Food tour – New York City

Food tours are so great, we had to do another. We were in NYC last week for the kids’ spring break, and we did another tour from the company that did my Madrid tour – Devour Tour Greenwich Village.

It started off with some weirdness that was handled quite well by our guide. He was talking to us about the arch at Washington Square Park and a gentleman not in the tour started to listen. I imagine this happens all the time and the guide shot him down gently and quickly, noting that you had to pay for the tour in advance. As the guy left, I realized how weird he was. If you told me he had just stepped off the set of a vampire movie set in the 1800’s I would have simply nodded. He was carrying a fancy bible and a watch on a gold chain. He was very polite but I was glad he moved on quickly, his vibe was super creepy.

Anyway, on to the food. There is no shortage of sketchy people in any city.

I can’t believe I forgot to get a photo of the first item – a bacon egg and cheese on homemade bread from Court Street Grocers. Fluffy eggs, crisp bacon, bread with just a bit of chewy toughness – highly recommend.

Next stop, Brigadeiro Bakery for some brigadieros.

Brigadeiros on a plate from Brigadeiro Bakery

You know how I ate croquetas in Madrid? Think of these as the sweet version. The inside is something like a béchamel sauce except made with sweetened condensed milk. These were delicious and probably my favorite bite of the tour. We also had this delicious cheesy bread that I didn’t catch the name of and don’t see on their online menu. Our guide said this was something eaten by slaves who didn’t even have flour so it was gluten free. Yes, this framing is slightly problematic. They were delightful anyway.

Dense and delicious Brazilian cheesy bread

Next stop was Rafetto’s, where we met the 3rd generating Rafetto (The 4th generation had the day off), and tasted their pasta.

A small dish of ravioli in red sauce

Next stop, Manousheh for zataar flatbread.

A flat bread folded over with a green spice blend inside. Next to it is a cup of yogurt with oil and a spoon to add it to the bread.

We were told that the owner of the restaurant imported the oven from Lebanon as that’s the only way to properly cook the bread, and that Lebanese immigrants from states away make the trek here to get a taste of home. It was delicious, though I think the distribution of the spices was a little uneven, as Gremlin 1 nearly choked on hers, and I don’t think she has a particularly sensitive palate. She still finished it, so she must have liked it.

We then stopped at the Porto Rico Importing Company. If you do not like coffee or the smell of coffee then I recommend you give this one a miss. Otherwise, highly recommended. We had chocolate covered espresso beans and I got a latte (not included with the tour but a good addition).

Next was Rocco’s Pasticceria and Cafe for cannolis. They fill theirs by hand when you order so the cream isn’t just sitting there getting the crust soggy. You can taste the care they put in.

Three cannolis on a plate next to my wife’s phone

No NYC food tour could be complete without a slice or two, and Bleeker Street Pizza didn’t disappoint. The crust was crispier than I’m used to in NYC, which did make it easier to eat.

A bunch of slices of pizza topped with cheese, tomatoes, and herbs

And finally we ended at The Blind Tiger for grilled cheese and tomato soup. I was NOT hungry at this point but I ate it anyway because 1) you’re supposed to and 2) it was really good

A bowl of tomato soup on a plate. There is half a grilled cheese sandwich on the plate. In the background is a large can of Sip of Sunshine IPA

The Sip of Sunshine was extra but a lovely addition. I keep forgetting that while you can’t get this beer in DC, it’s all over NYC. One thing I learned about the bar – the name comes from Prohibition, where bars would advertise that you could come pay a fee to see the blind tiger and when you came in, they’d give you alcohol. I can’t imagine how this worked – maybe it was just enough plausible deniability that the cops just let it go?

Next time you travel, GO DO A FOOD TOUR. Especially if you’re alone. You get new friends, at least for a few hours, and you’ll get to see and learn stuff about wherever you’re visiting that you likely wouldn’t otherwise.

Madrid food tour

As I mentioned in the last post, food tours are a really cool way to learn about a city and a culture while ALSO eating too much. Most of them are active, though, so you have an excuse.

Our first stop was El Riojano for this little cake and a cup full of chocolate. You are supposed to dip the cake and then drink the rest of the chocolate. I could not bring myself to drink the chocolate as it seemed too early in the morning to be that rude.

a little cake and a teacup full of chocolate on a white plate that reads "El Riojano"

Our second stop was a complete failure in terms of food but interesting in terms of the city. This is the secret cookie shop. Unfortunately, the sign on the door reads “Hoy no hay dulces” (“Today there are no sweets”). This is a convent and the nuns make a bit of extra cash by making cookies. However, they are not always open, and we had unfortunate timing. Still, interesting stop. You are not allowed to SEE the nuns, which makes buying cookies a small challenge, but the nuns have it figured out. Or so our guide told us, as we didn’t get to witness it.

