Thursday, October 04, 2007

new york, day two

Thank you to all New Yorkers and ex-New Yorkers for your wonderful suggestions.

So I said the pretzel croissant was all right. I forgot to mention the part where on day two I woke up and I had a breakfast destintion all planned out but really...I just kinda wanted another pretzel croissant. It's like how I felt about zaatar the morning after. Sometimes things just take a day to be brilliant to you. I *almost* bought another more than once that day...but I ended up with something even more instructionally interesting.

From the beginning, however: I woke up in my friend's dorm room at a too-early hour and due to my not having coffee hopped on a Brooklyn bound train. Figured out somewhere around Schermerhorn Street things were not quite right. My farmer was waiting for me, all dolled up in a pretty dress, by the time I got to West 4th, and we got the last available table in Patisserie Claude. Croissant for me, roll of cake for my friend. My croissant is buttery and flaky, and the coffee is good although I am initially skeptical, and we sit in the too-hot bakery amidst the other people who have no work obligations, maybe because it is Rosh Hashanah and the whole city seems to be free, and we tell each other the big news. I haven't seen her since February. She's one of those people I love so fiercely that we can't stop hugging, we find little excuses to touch one another, and as we walk down Christopher Street afterward I stop and take her hands in mind. I Have To Tell You Something. I tell her all about how I Love New York Again.

We both know what this means, and we get there, as I take a look at my notebook full of pastry suggestions and decide that if we walk down Spring Street we will hit three of my selections. The Hudson Valley House, one whatever town I can afford. I've been making calculations based upon this house for years now. Maybe I'll Be Bi-Coastal, I say, a sigh, San Francisco a kink in all my well laid plans. But not even San Francisco can take that upstate house from me. It's in my blood, or something {and I do have relatives buried in the cemetery in Wappingers Falls}.

On the bakery tour, I fall in love with Balthazar, which is so adorably European and otherwordly, but we're too stuffed from breakfast so instead we muscle past the hostess and stare at the pastries and I decide to save it for next time. Just a little further down the street is button-cute Ceci Cela, with the most luscious looking glazed puff pastry and pear tartlets I have seen Ever. Jewelboxes glinting in the sun. But I'm still too full for something so large, so settle for a financier, which is smaller in size. Almondy and brown buttery and fine, but as we walk around the corner arguing about which way is uptown I'm longing for the puff pastry.

My farmer demands real food and she kind of wants French, so when we stumble upon Cafe Gitane it's great. I'm wearing my Harlem shirt and when the cute server comments I mumble about how I used to live in Brooklyn. My farmer orders a lentil-cranberry-walnut and smoked trout salad, which she succeeds in making me try. And like, despite my mistrust of cold foods and suspicion of smoked fish. Seriously good. I was more than happy with my cucumber mint yogurt salad dusted with rose petals, topped with a mound of hummus and perfectly toasted warm pita points that were faint echoes of Aziza's wonderfulness. I *did* kind of want a lil sumac on my salad, and a dash more rose, but it seemed outside the lit of reasonable requests.
Sometimes you can sit in silence with people and it's better than talking. Sometimes it's okay that someone is three thousand miles from you because they love what they're doing and they worked so hard to get there, and since you love them you know it's for the best, even if your heart is jealous.

After lunch we walk to one more bakery, the Build A Green Bakery/Birdhouse endeavor. I almost buy another pretzel croissant, which, it's worth noting, is fifty cents cheaper at the 1st Ave./13th St. Green outpost than the actual City Bakery. I also almost buy a giant cookie, but instead go for the miso plum cake and stash it in my bag for the long bus ride home. My farmer catches a cab uptown and we try to say goodbye. Too many hugs. Kisses. Promises. I shuffle off to my old place of employment to use the Zagat guide and get directions.

I walked up to Kalustyan's and almost bought so many things. Reminisced about my friends' old Murray Hill apartment and nights spent wanting so many things. I'd walked so far that I was trying to remember the quickest way back to a subway without walking the ten or so more blocks uptown to Grand Central but couldn't recall and ended up in Herald Square catching the F to Canal, where it was just two exactly and I was going to have to wait an hour for the bus.

But at Canal you can catch the JMZ, and if you go one or two stops you're back on the Lower East Side which is not all that far from Doughnut Plant and though I've already got a pastry in my bag for the bus I think some sugar and caffeine will get me out of the so-tired-I'm-going-to-pass-out and back into happy. Doughnut Plant is smaller than I expected, at least the retail side. I inspect the doughnuts and ask the man: peach or blueberry jelly? There's a note that explains they've started making their own jams and jellies. Blueberry, he says, then grabs a fresh rack from the back room and turns out he's been a baker, too, so we discuss the life. Kitchens. I take a bunch of photos and leave, tearing into my doughnut on the walk toward Chinatown. Square doughnut. Blueberry Jelly. Vanilla Bean Glaze. I'm not expecting the way the glaze flakes apart onto my hands as I eat. I've never actually *liked* a jelly doughnut before, certainly not the Dunkies version, but the blueberry jelly is wonderful and falling all over my hands. I've got no napkin so I'm licking it up and continuing to eat and stumbling closer to Chinatown. I'm revived. I'm in love again. I can't wait to come back.

Lest you forget I still had the miso plum cake to eat. If there had been more plums...mountains of plums! As it was, the cake alone was kind of crumbly-dry and hard to eat, but when eaten with the juicy plums it was heaven. I sort of resisted eating it for a few hours because I had that doughnut aftertaste in my mouth and didn't want to ruin it. But the cake was so intriguing, and the whole time I kept eating it I couldn't stop thinking about my upside down cake dilemma. What else was the miso cake but another form of that (well, I'm sure it wasn't baked upside down, but what is the seed behind the idea? what shape does the form take?)? I didn't have to make something I didn't like. Even if it was Chez Panisse. Even if it always sold well.
After all that, I went home and ate BBQ and was then convinced into going for ice cream to JP Licks. I got my favorite choice from there: oatmeal cookie yogurt with caramel sauce. But I also asked to try a new flavor: noodle kugel. It was amazing. I'm going to have to figure out how they did it from the tiny tasting spoon bite I had. Milky, cinnamony, tiny shards of noodles.

What's Kugel? my friends all asked.
It's A Jewish Food...I said.


Anonymous said...

i'm confused...what's your upside down cake dilemma and what does chez pannise have to do with it?


shuna fish lydon said...

ditto to above.

Busy all the time. said...

pixie + shuna: the dilemma is explained at length in this post. brief story, i have to make upside down cakes every week and have been doing so for 7? months and am dissatisfied with the recipe i have ben using for most of this time, which is from the chez panisse fruit book. prior to that i was using david lebovitz's recipe. will i find one i really, truly love? with any luck-but this one sells well, and there are other recipes that need to be tested...