Sometimes, you can get lucky and snag one of those $1 fares to NYC from Baltimore with Bolt Bus. Even if not, it’s pretty damn cheap to get to the Big Apple on Bolt Bus; the stop is just a block north of Penn Station. Relax for a few hours and head to 5th Ave. near 23rd to the amazing Eataly. It’s a dining destination with several restaurant/bars, market, and cooking school all under one roof. Founding partners include Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, her son Joe Bastianich, and the Slow Food organization.
The experience of walking in is awe-inspiring without being overwhelming or intimidating. The prices are very reasonable and many, many instances, lower than one finds in Baltimore’s gourmet shops or fancy grocery stores. The herb and produce section is right in front. After giggling at the suggestive white asparagus, I noticed the smart packaging of fresh herbs like basil in recipe sized portions for $1.50. Basil rots quickly and unless you’re blending up a big bucket of pesto that evening, there’s more waste in a $6 bunch than you’d probably like. Eataly also sells hard to find of-the-moment produce like fiddlehead ferns.
You’ll notice several little nooks and crannies with packed tables during a Friday happy hour serving wines, antipasto, etc. What a great date spot! Eataly is open every day until 11 pm. Each nook is based on a different food offering, such as vegetables.
While the fresh pastas looked amazing — Friday’s pasta of the day included fresh spring peas — they do advise that the pastas be refrigerated within 2 hours. So, that’s out, unless you feel like carrying a cold bag or cooler all around Manhattan.
The meats and fish were perfection: ruby colored beef, rabbit, veal shortbread, as well as East Coast clams of every seasonal variety and soft shell crabs were on display.
Boxed interesting pastas could be found as low as $1.98.
I bought some Italian cheeses and honey for dinner at home. Blue di Bufala was creamy, salty, and sweet all at the same time. I highly recommend it! Try it with eucalyptus honey on a cheese plate. Their Parmasan was different from what I normally purchase in Baltimore: it was sweeter, creamier, and richer. When people speak of eating Parmasan as a snack, this is the type of which they speak.
They also had several Italian soda brands, including “GUS”, or Grown Up Soda. Meyer Lemon was not too sweet and very refreshing. However, it has more sugar and calories than what you’d expect from a grown up soda.
Eataly also has a cookbook section, pastry counter, and entire wine wing which I will explore at a later date.