Bites in the Big Apple

I took a short jaunt to NYC to see my daughter..a belated birthday present to myself. Back and forth emails and texts focused mostly on where we would eat. It is what we Goldsteins are in the habit of doing.

The first stop was for lunch at Savoy around the corner from Katherine’s office in Soho. Grilled greens, fried duck livers and butternut soup got us off to nice start.

After lunch I spent some time wandering around the neighborhood. I am always intrigued by the kitchen tools as well as other furnishings at the MOMA  store. What is more pleasurable to have in your kitchen than tools that are the perfect blend of design and function.  I photographed the colorful nesting bowls and measuring cups Nesting Bowls and the nifty tea infuser that doubles as a stir stick, and the Mario Batali bright orange pastry brushes.  Index chopping boards were a perfect solution to space, storage and sanitation requirements in the kitchen.  Already inspired, I ducked into my old haunts at Dean and Deluca. I noted new products, the displays of fresh flowers, the precious pastries and artisanal cheeses. I settled on some St. Patrick’s Day cookies for my mother, and a single pistachio shortbread cookie to tide me over until dinner.File cutting boards

Next stop was Socarrat, a paella bar where we met some old friends. Of course, a big discussion ensued about which paellas to order.  As is often the case in our gatherings, it was left to me to listen to all the special requests and decide on what to order. I have had much practice at this, especially in Chinese restaurants, but I felt the pressure all the same. One person doesn’t eat pork, another beef, another dairy. Oy vey. Of course this all takes place against a backdrop of constant, mostly humorous competitive banter and waiters reciting specials.

After a round of Spanish rioja and tapas we settled on the Arroz Negro, a seafood rice colored with squid ink and the Valenciana that include pork, rabbit and snails and asparagus. Brought bright and sizzling to the table in caste iron pans, our waiter returned later to scrape the socarrat, described in their website as“ the delectable, sensuous crust that forms on the bottom of the paella pan when the liquid is rendered and the rice reaches its peak of succulence.” It was clear from first taste to last that the homemade broths were key to all the richly nuanced flavors we experienced. Later, Chef/owner Jesus “Lolo” Manso dropped by the long communal table where we sat and discussed the slow daily preparations and tending of these broths. That kind of pot stirring is right up my alley.

 I moved to Brooklyn the next night to stay with my daughter. We ate at The Farm on Adderley, one of many locavore establishments in the area. With just three of us making sure we would have a nice selection to sample, the usual discussions became more intricate. I watched in amusement as my daughter and her beau negotiated their selections, thinking that she had found herself a generous and accommodating dinner partner. They reminded me of a pair of birds, the attentive male bringing his partner the choicest morsels for her consideration. Burying my nose in the menu, I pretended not to notice.

The next morning, we braved the beginnings of 60 mph Nor’easter, umbrellas inside out and horizontal pelts of rain as we sprinted through Prospect Park to quickly view the sodden and sad collection of booths at the farmers market. The warm and cozy One Hanson Place location for the Brooklyn Flea Market beckoned us into the converted bank building. Old maps, vintage clothing, mason jars for the kitchen pantry kept us happily engaged.

Downstairs were ingredients and a whole slew of local food producers offering samples...oh my. I loved the McClure Pickles guy and his products: full sour spears, coarse yellow mustard and a bloody mary mix spiked with pickle juice. It had enough kick to skip the vodka.McClure pickles

Next we sampled Kors d'oeuvres. The proprietor asked us where we were having lunch and then produced a photo on his iphone of a “must have” carrot and golden raisin appetizer offered there, in season of course. He had photographed it as an inspiration for another creative spread he was working on. I chuckled to think that New York, now perhaps even more so, Brooklyn, was one of the places in the world where obsessiveness about food seemed so normal.

We purchased his butternut squash and goat cheese spread and spent part of lunch at Franny’s fantasizing about it potential uses...atop pizza spread with caramelized onions was the consensus. Alas when we arrived back at the apartment, we realize the spread never made it into the bag..Sigh.

We literally blew into Franny's and it was wonderful. We shared the kale and bean soup, broccoli rabe and smoked pork sausage and what my daughter had described previously as a “life changing" clam pizza. Around us sat other refugees from the storm- Brooklyn families, young couples, all slightly soggy and glad to be in such a welcoming place.

Back at the apartment, Katherine started a batch of her  “No Knead” bread that she had been extolling for months. She explained the steps in detail and I tried out the fit of this role reversal: she teaching me how to cook something. Like a dress in a color you had never considered wearing, it opened a new world of possibilities.Batal brushes

I was scheduled to fly home later that evening, but the first of three scheduled and re-scheduled flights home was cancelled before I left for the airport. And suddenly the prospect of a cozy night battened down against a wind that shook the building was most appealing. And where else but NYC could you rely on a pretty good Chinese takeout delivery through rain and wind, to console us over the missing butternut spread?  We spread out the cartons to share at her “Craig’s list” dining table, then sat on the sofa chatting until I began to nod off. We once again pumped up my air mattress bed in the tiny office off the parlor. I dreamed sweet dreams of butternuts, communal tables and nesting birds. Or was that bowls?

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