A brown door. There is a small white paper sign on the door and a portrait of Jesus above. A security camera looks down from the left.

Next was Los Ferreros, the oldest grocery store in Madrid. It’s been in operation since 1892. The current proprietor is the descendant of the original. We had some delicious cheeses on top of a sort of cracker. We had a moment of unpleasantness – one of the others on the tour decided that the proprietor was riding the coattails of his ancestors and the location and wasn’t really deserving of his continued operation. This was the most embarrassed by American tourists I was during this trip. Luckily the antagonist aggressively spoke no Spanish, the proprietor either didn’t speak English or didn’t listen, and our tour guide softened the challenge when she translated. I had been a little worried when we started the tour as the antagonist had two young boys, maybe 9 and 11? I was worried they would be disruptive but they not only were not disruptive, they were eager to try the food and chatted with the tour guide. It’s too bad their father didn’t take after them.

A small storefront with a sign above reading "Los Ferreros". The windows of the store are full

Spain doesn’t really do street food, and depsite our tour guide insisting that this was the ONE street food they do, I’m not convinced. We stopped at Cerveceria la Campana (C. de Botoneras, 6, Centro, 28012 Madrid, Spain) for a calamari sandwich. It has some aspects of street food – a fried thing in bread – but no one but us was eating on the street. The place was busy with people sitting down, and when we ate, it was clear why – it’s really difficult to eat an overstuffed sandwich when you don’t have a plate. The sandwich was just ok – it was hard to apply the garlic mayo BECAUSE I DIDN’T HAVE A PLATE and without it, I thought the sandwich was under-seasoned. Nevertheless, it’s tough to go wrong with fried seafood.

A closeup of a hand holding a sub roll overflowing with fried calamari

I will preface this by saying I HATE olives. Hate them. There are very few foods that I hate, and olives are probably the top of the list. But I bravely persevered through our olive tasting. We visited La Queseria de Anton Martin. First was the olive for people who don’t like olives. I didn’t like them. Then I tried another olive that’s supposed to be less olive-y than some, and I didn’t like that either. I stopped there – I gave an honest effort, and this didn’t change my mind about olives.

Next we had anchovies over potato chips. This was much better. Spanish anchovies aren’t the crispy salt-bombs you may be familiar with – it’s a larger piece of fish and prepared by pickling. It’s pretty mild. They served them over a pile of potato chips, kind of like a cheese-less nacho, and they were really nice.

We finished with a vermouth. I have always thought of vermouth as something you put near a glass of gin so you can call it a martini, but drinking it with an orange peel over ice is not unpleasant.

The counter at La Queseria, full of cheese and olive oil and many other products

Next stop – Moega empanadas (C. del León, 26, Centro, 28014 Madrid, Spain). These were not a traditional empanada as I’m used to, but they were quite good. The dough was more like a bread. Maybe that’s Spanish and I’m used to Latin American? No matter, because the chorizo and cheese was delightful.

A closeup of a hand holding an empanada filled with meat and cheese. Blurred in the background is a serving platter with more empanadas

We went to Taberna de la Elisa for croquetas and wine. I used the restroom here and ran into a problem that seems common in Spain – the bathroom lights are on timers, and the timer is set for a time much shorter than your average bathroom break. Two or three times on this trip I was in the restroom and the lights went out, leaving me in a strange place, pitch dark. I survived. The croquetas and wine were very nice, but I didn’t get a photo record.

Our final stop was Estela Hojaldre for dessert pastry. I didn’t catch what it was called, but it was about 1,000 layers of flaky pastry with a custard in the middle. It was, again, not something easy to eat without a table and a plate, but the flavor was excellent and I am a big fan of the texture. Soft custard with layers and layers of crunchy, flaky crust in between. I made a mess of my shirt but it was totally worth it.

I would absolutely do another food tour sponsored by Devour Tours. Our guide was great. She and the other guide had to pivot last minute because there was a group of maybe 12 split across the two tour guides – they switched it up so the large group could go togehter and all of us (me, two couples, and a family of four) shared a tour.

Again, I highly recommend a food tour when you’re in a strange city. You have instant friends. You learn about the local food and culture. And you’ll be well-fed. You can’t go wrong.