It has been a week of food. I mean, there were also views and shows and dancing but mostly? Mostly food.
Monday featured the arrival of our new researcher who, after a very trying journey from JFK eventually made his way to CUSP only to be turned around and shuffled back out the door to his accommodation. The poor man had spent over an hour in a taxi and I was to drag him another 20 minutes through the subways before he could finally rest. But once he was safely inside, I was off at a canter to meet the sister for dinner. I collected her in the LES and then bundled us both onto the subway uptown to Cafe China.
I had heard great things about the modest but authentic nest of 1930’s Shanghai but had yet to go. When we stepped in the door we found an understated retro Shanghai vibe complemented by unexpected but very tasty Sichuan food. We filled our faces with 葱油炸饼，丝瓜，and 辣子鸡 before paying our bill (no tipping required or even allowed) and bouncing back out into the evening air.
We wanted dessert but it was Midtown and my knowledge of Midtown is not nearly as good as I’d like so we camped out in Bryant Park where the skyscrapers lunge up out of the verdant canopy and I hunted for dessert. Very soon we had an answer: Jimmy’s Cheesecake. Apparently it’s famous. Either way, it’s incredibly delicious with cheesecake so smooth, so creamy, so incredibly rich it’s nearly a mousse only heavier and more velvety.
We shared a chocolate marble cheesecake in the gathering dusk until finally the night was dark enough to properly backdrop the city lights and we set out for one of my favourite spots in K-Town. It’s an unassuming little place. The drinks are average price and nothing fancy, but then you step out on the terrace turn yourself around, and look up to see the gleaming pinnacle of the Empire State. You’re almost directly beneath the grand edifice, lit in the glow of whatever colour it happens to be sporting tonight. I love it.
That night we were also treated to the amusement of an enigmatic individual seated next to us who I shall call “the poet”. He was artfully clad in a white button up—sleeves cuffed to the elbows—with a slim dark scarf carefully arranged about his throat and trailing down his front while he indolently drew on his cigarette. He seemed to have ambitions of acquiring our attention and flattery, but both my sister and I are magnificent ignorers and we hadn’t the least interest in chatting with “the poet” when we had so much catching up left to do just with each other.
On Tuesday we frequented my very favourite Italian restaurant conveniently located less than 10 minutes walk from my apartment. I would never have found it, but it’s right next door to the hotel where all the Air Canada crews stay which resulted in me finding myself there on Christmas Eve amongst a whole herd of flight attendants. Between the complementary cava and the unspeakably perfect pear sachetti, I was smitten so now, months later, I took Taya.
The daily specials are absolutely where it’s at. Taya got the same sachetti I’d had at Christmas but this time with a beautifully light sage butter while I ate a divine lasagna featuring chicken, cheddar, and asparagus. We finished our meal with a beautiful little chocolate mousse enrobed in tempered chocolate and filled with fruit and chilis. There’s heaven and then there’s what they serve at Taverna di Bacco.
With bellies full of innovative Italian, we then set off to find a rooftop. After no small bit of research, we settled on the bar in the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Chinatown. It was a windy night but the view was unspeakably impressive with the arteries ofMidtown to our right and glittering Downtown to our left while we sipped our drinks and stared. As a delightful side effect, the soundtrack was perfect west coast swing music.
The following morning we were up bright and early to hit the bridges before I had to hustle off to work. It’s about 40 minutes walk from my flat to the office and it leads me over the clattering span of the Manhattan Bridge. Taya joined me for that first leg of the journey but then as I continued south to the office, she turned back towards the water heading for the Brooklyn Bridge. I do so like the bridges of New York.
Some hours later, I reconnected with my adventuring sister beneath the flags of the Rockefeller. From there we set off to find coffee only to stumble face first into the famed Bouchon Bakery. Yes, the place whose beautiful cookbook I had shelved and sold so many times at Russell Books, right before me, just begging me to come in. So in we went. Taya had a cheese bun and I had a rhubarb macaron. Yes, RHUBARB. It was the most beautiful shade of delicious.
Having conquered dessert, we detoured to Hell’s Kitchen for dinner at a Bare Burger. The burgers are darn tasty and also locally sourced, and besides that, it’s a place with fond memories of adventures with my inimitable German partner in crime who had tasted the gamut of burgers in NYC and still enjoyed Bare Burger. It also has a bison burger topped with an onion ring and fried egg so there’s that.
Once fed, we headed to the Longacre Theatre to watch A Bronx Tale. I chose it on account of good reviews and cheap tickets and it was an excellent choice. The music is soul and the message is soulful. On top of that it has a great sense of humour and fabulous dancing, and we were treated to the added entertainment of a whole class full of enthusiastic young French exchange students who seemingly could not have enjoyed it more. The only blemish on the evening was my infernal skull’s decision to lurch sideways into an impending migraine which sent me scurrying for my bed immediately after the show. It is so lovely when one’s own body metes out punishment.
Thursday was Taya’s last day in the city so I worked from home in order to facilitate a last breakfast together. We went to Egg Shop which I have been promised has hour long waits on the weekend to find a bustling, busy little cafe full of everything eggy and tasty. Taya had an Indian inspired egg bowl while I leaned Mexican with avocado and carnitas. Shortly thereafter I bid Taya adieu and set to work. I ate lunch in the park, enjoyed the sun, and generally had a very pleasant day culminating in a bioethics talk at the Langone Medical Center. Taya was not so lucky. I think all told she had a 10 hour delay meted out in small doses of two to three hours per report. Had they only told her from the start, she could have come back into the city, but instead WestJet held her functionally hostage in the delightful surrounds of LGA. As perhaps you can tell, I have opinions.
