New York

shakeshack_lg.jpgI didn’t miss him all winter.  Everytime I spoke to our mutual friends, who I guess he got custody over as I was limited to phone time with them, they would tell me he was being cold, sort of erratic, he was being exceedingly difficult.  In some form or another he was costing them all money.  He was not as exciting as he used to be.  But now that it’s summer, I noticed a change in their voices. They’re all clearly laughing with him again, enjoying his company, discovering new aspects of his personality. 

I am not jealous, per se.  I do have someone else, someone way more suited to my personality.  Someone who’s made me a little bit blonder, and a little bit tanner, and a hell of a lot healthier, but there’s still a separate heartbeat consistent for my first true love, and sometime in the middle of the night, when I know he cannot hear me, I’ll tell him: “New York, I miss you."

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raooutside.jpgWe all know the few things in our lives that give us status above and beyond our own reality.

Our dog, Buzz (an apricot poodle that bears an uncanny resemblance to Rod Stewart), always attracts attention, is far more famous than we are – and prettier! Telling people I am a union member (OK, it’s SAG) has always given me a certain social gravitas among my political friends. Doing a book on Richard Wagner has made me a “distinguished visitor” at the American Academy in Berlin… not a way in which I am normally described. I have a relative – John Singleton Mosby – that brings Southerners to their knees in a show of respect when his name is mentioned, but white smoke rises when people find out Bill and I have a Monday night table at Rao’s – the impossible dream. Or, as they might say when you call for a reservation, FUGGEDABOUDIT!

Monday night at Rao’s isn’t your average Monday night somewhere else. Rao’s, in Spanish Harlem and in the same family since 1896, with only ten tables and one seating is ‘famiglia’, and as such is closed over the weekend. Monday night is its weekly re-birth and the crowd is always gleeful, festive and full of song. (Yes they sing at Rao’s … but that is another story.) Monday night regulars, besides the characters that look like the cast from Goodfellas – and sometimes are, have included Sonny Grasso (the real cop from the French Connection) sportswriter, Dick Schaap (when Dick passed away Billy Crystal asked in his eulogy who would inherit the table), Ron Perlman, Woody Allen, and Judge Eddie Torres (who wrote Carlito’s Way and Q and A). Also seen Monday nights, Sophia Loren, Senator Alphonse D’Amato, Mike Wallace, Sharon Stone, Martin Scorsese, Don Rickles, Pierce Brosnan – the list is endless.

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dan.jpgA friend of mine says that all the restaurants in New York City are good. Her belief is that is that with so many options, only quality survives. I’m not one to put her theory to the test as I have been to NYC only three times in my life and on two of the trips “fine dining” was definitely not an option. On this most recent visit, I was with my husband and 17-year-old daughter—showing her “the city” before dropping her off at college in Massachusetts. Our plan was to have one special dinner. If all the restaurants in NYC are so good, then how do you decide where to go?

I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I wanted to go to Blue Hill in Greenwich Village, and no, not because the Obama’s went there on their “NYC date night” (although how cool is that?). I wanted to go to Blue Hill not only because I love (obviously) the whole farm-to-table philosophy, but because I have had the opportunity to test Blue Hill Chef Dan Barber’s recipes in the Bon Appetit test kitchen. Dan Barber’s recipes are awesome—any one of these on Epicurious will please. After experiencing his creative treatment to vegetables—Cauliflower Steak and Kale Chips, I knew that if I ever had the chance to eat at Blue Hill, I would.

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freddeny.jpgThe East Village is, was and always will be my hood in the big apple. Sure, I now stay on the Upper West Side and much to the dismay of my husband, I gravitate downtown. He will often say “downtown again?” My friend Peggy always lived on the Lower East Side and she was my friend-to-stay-with in New York. It was really seedy and exciting then, the 70’s. It’s been totally gentri-yuppie-fied in recent years. The Hells Angels owned the block – or maybe even blocks – around where Peg lived. And each day as I ventured out, one or another of them would ask me to fetch him something like matches perhaps from the corner store. So I did. Who wouldn’t? It was always more of a command – and I was to obey.

One hot summer night when Peggy and I were feeling playful and fearless, I actually hopped on the back of Mike the Bike’s Harley for a quick spin around Alphabet City. She was on the bike of another Hells Angel whose name I cannot recall; I only remember his toothless grin and his notoriety from the Altamont infamy of some years earlier. I am not the biggest adventurer – in fact, I’m not adventurous at all.

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serendipity cocoTrips to New York City have become scarce over the years.  (Maybe non-existent is a better description.)

I don't have family, friends or business in New York.  All past trips have been purely hedonistic, with food always at the top of my list.

I visit all the tourist traps.  I can't help it.  I am a tourist when I'm there, a downtown poser in every sense of the word.  Every trip has consisted of visits to the Empire State Building, Tavern on the Green, a carriage ride through Central Park and Serendipity 3.

Serendipity 3 reminds of a place you would celebrate your sweet sixteen.  A glorified malt shop with faux Tiffany lamps, long lines, marginal service and so-so food.  However, they won't let you make a reservation for just have to eat a meal.  So we would eat....just to get dessert.

There is only one reason I patronized Serendipity 3...for the Frozen Hot Chocolate.  It's out of this world. 

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