New York

murrays2.jpgIt is the tail end of another Manhattan winter, and my boyfriend and I have started hunkering down on extravagant costs. Everyone, as we know, is in a bit of a financial panic, but for us, it’s just a fact that after the holidays and before the advent of spring, we have to reign in our budgets. When we forego seeing Broadway shows or buying concert tickets, one thought still remains supreme: The belly feeds the mind. Financial constraints cannot possibly mean a want for good food. For me, cheap eats is really all about more bang for your buck. Sometimes that means quantity can outweigh quality, but in a city like New York, that fortunately never has to be the case.

My perfect fix came by way of a suggestion from my Alex (the boyfriend), which turned into a ritual Sunday activity. Before we would hit up the Chelsea Cinema for a matinee show, we would grab two everything bagels with scallion cream cheese and tomatoes from Murray’s Bagels on Ninth Avenue. Now, we hit up Murray’s at least three times a week, but instead of purchasing a twelve dollar movie ticket all the time, we sometimes just watch pre-recorded movies on the IFC channel. The bagels, not the entertainment, really do the trick on their own.

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bierrereWe finally got up on the roof at Eataly for a German-Italian- American-style lunch at Birreria.

Like most things at Eataly it did not disappoint. Birreria is a stunner — a wide open rooftop with views of the Flatiron Building to the Southwest and the Empire State Building looming over the campanile-style Metropolitan Life Building to the North.

The inner visuals satisfy as well — the eye gets stimulated as well as the appetite. There’s a retractable vaulted ceiling that gives you that German-beer-hall-we’re-all-going-to-get loaded-together feeling, but then there’s this red motif with the chairs and a lot of natural wood that makes you think you’re in … I don’t know … California? Anyway, it’s good. You want to be there.

They’re making their own beer, of course — that’s on one side behind a glass wall with serious-looking copper vats with pipes coming out of them. On the other side of the room they have wines coming out of spigots from big barrels. Mario, I love you.

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nathans.jpgMy boyfriend and I have next to no private time. Much to our chagrin we both are currently back in our parent's houses and our date nights generally consist of holing up in his childhood bedroom trying to keep the TiVo at a reasonable volume. Then he got his driver's license. Although this freedom arrived for my suburban friends at around 16, as a native New Yorker being able to drive still seems novel. Clearly we wanted all of our dates thereafter to be road trips.

We thought for our first evening we'd venture out to Coney Island. I had never been, and it seemed there'd be an appropriate balance of kitsch and delicious hot dogs to make for a good time. Naturally our first stop was Nathans. After ordering what seemed like one of everything you can do with a hot dog we settled in at our counter. No sooner had we done this then a young boy who had been stabbed came running in to the open-air restaurant. Panting, he shouted that someone had "knifed" him and that he was being chased. I seemed to be the only one who wasn't aware that this was an everyday occurrence here in South Brooklyn.

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bartono.jpg We’d finally made it all the way to Park Slope, it was less than warm, and I’m pretty sure I had mascara on my forehead from frantically trying to fix my make-up on the subway.  You can imagine my dismay when the only boy I really wanted to see on my trip to New York wasn’t even home.  But we couldn’t just call him!  It would be much better if we ‘just happened to be in the neighborhood’.  “They can’t be far. Their car is here!” But how were we gonna kill an hour in the middle of residential nowhere in 20 degree weather?   That’s when we found it.  BAR TANO.  A little haven of happiness with pressed tin walls and a zinc bar.

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prunemenuDid I read Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones, and Butter? Yes. Is it why we went for dinner at Prune? Yes. Am I glad we did? Absolutely!

Our taxis slowed down on a narrow street in NYC’s East Village as our driver struggled in the darkness to find street numbers. All of a sudden car headlights appeared in back of us and laid on their horns breaking the peaceful silence of a short East Village street. Our driver assured us we were very close to Prune even though none of us could find the storefront. We exited the cab after ending our conversation on home cooking in his native Ghana and thanked him for our cab ride filled with stories. Once we were out of the cab finding Prune restaurant was simple. We could smell the aroma slipping through the multiple cracks in the painted black storefront. We followed our noses like rabid bloodhounds catching a scent.

Shabby chic? Most definitely! No, I don’t think a set decorator could fabricate the wornness of this restaurant nor would they want that on a resume. I think it earned its wornness over many decades. Maybe I am wrong and maybe it is faux but this place is a charmer and it is as comfortable as a pair of UGG slippers. It’s a place you dream of having in your neighborhood - but don’t.

The food isn’t perfect but it is just perfectly real. The salad greens we ordered were classically ‘too’ large but the olive oil that dripped from them was a luscious yellow green and I know that it was freshly pressed last month. So, if you go, pick up your knife and fork and focus on the realness. I loved the simplicity of the food and its surroundings.

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