Even though I shipped my cooking gear here to New York before arriving in September, things have been so busy and crazy it’s been difficult to find time behind the stove. When I get back from the west coast leg of my book tour (I leave tomorrow!) I have a lot of cooking I want to do; in the meantime, I’ve been checking many places off my New York “must eat” list. Here’s one of the best.
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.
The first time that I went to Roberta’s in Bushwick it was in the middle of winter and they seated us next to a swinging door which produced an arctic blast anytime a server or a customer swung it open. We sat in our winter coats, shivering, and huddling around a heater in between courses. It was a memorable, if not quite ideal, dining experience.
Things were warmer and better at Roberta’s last week, when I ate lunch there before appearing on Michael Harlan Turkell’s Heritage Radio Network show, “The Food Seen” (which is recorded on the Roberta’s complex).
You may not be surprised to learn that when it comes to what I eat, at any given moment, I can be a bit of a control freak. In fact I have a theory that most food people are control freaks: what better way to control what goes into your body than to become an expert on the subject? It’s rare to find a food person grabbing handfuls of snack food willy-nilly off a snack cart. Give a food person the opportunity to select his or own snack from a larger selection and a careful decision will be rendered. That makes us discerning, but also kind-of obnoxious in terms of going with the flow.
So lately, I’ve been going with the flow. The other night I met my friend Lauren for dinner and when she suggested a restaurant I’d never heard of–Casellula off 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen–I said “sure.” Turns out that’s the best decision I’ve made in a long time.
It’s impossible to write about Williamsburg without using the word “hipster.” I’ll do my best.
On Saturday, I joined my friends Patty and Lauren and their gorgeous new baby Audra for a trip to the land of the bespeckled and heavily tattooed to consume hand-crafted foods along the water. This event, known as Smorgasburg, was something that just started as I left for L.A. last year. It’s got a lot to recommend it: fall weather, beautiful views, and some of the best food you can eat outside of a restaurant in New York.
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.
Back To Our Favorite N.Y. Haunts (Joe, Joseph Leonard, Bar Centrale, City Bakery, Grand Sichuan & The Burger Joint)
I took a tumble outside of Joe on Waverly, the coffee shop that was a second home to me all those years that I lived in the big city. It was kind of embarrassing: rain was beating down, Craig ran inside the front door, and as I approached the first step, I totally slipped on the wet pavement and crashed down on my knee, slicing my jeans open and tearing the skin. I got myself up as quickly as I could but it was one of those disorienting experiences that made me feel like I was a stranger on my old turf: only a tourist slips on a wet New York City sidewalk.
I’m not one of those “where must I eat when I go back to New York?” kind of people, though I did Tweet a week before our trip something along those lines. The responses were fascinating to me–apparently Acme, which I knew as a fairly mediocre sandwich and sweet potato French fry spot near NYU, has been transformed into a restaurant-of-the-moment. Also: Isa has all the food bloggers buzzing. But, I don’t know, I wasn’t in the mood to be fanatical about new restaurants. I decided that, when it came to food on this trip, we’d wing it.