august's squash soup with spicy marshmallows

i love new york (cliche, i know, but true) and i visit about once a year. i usually don’t dine at the same places that i’ve been to before since the restaurant scene changes so fast and there’s always a great new place to try. but on the other hand, when you find a fabulous place and have an experience so great you think back on it often, why resist? so the first thing i did when i arrived in manhattan last week was hear back to a tiny place on bleecker street called august.

having lunch on an unseasonably warm fall weekday in august’s courtyard is a real luxury. i’ve twice ended up there around 2pm, when most people are back at work, but there are always a few other lucky diners like me who can linger and enjoy the calm over a glass of great wine. the courtyard is a solarium-like place with walls and floors of old stone and a peaked, glass-paneled roof dotted with wild hanging plants. some of the panels open so i’ve been able to marvel at the beautiful day along with the beautiful surroundings. i love the elegant, shiny, dark-brown banquets with sleek black padding in such a raw environment. but on to an even more important aspect, the food.

the gorgeous august courtyard IMG_1266
ricotta panna cotta and truffled mushrooms

i started with the “roasted delicata squash soup with toasted pumpkin seeds and spicy marshmallows.” spicy. marsh. mallows. i hope i never forget what that tasted like. the soup was good, silky and rich the way squash soups are, and the pumpkin seeds and thick balsamic reduction took it to another level. but the sweetness of those melting marshmallows made it the best squash soup ever, reminiscent of candied yams or sweet potato pie, and the cayenne heat from the marshmallows was the perfect foil to it all. i really think this may have spoiled me for any other squash soup! now i have no choice but to make spicy marshmallows at home…and dream up all of the other things this brilliant accent can be added to. the ricotta panna cotta with a warm wild mushroom salad and truffle cream was, well, do i even have to tell you after that description? le sigh. where to go from here?

magnolia bakery's chocolate pudding tart

to magnolia bakery, a block away, of course. magnolia’s cupcakes became famous after being coveted by the characters on sex and the city. but what can i say? even the best cupcakes don’t wow me. my travel companion ate her share and mine. i opted for the chocolate pudding pie instead, and ate it straight out of the bag in the park across the street.

ok, i have to pick up the pace here or it will take me a whole month to tell you about my 5-day visit.

after august, on to marc by marc jacobs, a few other west village stores and then down to century 21. but it was not long before we were back in the meat-packing district for dinner at 5 ninth. it’s a totally happening place, with rustic food (fried chicken was on most menus we perused on this trip) and my roasted cauliflower and fresh tagliatelle was so satisfying. but even more enjoyable was the salad i had. i knew the boston bibb salad with buttermilk dressing would be tangy, rich in flavour yet light, but the radishes, kidney beans and blue cheese in the salad worked so surprising well together. the portion was generous with the mounds of leaves piled high, but i still wanted more. i can’t taint this by including the horrible iphone picture i took of this salad in near-darkness, although i will have to share some grainy pictures in the next post. for now, good-bye west village. you were as perfect and delicious as always.