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Come Hungry – Part 2

Vietnamese summer rolls from Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich
Vietnamese summer rolls from Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich

At this point some of the tour group started to flag. (There were a number of attendees from undisclosed suburban locations, possibly unused to city walking. Or maybe it was the eating that tired them. Hard to tell.) We were, it seemed, about half way through our culinary adventure. Some Vietnamese summer rolls from Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich perked us up. Well, they perked me up, anyway. Incredibly fresh vegetables in them, and a superb soy/peanut sauce.

Cheeses and charcuterie at Di Palo's
Cheeses and charcuterie at Di Palo’s

Another cultural shift—not entirely unexpected—and we were in DiPalo’s Fine Foods, for some fresh mozzarella. When I was still an unformed youth, mozzarella came in packages, and was, well, rubbery. (Well, I thought it was mozzarella. But I learned.) What I hadn’t realized was that fresh mozzarella comes in several styles—salted, unsalted and smoked. Trillin’s favorite purveyor of smoked mozzarella is closed on Sundays, so we were at DiPalo’s, and tried their salted mozzarella. Superb.

Which put us just a few doors down from the Banh Mi Saigon Bakery, and a Vietnamese pork sandwich. These are a wonderful cultural blend of French bread and Vietnamese spiced ground pork and fresh and pickled vegetables. There are a couple of places in my neighborhood that serve banh mi, and I’ve been trying to decide which is better. Now I’m forced to go all the way to Broome Street.

Deluxe Food Market
Deluxe Food Market

It was getting to be close to lunch time, so we took a shortcut through the Chinese Deluxe Food Market, threaded our way through varieties of Chinese fruits and vegetable, fish, fowl, meat, prepared foods (including, of all things, Boars Head cold cuts) on our ways to Xi’an Famous Foods, which may be the tiniest hole-in-the-wall joint I’ve ever seen, and which is directly under the Manhattan Bridge. Xi’an may hold 3 customers inside. If they’re small. Spicy lamb and cumin sandwiches on slightly sweet rolls there set us up for lunch, around the corner at the 88 Palace.

88 Palace
88 Palace

88 Palace is also under the bridge, but more so, on the second floor of an indoor shopping mall, all of which is under the bridge. You’d have to know it was there to find it. It looks pretty much like a Cantonese restaurant from, say, 30 yeas ago, crystal chandelier and all. It was here that we ended our tour, with a lunch of dim sum. The offerings included fried dumplings, congee, stir-fried greens, shrimp steamed in wonton wrappers, and, if I’m not mistaken, other dishes. (I may well be mistaken: this came at the end of a 3-hour tasting tour, and I, like many of the others, was pretty much at my intake limit.)

We then dispersed to wobble home our various ways. I wasn’t hungry for hours after.

Advice, should you decide to try this either with the festival next year, or on your own:
– come hungry
– know your limits, and don’t be afraid to just taste
– walk between tastings. It helps.
– when it comes to the unfamiliar, unless you have food allergies, eat before asking what you’re eating. (Especially important with the Asian foods.)

Still more photos of Part 2 of the Come Hungry Tour with Calvin Trillin here.

Now I’d better go for a walk …