LIVING

Go For the Food: How to turn 1 meal by 1 chef into a multicourse odyssey of restaurants

10/28/2014 02:49 EDT | Updated 12/28/2014 05:59 EST
NEW YORK, N.Y. - So you've landed in a foodie destination, a happening city brimming with top tier restaurants and chefs sporting scary-good culinary cred. You want to make the most of your time.

But even the most intrepid eaters can pack only so many meals into a day. And every meal eaten at one restaurant means missed meals at others. As a veteran of many on-the-road meals, I've developed a novel approach to dining that allows me to sample a wide array of restaurants without entirely embracing gluttony.

The principle is simple: Don't eat a full meal in any one place.

Here's how it works. A typical mid- to high-end dinner consists of three or more courses. Instead of eating them all at the same restaurant, spread those courses over a series of eateries — a cocktail and nibbles at one, a starter at another, main course at a third, coffee and dessert at a fourth.

You could select three or more restaurants you're eager to try. Or pick a theme, such as a particular cuisine. Have a favourite chef with multiple restaurants? Eat a different course at each.

Depending on distances, set aside four to six hours for this project (it's still less time than four full meals). Be sure to pace yourself (don't fill up on the bread basket). And do your research. Check opening times, make reservations, plot out a logical sequence for visiting each place.

On a recent multi-course eating adventure in New York, I visited all of April Bloomfield's restaurants over the course of one five-hour lunch. Her brash, unapologetic way of cooking and easy way with small plates that pack big flavour made her restaurants the perfect choice for the experience.

A co-worker and I started at The John Dory Oyster Bar, a beautiful, inviting place with high tables, a visually striking open raw bar and soaring windows. We split a dozen oysters presented on a pedestal at the table. A house-made red pepper and ketchup cocktail sauce was a perfect companion, as was my classic old-fashioned made with Whistle Pig rye.

We desperately wanted the pumpkin toast with marjoram pesto, and the pork sandwich with tuna-caper mayonnaise, but in a marathon such as this, self-control is key.

So we meandered next door to The Breslin, Bloomfield's dark-paneled ode to British pub fare. We took a cozy booth by the kitchen and watched her team prepare platter upon platter of cumin mayo-slathered lamb burgers and monstrous Scotch eggs (a hard-cooked egg swathed in sausage, then breaded and deep-fried).

But we restrained ourselves and instead began with one of Bloomfield's bar snacks, a bag of shatteringly crisp caramel popcorn. We then indulged in the terrine board, an assortment of five meaty offerings, including rustic pork pate studded with pistachios, and creamy, rich liverwurst that begged to be smeared thickly on the chunky toast.

Now it was time to head across town to Bloomfield's flagship, The Spotted Pig. Many of the items here have become classics, including deviled eggs and her burger topped with Roquefort cheese. We kept it simple — a sensational apple salad with cheddar, and the roll mop, pickled herring rolled into a tight cylinder, topped with creme fraiche and herbs. As my companion put it: "These are life-changing."

We paused for coffee, then headed across town for our final stop, Bloomfield's taqueria and bar, Salvation Taco. This is pub grub with a funky Hispanic spin. The only thing that made managing this menu easier was that by now we were feeling the weight of four hours of foraging.

Empanadas (delicate puffs of fried corn tortillas stuffed with Chihuahua cheese and serrano chilies) and the carnitas (adorable and tangy pulled pork with avocado salsa) were worth the belt-loosening. Against my better judgment, my co-worker insisted on dessert, a tres leches cake with berries. It was pillow-soft and a wonderful end to an epic meal.

All told, we spent $207.47, including tips (but not taxis), a reasonable tally given the volume — never mind quality — of food we consumed, as well as enjoying the opportunity to truly explore all of Bloomfield's New York City menus. Of course we had to make sacrifices — entree-sized items weren't a realistic option — but that was a small price.

Next time, we'll bring more people with us.

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If You Go...

THE JOHN DORY OYSTER BAR: 1196 Broadway, New York, 212-792-9000, http://www.thejohndory.com

THE BRESLIN: 16 W. 29th St., New York, 212-679-1939, http://www.thebreslin.com

THE SPOTTED PIG: 314 W. 11th St., New York, 212-620-0393, http://www.thespottedpig.com

SALVATION TACO: 145 E. 39th St., New York, 212-865-5800, http://www.salvationtaco.com

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Follow AP Food Editor J.M. Hirsch at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at jhirsch@ap.org.

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