New York

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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m.-wells-dinette-300x225That’s a loaded statement so let me describe the dish before we go any further. It’s a pot of clam chowder — with a light cream base — with succulent, dinner-sized hunks of pork, rosy-pink and tender as a clam, floating in the broth. You spear the pork onto your plate with a fork and then ladle up the soup from the bottom of the pot where the spiced and diced potatoes, clams and vegetables are lurking. Oh baby, oh baby.

This all took place at MoMA P.S.1 in Queens where we caught an early dinner at the M. Well’s Dinette, which serves as the museum’s commissary. It’s not easy to catch dinner there because the Dinette is not open for dinner, but I guess we qualified as a very late lunch.

Whatever.

The M. Well’s Dinette is the second incarnation of this concept from Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis, who are partners in life and business. Hugue came to New York via Montreal’s Au Pied De Cochon and first opened M. Wells, where he dazzled and shocked New Yorkers with his fun, fat and filling take on the eating experience.

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gothamwestI’m obsessed. There’s no way of getting around it. I’m a walking Jackie Mason routine. At lunch, no before lunch, I’m deciding where we will go for dinner. At dinner, I’m wondering if the dessert menu will speak to me or will I just head home to my private stash. I always have a private stash of freshly baked goods. I’m more of a junkie when it comes to food.

I’m going to focus on just visiting New York here because Los Angeles, where I live, is different, and a few nights a week I try to cook. I’m not a very good cook and I’m so lazy that sometimes I pick up one sweet potato, not two, and a salad from the salad bar and call it dinner. My husband will remind me we can afford two sweet potatoes, but I shop at Gelson’s, so maybe we really can’t afford two.

Back to New York, where there is a huge difference in my energy level. All my friends comment on it. From the second I arrive, I’m off and running. First day, my husband had done some research. He suggested we walk to 11th avenue -- Hells Kitchen, where there is now a food marketplace called Gotham West Market. It’s similar to Eataly or the Ferry Building in San Francisco, though on a much smaller scale.

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BarRoomMy friend, Barbara and I were escaping the icy tundra of Maine for a long weekend in New York City to indulge in great food, theater and art.

We started our Sunday morning at the MOMA as the doors opened. Up to the fifth floor we flew. As I walked into the first gallery I was overcome with the ‘scent’ of a museum. I love that smell. My soul was being ‘refilled’. I was free floating in art heaven when I noticed Barbara looking at her watch so we wouldn’t be late for the lunch reservations she made. I looked the other way and thought about disappearing into the crowd. We had 2 more floors when it was time to go. I thought, today lunch is such an interruption.

Our greeting from the Maitre D’ was warm, friendly and he was impeccably attired. He led us to a nice table with a stellar view of the printed glass mural by Thomas Demand, Clearing II. I was concerned that only two tables were occupied-why was this not a popular place? At that point, I had no idea there was a restaurant worthy of a Michelin star in the MOMA and we had lunch reservations at it. Yes, it was the Bar Room at The Modern. I hadn’t asked a single question about our Sunday reservations. A simple, quick lunch and back to exploring two more floors of art was exciting enough for me.

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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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