I’m obsessed with pumpkins. I know I know…in Melbourne a pumpkin is a pumpkin is a pumpkin. But in New York, these are pumpkins!
On my very first day in New York these pumpkins began my obsession. The Chelsea Market is a must see stop for any traveller and a favorite stop for locals. Within its exposed brick walls (it was once the home of Oreo biscuits) sits The Manhattan Fruit Exchange and the most amazing array of pumpkins I have ever seen.
This great fruiterer sits amongst a fish shop, numerous bakeries, clothing stores, a soup kitchen, a book shop and arguably the best coffee makers in New York( and quite frankly good coffee is hard to find in New York). Following this pumpkin experience I saw pumpkins everywhere. True, halloween took place well before I got here, but then the focus of pumpkin attention turns to pumpkin pie, a favourite choice on any self respecting Thanksgiving dinner menu.
So the proprietor of the children’s clothing shop, “Pumpkin” (more on that later) directed me to Roccos on Bleeker Street to order my Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving. That little task happily out of the way I walked across the street to Murray’s. Oh My God. It’s cheese heaven. Those of you who know me even just a little bit will be aware that I’m quite fond of nice piece of brie or in the right company a good blue vein…I have never seen anything like this. Cheeses from all over the world. Every sort of texture and age and wrapped in things that your mother probably warned about. Where to start and what to buy or leave behind, that was the hardest part. I’m told by those who would know- that their cheese straws are just short of orgasmic. Looks like another visit is essential. I did try on the eve of Thanksgiving but the lines were out the door and I decided that Thanksgiving would be enough overindulgence for one week. (Turns out that was a good life choice!)
Then it was off to the Chelsea Market armed with my new you- bute camera to get the shots at the Chelsea Market. True, the cheese experience had peaked my appetite. I had seen a great little cafe with lots of pumpkins around the exterior which just happened to be on the way to the Market. So thought that I might combine some pumpkin hunting with lunch. Little did I know that said cafe was “The Spotted Pig”. The current favourite haunt of New Yorkers in the know. Oh happy accident!!!
Later research revealed that no less than Mario Batali is a partner here and his trademark and attention to detail was in every morsel that passed my lips. The minute I looked at the menu I knew I was on a winner. Here’s just a little sample;
Apple Salad with Mrs Quickes Cheddar and Walnuts
Roasted Sunchokes with Escarole and Goats Cheese
Buffalo Mozzarella with Cranberry Beans and Chilli
Their wine list is enormous so they also serve wonderful bar snacks of marinated olives, roasted almonds and devilled eggs. I really lucked out here as they took more than five minutes to serve my chosen lunch so the waiter hurried out with a complimentary plate of devilled eggs to keep me going. Oh bliss oh joy. I took my time with these two little beauties to make the experience last and last. Shortly after that my Prosciutto and Ricotta Tart with Marjoram arrived accompanied by a kale and bacon salad. I decided not to tell them that I would have happily waited for twice as long -without the devilled eggs- for this memorable lunch. The tart had clearly just emerged from the oven and the bacon with the kale was big and fat and moreish.
Time to head off to the Market but not without powdering my nose. Yes you guessed it…more pumpkins in the restroom. A bit of an awkward moment getting this photo as I hadn’t realised that the toilet was actually ladies and gents all in one tiny space. I was just about to click when a man came into the wash basin area. I was momentarily put off my game and left the toilet red faced. I waited outside long enough for him to enter the toilet and snuck back in to get this photo for your enjoyment.
More about the shop “Pumpkin”. It’s quite likely that if you had a cute little four year old and dressed him or her from Pumpkin you might just attract the attention of The Sartorialist (see Sartorial Splendour). This little cutey is at 334 Bleeker Street.
They also stock kids room decor like these African inspired beaded table lamps made by Grass Roots Beadworks
Clearly my obsession had not yet resolved itself as on another day altogether I happened upon The Little Owl and wandered in hoping to get a coffee. No luck with the coffee but these pumpkins just happened to be outside their front door. Is there no end to the variety of pumpkins?
I’m on a promise from my daughter to sample the delights of this restaurant, so named as a sculptured little owl looks down on it from atop the building across the street. It is on the corner of Bedford and Groves streets in the West Village. Every self respecting Friends fan is aware of this building as it’s the apartment ‘frequented’ by Friends. Research for The Little Owl revealed this review;
“Thirteen Dollars buys several plump grilled scallops served over a green, cheesy risotto mixed with fresh spinach and nuggets of lobster.” Adam Platt, New York Restaurants
Mmmm… lunch anyone?
Thanksgiving was yesterday and I think I might be able to finally lay my pumpkin obsession to rest. The Roccos pumpkin pie was a triumph. Thing is, there were three other desserts which all had to be sampled (its a Thanksgiving tradition). I have since tried to conjure up the taste and discern the ingredients…I know there was nutmeg and cinammon in there somewhere but eventually succumbed to a recipe featured in the New York Times on Thanksgiving for information. I include it below for readers to do their own bit of research and experience at first hand (and in the best possible way) a little bit of New York on Thanksgiving. I have substituted the sweet potato with pumpkin…naturally.
Coconut Pumpkin Pie with Spiced Crust
Approx. 500 grams pumpkin (or the equivalent of two sweet potatoes) cut into 1 inch chunks
1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs ( ginger nut snaps would work here)
1/4 cup of shredded coconut
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons butter melted
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
Large pinch of salt
1 cup coconut milk
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put the pumpkin in a medium saucepan, add water to cover by about an inch, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the pumpkin is tender. Drain and process the pumpkin.
2. While the pumpkins are cooking, put the biscuits in a food processor and pulse several times until they are finely ground. Add the shredded coconut, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and 1/4 teaspoons each of the ginger and cinnamon and pulse once or twice. Add the melted butter and pulse just to combine. Press the mixture into a 9 inch pie dish and bake for about 7 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and cool.
3. In a food procesor, combine the eggs with the remaining sugar, ginger ad cinnamon, along with the nutmeg, cloves and salt, pulse until well combined. Add the coconut milk and pulse to combine, then add the pumpkin and pulse until just smooth.
4. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust and bake until the mixture is set on top but still quite moist, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
I recommend you accompany it with a mixture of marscapone, plain yoghurt, vanilla and a little caster sugar. Some raspberries wouldn’t go astray.