The Farewell New York Meals

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Anthony Bourdain has said that, for his last meal, he’d want the roasted bone marrow with parsley salad that Fergus Henderson serves at his London restaurant, St. John.

It’s fitting then that, for my last meal as a New Yorker, there was that very same dish. Only it wasn’t prepped by Fergus Henderson; it was made by Gabrielle Hamilton at what’s come to be my favorite New York City restaurant, Prune.

When there’s a right answer to a question, it’s often the one that pops into your head first. And so I didn’t struggle about where I wanted to go on the Wednesday night before I left New York City for Los Angeles. Prune was the right answer. I made my reservation a week ahead and, in the meantime, I ate many New Yorky things leading up to it.

For example, I ate pizza at Artichoke:

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I’m not one of those New York City pizza people who privileges one pizza over another pizza to the point of fanaticism. If it’s a good New York City pizza, I like it; and that’s the case with Artichoke. I like the pizza there and it did not disappoint. (That’s the Margherita, in case you were wondering.)

I ate that pizza, actually, after a small going away gathering at Terroir, the wine bar in the East Village. If you enjoy wine and quirky menus, you’ll love Terroir. Here’s a page out of the Terroir menu which, as a Harry Potter fan, I find particularly awesome:

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Riesling is the thing to drink at Terroir and if you want a Riesling education, you’ll get one as you sip. Apparently, sweet Riesling–which I’ve always avoided–isn’t something to scoff at. As the menu will tell you (and the menu is the work of Paul Grieco who’s also on Twitter) the balance of sweetness and acidity is what makes Riesling great. The challenge is finding a Riesling that strikes that balance; you’re very likely to find that Riesling at Terroir.

I couldn’t skip a final trip to Momofuku, could I? Here’s my ginger scallion noodles all stirred up:

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I also enjoyed this pork kimchi tamale:

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And, of course, there was the obligatory lobster roll at Pearl Oyster Bar which I shared with Diana:

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We then hightailed it up to the Museum of Natural History where I admired the big blue whale hanging from the ceiling and fantasized about the chocolate chip cookies at the Levain Bakery. 20 minutes into museum-going, I suggested we make that fantasy come true. And behold, two enormous Levain Bakery cookies (chocolate chip & chocolate peanut butter):

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For sentimental purposes, I made sure to have a chocolate cannoli at Rocco’s on Bleecker before I left. This is not recommended:

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Though the filling is excellent, the chocolate shell is impenetrable.

But then there was that final meal at Prune. It began with a spicy lemonade so good, I had to ask for the recipe:

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Apparently, lots of chopped ginger macerates in lemon juice sweetened with mint-infused simple syrup. It’s finished with cayenne pepper (that’s the virgin version; the alcoholic version has, I think, citrus vodka).

We ate many, many good things, among them suckling pig with pickled cherry tomatoes and a spicy aioli:

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And peas and carrots topped with honeycomb:

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That’s a marvelous combination; the honeycomb melts into the hot vegetables and transforms them from something everyday (almost a cliche of every day food) into something out of this world.

Mostly, though, the meal at Prune captured everything that I love and everything that I’m going to miss most about New York.

New York is a place where talented, creative people can create spaces for themselves. Those spaces may be theaters (like the Flea, the Rattlestick, the New York Theater Workshop), they might be show tune bars (like Marie’s Crisis). Inevitably, those spaces lead to communities of people who populate those spaces. And so those who hate New York tend not to have eked out a space for themselves and, consequently, fail to find a community.

In the years that I lived in New York, I was lucky enough to carve out a space for myself (both virtual and real) and to find a community of likeminded individuals who filled that space. Prune, in its own way, reflects that. It’s a space unlike any other space in New York; and its denizens, both the people who work there and the people who eat there, form a community of food-loving, open-minded individuals. In fact, our waitress, when she heard that I was moving to L.A., told me that she’d just moved from there and offered me a handwritten list of her favorite places to eat in the City of Angels. That’s just the kind of thing that I’ll miss most about New York.

Which is not to say that it can’t happen elsewhere. It’s just that in New York, it seems to happen more naturally than it does elsewhere. Everyone is crammed into that city together–there’s no driving from destination to destination; all the destinations are laid right out on the grid. And when you live there, you’re a part of it all, whether you like it or not.

And so Prune was the perfect place to eat my last meal in New York; only, it wasn’t really my last New York meal. This was:

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A bad cheese omelet at the Hudson Diner right beneath my apartment.

Not sure what the metaphor is there except, sometimes it’s time to leave a city. So New York, thanks for letting me carve out a space for myself, for giving me a community, and for feeding me so well. Somehow I don’t think this is goodbye forever. Like the cheese inside that bad omelet, I’m sticking to you forever.

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