Taking the Foods of New York Original Greenwich Village Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour is probably one of the most fun and delicious things I've ever done in New York City.
Not only do you get to taste some of the great foods of the village, you get an overview of the eateries and a lesson in the history and culture of the neighborhood. Barri Falk, our guide, told us all sorts of fascinating facts about food and more.
The starting point - as well as ending point (and dessert) - was Rocco's Pastries, an Italian pastry shop. Our first tasting spot was Joe's Pizza, a New York-style pizzeria, where slices are served.
This Sicilian-style pizza from Bleeker Street Pizza was voted No. 1 pizza in New York two years in a row by the Food Network.
New York is famous for its thin-crusted pizza, and boasts more than 700 pizzerias, Barri said. Joe's has been in the Village for 30 years, using the same delicious recipe.
What makes Joe's so good? Barri explained a number of reasons. They blend the dough perfectly so it rolls well and bakes up crispy. They use high quality mozzarella and imported tomatoes from Italy for the sauce. The pizza is made fresh daily.
Barri also noted that the pizza scene in "Spider-Man 2" was at Joe's.
Our next stop was at O & Co., an olive oil and balsamic vinegar specialty store. We tasted bread that had been drizzled with olive oil and balsamic. Yum. We also learned about where certain types of olive oil come from, how the oil is regulated, what the acidic percentage indicates (the lower the better), what its shelf life is (two years) and how to store it (in a cabinet, not in the refrigerator and not next to the stove), etc. They offer free shipping to anywhere in the continental United States.
We walked up and down Cornelia Street, a quaint little block with seven terrific restaurants including a French bistro, a hamburger place that specializes in homemade ketchup and the best chocolate pudding in the world, a Cuban restaurant with a $20 steak, among others. All of the places are places I am anxious to try. In fact, my son Leland, took some friends to Little Havana, where he indulged himself in the $20 steak, which he recommends.
Also on Cornelia Street is the carriage house in which contestants on the "Next Food Network Star" live while they are filming the show. It's a great little place that rents out for $30,000 per month!
We stopped by Faicco's, an Italian specialty food shop, where we tasted "aronchini," a little rice ball wrapped around cheese, then deep fried.
We walked by Risotteria, where 36 varieties of risotto are on the menu, daily!
We tasted Thai chicken dumplings with a dipping sauce at Lime Bistro. That stop was about half-way through our tour, and it was here the restaurant set up a long table and served us our snack with glasses of water. It was a pleasant respite, and the seats were welcome after the walking.
Next, the Milk & Cookies Bakery, where we each got one huge chocolate chip cookie. If they don't have a cookie you want, you may bring in a recipe, and they'll whip up a batch for you, as long as all the ingredients are on hand.
Later in the tour we got to try a second pizza, this time the thicker, Sicilian-style pizza, at Bleeker Street Pizza. It was voted No. 1 pizza in New York two years in a row by Food Network. It was thick and cheesy, but yet light and crusty.
Next was Murry's Cheese Shop. They hold classes in cheese there, and we got to taste several kinds of cheese along with bread from nearby Amy's Breads.
And last, but certainly not least, it was back to Rocco's Bakery for a miniature cannoli.
Foods of New York also offers the Central Greenwich Village-Soho Tour, the Chelsea Market-Meatpacking District Tour and the Art of Sushi and Japanese Tapas Experience, which is a sit-down culinary dining experience.
Check out the Web site at www.foodsofny.com.