So I’ve fallen a bit behind on my mid-March trip recap of my time in New York. I’ve covered previously my stops at Momofuku Noodle and Momofuku Milk Bar, the grilled cheese and sweet treats at Bouchon Bakery Rockefeller, some of my Midtown Manhattan lunches from Xian Famous Foods, ‘wichCraft, Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish.
While I was there during the conference, there was 1 day where I was not attending a seminar. I thought about visiting museums, or walking in Central Park and reading a newspaper and absorbing the New York energy. Instead, I decided to eat all day – a progressive dining day. I suppose I really am a food lover in that exploring food to me is an equivalent option for an experience to what I listed on a trip.
I started out with Russ & Daughters for their famous smoked salmon bagel sandwich. I considered then visiting a few doors down Katz’s for the pastrami sandwich and pickles, but ultimately I was still too freshly full from that sandwich for “breakfast” and so instead I walked to Chelsea Market and that’s where I had a progressive lunch. This was then wrapped up with Momofuku Milk for dessert, even though I was kicking myself later as I should have walked the High Line that day instead of the next, when it would end up pouring rain. Finally, in the evening, I met up with a old co-worker/friend from Chicago and we had dinner at the Todd English food hall.
I loved the Russ & Daughters experience so much though that I’m going to devote this entire post to them. This specialty family-owned (four generations!) shop has been offering high-end smoked fish, caviar & New York-style specialty foods (bagels and high end cream cheese flavors, bialys, sweets like babka, rugelach and halvah, and more!) for a long time. Their byline is that they have been “Appetizing Since 1914”. Just very recently, they expanded to besides this old fashioned shop also open a Russ & Daughters Cafe
I arrived with a singular goal in mind: to order the “The Best Bagel and Lox in New York”, per New York Magazine. When New York Magazine interviewed Anthony Bourdain and asked What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?, Bourdain answered, “Bagel, nova, cream cheese at Russ & Daughters. Not just the best, but ‘ours.'”
I knew it would as soon as I walked in and saw what I am completely sure is angelic light over the beautiful selection of cream cheeses and roe. I looked so longingly at these cream cheeses- plain, scallion, vegetable, horseradish dill, caviar cream cheese, lox cream cheese, goat cream cheese, even a tofu cream cheese… wait, back up. Caviar Cream Cheese?
I was fortunate in that I came here on a Tuesday mid-morning, so there was no crowd at all, only a handful of people before me. I didn’t even need to take a number, though I have heard it can be a madhouse, crowded with people desperate for the treasures and packed into this small, narrow store. I was able to stand there with no on in my way save a handful of people before me, admiring each cream cheese and smoked fish and each box and tin individually in the little store, wishing I could take them all back with me but realizing that was being greedy.
I focused. I went with the Classic, your choice of bagel with your choice of cream cheese and your choice of smoked salmon. The patient, friendly, sweet gentleman behind the counter and I talked for a while, comparing the textures and flavors of the various available smoked salmons. I have never before had the fortune to get to select from amongst Gaspe Nova, Scottish, or Irish Smoked Salmon; Norwegian Smoked Salmon; Belly Lox, GravLox or Pastrami cured salmon; loin cut smoked salmon; Wild Western Nova or New Zealand King Salmon.
It’s just a little deli shop, so I had to go outside and walk down towards the subway station where I had seen a little park in order to find a place to eat. There, I was in heaven as I bit into the doughy but firm bagel, the richness of the cream cheese and flavors of the smoked salmon were exquisite. I understood why running out for bagels and lox in New York is such a singular experience.
I carefully wiped the wax paper it was wrapped in (ok, after licking all the cream cheese left behind) with napkins and folded it away to put in my scrapbook later because I already knew it was a food memory that I would always remember years later.
In fact just writing this post I am craving this sandwich pretty desperately. I considered for a while that they even ship nationally. If I’m ever in New York, this will be a must revisit for me.
They have other possible combinations you can try- I was torn between for instance the other sandwich of Daughter’s Delight, with Gaspe Nova and Wild Alaskan Salmon Roe with cream cheese on a bagel or bialy. Or the Super Heebster with Whitefish and Baked Salmon Salad with horseradish dill cream cheese and wasabi flying fish roe on a bagel or bialy… among several other options.
If you go to New York, would you visit Russ & Daughters? Have you been there before, and what did you have? Do you have a real craving for a bagel sandwich now, because I do and that’s one of my goals for this long weekend… a fancy bagel sandwich. Where do you get what you think are the best bagels in Portland?
Other New York highlights from this trip that I have blogged about:
- An excellent lobster roll at Pearl Oyster Bar
- Scenes from Chelsea Market and Todd English Food Hall
- Midtown Manhattan Lunches – Xian Famous Foods, ‘wichCraft, Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish
- Bouchon Bakery Rockefeller
- Momofuku Noodle and Momofuku Milk Bar
Coming Next Week: photos from Chelsea Market and Todd English Food Hall!