Have you noticed how little “news” I break in this so-called newsletter? Practically none. Well, here’s some for a change: Nikita Richardson is coming back next week.
Nikita, who started writing “Where to Eat: New York City” almost two years ago, has been working on another desk in the newsroom since August. I’ve been driving the official Where to Eat motorcycle in her absence, trying not to ding the Times-approved chrome pipes too much, but now it’s time to surrender the keys.
I know you’ll be in good hands again with Nikita. Before I go, let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Here are three of my favorite dishes from my time on the newsletter, along with how I found them.
Follow that noodle
My roundup in November of restaurants serving Asian noodle soups would have had a big hole in it if I hadn’t written about at least one Chinese beef noodle soup. Which one to pick, though? A friend with a strong interest in hand-pulled noodles steered me to the soup at the Dunhuang Noodle chain. A lot of people like this soup. So do I, but the broth didn’t have the body or depth of flavor I was looking for. The next night, I went to Sunset Park to a little spot that came highly recommended, but it was so small there was nowhere to sit down. I knew that a few blocks away was an Asian supermarket with a food court inside, and that one of its stalls was supposed to make a good beef noodle soup. When I got to the address, I discovered that the noodle stall seemed to have moved out of the supermarket and become a full-scale noodle restaurant called FeiLong Noodle King. The beef noodle soup there is now the one that I daydream about on gray, drizzly days.
One duck, hold the fries
When I waddled into Frenchette, in TriBeCa, in early fall my heart was set on duck frites. It had been one of the restaurant’s most talked-about dishes right from the start; in my review, in 2018, I had praised the crackling skin of the roasted breast and the “echoing crunch” of the fries. But on that night, I was not going to hear those echoes. My server pointed out a new dish, a duck leg confit with string beans and shell beans, that had just knocked the duck frites off the menu. He said something about seasonality. I pretended that was cool with me and moved on, like you’re supposed to do when you’ve just had your heart broken. The new duck was a cassoulet, in essence, but fresher, lighter and easier to deadlift without strain or injury. I wish I were going to have it again tonight.
The Rockaway blues
I love bluefish in any form except raw, but I think my favorite way to eat it is smoked and mashed into a creamy dip. You see bluefish pâté a lot around Cape Cod. It’s not as common in New York; when it does turn up, chances are that it was made by a cook who learned to respect blues by reeling them in on the end of a fishing line. You can get bluefish pâté at Whit’s End, a dimly lighted hideaway in Rockaway Beach that has portraits of striped bass hanging on the walls. The smoked fish is beaten with a river of olive oil, something like a brandade of salt cod, until it is nearly yellow. This is sent forth from the kitchen under a heap of slivered scallions and beside a stack of fresh crackers that were just baked in one of Whit’s wood-fired pizza ovens. I ate there when I was reporting a story on summery places near the beach. All the others are now closed for the season, but Whit’s End stays open, and keeps the bluefish pâté flowing year round.
I hope you’ve made some discoveries of your own the past few months. I’m sure Nikita will have a few finds to share when she comes back next week.