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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How Do You Choose a Restaurant?

Our Director of Operations, Amy Bandolik, was pretty busy last week. She took a trip to Faicco's Pork Store (an internationally-known meat market and one of the stops on our Original Greenwich Village Tour), not just to check in and say hello but to stick around and help them make a batch of their famous $1 arancini balls. If you've taken the tour, your mouth is probably already watering at the memory of these little bites of joy, but for those of you who haven't yet embarked on the oldest and most popular food tour in New York City, let me elaborate: they're ice cream scoop sized balls of cooked rice, held together by a blend of ricotta, mozzarella, and Romano cheeses, and then breaded and deep fried.

Good, now that we're all on the same page (is anyone else getting hungry?), you should check out Amy's post over at Delicious Thursdays. It's full of details about making the scrumptious little snacks, plus lots of pictures. I dare you to finish that blog post without your stomach growling a little bit.

Miles To Go...

But life is tough for the Director of Operations of a food tour company, so even with a long day behind her of stirring rice (which she insists is harder than it looks) and sneaking tastes behind Eddie Faicco's back, her week wasn't over; Amy also had to check out a restaurant that's in the running to become another stop on our new Nolita tour. She grabbed popular tour guide Anny, and they went to check out Tartinery over on Mulberry Street.

Tour guide Anny takes the dive and samples a tartine.

Now, choosing a restaurant that's great to recommend to friends or to frequent ourselves is a bit different from choosing a restaurant to feature on a food tour. There are logistical issues, of course -- can this food be eaten standing up, or does the restaurant at least have enough space for us to troop in over a dozen food-tasters several times a day? -- but we also like to look for restaurants and food shops that have a history about them.

After all, these are not only food tours but culture tours, and the food we choose informs the story we tell about the neighborhood. We also like to form long-lasting relationships with the owners and operators of the businesses with whom we work, and part of that is learning their story. If you want to know the full story, I guess you'll just have to take the Nolita tour, which is our newest addition.

The tartines were, as can be expected, amazing. Amy especially liked the Saint Marcellin tartine, listed on the menu as being a tartine with Saint Marcellin cheese, prosciutto, arugula, and olive oil. (I don't, by the way, recommend reading their menu online if you are really hungry, as I currently am.)

Hey, making rice balls and sampling delicious food isn't all fun and games! Okay, it's a lot of fun and games. But all this also requires a lot of attention to detail while keeping the bigger picture in mind, both of which happen to be Amy's strengths. She's kind of like the cheese mix in the arancini balls, holding all the parts together to make Foods of New York Tours delicious. (Is that weird?)

Anyway. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it.

(By the way, you can read Amy's more detailed take on "a week in the life" in her Food Informants profile in the Huffington Post from back in March.)

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