Food for Thought: When Sought After Food Spots are HOT and when they’re NOT

We all have people in our lives who seem to know where the hot spots are – food, entertainment, travel. Am I right? I personally think it is exciting when a hot spot lives up to the recommendation you’re given. But what happens when someone you know recommends a place and it isn’t what you expected? Or when a place many people like falls short of your own expectations, or even worse, falls short of their own reputation?

What happens when food spots are hot and when they’re not? I experienced both this weekend; a hot food spot that lives up to its reputation and one that doesn’t. We went to the New York City Auto Show on Friday, and we had a great time checking out cars and trucks. My husband had his game plan and we saw A LOT of vehicles and did the Jeep track (so much fun!).

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Lunch became crucial after all that walking and climbing in and out of vehicles for a few hours. And when I couldn’t decide where we should eat (I know, I know) my hubby had a brilliant idea – Carnegie Deli! I’m always looking for a “good” pastrami sandwich – sliced thin, not too fatty, and well-seasoned. I was in!

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Have you ever been to Carnegie Deli? I actually had never been. You know, the famous kosher deli in New York City that all the celebrities visit? Located on 7th Avenue and 55th Street, Carnegie Deli has been open since 1937, and they’re are open daily from 6:30am-4:00am.

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Carnegie’s menu is extensive, and they are famous for their pastrami, corned beef, and brisket, their blintzes, matzoh balls, and several of their sandwiches such as the Broadway Danny Rose and The Woody Allen.

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This sandwich. This pastrami reuben sandwich is all everyone said it would be. (My husband gives this one a thumbs up, and shows the size of the open faced reuben).

First of all, the rye bread is extremely fresh, and the one pound of hot pastrami is heaped on top and then covered with melted swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut. We asked our waitress to put the Thousand Island Dressing and sauerkraut on the side so we could build our own (and because I am not a fan of sauerkraut, unlike my husband). The pastrami is sliced a little on the thicker side, and it is seasoned perfectly. This is what pastrami should taste like. Our waitress also brought us extra slices of rye so we could close the sandwich if we chose to (we both did and it made it much easier to eat).

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Our waitress was kind enough to advise us to order one sandwich to split, and we were very grateful because this sandwich is enormous (Also because they’re $24.95 each. Seriously. Plus, there is a shared plate fee of $3.00.). We were tempted by the cheesecake and the rotating pie case held my attention like a flashing disco ball, but we decided to try another NYC established place for a sweet treat before heading home to CT.

TIP: Carnegie Deli takes cash only (and their own gift card).

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This NYC bakery shall remain unnamed. All I will say is that it has a reputation of selling delicious sweet treats and it’s a bakery I’d never been to before. We purchased a few cupcakes, naturally. Let’s just say they were not finished and were thrown away half-eaten. (For the record, I never throw away dessert. I will ask for the dessert menu at the beginning of dinner in order to plan my meal, and I’ll often forgo appetizers so I can have dessert at the end. I’m very serious about dessert. You get the picture.)

Now, I’m not rescinding on my policy of only spreading food love. I felt I needed to mention this bakery experience simply because it got me thinking, and well, when I get to thinking about food in this way that can only mean it’s a topic for a Food for Thought post here at Savory and Sweet Eats.

My two very different food experiences at these famous NYC food spots got me thinking about food and the reputations certain food spots hold, especially food spots with A LOT of hype. My pastrami sandwich is one I will tell everyone they need to try when they go to NYC. And the cupcakes? Well, the cupcakes won’t be reviewed or recommended.

What happens when food spots meet the hype and what happens when they fall short? Is it all a matter of taste? (Oh, yes, pun intended. I’m an English teacher after all.) Is it a trend? Then I had a moment of panic – have I become a cupcake snob? (Does such a thing even exist?) Or, do I just have very high standards?

I wasn’t sure and I still can’t answer my own questions. I have some more pondering to do. And then we went into NYC again on Saturday for a small soirée to celebrate a new apartment with a friend who recently transplanted from CT. Everyone brought a dish or dessert to share and a bottle of wine. (For those following along with my twitter posts, we decided to bring raspberry swirl cheesecake from Junior’s and bottle of moscato.)

Our hostess made homemade cupcakes. Beautiful, delicious cupcakes from a recipe she invented herself after being inspired by someone else’s recipe she found online. Filled with a raspberry cream and frosted with a white chocolate frosting, when I ate one of her homemade cupcakes all was right again in the world for me.

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It was a struggle not to eat a second cupcake, and in fact, many of the guests at the party did have a second cupcake. My friend’s cupcakes reminded me that what it all comes down to is that food is about creativity and fun and love. Food is subjective and it does depend on our own tastes and preferences, but no matter what the crowd may say about what’s hot and what’s not in food, you need to follow your own taste whether it’s creating your own recipe, finding your own hot food spot, or trying one a lot of people like (even if you end up not putting it in your restaurant rotation). Either way, there’s no better feeling than confirming you have had one of the best pastrami sandwiches EVER (as promised), and experiencing your friend’s homemade cupcakes which made a room full of people so happy almost everyone has seconds.

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