Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cookbooks and Carnitas: Two Great Sites on the Upper East Side

For years I visited the Upper East Side of New York to enter a fantasy world otherwise known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But eventually, of course, I got hungry. And there were relatively few places to get decent and inexpensive food amongst the swanky restaurants. So, I on a recent trip, I was thrilled to discover Cascabel Taqueria. I was even happier to find out that it was just a few blocks from Kitchen Arts and Letters, a wonderful cookbook store (in addition to the glorious Rabelais in Portland, Maine.)
At Cascabel I had the carnitas taco, filled with slow roasted Berkshire pork butt, pickled red onion and roasted chili de arbol. It was topped with puffed rice, of all things. The meat was a bit dry for my taste and benefited from some of the house made salsa. I also tried the Elote Asado or grilled corn with Mexican aioli, cascabel chili and queso cotija. (Both are photographed at the top of this post.) They were decent enough and satisfying. I finished with a shaved ice with a bit of vanilla syrup. It was good, though the ice bits were as chunky as I remembered from my Snoopy snow cone days.
Even more satisfying was my visit to Kitchen Arts and Letters. Packed with cookbooks from all over the world, the owner spent a long time with me, taking the time to guide me through the expanse of food writing and to share his personal recommendations. I left with a bag packed full of books that I am still enjoying.

Cascabel Taqueria, 1538 Second Ave, Between 80th and 81st, NYC, NY
Kitchen Arts and Letters, 1435 Lexington Ave, NYC, NY

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