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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Meet the Guide: Bob (Part 2)

I met up with Bob a few weeks ago to get to know him as a part of my effort to meet all the Foods of New York Tours guides. Make sure to catch up on the first half of his interview (regarding his start as a tour guide and his expansive love of New York City history) if you haven't already! And now, as promised, part 2: (wherein Bob waxes poetic about the various types of cookie and recommends a seriously good pizza).

So which New York City neighborhood is your favorite?

If you asked me that about 3 years ago, I would have had a very difficult time. But today I would probably tell you Lower Manhattan/Wall Street. Because as I grew up -- and I was a history major in college -- I never was interested in American History. I always loved European History. I loved royalty, my favorite person was Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great of Russia, Mary Queen of Scots. But we didn't have any of that here in America.

But I joined the Guides Association. And one summer, one of our members who's an expert in American History took us on a three day tour of the battles of New York during the Revolutionary War. I just found it so fascinating that there's just so much of that Dutch and British heritage history in Lower Manhattan -- Wall Street area, Federal Hall, Trinity Church -- that I really love that area now. There's just so much to talk about.

Do you live in New York now?

Yes, always. I'm born and bred, I was raised in Brooklyn. My wife and I have been together almost 40 years, and we have always lived in Manhattan.

Do you cook? Or are you a consumer of food?

You know, so many people ask me that on the tours, and I always tell them: I eat.

My wife would love it if one day she would walk in and find me in the kitchen being creative, but I just don't have that creative mind. We love to eat out, and I love food.

Savory or sweet?

It's sort of a combination, but one of my favorite things to do is wander around New York and stop in a bakery first and get the biggest chocolate chip cookie I can find. That's my joy, my pleasure.

Is there a really good chocolate chip cookie place that everyone needs to try?

The chocolate chip cookies at Le Pain Quotidien are good. Their cookies are massive, which is good for me. That's why I also love Crumbs cupcakes because they're just shot with steroids. They're enormous.

There are a lot of other ones. People always ask me on the tours, "What is the best this or the best that?" There's really no such thing as the best. There is so much exceptional food in New York City that it's amazing. There isn't "the best" pizza. You know, there's the brick oven, the coal oven... what counts is really the quality of the ingredients.

Definitely. There's also different kinds of pizza.

That's right. Some people like the really thick, and other people -- I know my wife loves the thinnest crust, almost like a cracker.

And it's the same with chocolate chip cookies: there's the really cakey ones and then the really doughey ones...

That's it! I love black and white cookies, and there are two very distinct kinds: the ones that look like they will roll on the table because they have that thick cake, and then there are these ones at La Delice, which is a bakery at 3rd Avenue and 27th Street. They've been in business for about 70 years, they make a black and white cookie that's almost crispy. It's more like a cookie than a piece of cake. And their chocolate has almost an almond flavor to it. It's different than the other ones that I've eaten. So I search all over for good black and white cookies, too.

Mouthwatering photo by tour taker Kevin Bateman.

Is there a place, not on the tour, that you think everyone -- New Yorker or tourist -- needs to try in New York?

I would say Keste on Bleecker Street. [Editor's note: Don't click that link unless you have recently eaten or are willing to become ravenously hungry.] They're only maybe 3 years old, it's an adorable narrow, long shop that probably doesn't fit 20 people in it. They're an Italian family that came from Italy, just 3 years ago, and it's just the quality of their products. It's literally across the street from John's Pizza. And John's is excellent, too, and they were really one of the first where you really had high end quality pizza in New York, other than the really old time ones like Grimaldi's in Brooklyn.


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