I recently visited New York City. It was a spur of the moment decision brought on by post-finals boredom and a few days off from work. This city, which I hadn’t visited since November, when the brutal cold was just starting to take over every sidewalk and alley, was more alive than I’d ever before seen it. What I remembered as a frigid concrete forest had transformed into a warm metropolis filled with smiling shorts-and-sandals clad pedestrians. The bodegas on every street corner were decorated with a mélange of vibrant fruits and vegetables, all meticulously organized and lined up along the exterior of each shop.
With Nora, long time friend and recent Barcelona expat, as my guide, I traversed the city high and low. We walked the High Line, which is an old elevated train track turned urban park. The track upon which the park is built used to host all of the trains that brought meat into New York City, so it was fitting that we walked along it all the way to Chelsea Market in the meatpacking district.
Chelsea Market is awesome. Hidden behind a couple rather nondescript doors is a paradise of interesting foods, jewelry stores, and works of art. The walls are lined with photographs of food made to look like faces that lead you through the magnificent maze of the marketplace. Nora was excited to show me Bowery Kitchen Supply Store, which is a dream come true for anyone who loves to cook. It has everything from strawberry hullers to crumbers to every kind of sprinkle a baker could ever need. There are stacks of dishes and piles of pots and pans of all shapes and sizes. Literally anything you could ever need in kitchen, whether commercial or at residential, was here, and then some.
That is, it has everything except food. Nora and I were saving our stomachs for happy hour at Socarrat, the ridiculously delicious tapas and paella bar at which she works, so we had to pass on all the pungent and enticing meal options in the market…aside from the free samples, of course.
Free samples aren’t food, because they’re free and small, which is why it’s completely acceptable to try everything under the COSTCO rooftop and still get a hot dog or sundae on the way out. Chelsea Market is a bit more refined than COSTCO, so instead of chimichangas and sausage links, we were sampling oils and vinegars.
The Filling Station lies deep within the market. Giant barrels of various aged and infused oils and vinegars line the perimeter of the store, which is nestled among a variety of other artisanal food purveyors’ shops. Using little sample cups, we tasted everything from chocolate vinegar to merlot olive oil. At $10 a bottle, the price may seem a little high, but bring it back empty and you can refill it with any oil or vinegar for 10% off. I couldn’t resist taking home the grapefruit balsamic, made with white vinegar and aged for twelve years.
That evening, we convened at a friend’s house in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Mike is a musician and a chef, apparently famous for his homemade buffalo chicken wings. After picking up way more canola oil than I’d like to admit from the local mercado, we sipped Rolling Rocks and dipped celery sticks in blue cheese dressing while the wings sizzled and popped. I’m not proud of how many wings I ate that evening, but rest assured, Nora and I outdid the boys that night.
I rode the Bolt Bus back to Boston feeling exhausted, stuffed, and overwhelmed by this huge city that millions of people call home. It was nice to get back to my own digs though, and I couldn’t wait to put my new vinegar to work.
This recipe pays homage to my trip to the city, incorporating lots of vibrant fruits such as the ones that filled the displays of every other store in Manhattan and a slightly-less-artery-clogging version of Mike’s ridiculous wings. Together, the salad and the chicken create a filling yet refreshing meal that tastes just like the first bites of summer.
Ingredients - serves 2
For the salad
3-4 cups mixed greens
½ an avocado, cubed
½ an apple, cubed
4 tablespoons goat cheese
¼ cup walnuts
4 tablespoons grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pepper to taste
For the chicken
¼ cup flour
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Approx. 5 tablespoons olive oil
1. Assemble salad ingredients, combining lettuce, avocado, apple, walnuts, and goat cheese. 2. In a small jar or container, combine grapefruit juice, vinegar, olive oil, and pepper. Shake well and set aside. 3. In a skillet, heat oil over medium/high heat until just shimmering. 4. Spread flour on a small plate. 5. Beat egg in a cereal or soup bowl and place next to flour plate. 6. Spread Panko on another small plate and place alongside beaten egg bowl. 7. Rinse chicken breasts and place on flour plate, flipping over to cover entire breast. 8. Transfer chicken to egg bowl and cover with egg. 9. Place chicken breasts on Panko plate and flip to cover both sides. 10. Place both breasts into skillet and cook for approximately 2 minutes on each side, depending on thickness of breast. 11. While chicken is cooking on second side, toss salad with grapefruit dressing. 12. Serve chicken alongside salad or slice and top salad with it.