Sunday, September 16, 2007

new york: day one

Day 1: Momofuku Ssam, Greenmarket, City Bakery, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, Gravy, White Horse Tavern.

Momofuku Ssam: Very polished and quiet. Hard to imagine the place bustling with foodie types and chefs, but then they do a lot more at dinner than they seem to do at lunch. I really wanted to go here because of all the foodie buzz, the Beard nomination, etc etc...and because of all the places I wanted to check out in New York it was the only slightly affordable one. I got a ssam with chicken, white kimchi, pickled shitakes, edamame and whatever else it came with. My friend got the pork rice bowl. My ssam was super messy. and kind of huge. and fairly fun. The shitakes were really good. The kimchi kind of made me nervous. The Tablehopper has a way better review of Momofuku Ssam, but then she had a giant pork feast.

We walked over to Union Square where I demanded we see the Greenmarket even though Dale, my adventure buddy for the afternoon, was quick to point out the SF farm markets were probably better. Apples and pears, same as here, but better apples and adorable Seckel pears. He got apple cider, which was a lil tangy and not very complex. Then he declared me an Honorary Jew, even though I met only half of his criteria, it being Rosh Hashana and all.

How is it that I never went to the City Bakery while I worked in Union Square? Was it not there? Or was I just too busy selling books? Either way I suppose it's a good thing, because the place would have been dangerous to my wallet. Not really feeling all that hungry after the ssam I went for the classic: pretzel croissant. A slightly pretzel-shaped croissant with toasty sesame seeds and a liberal sprinkling of salt on top...born to confuse the eater (is it breakfast or snack?) and infuriate the french. My friend snitched a piece and pronounced it all right. The general consensus was good croissant, curious about all the hype. I think I might have even passed the judgment of "it's all right" before we slid back onto 18th and took a lil walk upon my insistence to someplace I really wanted to go.

Yes, we went and just looked at Gramercy Tavern. Mostly so I could see if they were open for lunch and how costly such a thing might be, but...yeah...it was fairly geeky and I'll be the first to admit it.

From there we hopped a train to Delancey Street for some gelato. I'm quite glad I went to Il Laboratorio del Gelato, but the counter help was a dick! They had some kind of ice cream made with mastic, and I wanted to know what was in it. It's all gone, we just sold the last of it, was his response, even though that wasn't my question. I tried to explain again how I was just curious, but when he still appeared to be functioning not quite up to speed I figured it was either give up or reach across the counter and shake him by his dishwasher's coat. I mean, how many people know what mastic is in the first place? Sheesh.

Ice cream weirdness aside, we shared a cup of honeydew sorbet, strawberry gelato and honey-lavender gelato. The strawberry was surprisingly good. Likewise on the taste factor of the sorbet, though it was a lil icy and needed a fresh spin. I always feel totally awkward in that situation...I want to tell them, and it is true, but I know I'd be rolling my eyes if it were me behind the counter. Anyway...the honey lavender was decent. I'm just really picky about the flavor. The entire experience was revolutionary in that, here in SF, I've had gelato a couple times recently and been very disappointed...and those times aside I don't think I've had it since Italy maybe years ago. So it's not that I don't like gelato, per se...it's just I haven't had the right kind.

While meandering toward the subway we even saw a cake tag! {yes, I've got pictures} Stuffed to the gills we retired to Carroll Gardens for some sitting around the giant kitchen, talking about crushes, and watching my friend's grad school videos. Brooklyn felt low and small, familiar enough with its landscape and people. My friend tried to convince me that if I'd lived in South Brooklyn rather than North, I would have stayed.

Perhaps this is the point in the post where I explain briefly that my entire life I wanted nothing more to live in New York and be a famous writer. I wanted to be the Diane Keaton character in Manhattan; I wanted to be Dorothy Parker and co. at the Algonquin; I wanted to be Allen Ginsberg. I grew up going to New York a couple times a year for shopping and whatnot, saw all the major art shows all through college. When my New Yorky Vassar friends would tell me I didn't really know New York I'd get all confused...

Life for me in New York most closely resembled The 6ths song "I've Got New York." At first it was intense and hard and exciting and then it slowly ground down at absolutely everything I thought I wanted was slowly taken from me. For a couple of years I went back, barely, through grit teeth and tensed muscles. My friends were still there. Every neighborhood held bad memories or false hopes. Then finally I went back (in October of last year and February of this year) and it was neutral. How nice to be free of all those experiences...that said, I still won't go to Times Square...

Finally {and is it being 3000 miles away, or having a whole other career, or growing older, or being unable to take it for granted} it's over. It's official. I Love New York (Again). All of my memories are open now. The horrible, hard times are there but so are the times from my youth, from college, from when I lived there. So many of the people I love most are New York people and I knew they'd be happy to hear this.

When I took her hand the next morning and looked into her eyes, told her I had big news she needed to hear, my farmer did something special: Now You Can Love It Like A Real New Yorker, she said. You Know What It Means. You've Seen The Best And The Worst.


Oodles of awesome food, sweet and savory. Key epiphanies about my life. Becoming an Honorary Jew and a Real New Yorker...could it get any better? Well, I only walk myself into blood sugar oblivion and am saved Simpsons-style by doughnuts, but that's the next day...

4 comments:

budi said...

Oh, gosh. You're making me pine for NYC. I haven't been there since 1994. :( All my friends there have either died or moved to San Diego. (Fools.) (The ones who moved, not the ones who died.) But why did the kimchi make you nervous?

Busy all the time. said...

did we never have the conversation about how i'm a picky eater and cold foods, dessert aside, make me nervous? i'd never had kimchi before...i usually don't like pickled anything (i've actually never eaten a pickle before)...and shrimp paste i tend to pretend does not exist. kimchi is like confronting all of these in one place.

sometimes in the mission i feel like i'm back in brooklyn. we can meet up and pretend we're in new york instead of here...

Dale Ratner said...

It was great seeing you again. Glad you got home safe and looking forward to reading about Day 2. Shine on, you honorary jew.

Busy all the time. said...

today i made a sort of haroset and thought of that seder you invited me to years ago. hope your holiday was good...and your late b-day celebration.