My screen name on Chowhound is RGR. One of the most oft asked question on the Manhattan Board from those visiting the city from around the USA or from abroad goes something like this: “Where can I go to get the quintessential New York food experience.” As you know, I grew up on the Lower East Side. When it comes to the food and dining scene, though it is quite different from the neighborhood of my youth, there are still places from that era (and some well before I was born) that provide the kind of experience those visitors are seeking. So, in 2007, I put together a self-guided walking itinerary called “RGR’s Lower East Side Gustatory Tour” and posted it on Chowhound. An instant hit, it has become quite famous. You can even Google it!
I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with the title of this post. Well, read on and you shall see.
Because my birthday fell during the week when Jen and Louis couldn’t be with us, we went again to EMP a few days later on Saturday with them. The original plan was for the two of them to meet us at our apartment where they would give me my gift, and then we’d all walk over to the restaurant together. However, they got stuck in traffic, so we rendezvoused at EMP, and they gave me the gift there. Actually, that should be gifts since the bag contained several. Upon opening the first one, I knew exactly what Jen had done. Our ever clever daughter had put together items from a few of the stops on my LES tour. How creative and brilliant was that!
The first stop on the tour is Katz’s, the quintessential NYC deli. THE thing to have there is a pastrami sandwich. In this case, not exactly workable; instead, there was this apron.
No smoked fish from Russ & Daughters, but they do sell lots of other food items.
Guss’ Pickles has closed,* but their pickles are still available in certain supermarkets. She found them at her local Fairway. She had wanted to meet first in our apartment because the pickles need to be refrigerated. But there was no problem having them stored in EMP’s frig until we left.
From the Tenement Museum, there was the bag which held the gifts, a mug printed with Yiddish expressions, and a book, 97 Orchard Street: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement.
Some goodies from Economy Candy.
Finally, there’s a stop at Ray’s Candy Store for an egg cream. Representing it was a bottle of Fox’s U-bet Chocolate Syrup which is considered THE syrup to use in this quintessential New York drink.
When the egg cream cart was wheeled over, we noticed that there were a slew of glasses – far too many for just three egg creams. With a glint in her eye and a grin, our captain Stephanie said, “I have heard a rumor that someone at this table has some Fox’s U-bet Chocolate Syrup.” Busted! When I handed it over, she placed it smack in the center of the cart, at which point, we all burst out laughing. She then proceeded to make a chocolate egg cream for Louis and two egg creams for the rest of us, one with the chocolate syrup and the other with the usual malt.
My guess is that this would be the only time a bottle of Fox’s U-bet Chocolate Syrup would ever grace EMP’s egg cream cart – though one never can tell. In any case, it was really fun having this unique opportunity to make a side-by-side comparison of malt vs. chocolate. The verdict? Unanimous. Though the malt egg cream is yummy, the chocolate egg cream rocked!
*Note: There is still a pickle stop on the tour: The Pickle Guys, on Essex Street.
To see the photo set of all the gifts, click here.
To see all the photos of this dinner, click here.