I once heard a terrific quote about New York that goes something like this, though I don’t remember who said it or where I heard it or if it’s a quote at all and not something I’m just making up. Here it is: “If you live in New York and you don’t love it it’s your fault.”
There is truth in this quote, I believe. You have to understand that I come from a family of New York defectors (their defection was mostly weather-related) and that my love for New York is like some sort of spiritual rebirth. What Harriet Miers is to Christianity, I am to New York. I’m a born-again New Yorker.
Now the quote I may have misquoted above puts the obligation on the New York resident to go seek out the wonder that is the Big Apple. And so the other day (Friday to be exact) when I should have been working I decided I’d ride the 6 train uptown to 86th street to sample Austrian delights at Cafe Sabarsky and then see the Van Gogh drawing exhibit at the Met.
All went to plan except when I entered Cafe Sabarsky it was a mob scene (not literally, figuratively) and I had to enact a Plan B. This involved whipping out Robert Sietsema’s “Food Lover’s Guide to the Best Ethnic Eating in New York City” which I keep handily in my bag. I quickly flipped through the index. What was near this spot on 83rd and 5th? Where could I go? Aha! The Lexington Candy Shop!
Says Sietsema: “For an unforgettable taste of the indigenous haute cuisine of the Upper East Side, including foamy chocolate egg creams and oozing grape-jelly omelets, there’s no better place than the handsomely retrograde Lexington Candy Shop. Swivel on a bar stool or sprawl in a booth and ponder, Why is this place still here? (Hint: frequent movie and fashion shoots.)”
So I made my way from 5th Ave. over to Lexington and parked myself in a booth. I observed the kitschy counter:
And ordered an egg cream and a sandwich from a very motherly waitress. Actually our exchange was very funny.
Me: I’ll have the sliced egg club and an egg cream.
Waitress: You want mayo on the sandwich?
Waitress: You want that on white toast?
Waitress: You want chocolate in that egg cream?
Waitress: Ok, that was easy!
And so she swiftly returned with my egg cream.
Now those of you with keen memories may remember that I shot a film a few months ago (or weeks ago) for some other website where they videotaped me eating my way around SoHo. Did I tell you about that? Well it hasn’t gone up yet (it was supposed to be up in September) and on one part of the video I talk about why an egg cream is called an egg cream. If I were a good showman, I’d make you wait for the explanation on video (or let you Google it) but I’ll tell it to you anyway; this is the theory I’ve heard. The theory goes like this: during the Depression, when times were hard in America, people couldn’t afford ice cream in their ice cream sodas. So they’d say “ice cream soda, neg cream.” Like: negative on the ice cream. And thus the egg cream (or neg’ cream) was born. [It’s chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer.]
And as far as egg creams go, this was right up there. Supposedly the best in New York is at Gem Spa in the East Village. I was there a long long time ago and I can still remember how that egg cream used to make me smile. The key to a good egg cream is the seltzer: it’s gotta come from a compressed bottle or it just ain’t right. Dean N Deluca sells egg creams in SoHo at a little booth and they pour the seltzer from little plastic bottles. No! No! No! End rant.
As for my sandwich:
It really hit the spot. I was too timid to try the grape-jelly omelet (sorry, that just sounds gross) and I was glad I stuck with the basics: bacon, egg, mayo, lettuce and tomato on white toast. Very American, very dinery, very Lexington Candy Shop.
Afterwards, I made my way to the Met and saw both the Van Gogh exhibit and an exhibit on occult photography. I was actually disappointed with both. My favorite discovery was in the sculpture gallery, a Rodin sculpture called “The Hand of God.” It’s a giant marble hand and between the thumb and forefinger are two bodies intertwined. Here’s a pic I found on Google:
No one was really looking at it, but I was really taken with it. In what other city could you wake up, unsure of your day, and find yourself illuminated, several hours later, by a classic sculpture from a French master after eating a sliced egg club and drinking an egg cream at a Candy Shop? Not many, I tell you. As the t-shirt says: I heart NY.