Our tour-guide, Elizabeth, a graduate student from Columbia, gave us the rundown on the various immigrant populations -- where and how they lived, what they ate, and the traditions they brought with them. She told us that the biggest immigrant group to New York City was from the Dominican Republic, and that while the overall immigrant population to the United States is 10-12%, that number jumps to 30% for New York City. After giving this first factoid, she produced our first "bite" of the afternoon, fried plantains. They were starchy, sweet, a little spicy, and filling. We then moved down the street to the Pickle Guys. The name pretty much says it all - nothing in there but pickled this and that. We poked our heads into the tiny space full of pickle barrels while Elizabeth picked us up some kosher dills and... pickled pineapple. The pineapple apparently comes from a Trinadadian worker at the shop who said his mother made the best pickled pineapple around and got the recipe from her - it was delish - flavored with cloves and jalapenos.
We then moved on to Sweet Life, a tiny candy store, where Elizabeth picked up some halva for us. Halva is a Middle-Eastern delicacy made from sesame paste. This variety also had a touch of cocoa, and it was sweet and crumbly and... interesting. My feeling is that if you're going to make something sweet, you can't go wrong with butter, sugar, cream, chocolate, vanilla, maybe some fruit if you want to go crazy... and maybe keep the sesame for your savories. Just my opinion. Elizabeth told us an anecdote about some sultan in the mumble-mumble...I didn't jot down the date who loved Halva so much that he had an auxiliary kitchen built onto his main palace kitchen just for making Halva. I'd go with a chocolate mousse kitchen. Or maybe one just for gelato.
Down a little further we hit Chinatown for some fresh tofu (good, but it would have been fantastic with a drizzle of sesame oil) before making our way to the Italian district for cannoli, soppressata- a fantastic dry salami, fresh mozzarella, and wonderful aged Parmesan, before circling back through Chinatown for lychee and black sesame ice cream. Again with the sesame desserts! I tried it and then ate around that part, just hitting the lychee flavor.
|in Di Palo's cheese shop|