I spent the whole of last week in New York for work, and apart from the fact that I basically worked a string of thirteen-hour days---starting at 8am East Coast time and ending at 6pm West Coast time, very clever how they tricked me into that---it was a lovely time, during which I only lost the feeling in my lower extremities once. Yes, it was cold in New York, the sort of cold I haven't felt in ages. In fact, I had to pop in to H&M one evening and buy an Emergency Scarf, and what I didn't realize until later was that this scarf, paired with my big white fluffy wool hat with the pompom on top, made me look a little like an extra from Where's Waldo.
Or, as it was called in the UK when I was little, Where's Wally. I would pay good money to find out why Wally was Wally in England and Waldo in America, and I expect there would be an ebay seller willing to tell me. Something to do with Ralph Waldo Emerson, perhaps? Did he have a penchant for red and white stripes?
Anyway, I tell you one thing: the $25 I paid to check my bag so I could fly my wellington boots across the country was some of the best money I've ever spent. Those wellington boots got the most wear in New York that they've had in the entire year I've owned them. I was jumping in slushy puddles on purpose by the end of it, just because I could.
Apart from working a lot, the other thing I did in New York was eat. Telling people that you're going to New York is always fraught with anxiety because everyone knows the best place for dim sum/mac and cheese/hot chocolate, and everyone wants to tell you about it, and before you know it, you've got four hundred brunch suggestions typed haphazardly into your iPhone, and you're plotting out strategies---NO-ONE SLEEP! WE'RE NOT SLEEPING! WE'LL TAKE SHIFTS!---to ensure that you get to all of them.
So this time, I didn't do that. I didn't solicit suggestions from anyone. When I was hungry, I left my hotel room or the office and I let Yelp be my guide. I met up with friends on two nights and I just showed up where they told me to be. With the exception of a horrible Pret a Manger baguette---why is Pret a Manger so nice in England and so Gas Station Sandwich over here?---I didn't eat a bad thing the entire time I was in New York. In fact, I ate an extraordinary amount of truly delicious things. Here's where:
Times Square Hot Bagels: Look, I know midtown is not exactly a hotbed of culinary activity. I know I could have done better on the bagel front if I'd wanted to walk more than a block from my hotel, but the truth is it was twenty-six degrees out at 7am and I didn't want to walk more than a block from my hotel for a bagel and a cup of coffee, and this place hit the mark. I went in there four days in a row and had a different bagel and cream cheese combination every single time. By the time I left on Friday, I was a regular. They knew my name when I walked in the door. Well, not my name, maybe. My coffee order, definitely.
Columbine Foods: Rather unfortunate name, rather incredible sandwich. I'm still thinking about this sandwich, actually, because it was....intriguing. I had the Malibu Veg, which was sharp cheddar cheese, chipotle mayo, and large pea sprouts on a thick, dense, chewy multigrain bread: a hippie sandwich if ever there were one, and not really something I'd normally order, but I was in the neighborhood after a meeting and needed a quick bite to eat. Yelp led me here and Yelp also told me to order a Cowboy Cookie. Yelp was not wrong. Yelp is never wrong about cookies.
The Upholstery Store: I would like to pretend I found this teeny-tiny little wine bar by myself while wandering around the West Village pretending to be glamorous, but the truth is that Deb chose it, because food bloggers always choose the best little dimly-lit wine bars at which to meet you for drinks. Food bloggers, as it turns out, also bring you fresh-baked challah bread in a little Ziploc bag because it was "just something [they] were experimenting with for the cookbook." Tucked into a corner table at The Upholstery Store, Deb, Metalia, and I drank crisp Austrian Gruner and snacked on pickled vegetables, meaty olives, and creamy cheeses served by a waiter who, I kid you not, believed that he was Justin Timberlake. He looked like him, spoke like him, and even dressed like him. It was quite a commitment, I have to say. If you don't go for the Gruner, at least go for him.
Park Italian Gourmet: Look, if I say this was one of the best sandwiches of my life, it starts to sound like hyperbole. But you try putting fresh mozzarella, fresh prosciutto, roasted red peppers, and balsamic vinegar on crunchy-chewy italian bread, then telling me otherwise. This place was no-frills and no-nonsense and I'm pretty sure they didn't give me back the right change, but the minute I bit into that sandwich, I didn't care.
Jacques Torres: I have no excuse, your honor, it was right across the street from my office. I ordered the Wicked Hot Chocolate and a chocolate chip cookie, gooey and warm from the oven. I do not wish to speculate on how quickly I consumed these two things. I also do not wish to speculate what they did to my ass.
Shake Shack: Speaking of asses, and of ruining one's own, I would like to confirm that the hype about Shake Shack is true. Trust me, I did not want to believe that the hype about Shake Shack was true: I am an In-N-Out girl through-and-through. But I had to try it, and try it I did, and I believe I am now fully converted. You will, at some point, ask yourself who drinks a milkshake on the frozen East coast in the middle of February, but you will answer quite calmly that this person is you.
Little Branch: I met Zan, Alice, and Sarah for drinks at Little Branch one evening, and I knew I would like it as soon as I heard I should look for the unmarked door. It's the kind of place where you could scan the menu for a drink or you could just tell the bartender that you like rye whiskey, the color periwinkle, and the smell of autumn leaves on your uncle's farm in Maine, and he'd come back with a perfectly personalized cocktail just for you. They have darkly-lit booths, the sort of jazz that isn't the douchey kind, and free bowls of nuts and hard pretzels. They also have some rules:
One If By Land: This is apparently "the most romantic restaurant in New York," which meant Sarah and I drew a few stares as we dined a deux---I think we were the only two people not being proposed to over candlelight that night---but it was so pretty and so atmospheric and the service was so lovely and gracious. Right after we'd ordered, they moved us downstairs to a better table, and we both had a small panic about whether we should bring our bread or leave it there. "What would rich people do with their bread?" I hissed to Sarah. "What would Oprah do?" We agreed that Oprah would leave the bread. We left our bread and they brought us new bread---whew!---and we spent the rest of the meal trying not to use the wrong fork.
Anyway, so that was my culinary tour of New York in five days; I'd love to hear any of your own favorite spots. In the meantime, anyone know any restaurants that only serve acai berries and dust? I think I need to detox.