Hollieats: My NYC food bucket list

From spaghetti to shrimp wonton noodle soup, The Daily Campus’ Hollie Lao lists her top dishes from her favorite restaurants. Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels.

There’s no better way to kick off “Hollieats” than with an entry that combines all the topics I wish to feature in my column: travel, personal experience, reviews and of course, food. I follow plenty of food accounts on Instagram, most of which either focus on kinds of foods I like (noodles, cheese, etc.), feature eateries in locations near me or are food influencers I’ve grown to like. (I’ve only recently started to follow more cooking and recipe accounts because of apartment living this year, but I’m hoping becoming a better home cook will give me a better appreciation for food in general.) Many of the location-themed accounts I follow are based in New York City, which I’ve been visiting and admiring since I was young thanks to my cousins living in Flushing. At this point, I’m able to identify some iconic dishes from popular restaurants in the city when a photo pops up in my feed. These are just a few that top my list:  

Spaghetti chitarra alla carbonara from Olio e Piú

Real ones know my obsession with eggs (and my childhood cholesterol from eating too many of them, but that’s another story). They also know of my love for pasta – the cheesier, the better. This trattoria’s version of the classic Roman dish is perfectly picturesque, with savory pieces of prosciutto peeking out, visible specks of cracked black pepper, freshly grated parmesan and an almost-orange yolk adorning the nest of fresh pasta. Taking a look at the menu description, they also apparently include chili oil, which is a pleasant twist. Dream meal: Sunday brunch with carbonara, friends and maybe their “Roncocco” house cocktail 

Chocolate chip walnut cookies from Levain’s Bakery

Chances are, you’ve heard or, or at least have seen, the iconic gargantuan cookies from this New York staple. They have a few locations around the city but that doesn’t detract from the bakery’s quality. Some people don’t even consider them cookies because of their large size and molten center which seems almost underbaked. However, I’m a sucker for cookies, melty chocolate and decadence, so Levain’s remains high on my list. I used to not enjoy many mix-ins in my cookies, especially nuts, but I’ve truly come to appreciate the texture and taste they provide. Dream meal: a box of chocolate chip walnut and dark chocolate chocolate chip cookies and a glass of almond milk  

Mac and cheese from The Smith

The melty, cheesy, bubbly mac and cheese from The Smith haunts my dreams. So close, yet so far. Anything presented in a cast iron skillet immediately gets a win in my book and this NYC favorite has all the components of a mac and cheese that I would want: white cheeses, an oven-broiled top and an oozy but not too cheesy quality (it’s possible!). And the cast iron. Can’t forget that. Dream meal: weekday lunch with a skillet of mac and cheese all to myself after acing a law school exam  

Shrimp wonton noodle soup from Wonton Noodle Garden  

One of my favorite comfort foods is noodle soup. Usually it’s presented in instant ramen, but I love all forms of noodles. There are so many wonderful eateries I want to try in Chinatown and my preferences range from enjoying an expansive feast with family in a dim sum restaurant and enjoying comforting classics at a hole-in-the-wall selection. Yes, it’s nice to have xiao long bao, beef chow fun and kung pao chicken all on one plate, but sometimes, less is more. One day, I just want to curl up with a piping bowl of rich broth, noodles to slurp up and yummy pockets of shrimp wonton. For now, I’ll settle for the frozen shrimp wonton noodle soup they sell at Costco, which, honestly, is pretty good. Dream meal: Rainy day dinner with my family, each of us with our own bowls of different noodle soups  

Honorable mention: Fettuccine with wild mushrooms, light cream sauce & pecorino romano from Piccoli Trattoria; Taiwanese popcorn chicken from Taiwan Bear House; adobo-rito from Flip Sigi; affogato sundaes from Caffe Panna  

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