Sunday, June 14, 2009

Time Out

Some years back, I used to visit my friends in New York, NY at least every year or so, but my life had its little perturbations and disruptions and alternatives, and the habit became a memory.

A few weeks ago, in the flurry of birthday phone-calls and invitations to visit, something clicked and my internal wistful "Oh if only" response somehow morphed into "Yeah, I should" and the airlines having little choice but to lure passengers with low prices pleased both themselves and me.

I've known my New York friends since pre-school. We all lived close by; our moms car-pooled us to pre-school, we played, our parents did cheese fondues together. As we grew up, our social orbits meandered and circled, we'd hang out, we not see hide or hair, we'd find ourselves at the same parties, we'd hear each other's names in passing, we'd bump into each other while out and about.

Or not, equally likely.

We all left the Old Country (parents and offspring), made new lives, but didn't lose the connection and amazingly, turned into people who like each other's company.

My visit was long overdue.
Pictures taken through a screen with an iPhone aren't necessarily worth looking at, but can serve as conformation that yes, indeed, I am here.

Jonathan is too much fun to hang out with, in large part because almost everything we do revolves around food. He both cooks and eats and values off-the-wall low-key eating experiences as much as shops that specialise in salt or a prix fixée meal prepared by a reknowned chef.

It's all good, baby.

Some weeks ago I read an article about Bahn Mi and I have to say I was intrigued, but promptly forgot about it as (a) geography prevented the immediate satisfaction of my curiosity or (b) I sketched a brilliant beading design or (c) I scribbled notes on an innovative knitting technique or (d) realised I needed to stop at the grocery store before going home or (e) my current book got interesting or (f) something.

After coralling coffee yesterday morning, we started wandering his neighbourhood.

We went into a swoonworthy store (K-something, no, not -Mart, something multi-syllabic and not anglo-sounding) containing such treasures as seventeen types of basmati and ten grades of burgul and Mrs Ball's Chutney (ah, nostalgia) and dried fruits and half a dozen varieties of black peppercorns and other intoxicants.

Today I plan to actually shop there. For real.

Then we walked on and Jonathan stopped to exclaim over a tiny shop-front he hadn't seen before.
Bahn Mi.

Of course, we had to split one for the experience (I don't usually eat breakfast, but I also don't pass up rare opportunities).
Oh yeah.

That pretty much set the tone for the day.

We split a somosa (pastry almost like in the old country, tasty filling - but the wrong spices - and a bit too dry), sampled a selection of Middle Eastern grain and legume dishes, explored a kitchen store (Le Creuset was no cheaper than anywhere else and besides, is too heavy and bulky for hand-luggage), met up with Dan, were thwarted by the saki bar being closed (how rude), and found the go-to-place for getting drunk on the cheap.
As if.

We found a gorgeous spice store with a mushroom cold room at which I bought some saffron sea-salt, haphazardly explored a basement Japanese supermarket at which I saw ikura in quantities larger than this and had brief thoughts regarding travel, refrigeration and hand-luggage. Dan ate salmon-infused rice wrapped in seaweed; Jonathan and I tasted.

We were lured into an Argentinian restaurant by the nostalgic promise of South African lobster tails (all I can say is that if I'd been caught catching such a small lobster and not throwing it back, there'd have been hell to pay. Back when I was growing up, the deal was that in season, anyone could catch up to five of them, provided they were at least a certain size - which these were not - and were not, I dunno, pregnant or with roe or something. I don't think this tail had yet hit puberty), and stayed for empanadas and sweetbreads and sangria and chocolate-covered dulce de leche mousse (though I think I can do better on the latter. Make a note).

Jonathan left and we went up to Dan's apartment, where he played me some of his compositions and took me to the roof.
Nice view, innit?

Today promises an exquisite lunch, shopping at K-something, and more adventures.

Tomorrow I'd like to get to School Products, just because it's What I Do when I come here. Perhaps the Met, unless Jonathan has more surprises in store.

Either way it feeds my soul, or whatever passes for same.


Juno said...

I'll give you a dollar if it wasn't Kalustyans...also they do mail order for emergencies.

Charlene said...

Heh, you get to keep your dollar.

Juno said...

I love that place.

Charlene said...

Not to be rude but: Duh - what's not to love? The place is utterly amazing.

My friend was recently in Australia and discovered a brand spanking new (to him and to everyone here) type of peppercorn (I think it's actually not a true peppercorn) and the guy at Kalustyan's muttered something about a contact and perhaps in a month or two...