When we planned our December/Christmas activities this year, my husband Glen and I thought it would be fun to do a food treasure hunt with the kids one day. Then when friends of ours got stuck in town because of a blizzard, we roped them in to joining us.
Here's how it works -- first the rules:
1) Pick the crappiest day in the city you could ever choose -- the day after a blizzard, when sidewalks are barely shoveled, cars are buried, restaurants are working with half staff...okay, it's not really one of the rules, it's just the day we did our hunt.
We picked three food choices -- sandwiches, ice cream, and chocolate -- then divided into four teams. Each team had to bring back at least one selection of each item, and it had to be enough to share. We gave everyone 2 hours to hunt and we limited the area (we were in midtown on the west side) so we could bring food back to our apartment and have it for lunch.
We all got to vote for first and second place of each item, and there were, of course, prizes. (Michael Pollan's book -- Food Rules -- and Eat This, Not That were two of the prizes.
Our teams were named: Bite Me, Snowdrift, Ice Cream Drop and High Brow/Low Brow.
We had so much fun -- we had a very eclectic lunch! My team had a big debate over whether or not a taco counts as a sandwich -- we decided NO -- and the other two teams voted that yes, frozen yogurt and gelato count are in the ice cream family.
Before heading out the door, I googled "best sandwiches in NYC" and found a new Portugese sandwich place on 9th Avenue and 44th street, City Sandwich. Dash and I trudged through snowplowed streets to City Sandwich, and met Michael, the chef and owner. We told him what we were doing, and he helped us select a couple of sandwiches that would travel well, and he even cut them into several pieces for sharing. We opted not to have the blood sausage sandwich, instead we got a Portugese BLT (the Todd sandwich) and a vegetarian one (the Cornelia), both of which were served on bread made by a Portugese baker.
On our way back to our apartment, we stopped at Amy's Bread to pick up sourdough-chocolate breadsticks (for our chocolate selection) and we added a couple of Amy's PB&J sandwiches for the younger kids.
We planned to stop at Holey Cream and get ice cream sandwiches made with donuts (for the ice cream part of the competition) but it was closed. We were running out of time, and our feet were wet and cold, so we opted for milkshakes from Morning Star Restaurant -- one chocolate and one strawberry -- so we could at least have something to submit.
Team "Bite Me" stayed close to home, since they were also in charge of setting the table and getting the apartment ready for guests. Luckily for them, we're near the Time Warner Center, which has some amazing places to eat. Bouchon Bakery yielded both a good sandwich (roasted pork sandwich on dutch bread), and the winning dessert -- a gourmet HoHo. (Just think about this...remember Twinkies? Snowballs? HoHo's? Thomas Keller's version of this childhood favorite is a real treat, and the nostalgia factor is a plus!)
For their ice cream selection, Bite Me went to our local Pinkberry and brought home pomegranate frozen yogurt, with some pomegranate seeds and raspberries to put on top. (This was my personal favorite, but it came in second in the category.)
Teams High Brow/Low Brow and Ice Cream Drop divided and conquered their food selections. They brought back the winning sandwich from Brother Jimmy's BBQ -- the Press'd Bourbon BBQ Brisket with gouda and onion straws on texas toast. Wow! The Pulled Pork Wrap and the Northern and Southern Carolina Pulled Pork sandwiches were hits, too. (This was the "low brow" part of our meal today!)
Their chocolate and ice cream selections were from the "high brow" side of their team -- fudge and chocolate covered marshmallows from Li-Lac Chocolates, and the winning ice cream from Grom. It took friends from Chicago to introduce us to to the Grom store at Columbus Circle -- right in our neighborhood! The winning flavor was Chocolate Extranoir -- a dark chocolate sorbet for real chocolate lovers.
The added benefit in having out of town friends participate is the leftovers! YUM!!!!