Here’s how cold it was in New York: on our last morning there, I left a pair of gloves behind for the person I borrowed them from and rode the elevator down to the street with Craig to catch a cab to the airport. Craig had gone to the trouble to get me a cappuccino from our favorite New York coffee shop, Joe, which he handed to me as we stepped outside. The temperature that day, with wind-chill, was close to negative 10 degrees. NEGATIVE TEN. And no cabs were stopping, so there I was with my bare hand holding on to this warm coffee drink and the feeling was so awful–the cold was searing my hand so fiercely–I had to toss the full cup of coffee into a trash bin so I could shove my hand into my pocket. That’s the coldest I’ve ever been.
And yet, before you call me an L.A. traitor, even in the most miserable weather, New York is still my boo. I actually hadn’t been back in over a year, not because I didn’t want to, but because in the whirlwind of Skeleton Twins stuff, it just didn’t happen. Then, for Christmas, Craig presented me with tickets to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch (one of my favorite musicals) on Broadway starring the show’s creator John Cameron Mitchell the day after my birthday in February. “February?” I asked incredulously. “It’ll be fine!” he promised.
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.
In September, I shared with you a picture of the Avocado Sandwich I ate at Prune for lunch (link here.) The response was enthusiastic: “Ohmgosh that looks so beautiful,” wrote Shannon. “Oh, PRETTY!” wrote Hannah. “That sandwich is a work of art!” wrote Kathryn. Again, it was a very enthusiastic response.
Last week I took Molly Orangette to Prune for lunch (I felt it was a very Orangette-like selection) and the avocado sandwich had been replaced with a ratatouille sandwich. When it arrived I snapped the picture you see above; and when I took a bite, I knew I had to do a post about it.
It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes you’re at a restaurant, waiting for your food, and you see a dish appear on the pass. You think to yourself: “Ooooh, that looks so good, maybe I should’ve ordered that?” You stare it for a few more beats and begin chastising yourself for ordering the thing you ordered instead of that other dish. “What was I thinking? That looks so much better! Mine’s going to suck.”
That’s exactly what happened to me the other day when I had lunch at Prune, only there was a twist ending: when the waiter picked up the plate to bring it to the lucky person who ordered it, I quickly discovered that the lucky person who ordered it was me.
My birthday always begins with the Angel of Food hovering over my bed and handing me a pass that says, “EAT FREELY,” which is not so much a mild suggestion, but an absolute imperative. There’s no “maybe I shouldn’t”s on my birthday–the word “shouldn’t” is verbotten, as is “mustn’t” and “oughtn’t” (is oughtn’t a word?)–my mission is a clear one: devour the city in 24 hours or less.
Brillat Savarin famously said, “Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”
As much as I’d like to believe that most people go through their lives believing this, my hunch is that most people don’t think it’s a character-defining moment when they sprinkle Splenda into their coffee. Instead, I think many people subscribe to a different notion. Their adage might go something like this: “Tell me WHERE you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”