Sunday, May 4, 2008

FOOD TOUR: Susan Rosenbaum is the Enthusiastic Gourmet (646-209-4724, http://www.enthusiasticgourmet.com). Reservations required for three-hour tours for up to eight people; $50 fee includes food samples and a bottle of water; schedule varies. My tour included the Essex Street Market (120 Essex St., 212-388-0449 or 212-312-3603, http://www.essexstreetmarket.com), where we tasted muffins at Rainbo's Fishmarket (212-982-8585), sweets at Roni-Sue Chocolates (212-260-0421, http://www.roni-sue.com) and cheese at Saxelby Cheesemongers (212-228-8204, http://www.saxelbycheese.com).

Down the street, we also visited Kossar's Bialys (367 Grand St., 877-424-2597, http://www.kossarsbialys.com), the Pickle Guys (49 Essex St., 888-474-2553, http://www.nycpickleguys.com), Lucky King Bakery (280 Grand St., 212-219-8434), DiPalo Dairy (200 Grand St., 212-226-1033), Alleva Dairy (188 Grand St., 212-226-7990, http://www.allevadairy.com) and Ferrara Cafe (195 Grand St., 800-533-6910, http://www.ferraracafe.com).

[Note: Essex Street Market is closed on Sundays, and kosher shops Kossar's and Pickle Guys are closed Saturdays and Jewish holidays.]


· Taam-Tov (41 W. 47th St., third floor, 212-768-8001), a kosher restaurant, serves specialties from Uzbekistan's Bukhar region, whose spot on the Silk Road means the menu features Middle Eastern (hummus, shish kebabs), Indian (samsa are like samosas), Eastern European (borscht) and Bukharian specialties; I liked the bakhsh (Bukharian pilaf with chunks of meat, veggies and cilantro, $8) and lepeshka bread ($1.99).

· Xai Xai Wine Bar (365 W. 51st St., 212-541-9241, http://www.xaixaiwinebar.com) features 80-plus South African wines, plus an eclectic menu of that country's dishes, including vetkoek (bread fritter filled with beef) with mince, pap and boerwos (maize and sausage), bunny chow (curry in a bread bowl), biltong and cheese saamies (dried meat and cheese sandwich) and milk tarts for dessert. The wait staff will help you make selections if you want guidance.

· Big Nick's Burger and Pizza Joint (2175 Broadway, 212-362-9238, http://bignicksnyc.com), open 24 hours a day, serves Italian-style meals, homemade desserts and beer along with burgers and pizza.

· Montague Street Bagels (108 Montague St., Brooklyn Heights, 718-237-2512) makes real New York bagels just south of the Brooklyn Bridge.

WHAT ELSE TO DO: The Metropolitan Opera (Lincoln Center, between West 62nd and 65th streets and Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, 212-362-6000, http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera) just ended its run of Philip Glass's "Satyagraha," but in May you can still catch Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito" or "Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail," Gaetano Donizetti's "La Fille du Regiment," Tan Dun's "The First Emperor" or Verdi's "Macbeth."

While the best seats in the stunning opera house cost $375, the Met has lots of options for the budget-minded. For the remaining shows this season, the $15 and $26 Family Circle seats are going fast, but there are also rush tickets: Two hours before the show starts, the Met sells any unsold $100 orchestra seats for $20. Last year, at least 200 rush tickets were sold per performance, but get there early; people start queuing up at noon. Starting at 10 a.m. the day of the performance, standing room tickets are $15 to $20 and tickets for students 29 and younger are $25 to $35. -- C.T.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company