I haven’t yet written about New York City here, which seems odd considering it has played a significant role in shaping my life for the past few years. Long story short (because I’m assuming most readers have heard this tale by now), after our last grad school finals in June 2010, Matt and I embarked on a road trip to NYC to see our respective friends there. We started the trip as relatively good friends, but by the trip’s end we both confessed (in a subway station, of course) to wanting something more. We didn’t quite define what that something was, but we were hopeful. Fast-forward a year and a half, and boom, we’re engaged. It is definitely cliché and Carrie-esque to say, but I’m always grateful that New York brought us together. New York City, and food, of course.
We just returned from a long weekend in the city, visiting friends and celebrating my sister’s birthday and Halloween. We saw all the things, ate all the things, drank all the things. It was spectacularly exhausting, as any stint in NYC should be. Here in the ‘burbs of Ohio, I don’t really get that kind of sensory overload on a daily basis. It’s a good thing, once in awhile.
We returned to Crocodile Lounge, a dive bar I would consider one of the least romantic places in the city if it weren’t where Matt and I first kissed. How they manage to offer a free pizza with every beer is a mystery to me, especially considering the very reasonable drink prices. It was the first New York bar experience for my sister’s boyfriend though, and I think he was relieved to discover that the city isn’t all celebrity chefs and stuffy four-star restaurants.
We did indulge in a few high-end cocktails though, first at Booker and Dax and then at Maysville. Booker and Dax, in the East Village, is run by my husband’s favorite food-industry personality, Dave Arnold. As luck would have it, when we walked in for our reservation, Arnold was pacing outside on the phone. We noticed he had one pant leg tucked into his sock, presumably because he had biked to the bar, which is attached to his partner David Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm bar. We were seated at a corner table in the snug, intimately lit room and proceeded to order a round of the bar’s technology-based, modernist cocktails. Matt sat there, beaming and fidgeting all the while. Everything I tasted was well-balanced and distinct in it’s own way, but my favorites were the astoundingly fresh Thai Basil Daiquiri (made with basil frozen with liquid nitrogen, simple syrup, lime juice and white rum) and the Bee Sneeze (milk-washed gin, honey, lemon and cracked pepper), which is now tied with Tony Conigliaro’s Coral Fizz for most perfect cocktail I have ever tasted.
Bolstered by a round of very delicious liquid courage, Matt introduced himself to Arnold and we chatted with him for a few minutes before he left. For a guy with so much on his plate, he was very generous with his time, giving us a break down of the drink menu, the bar’s philosophy and answering our questions about the large photo hanging next to our table in which Arnold is basically engulfed in flames. We apologized for delaying him, but to be honest, our apologies were not completely sincere. It was a pleasure meeting him, and for Matt, it was the equivalent of a ‘tween girl meeting One Direction, or a science geek meeting Stephen Hawking. So thank you, Dave Arnold!
Our celebrity sighting also almost made us late for our next reservation for dinner at Maysville in the Flatiron district. Named after the Kentucky port town where bourbon was supposedly “born,” this place boasts one hell of a whiskey list and a menu of refined Southern-style grub. On a Thursday night, the dining room was packed, so reservations are recommended. For NYC, entrees are reasonably priced ($24-$30) — and although the shared plates and appetizers seemed a bit steep ($9-$19), the portions appeared large enough to justify the price tag. The smoked oyster broth that surrounded my roasted artic char was sumptuous but not too heavy and fish itself had reached that melt-in-your-mouth buttery texture that all fish should strive for. My sister’s duck confit, which was actually an appetizer, also had great flavor although the texture wasn’t as heavenly. We didn’t order dessert, because cake was also on the agenda that night, but the fine folks at Maysville brought out a tray dotted with a few sweet bites for us to sample. The candle blown out, Manhattans sipped clean and dessert tray demolished, we headed out to a show at Upright Citizens Brigade.
We stayed in Brooklyn, so after the show we made a surprise stop (for Aubree) in Williamsburg at Momofuku Milk Bar. You may remember this guest post from Matt back in March, when he attempted the pistachio cake created by Milk Bar’s genius pastry chef, Christina Tosi. They have something called Crack Pie. And something called Franken Pie. And “Cereal Milk” — Milk Bar’s trademark beverage. It’s the stuff that sugar addicts dream about, and dieters are constantly taunted by. Anyway, my recommendation is to get to Milk Bar ASAP (if you are in NYC or Toronto) or, great news! You can order their goods and have them shipped directly to your face!
We weren’t about to celebrate a birthday WITHOUT cake, so we went straight to the source and picked up Milk Bar’s classic birthday cake. It’s like that Funfetti cake stuff you can buy at the store, but it actually feels like a party. The vanilla frosting tastes like actual vanilla beans, rather than syrupy extract. The rainbow cake crumble throughout is crunchy and whimsical. This cake makes all other Funfetti cakes seem dull and trivial and “fun” in the way that New Years Eve is fun. Like the watered-down fun that adults have at kids’ birthday parties. It looks like a blast, but is it, really? No offense, kids. I can imagine the people at Milk Bar having pictures of your standard Funfetti cakes up in the kitchen, with giant red X’s through them. Alright, that’s enough. Day 1 in New York, and I was already stuffed.