Last time I was in New York I was barely 21 with a neon heart. I spent my days recovering from numbed out nights spent stumbling ’round Brooklyn and Manhattan looking for the party, a party, a dim travelling circus with an 8-bit calliope I could weave a medieval twist to. I don’t remember the meals so much save a murky taco topped with Christmas lights, drunk pizza, and a faceless hangover brunch in Park Slope. Back then I wore pixie boots, a fringe cut, and my boyfriend’s guitar picks as earrings. I didn’t bother to remember names, couldn’t remember much at all… maybe asphalt laced ice crystals and gray leather pleats, the name of a favorite Olivia Tremor Control song and the entirety of Yeats’ “Second Coming”. The cost of a PBR & a pack of Camels. I could remember that. I fancied myself living in my own personal velvet underground, but I was, even then, becoming acquainted with the fear, that thinning of the self, that very certain bone-deep anxiety attendant to days spent in monochromatic deceit and nights in cheerful destruction. So I danced and drank harder and held hands with strange men. New York seemed good for the business of forgetting. That was nine years ago. This time was different.
This time I was there on altogether different business. I was in the business of long lunches, treasure hunting, being new in love, smoked fish, banisters, bundt cakes, iced coffee, photographs, making pasta, and candlelit suppers. I experienced the city in waking life instead of somnambulating through the tunnels. It was wholly other place, nothing at all like I didn’t remember it. It was new.
As our plane descended, neither of us bothered to be too blasé to crane our necks towards the window and watch that skyline rise into view, hand in familiar hand. Manhattan went from tinker toy to towering as we landed, and the mild mortal terror that I feel (despite copious amounts of air travel since I was a small child) until the air craft has safely landed and slowed to a reasonable amble down the runway was mitigated by effervescent anticipation. I had so much planned: restaurants I’d dreamed of for years, the Sunday Supper’s workshop & dinner, market stalls filled with produce and precious junk alike, record shops, and so many caffeinated afternoons spent amiably walking the trash confetti streets. Not one bar was on the agenda, not one rock & roll disco, not one hapless evening spent blind in one eye and missing the last train. How novel it was, really.
We settled into an 18th century townhouse in the heart of Williamsburg, a home base that turned out to be mere steps from Bakeri–try their lavender shortbread, Blue Bottle Coffee–try all their shortbread & iced coffee, and Diner/Marlow & Sons–try everything. Finding the neighborhood bodega stocked full of bourgie staples like kombucha, coconut water, and almond milk, we reckoned it was time to move after all.
Exhausted after travelling all day, we ended with a happy albeit largely silent supper at Diner. We shared a chilled peach soup with basil & toasted almonds, arctic char crudo with plums & sea salt, fried sardines, and a piece of blackened bluefish with coriander yogurt atop a smoked paprika spiced warm olive & potato salad. That soup. I will decode that soup. I will reunite with that soup. It was damn fine soup. I could have eaten there every night amidst the tile and mirrors and clatter of conversation.
That first meal is tied for my favorite with our lunch at Prune which was, interestingly, also
highlighted by a cold soup, this time a white gazpacho with green grapes & olive oil. It was so smooth and bright, with the perfect amount of peppery olive oil. I was wide eyed and nodding stupidly the entire time I ate it. A cold soup really pronounces its flavors. They’re always so cogent, cold soups. He had a zucchini ribbon salad that I greedily wished I could pilfer, and we shared a cured fish platter in the afternoon sun. For dessert I (and I alone) ate a whole poached peach in almond cream with the perfect crunch of candied almonds. I’m glad he doesn’t like stone fruits. That’s just fine.
This trip was a proper pilgrimage during which we ate too many amazing meals to recount in detail here, but here’s the short story:
Marlow & Sons (oysters, duck liver paté, chilled eggplant soup…oh my)
Momofuku Noodle Bar (Pork belly: buns and noodles. Hot sauce.)
Bakeri (an early drizzly morning or orange brioche, lavender shortbread, and espresso with pain au chocolate & zucchini blueberry cake to go)
Maison Premiere (oyster heaven with a New Orleans vibe that tugs my heart strings & the most refined small plates)
Salties (a grand sandwich perched on a tiny stool)
The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (salty pimp, y’all)
Momofuku Milkbar (I tried everything on my wish list from crack pie to cereal milk ice cream to every single cookie)
Blue Bottle Coffee (we had, oh I don’t know, fifty billion New Orleans iced coffees in the span of six days)
Carmine’s pizza delivery (Ordered on a night I wasn’t feeling well, I’m convinced those slices of greasy pizza the size of my face cured me.)