By the time I woke up on Friday, Taya was back in Canada, if not yet actually home, and New York was experimenting with rain. It was an experiment that would later turn into flash flooding and which would make me very grateful that I work on the 19th floor and live on the 5th. When the whole world is water, one comes to be unduly grateful for the high and the dry.
That night was Cinco de Mayo and a deal on salsa that I just couldn’t pass up so I gussied myself up and headed to Candela. After a few hours of dancing, with whining feet that have gotten out of the habit of salsa heels, I wandered back out into the night and on up to the Heights where we stayed up entirely too late watching slightly (well more than slightly) ridiculous movies. I don’t even know what they were called but they were amusing in the B-movie way and yet somehow still stayed up until nearly 4am watching them. Humans are weird.
Accordingly, Saturday was excessively lazy punctuated only by a quick trip out into the world for coffee and some afternoon dance practice. We finally made our way out into the world around 6pm to head back down to my neighbourhood for Sri Lankan food with Chuck’s old roommate. The food was spicy and addictive in that way that only street food can be. Dangerously, this fantastic food is half a block from my apartment.
After dinner we headed off to meet a few other friends of coffee only to find the magnificent Spreadhouse cafe CLOSED for a private party. We were heartbroken but quickly got over it when I realized that the well reviewed Cocoa Bar was only a few blocks away. I had a spicy chocolate martini with sake, chocolate, and a spice mix that gave it the perfect hit of heat. We may have also hijacked the sound system for a wee bit of dancing before eventually bailing out and heading home.
Sunday I finally got to the chores that had been hanging over my head for well over a week. I did three loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen and bathroom and even scrubbed out our hideous tub. It has been dubiously off-coloured since I moved in, but lately had begun to get notably worse so I decided to see what a little elbow grease could do to our mottled grey bath. The answer was: a lot. It actually resembles white again! I’m stupidly proud even though I know it will go right back to grey in no time at all.
Leaving behind me some semblance of a clean apartment, I set out to find food before attending a “Jane’s Walk”. We’ll return to exactly what that entailed, but first, the food. To get to my walk, I would have to walk through Chinatown so I decided it was time to try to find some Shanghainese. I settled into a well enough reviewed little joint under the Manhattan bridge and got ready to brandish my Mandarin.
I quickly identified my first dish—生煎包—but found myself at a complete loss when faced with a whole page of noodles so I decided to recruit my server’s help. When she came over, I politely ordered my bao and then pivoted to beg advice in Mandarin. My explanation of the street noodles that I craved was met by a disdainful: “I don’t know what you ate on the street in Shanghai. I don’t know what you want,” but I persisted and eventually she gave up and advised me to try the 上海粗面. They weren’t quite street and the 生煎包 weren’t quite Yang’s but they were nice enough and by the end of the meal, my cantankerous waitress was chatting amiably with me about where I had studied in Shanghai. I’m counting it as a win.
Taking my leftovers with me, I then finished my journey through the increasingly cold and wet day to One Police Plaza for my walk. Jane’s Walks are free walking tours offered by local guides in honour of Jane Jacobs. They are held every year on the weekend nearest her birthday and apparently are an urbanist’s heaven. I had hoped to catch a few but ended up only making it to the walk discussing the impact of One Police Plaza and all of it’s post-9-11 security on the neighbourhood into which it had forced itself. It was very much of an activist bent, but when you see the veritable police state that surrounds the headquarters closing off masses of public space and blocking through traffic with impressive police barriers.
We walked past the prison where Bernie Madoff and John Gotti were held and which is currently home to El Chapo. We watched locals pass through police checkpoints to access their homes, and most heartbreakingly of all we peered through the chainlink, past the no entry signs to a pair of beautiful green little parks which even featured lawns (a rarity in Lower Manhattan) which are now inaccessible to a community of people traditionally living in very small spaces and desperately needing public (green) space. The question was posed, not unreasonably, as to whether such militant behaviour would ever be tolerated if it were enacted on Park Avenue rather than Chinatown’s Park Row. I rather suspect it wouldn’t.
Feeling rather woke, though miserably cold and wet, I finished the walk and headed up to Warby Parker to finally put my new prescription in frames. I am still waiting for trial contacts at my optometrists and I was trying to wait on glasses until I knew if I was going to get contacts; my beloved insurance only covers me for one or the other—not both. But I was growing very tired of my moderate blindness and so I headed to hipster land and pickd out some frames. They should be in my mailbox by month’s end.
And then I was back on an A train heading for the Heights. We wandered about the neighbourhood and eventually settled into a ramen joint which, though pretty tasty, had a VERY suspicious lack of hot tea. We picked up some groceries and hang out for a while before I climbed back on a train and headed home to bed with great ambitions of getting up early enough to walk to work today. I do so enjoy watching my ambitions rush forward without me.
Now, having made it through Monday, I am lazing about the house, watching documentaries, and once again feeding the ambition that I will get up 45 minutes earlier and start my morning with exercise on the morrow. We shall see how that goes.
The Salsa Girl