Don’t throw out that old food-keep it and it just might become an heirloom. Jennifer Weiss takes a look at various foods of varying ages, some edible, some not. While my accompanying video looks at at classic NY institution that uses a very old yogurt culture.
Yonah Schimmel has much more to offer than yogurt. Their speciality is the knish-a huge potato pastry incapsulated in an incredibly thin crust. My favorite is the jalapino and cheese combination-Ellen, the manager, works had to constantly innovate while maintaing the bakery’s 104 year old traditions.
Pizza is synonymous with the City-and why not? After all, what most of the world considers pizza was practically invented here (sorry, Italy). Nothing is more authentic than a slice from that most iconic of NYC pizzerias, Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village. I have to say, however, it’s my second favorite pizza place in NYC. Check out the video.
There are many things to do and see in NYC but the one thing that tops almost every visitors list is to see a Broadway show. New York’s collection of theaters around Times Square, known officially as The Theater District, is the largest of it’s kind in the world. That’s official, by the way.
A typical agenda for a night of theater might go something like this:
5:00 pm-In anticipation of getting lost on the subway, you leave your hotel. Because of the fear of not making it to the theater on time for curtain, you will probably decide on trying to eat somewhere in the Theater District because it’s close to your theater.
6:30pm- You arrived at the Theater District much sooner than you expected because of NYC’s fantastic subway system, but you have been looking around Times Square for a place to eat for the last hour and fifteen minutes. Now, frustrated by all your dining options from Olive Garden to Applebee’s, you feel the pressure of the 8:00pm curtain time closing in on you. And, there seem to be a million other theatre-goer’s feeling the same thing.
7:10pm- In a desperate attempt to eat so your stomach won’t make growling noises in the middle of one of Alan Cumming’s monologs, you decide to eat at one of the ubiquitous Times Square restaurants with the run of the mill pre-theater Prix Fixe menus.
7:50pm- With only ten minutes to spare you sit down in your Broadway theater seat, still sweating from your jog to the theater, catch your breath, and stifle a small burp from your pasta and sauce.
Theater District restaurants know this about tourists and they depend on it. They prey on the visitor’s unfamiliarity with New York dinning to cash in and serve overpriced, mediocre food.
It does not have to be this way.
There are many dining options available to the theater enthusiast if they look just outside the Times Square boarders. One of the best is the Westway Diner, located on 9th ave between 42nd and 43rd.
The Westway Diner has been around since 1988, and is a favorite spot for both aspiring actors and locals, so it has to be good and cheap. After all, a local won’t be a regular if the food is bad.
Huge, clean, and open 24 hours, its charms are not immediately apparent unless you spend some time and eavesdrop on the regulars’ conversations. Who knows? You might just overhear an actor who will be Broadway’s next sensation.
There are certain sights, smells and tastes that are indicative of a certain place. I’m not necessary talking about only a physical place but also a place in time. These tastes and scents from the past emerge from the smallest of places, but can generate the strongest memories. They exist only in specific places. The koláče from The Village Bakery in my hometown of West, TX is one of those foods and one of those places.
I lived in West from the time I was 2 years old until I graduated high school at the age of 18. Now, I’m the first to admit that I left town as soon as I could and have seldom looked back. But certain memories always lingered. Like the memory of walking everyday from my father’s grocery store, down the ally and around the corner to The Village Bakery and buying a cherry koláče.
The koláče (pronounced Ko-la-che) is a simple, fruit or cheese filled pastry with a light, buttery bread base. Not a doughnut, not a Danish, the kolache is a uniquely Czech creation and nobody; I mean nobody, makes them better than The Village Bakery.
Established in 1952 by Wendel and Georgia Montgomery, the bakery is one of the cities oldest businesses. They established a tradition of making their offerings completely from scratch. No canned fillings, no pre-made dough. Everything you buy there was made on the spot that day, sometimes-just minutes before you eat it.
I have a special fondness for this place not just as a customer, but for another reason. When I was in 7th grade I did my first camera interview with Mr. Montgomery as part of an assignment for my English class. I shot it on Super 8mm film and used a cassette tape recorder to capture the sound. These were the days before home video cameras, but no, the camera was not hand-cranked. I don’t remember how the project turned out or what grade I received. It must have been ok because I did eventually graduate.
If you find yourself anywhere near West, TX, I urge you with all seriousness to drive past the roadside touristy koláče store on the highway and venture into my home town to visit The Village Bakery. Accept nothing less than the authentic kolace experience.
The koláče is on of those foods that feeds the soul. They remind us of that past. They remind us where we come from. They remind us of home.