Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Desserts & Wine Makes Tasty City Food Tours Offering

It’s no secret that travel writers receive more than their fare share of offers. They vary from meals to 10 day all-inclusive tours.  It all sounds great, but there’s just no way anyone can do it all and have time to write.  I pick and choose carefully.  Sometimes, however, it is a no-brainer. That was the case when I was approached to take a Chocolate, Desserts and Wine Tour in New York City.

Joyce Weinberg, a former professional foodie and always a native New Yorker, is the owner of City Food Tours. Though she employees a staff of well-trained tour guides, I was lucky enough to have her in charge on this warm and muggy Sunday. The tour begins at Verdi Park on the Upper Westside with Joyce’s very descriptive explanation of the neighborhood’s resemblance to Paris. Within a few minutes she has the group of 15 almost believing we are in the City of Light as we head off on a gastronomical trek.

The first stop on the tour is Acker Merrall & Condit, the oldest wine store in the United States. This place has been around so long they sold wine to the Titanic. The wine we tasted is definitely not that old, but it was a nice selection of Pinot Grigios from Italy, France and Oregon. Tour participants receive 10% off in the store and a number of people took one for the road (in sealed bottles, of course).

From Acker Merrall it was off to the streets of Manhattan where we stopped in front of Grand Daisy Bakery. The place is too small for all of us to go inside, but we didn’t mind standing in the heat when we got a taste of Pizza Cavolfiore. That’s cauliflower pizza with gruyere cheese (not too much) on a thin crust. It was absolutely delicious. I would have lingered for another slice, but Joyce filled us in on our next stop and I didn’t want to miss it.

Bombolini had three desserts waiting for us to taste. The Bombolini Creme Brulee tasted like the best zeppole/doughnut I ever had filled with an incredible custard (they are available in many other flavors, including pistachio, apple and, of course, chocolate). We also got to sample the chocolate gelato and watermelon sorbet at Bombolini, though there wasn’t enough to go around for each individual.  Both tasted very good, considering the Bombolini was such a tough act to follow.

It was time for more wine and Joyce had another interesting tasting place in mind. Bacchus is a wine store that specializes in tasting and you don’t need to worry about getting there at certain times. There’s always tasting available here and you can even buy a tasting ticket and do it on your own. We sampled a too sweet Kingsridge Riesling from Oregon, a great Spanish Rose Cava and then finished with an excellent Vino Verde from Portugal from Broadbent.

With all our wine tastings, Joyce presented us with a bit of dark chocolate and gave us some interesting information about cocoa beans, cocoa butter and what to look for in chocolate. This was all put to the test when we entered Jacques Torres and – literally – felt like kids in a candy store. I had visited this chocolate maker during my Traverse City trip and was all too happy to pick up a few treats to take home to Mom after we were done with our ganache sampling. With chocolate still on the brain, we made our final stop at Levain Bakery for what was probably the best chocolate chip walnut cookie I have ever had. It was moist and gooey with enough chocolate to satisfy even me, the chocoholic.

City Food Tours offers the two and a half hour Chocolate, Desserts and Wine Tours on Sundays. They also have a Beer, Cheese and Chocolate Tour as well as other culinary treks through the streets of New York City. Visit their website if you are interesting in booking a group or private tour, or contact joyce@cityfoodtours.com

New York City Tour and Attraction Discount Tickets

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