Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Summer Holiday Part 2 - New York

Although the trip to New York is a once-a-year requirement, it's sometimes hard to see it as a holiday. Visiting family and friends can be tiring when juggling everyone's needs, and to return to the same place each year when you're already pretty familiar with it doesn't lead to much travel frisson. Lucky for me then that New York does have its fair share of things on offer.

My parents live far out on Long Island, and we tend to do our own cooking when staying with them. I love going to the giant supermarket near them, in the same way I sometimes love watching horror movies. The produce aisle brings on the first moment of fear in me: uniform and perfect shiny red red apples which my x-ray food vision sees as dripping with pesticides and wax, mushy in the middle and tasting of nothing. The produce has gotten better in recent years and now features some organic goods, though variety is still minimal despite its huge size. I next love to visit all the sugar-based aisles since these are the foods I grew up on: sugary cereals, cookies, drinks, snacks, pre-mixed baking goods. I've curbed my ways so these are more of a fascination than a temptation to me now, though I did still walk away with a giant tub of peanut butter (and our suitcases were already at their weight limit - that peanut butter led to the airlines ordering us to reduce our weight or pay £50, and Mr A&N being very disappointed in me).

Sadly, we didn't make it to a Mets game this year, though it may be due to the 'rule' I set up during our last Mets game, in which Mr. A&N, my brother, and I each had to sample a different junk food every three innings. A hamburger, chicken in a basket, and hot dog later (and that was just my share) and we were in a very bad way; thank god the game didn't go into extra time or that extra Italian sausage might have pushed me over the edge. Ah, those are good memories...

But I digress.

Into Manhattan, and and the real eating can begin. Mr. A&N is fond of saying that we've never had a bad meal in NYC (I'm including the outer boroughs), and with the help of my brother and my good friends, Megan and James (and the biggest gourmet in their house, their golden retriever Daisy) this is entirely true. My brother sought out Counter for our first night, an upscale organic vegetarian place; he was quite intent on helping us eat local and seasonal food (knowing that's something I consider important) which caused mild mental stress on his part but which I thought was a very lovely gesture. He also treated us to an evening at his favorite shochu bar (locally produced, not so much), which we had already acquired a taste for thanks to my brother; if you've never tried the liquor, it is highly recommended for its clean. whiskey-like taste. Megan and James led us to Bao, a Vietnamese place with Thai touches, after having read about my quest for good Vietnamese in London. The general standard of food in NYC is very high (I think it's a combination of plenty of competition forcing places to be top of their trade, and a ready pool of diners who can't cook/won't cook due to long working hours), and our record of never having a bad meal in New York remains.
We also wandered through both the Union Square Farmer's Market, and the food hall within Grand Central Station, both of which proved a nice antidote to the big anonymous supermarkets. The Grand Central food hall was filled with specialty stalls, and the variety of nice meats and cheeses and other goodies was impressive. The Farmer's Market was running over with beautiful bounties of vegetables and fruit, all of which I wanted to take home with me like some would a stray kitten. Tomatoes seemed to be the particular showpiece, with piles of gnarly purple, yellow, orange, and mundane red ones spilling forth from nearly every stall.
I'm a simple girl, though, and my greatest New York eating pleasures come from bagels and pizza. My favorite pizza place is gone so I'm cast adrift a bit on the pizza seas, but I think you'll all be reassured to know that my last stop before getting in a cab and heading to the airport was to buy a dozen and a few bagels from the daddy of bagel places, David's Bagels on 1st Ave and 14th Street. They were, naturally, fresh from the oven, and I had them bag the onion ones seperately so I could stick them in my hand luggage and they wouldn't infect the others with oniony-ness (I'm so savvy, me). They caused a bit of a stir at the x-ray machine, looking like suspicious god-knows-whats, but when the bag was opened the staff sighed at the scent and tried to negotiate buying them off us. Those little onion blessings saw us through the next 24 hours of travelling as we made our way from New York to Sweden, back to London and to home. The other bagels are now safely in the freezer and I shall be rationing out one a month for the next year, until I can return and buy more. My friends and family think I return to New York to see them, but really, it's the bagels.

1 comment:

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