Tuesday: Happiness Is a Full Fridge (aka the “Can We Just Talk About This Cheese Plate for a Moment?” Post)

Q: What’s the first thing I dive into after an epic (relatively speaking) grocery shopping trip that involves stops at two excellent New York markets, Fairway Market and Agata & Valentina?

photo-4A: The cheese, the olives and the snack mix, of course.

Rinse the grapes and set them up to dry in a colander, pack the potential spoilables into the fridge, but you, Le Rustique cambert ($8.99), with your petit checkered napkin inside, you’re not going anywhere.

photoPlus, this snack mix that I discovered that at Fairway Market, the Society Hill [correct name to come], has to be one of the best value mixes in the city: There are salted peanuts,  honey crunch peanuts, little chip bits with whole flax seeds in them, sesame clusters, and so much more — $4.04 for nearly a bag that I’ll be lucky to get through before some of the bits start to turn stale. Really, one of the more perfect party mixes I’ve ever stumbled across in my life.

… If only I’d had just 30 more minutes of patience for the cambert to fully soften. But I had places to go!

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Monday: Spinach Two Ways at Big Nick’s (aka the Sort of “Daring & Delicious Pizza” Post)

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"where to find your food"

The trick to eating at Big Nick’s in the Upper West Side is to arrive hungry, but not starving. Otherwise, their 28-page menu — which includes more than 40 types of burgers, nearly as many specialty pizzas, two dozen salads and even more sandwiches, Greek options, an around-the-clock breakfast section, all types of pasta, and on and on — might just overwhelm. Trust me on this one.

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"our pizza is different, daring & delicious"

But aside from that little caveat, Big Nick’s really is special in this city. It’s wood veneer walls are covered in a collage of photos, notes from the management and handwritten menu specials that only could have grown organically over decades. Children are given balloons. The staff is brisk, occasionally gruff, but always accommodating.

It took me about three times of eating at Big Nick’s before I really get a handle on it, and my strategy now is to hone in on what general category of food I’m interested in and ignore the other sections of the menu as if they’re not there at all.

In fact, on this night I already knew one of two things I was ordering before I photo-2walked in the door: the Grecian-style spinach ($4.50), listed under appetizers, page 6.

Not creamed spinach, not like any other cooked spinach dish I’ve ever had really, the spinach is laced with feta, slices of onion, and some sort of (assuming Grecian) seasoning, garnished with tomato and cucumber slices and a lemon wedge and served hot.

It’s a fantastic way to dress up spinach, tastes good, and is so good for you. (Of course, it was my mother, the dietician, who first picked out this fairly obscure appetizer when I brought here here).

photo-3Being that my whole table was bathed in a warm, pink glow from Big Nick’s neon sign advertising how daring and delicious their pizza is, for part two, I decided to try a slice of the Fricasse pizza ($3.75), which, according to the menu, is: “a Big Nick original & NYC’s first green pizza!”

More feta, more spinach, plus onion, herbs in a cream sauce — it was okay, a little watery, actually. I’ve previously heard other diners rave about this pizza, which is what had piqued my interest. Was it that I was spinach saturated? That I prefer a pizza not so wholesome? I’m not sure. No matter, there are dozens of other pies to pick from next time.

Big Nick’s, 2175 Broadway, at W. 77th Street, 212-724-3010 (pizza) 212-362-9238 (burgers and other)