Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Whirlwind Travels, Part I: New York
New York is nothing like Paris; it is nothing like London; and it is not Spokane multiplied by sixty, or Detroit multiplied by four. It is by all odds the loftiest of cities…Manhattan has been compelled to expand skyward because of the absence of any other direction in which to grow. This, more than any other thing, is responsible for its physical majesty. It is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village—the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying that the way is up.
-E.B. White ("Here is New York")
All I can say is "wow." Since I last updated you on my culinary adventures, I traveled across the country to New York City, spent four magical days there, attended one snazzy wedding on the fine island of Long Island, flew to Pittsburgh, spent one and a half days with my family and our beloved pooch and then the Greek and I drove 700 miles southwest to Memphis, stopping for one night in Louisville, KY....But, as they say, one step at a time. Although I have oodles and oodles of pictures from Louisville, today is about my love affair with New York: both its food and the people I know there.
The first day, when we stepped off the plane, it was like stepping into another world. It was hot, humid and the air was thick or, as we like to say in southwestern PA, "muggy." All this and it wasn't even 8 a.m.! We made our way to my friend A's apartment and, as we were nothing short of melting into the almost steaming pavement, we decided that our first day in the city was best spent in the air conditioned confines of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While the collection never fails to amaze me, I partly love this museum for the people watching. After a red eye flight, from my perch from above, I felt like I was looking at a scene from the movies in slow motion, but perhaps my fatigued imagination had just gotten the best of me:
Soon, however, it was necessary to refuel my failing system; what was my food of choice? Only pizza at Artichoke , which I first had back in the fall of 2008 when a good friend and I stopped in New York en route to a conference in Philadelphia to see a production of Virginia Woolf's The Waves. Clearly, it made quite an impression on me; when I say that I occasionally dream about the slightly thick and crunchy crust with the cream sauce with spinach and artichokes, I'm not even anywhere near kidding. The Greek was kind of sorry he had gone with tasty, yet not quite as tasty margherita. Learn from his mistake! ;)
We found a lovely little park near an Orthodox church to eat it and I couldn't resist taking a picture of this, since my long put off date with a short essay on icons awaits me upon my return to Berkeley...
The next day we made our way to my lovely alma mater, Columbia, in Morningside Heights, where we met one of my best friends from college and took the Greek on a walking tour of the neighborhood. We stopped by one of our old haunts (one of the few remaining in the neighborhood!), Le Monde. It was a fun and leisurely lunch. How can you go wrong with a beet salad with feta? I also had some tasty gazpacho because, frankly, in weather like that, the thought of hot food can be incredibly unappealing!
We meandered through the neighborhood, making our way through Harlem, looking at the architecture and stopping by the acclaimed Red Rooster, a restaurant/bar that a good friend (and native New Yorker) had recommended to me back in Berkeley. It did not disappoint! The cocktails were fabulous and interesting; I was torn between a Negroni made with fig bourbon and a cocktail called the "Dillio," which had both peanut-infused bourbon and dill in it. The "Dillio" won because my heart belongs to peanuts, but I'm certain that they all would have been an excellent choice.
After our adventure uptown, I made my way to Bryant Park to see a dear Slavic department friend who has left the academic nest to finish writing her dissertation in New York City, where her boyfriend lives and works. Needless to say, as I came upon her in the park, where she was writing away, I couldn't help but think that it was a very pleasant and charmed life indeed to sit by the carousel in the park and to write about Gogol and Zoshchenko. In any case, it's a far cry from my kitchen table...It was a lovely time, an hour certainly well spent.
Our rainiest, gloomiest day was Saturday, but, fortunately, the New York theater scene provided us with available seats to Tom Stoppard's Arcadia and the East Village restaurant, East Noodle, reunited me with one of my long lost loves: okonomiyaki!!! Happy days! I do love me some mayo!
Then, finally, the day of the wedding rolled around. The morning was a bit rushed, but our lovely hostess, the Greek and I nevertheless found time for brunch at a place not far from her apartment, the Dutch restaurant, Van Daag. I had some pretty spicy ginger granola, but the true crowd pleaser was the pastry basket that came with jams and spiced butters. I'm beginning to see that both Dutch and German cuisine have a lot to offer. This could be a stage of maturity.
And then the wedding: all I can say is that it was lovely and a good time was had by all. The bride was radiant and the band was awesome. There was a cocktail hour with a "Russian table" of black caviar, smoked salmon and vodka; there was also a tasty dinner of sea bass and couscous. And, though it was a (glock) kosher affair and the desserts lacked dairy, a room full of amazing cakes, cookies, ice creams and chocolate fondue and fruit from which to choose. Needless to say, I had a great time picking and choosing what desserts I wanted to sample....
...and then I went and caught the bouquet, my second in less than a year. What can I say? With that much dessert and the chance to see the majority of my college friends and all in one place, it must have been my lucky night. :) Or something like it. Or maybe luck has nothing to do with it all.