights and lowlights of her year exploring the New York food scene, from grasshopper tacos to deep-fried Thanksgiving turkey
So my New York food adventure is over. My family spent a year living in Manhattan, eating our way around the city and never going to the same restaurant twice because we had 12 months and there were 24,000 to get through (NB: we may have missed out a few). There are so many foods I will miss, but so many UK tastes I’m excited to meet again.
I’ve hugely enjoyed the ‘single food’ restaurants here. I felt proud to have consumed the menu at Macbar, which serves 12 types of macaroni cheese. And I appreciated, though then regretted, each of the 24 flavours of rice pudding at Rice To Riches’.
Strangely, I’m unbothered about kissing goodbye to s’mores fries (chips covered in melted marshmallow and chocolate), or chicken fingers with caramel sauce, not to mention deep-fried pickles, kale & dandelion juice with activated charcoal, vegan sushi and foie gras ice cream.
There is still much here that I don’t understand: regular bread is baked with sugar, the milk is saccharine, the butter is sweet, the cheese contains sugar. The only thing that doesn’t seem to contain sugar, is sugar – there’s only one brand and it’s somehow powdery and crispy at the same time.
New York supermarkets remain baffling to me: 20 types of tortilla chip, but no baked beans. Three litre cartons of orange juice, 25 types of tea even though they don’t know how to make it properly (seriously, not one good cup all year) – yet no pickle, no back bacon, no proper cheese, crumpets, Ribena, Jaffa cakes, Marmite, Quavers or Percy Pigs anywhere.
I’ll be bringing back to the UK my newfound love for the skillet. Some restaurants give you a warm one with cornbread baked in it instead of a bread roll when you sit down. I’ll miss cinemas that bring you snacks while you’re watching the movie, and comedy shows where you sit at tables and get served jugs of Margaritas during the first half, and nachos, fries and brownies in the second half when you’ve drunk so much that you’ve stopped caring about late-night carbs.
I’ve longed for proper sausages - the ‘breakfast sausage’ here is limp, lame, sometimes skinless and often contains sugar and cloves. I’ve yearned for really rare burgers (many restaurants only offer medium or well done, for health reasons). And hello, overripe unpasteurised cheese – too dangerous for an American palate, fine for this old English one. I have ached for the random dishes that haven’t yet reached America – sausage rolls, pork pies, Scotch eggs, beef Wellington, Cornish pasties, Yorkshire pudding, shepherd’s pie, Eton mess and a proper Indian curry.
Over the last year on your behalf I’ve consumed grasshoppers (revolting), black ant guacamole (crunchy) and a braised lamb’s testicle (silence). I’ve turned my kitchen into a pop-up restaurant, eaten my way around the mind-blowingly lovely sweet snacks of Greenwich Village, made (and burnt) a brisket, deep-fried a Christmas turkey, braved the Thanksgiving sweet potatoes covered in marshmallow, mastered cherry pie, made dinner over a fire at a dude ranch and investigated every possibility of cooking with alcohol. It’s been the best American job imaginable – and I’m now refusing to leave this magazine. Next month, I’ll start exploring the British food scene (after I’ve had a decent cup of tea).
Try Emma's all-time favourite American dish, buffalo chicken.
What have been your highlights of Emma's travels in New York? Let us know in the comments below...