Sunday, October 12, 2008

28 Hours in New York City

Thanks to the gracious hospitality of Mr. & Mrs. Palmer, who are currently on a fabulous five-week honeymoon in parts unknown, Mr. Fritz and I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days in Manhattan. We took the Vamoose bus up and back ($25 each way, per person, straight from Rosslyn to Penn Station; we highly recommend it!) and, while there, walked all over the lower part of the city. We started out by walking down 8th Avenue all the way past Bleecker to a little cafe called The New French. We were fairly famished, and both went with the French Toast, which turned out to be very new indeed, in that it was spiked with chilis. The little kick was definitely different, but in a good way. The plates were garnished with fresh raspberries, blueberries, pears, and pineapple. I haven't had fresh pineapple since our honeymoon, and its presence on my plate was more than welcome!

After brunch, we wandered across to the Palmers' spectacular place. Along the way, we passed by Magnolia Bakery and marveled, yet again, at the line that stretched around the corner filled with people who were waiting to get their hands on the shop's fabled cupcakes. In my opinion, the gems at
Georgetown Cupcake far surpass those at Magnolia, but I guess that would be cold comfort to New Yorkers looking for a cupcake fix.

One of the many things I love about Mr. Fritz is that he is as interested in my heritage as I am. More than a year ago, I'd seen this story in the New York Times and after reading it, was convinced that we had to go find Atlantic Ave. the next time we were in the city. So, after dropping our stuff off at the Palmers', we made our way on the subway to the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn to check out, among other things, the famous Sahadi's market.

And make no mistake, it was a revelation. Family-owned for decades, it was awash in Lebanese goodness. As I wandered around the shop, dodging the many people that were packed in the aisles, doing their weekly shopping, I marveled at the Lebanese olive oil and cooking staples such as orange blossom water and pomegranate syrup. But when I got to the bulk foods section of the store, I was truly blown away: vats of dried mint leaves, chick pea flour, and grains of all varieties lay waiting to be purchased. Enormous containers of spices for pennies. Cheeses, fresh phyllo dough, nuts, you name it, it was there and it was inexpensive. I couldn't get over it. If I lived near it, I'd shop there all the time. (Well, there, and at the largest Trader Joe's I've ever seen, which happened to have opened two weeks ago about a block away.)

In addition to Sahadie's, we browsed the shelves at Damascus Bread and stopped at a restaurant named Tripoli for mezze and mint tea. T had some arabic coffee, and he said that the taste immediately returned him to his summers spent in Jordan. Taste memories are like that, I think. They can transport you in a way that telling a story or seeing a photograph just can't. After enjoying the mezze, which included some of the best falafel I've encountered anywhere, we stopped into another market, one that reminded me of Usherme's, the Lebanese grocery on Warren Ave. that I used to visit with my mother when I was a child. Here, too, there were vats of grains and nuts and flours. They also stocked the same dried fruit rollups I used to beg my mother to buy for me at Usherme's. Still packaged the same way, just seeing them made me think of my childhood.

Our time in New York included a couple of other meals. We had dinner (Pad Thai for me, chicken, noodles and broth for Mr. Fritz) Saturday night at a Chinese noodle bar called
amidst a crush of college students. Located right on Union Square, the place is quite a scene. We looked pretty boring in comparison to the woman with the red hair and the green-and-gold sequined mini-dress, for instance. The highlight, for me, was an excellent coconut milk-lime juice-pineapple juice-orange juice drink. I think they called it a Pineapple Coconut Cooler. I called it delish.

This morning, we walked over to the East Village to have brunch at a creperie called
The Crooked Tree. We walked across 8th St. to get there, passing all sorts of wild shops along the way. In addition to the multiple tattoo parlors, we also passed a place that offered cheap peep shows (oh my!) and a couple of street vendors that sold, among other things, neon-colored wigs. I was very tempted to try on and take home a hot pink one, a la Sidney Bristow, but refrained myself.

At The Crooked Tree, where the decor included three Run DMC action figures and a framed photo of Snufaluffagus, service was slooow, but we had a great meal. Mr. Fritz, not a fan of the crepe, went with a waffle. I had a savory crepe filled with fresh mozzarella, basil and Roma tomatoes, then convinced him to share a sweet crepe with me, one filled with bananas, chocolate and caramel and topped with freshly whipped cream. As Mr. Fritz put it, you can never have enough whipped cream. A man after my own heart!

All in all, a wonderful weekend. And fun to spend a couple of days not cooking!

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

How fun!

I love that you are doing this. I am in desperate need of dinner inspiration!