With it being winter and all, this writer has been a lot more hesitant to go out and explore the street food of New York City. At times like these, it is much more likely you’ll find me hiding at home with a hot cup of coffee in hand, bingeing on Netflix. However, as I’ve learnt, you should never pass on going out on a sunny day, no matter how cold it is outside, and today was just that day.
I decided to go check out the Greenmarket at Union Square, which is supposed to be a large market with lots of farmers’ stalls selling their own products. I was looking forward to it, but I was a little disappointed to see a few stalls rather sparsely located across the Northwestern corner of the park. I was even more disappointed that there weren’t any stalls selling cooked food at the time I was there, which was around 1 in the afternoon. But I guess with it being winter, outdoor markets like these would be pared down. I did buy some apples and moved along quite disappointedly.
I thought I might walk down to Washington Square and check out if there was anything going on there. Unwittingly, I waded into NYU territory as I made my way from Union Square. I was of course jealous of the variety of shops and bars and restaurants that were in the area. One place that caught my eye was Gunz, which is sells “European fine food”. So I immediately walked in and they were selling Austrian coffee, which was a good strong brew and inexpensive. In fact, everything in that shop was quite inexpensive for what I assume was imported food from Europe. From Italy they stocked olive oils, pestos, pastas and antipasti, butter cookies from Denmark, shortbread from Britain and wafers from Poland and Belgium. I bought myself some Italian hazelnut cookies and some pasta.
After that I walked down University Place further, and I was feeling hungry because I didn’t find anything to eat at Union Square. I thought I might check out Space Market, which is a grocery store. What impressed me was the salad and hot food bar that they had. It was the kind where you’d just help yourself and they had your usual suspects: pasta, meatloaves and sushi but what got my attention was the “Chicken Gumbo” at the soup counter. Being a self-professed fan of anything closely related to New Orleans food, I went straight for the gumbo and walked a little ways down to Washington Square to try it.
What was weird was sitting on a park bench at below freezing. I was the only idiot in the park doing it. However, with the sunshine and hot soup it really wasn’t so bad. Washington Square Park was quiet, almost empty, with snow and ice covering the grounds. For people who do not like the taste and gooey texture of okra, gumbo is probably disgusting gunk, but I’m a fan. In fact, the gooier, the better. The strange thing about this gumbo was that it was very tomato-y, probably a Manhattan twist on the classic gumbo. It was a great thing to have on a cold day.
As a student of Columbia, I have been guilty of spending too much time in my Morningside bubble and not getting out enough to explore the rest of what this great city has to offer. Perhaps it is a case of the-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side, but I always felt that students at NYU have a much better deal in terms of the neighborhood they’re in, with all the bars and restaurants and other shops around, not to mention two nice parks – Washington park and Union Square park.
What I did learn though, is that outdoor markets are going to be a lot less than spectacular during winter, naturally; that NYU has a much sweeter neighborhood and that it’s not a bad idea to venture out into the cold every now and then, especially when the sun is out.