My favorite weekend breakfasts usually have some kind of balance of savory and sweet. A pile of pancakes here, a strip of bacon there, some eggs for good measure. Rarely have I ever craved a big plate of meat-products with eggs on the side. Recently, though, I found myself at brunch at The Breslin on 29th street and there on the menu was a “Full English Breakfast” for $23. Pricey, for sure–in fact it’s the priciest thing on the brunch menu–but suddenly I was intrigued. “What is a full English breakfast, anyway?”
Wandering around Williamsburg last week, my nose (or “schnozz,” if you prefer) led me down a street to a place that looked like a warehouse. The warehouse was actually home to Mast Brothers chocolate, one of the most revered chocolate companies in the country. You may recognize their chocolate bars as the ones with wrapping so pretty, you want to wallpaper your house with them. Also their bars are the ones so expensive, you won’t be able to put your children through college if you buy one. Turns out all their chocolate is made right here in this spot where I was standing. Naturally, I went inside.
One of my favorite New York novelties is the existence of Please Don’t Tell in New York’s East Village. On St. Marks, between 1st and A, is a hog dog emporium called Crif Dogs. Looks innocent enough. But what you don’t realize, unless you know the secret, is that the phone booth that you see on the left when you walk in? It’s really a secret entrance to what’s supposed to be one of New York’s best bars, a bar called Please Don’t Tell. We’re big fans of the P.D.T. cocktail book but I’ve never actually been to Please Don’t Tell. Many a time I’ve gone into that phone booth, dialed a number, and many a time I’ve been told there’s an insanely long wait. And every time, including this most recent time, we decide not to wait. But still…
One of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had is the Captain’s Daughter at Saltie in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s described minimally on the menu: “sardines, pickled egg, salsa verde” and yet tastes like so much more. The bread, focaccia, is fluffy and rich with olive oil. The flavors are as bold as flavors can be: fishy, bright, acidic, briny. The texture, unlike the criminally soft-on-soft sandwich I wrote about last week, is chewy (from the bread), soft (from the sardines) and crunchy (from all the vegetables). Let’s lift up the hood and see what else we can discover so maybe, just maybe, we can recreate this sandwich back in L.A.
One of the most ridiculous things about my old West Village existence–living there, as I did, from 2009 through 2011–is that I never really noticed The Meadow.
I think I thought it was a sandwich place. Or maybe a boutique shop for expensive olive oil. Had I known what lay in store behind its doors, I would’ve gone there all the time. Thankfully, I made a point to visit it last week before meeting my publisher for lunch at The Little Owl. When you see what I found inside, you’ll understand why I’m already planning my next trip back.
As far as good deeds go, they don’t come any easier than the one we did on Saturday night.
The East Village had just gotten its power back after Hurricane Sandy which, as I’m sure you’re aware, has left the east coast devastated, thousands homeless, others still without power and heat. The restaurant community had been hit especially hard, not only losing business for themselves and their employees, but losing thousands of dollars worth of perishable foods that spoiled after several days without power. On Twitter, everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Pete Wells implored people to eat out downtown on Saturday night, to help these restaurants get back on their feet. Kat Kinsman of CNN’s Eatocracy Tweeted that she was headed to Marco Canora’s Hearth and the second she Tweeted that, I realized that of course I would want to be at Hearth too. Marco Canora is one of the most generous, selfless people I’ve met in the food world–he cooked with me twice for my cookbook, both for the proposal and the book itself–and the idea of helping him by patronizing his restaurant hours after he got power back was an absolute no-brainer.
Sometimes going away from a city gives you permission, upon your return, to do things that you wouldn’t normally do when you lived there.
Case in point: eating alone at the bar at Maialino on a Friday night. There are a million reasons I would never have done that as a New York City resident: what if someone I know sees me? What about all the people jammed in there waiting for their tables looking at this guy, alone, reading Salman Rushdie’s article in The New Yorker? Somehow, though, my time away has made me feel like a tourist in the city I once called home…which is how I worked up the courage to walk in and ask for a seat at the bar.
As life was ending in the Catskills, my life was just beginning. I was only a kid when my parents drove my brother and me upstate to experience the splendor (or former splendor) of the great bastions of Jewish entertainment. We stayed in hotels like The Concord and Kutsher’s where the carpeting was well-worn and the smell was a pungent mixture of mothballs and boiled eggs. I remember a lunch in a sunny dining room with faded pink tablecloths and a plate of refrigerated gefilte fish plopped down in front of us, my dad teaching me how to cover it extravagantly with spicy horseradish to mask its nothingness. We saw Frankie Valli perform. We saw The Turtles. An artist named Morris Katz painted landscapes in the lobby. These memories circled around a vague mist in my head as I joined my parents for dinner this past Monday night to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) at Manhattan’s resurrection of this time and place: Kutsher’s Tribeca.