New York

danjiext1mike tucker glasses1I had an experience the other night that was right out of Larry David’s universe or Seinfeld’s. A classic. I’ll try to describe it for you.

It was around 9:45 and I was at Danji, the wonderful Korean fusion restaurant on West 52nd Street, waiting for Jill after her show. Our friends Florence and Richard Fabricant were seeing the show that night and we were all going to have dinner. I know that mentioning Florence Fabricant is name- dropping – I apologize — but her position as a famous food writer for the NY Times is part of the story.

So, I’m sitting at the bar, sipping a nice white with a Japanese name from Alsace. Yeah, a Japanese wine from Alsace – or an Alsatian wine with a Japanese owner – whatever – it’s very good.

I get the manager’s eye and he comes over.

“I’m with the Fabricant party. I’m the first to arrive,” I say.

He looks into his book, shakes his head and says, “You know, we don’t normally take reservations.”

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russdaughtersextIf you have been to Russ and Daughters you know that they have 5 kinds of salmon, the best smoked fish, many flavors of cream cheese and then you have to pick a bagel, toasted or not: lots of choices and combinations. I had worked out the fine details of what I would order. I had one shot at it as we were on a tight eating schedule. Not every minute over a 5 day span, a few minutes here and there. I could study all I wanted but until I saw what the various salmon looked like on that day it was only a guess.

We flew into JFK, checked into our hotel and it was still only 9:00AM. Next stop, Russ and Daughters. A subway ride south combined with a brisk walk as our phone’s GPS showed us the way. It started raining but we had an umbrella, then it started sleeting - that was fine, we are made of hearty Maine stock. All of a sudden it started snowing the biggest flakes we have ever seen and it reduced NYC to the feel of a small town. That is until the snow thunder started.

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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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crownheightsI went to New York recently to visit my daughter Lena, see her apartment and meet her dog, Fabio, a rescued Mexican Hairless. She lives in an area of Brooklyn known as Crown Heights? That’s supposed to be said with a bewildered Southern California interrogative lilt.

Frankly I’m appalled that my daughter has chosen to stay in New York after college. When I did my 5-year stint in New York as a Not Ready For Prime Time Player, that Trade Winds’ lyric “New York’s a lonely town, when you’re the only surfer-girl around” often played in my head. I suppose the writing was on the wall when Lena, a third generation Southern Californian, never learned to drive.

Naturally I’m proud of my daughter for countless reasons but one in particular is that she’s actually making a living in New York with little financial help. I have to admit to being a little suspicious and having frightening fantasies of her being a pot messenger amongst other morbid scenarios that say more about me than anything else. She lives in a gorgeous but admittedly run-down, vintage 4-story walk up which explains why the rent is so cheap but the apartment is big by any standard. A few of its tenants sit out front all day playing the dozens. Some are drunk, some are dentally challenged, but they all know her and they all look out for her.

When she gave me a culinary tour of her neighborhood, I got the second clue as to how she managed to live so frugally.

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kajitsu-300x200To celebrate my vegan’s birthday, I called Kajitsu on 9th street in the East Village and made reservations. Actually, I had serious reservations. Kajitsu is Shojin cuisine, which means we’d be eating vegetables and grains as they are prepared for Buddhist monks. Now, I have nothing against monks of any stripe, but they do have a reputation for austerity and that’s never been my go-to word when scouting out dinner.

But this was Jill’s birthday, not mine, so off we went through the biting cold to see what the monks were cooking up. We were greeted graciously and austerely and led to our table in the back. I must say it was wonderful not to hear loud voices competing over pulsing music. Kajutsi offers us only the faint tinkling of a waterfall somewhere off in the distance.

You can order the four-course menu or the eight-course menu and we opted for four. I added a sake pairing with each course, of course. Jill sniffed each sample of my sake because she doesn’t imbibe. But she loved the sniff of each subtle fragrance — each one different, each one perfectly suited to the food it was paired with.

Okay: the food. It is very, very good.

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