I booked a 4-hour tour on September 26th, 2012, as a birthday/early Christmas gift for my longtime friend and former Brooklyn neighbor. Communication was outstanding with Dave as emails went back and forth of our food likes and dislikes, any allergies, and where/when we would like to tour.
Dave was very punctual picking us up in a classic 1982 Checker Marathon cab named "Sweetness". She truly can be described as the "Wheels of Steel". Car and taxi manufacturers don't make vehicles like this any longer. The cab brought back a lot of memories riding around in one as a child with my mom as we would take quick trips from Brooklyn into NYC a few times a month.
After introductions, Dave didn't waste a moment handing us a bag of chocolate from Jacques Torres. Two large chunks of both milk and dark almond bark was a decadent beginning.
Off we went to Levain Bakery for cookies. If you blinked you would miss this tiny, basement-like place with an even tinier shingle hanging outside near to the corner of Amsterdam Avenue on West 74th Street. For such a small establishment, there was quite a line waiting. Dave requested the cookies--chocolate chocolate chip and peanut butter chocolate chip--to be warmed. As Wendy and I broke off pieces of these large, baked rounds of Heaven, the chips slowly oozed and separated as the cookies reminded me more of eating warm brownies in my Grandma's kitchen. Our reaction to this confection was a loud moan, while Dave's reaction to our moaning was laughter and saying that's always the first sound he hears when anyone eats these cookies. I'm thinking anytime I begin my day with chocolate, it's going to be a good day! LOL!!
Next stop: uptown to Harlem to enjoy pan-fried chicken (on and off the rib) and cornbread at Charle's Country Fried Chicken on Frederick Douglass Blvd. Although the pieces are a little small, they are crispy without being oily. Want to know how good this pan-fried chicken is? I never, EVER eat chicken skin.....this was the first time which amazed me. Cornbread is a down-home delight and moist. Try the half lemonade/half iced tea.
Traveling even further uptown, we hit the Bronx! Last time I was in the Bronx was 1983 for a Yankee game. Dave toured us around the Bronx and City Island. He highly recommended Artie's for clams and this recommendation did not disappoint the birthday girl. He called ahead
and the clams were done by the time we got there. I wanted shrimp. With clams in hand, Dave took us to Tony's Pier Restaurant for shrimp and French fries. Peacefully next to calm waters, we ate outside on a pier with a glorious view of the Long Island Sound and the North Shore of Long Island.
Still in the Bronx, we headed to Louie and Ernie's Pizza for fried calzone on Crosby Avenue. It's actually the entire bottom floor of a corner house. A newspaper article hangs on the wall about Dave. I adore calzone and this was very good. From there, we walked all the way to Teresa's Gourmet Italian Ices.....,,,.....all of maybe 12 feet next door. LOL!!! A latte for Wendy, a small lemon ice for me and Dave picked up a chocolate covered strawberry for my son. As we sat outside Teresa's, people stopped to say hello to Dave. One gentlemen even gave him some tips to try a new place. The ice was extremely good. Lots of flavor without it being too sugary, or puckery.
OK. I will admit by now (about 2.5 hours into the tour) I was beginning to get food punch drunk and very giggly-silly, giving myself a bit of brain freeze not paying attention with a giant bite of lemon ice. That woke me up and I was readying my stomach for the next layer of food! LOL!!
From Pelham Bay to the great Arthur Avenue!!! I wish we had more time here to sample lots more Italian food. We entered the Arthur Avenue Retail Market and Dave served us a lovely tray of dry sausages and procuitto. Everything there smelled so delectable, I wondered if I could have hoisted a half steer on my shoulder and several bags on my arms of chops, loins, fowl and fish on the train without being conspicuous........ahhhh, maybe next time, after all it's New York, who would notice? LOL!!
Our final destination was walking next door to the Madonia Bakery for cannoli. This is truly one of the best cannoli I've tasted. It's made with a cream cheese blend making it a little lighter than the usual ricotta filling.
Cute, cuddly, genial, witty and accomodating, Dave is a gentleman, consummate host and raconteur. He is a wealth of knowledge, regaling us with a fascinating history of NYC and the surrounding boroughs. As proverbial "jaded" native Southern Brooklyn New Yorkers, Wendy and I thoroughly enjoy our 4 hours with Dave. We traded our own "NY war stories" with Dave and even gave him some places in Brooklyn he might enjoy eating at. He truly enjoys what he does and it shows. This is one tour you really must make time for. One thing: please check what, if any, holidays are on the day you wish to go on this tour. Didn't look on the calendar to realize it was Yom Kippur and missed out on some great deli places which were closed for the holiday.
Four hours went by much too quickly. I can't wait to take my husband and especially my son-- who is a complete foodie like I am-- on a Famous Fat Dave tour very soon.
Thanks for a great day!