It’s true. I’ve rekindled my romance with the Big Apple. The last time I was in New York was early 2006, which now feels like several lifetimes ago. Back then I was twenty-four and thought that I’d be living there by the time I turned thirty. But life takes its course, and you know how that goes.
Here we are, five years later and it’s exactly four months before my thirtieth birthday. And while I’d had a change of heart regarding my residency (I’m unhealthily attached to the Bay Area), it appears that I’ve fallen in love with New York all over again. Who could blame a girl after five and a half days of New York springtime, non-stop laughs, endless walking and too.much.to.eat? There was Alexander McQueen at the Met, which was absolutely breathtaking. And Music 3.0 at MoMA was awesome, too. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. Except for the fact that I wish I could have stayed for a few more days (or weeks, or months).
So it’s probably no surprise that I pretty much ate my way through the city. I ate everything: bagels, cookies, cupcakes, gelato, lobster rolls, lox, pie, pizza, popsicles, a Reuben, rugelach.
Here are a few of my favorites:
I cannot go to New York without making at least one stop at Zabar’s. I managed to get there twice on this trip. Zabar’s is sort of my Mecca. After we got settled, we hopped on the train and made our way to the Upper West Side. I headed straight to the upper level to wander around their ginormous housewares department. Then I went to get my rugelach. After that I spent about ten minutes admiring the fish counter before finally deciding on the gravlax. There’s nothing like paper thin slices of salt-cured salmon, buttery and tender with little bits of dill. I piled it on my bagel the following morning. It was a pretty great way to start the day.
I had the best dark and stormy at Elsa, a cute little bar in the East Village. Elsa’s dark and stormy is mixed with their house-made ginger beer, which has little bits of fresh ginger that give it a nice kick without being overwhelming. If I lived in New York, I would start (or end) all of my dates at Elsa. It’s nicely lit and the tables and booths are well arranged and their cocktail list is very enticing – perfect for sampling and staying a while.
The rumors are true. Everything you hear about Katz’s being the best New York deli and making to-die-for pastrami, all of it is true. My pops slipped me a Benjamin the morning I left for New York and told me to buy myself a Katz’s sandwich on him. So I did. And it was OMG-delicious. I ordered the combo Reuben on rye with corned beef and pastrami. The meat was juicy and flavorful and perfect. It was seriously the best Reuben I’ve ever had. Ever. I had to stop myself from eating the whole thing in one sitting (I happily ate the other half for breakfast the next day). Thanks, Rodney.
I’m so glad we made it to this sweet little pie shop in Brooklyn, which is a little off the beaten path. Out of all of the bakeries/sweet shops we visited, and there were many, Four & Twenty Blackbirds was my favorite. I tried three of their pies: salted caramel apple, lemon chess and strawberry balsamic. I actually ordered the strawberry balsamic to go and was so happy that I did (I tore it up in a hungover frenzy the next morning). It was a winner. But my favorite was most definitely the lemon chess. It reminded me so much of my grandma’s lemon pie – silky and lemony without being too tart or too sweet. I wish I could have brought a whole pie back to the Bay with me.
My last dinner in New York was at Prune. I can easily say that it was the best meal I’ve had in a long time. Prune felt like home in the sense that it reminded me of a restaurant that I would find in San Francisco or Oakland or Berkeley. It’s a very intimate space and the menu reflects the ambiance. Really thoughtful and well prepared without being overly fussy. We started off with roasted bone marrow and fried sweetbreads with bacon and capers. The sweetbreads were out of this world. And the whole grilled fish stuffed with fennel was perfect. Did I mention the leeks vinaigrette? I think they should be renamed melt-in-your-mouth leeks. There were cocktails and a bottle of Graves Blanc somewhere in between it all. We ended with warm ricotta fritters in chocolate sauce. That’s how you go out with a bang.
The first and last time I had Rosario’s was back in 2003, during my first visit to New York. We ended up there after a night of drinking at the bar across the street. That was a magical trip, even under the circumstances that brought us there. Rosario’s is real New York pizza. It has that thin, airy crust, crisp on the bottom, with just the right amount of sauce. It’s dream pizza. This time around, I couldn’t remember where it was so I had to call my sister to find it. Before I flew back home, I made my way to Rosario’s, had a slice of the Sophia for lunch, and ordered five slices of cheese to bring back to the folks, along with a dozen bagels from H&H, two chocolate babkas and cinnamon rugelach from Zabar’s, and cookies and crack pie from Milk Bar. That’s how I roll – with a carry-on bag full of deliciousness in tow.
Oh, New York. Until we meet again…