Monthly Archives: July 2011

almost, but not quite: the last week with a manhattan zip code

It’s funny the things you notice when you are acutely aware that it could be your last opportunity to experience them in the flesh.  And it’s mostly the small things, really; those less obvious neither here nor theres that arrive at you as seemingly insignificant and blurred pieces in one colossal jigsaw puzzle.  At first blush, you have a tangled and mismatched pile of confusing languages, brilliant colors, and piercing sirens; it’s all but hopelessly overwhelming.  Comprehending the beauty in the smallest corner of the biggest piece is nearly impossible.

But then, when the craggy lines of the once cryptic parts align just so, you suddenly find yourself staring at one beautiful and electrified undulating mass that is New York City.  A shiny lock that catches the light on the dingiest part of a busy block, a brilliant red water pipe that astutely defies its grey walled patch of real estate, the sharp lines of a flower that from far away look like feathers, rain drops clutching onto wide green leaves lest they lose their battle and sizzle on the concrete, etchings of dates where electricity and taxi cabs were not yet even figments in an imagination (that remind you just how young we really all are), and blocks that no matter how many times I stroll their storied streets never fail to take my breath away.

In these final few weeks I have had in the city to tie up the many twisted and far reaching vines that we have cultivated and tended during our time here, I have finally stopped to soak up these smaller pieces that before were nothing but a blur during rush hour.  I have walked everywhere, camera in tow, letting my Metrocard run dry to ensure that I would not be tempted to hop the 6 train but instead criss and cross and zig and zag down streets and around bends where I would have normally rushed past.  I’ve spent time with dear friends, had a visit from my lovely parents, and stopped in at all of my neighborhood shops.  I’ve done plenty of cooking – a sour cherry clafoutis to share with my neighbors, a crisp pan fried piece of fish that (I think) rivals even the best fried fish’n’chips, a light summer salad brimming with heirloom tomatoes, juicy peaches, and goat cheese, and an eggplant dish that I ate for lunch, and then dinner – and then lunch again the following day, it was that good.  But I’ll tell you all about that later.

For now, I just want to soak up my last couple of nights in the city – the movers will be here to pack me up and whisk me away with barely enough time to eat one last mint chocolate chip cone at Cafe Cluny, and taste one last bite of a banh mi at Baoguette.  Here are a few small final sights of my New York City puzzle….

{bouys lined up on carmine street, outside a favorite cafe}

{spools of colorful thread at my tailor}

{catching a glimpse of the rain after a flash sun-shower in union square}

{our favorite west village restaurant}

{an old favorite bar located on an old favorite street}

{a peek-a-boo while buying inexpensive street flowers, which i will dearly miss}

{a surprising spiky flower}


{smooth metal brightens up a tough block}

{a glimpse of a half address, that i have always coveted so}

{a unique daily affirmation i will truly miss walking past}

{chipped and weathered cafe chairs, that in mere hours will hold patrons eating moules et frites}

{and finally, time to call it a night….goodbye, NYC}

decidedly unassigned: israeli couscous salad with artichokes, roasted peppers, feta & lemon shallot vinaigrette

Something that really chaps my derriere is perusing a menu and coming across something like ‘Asian chicken salad’ – whereby someone has decided that tossing sesame dressed chicken with crispy fried noodles, cucumbers, and sliced water chestnuts on a bed of lettuce somehow makes that salad a dish that you would actually typically find in Asia.  Yeah….not.

I can’t help but think it’s a bit offensive to present our Americanized palates as being that all-purpose, don’t you?  The moment something has feta cheese it’s “Greek,” a chicken sandwich in a pita is now “Middle Eastern,” and slapping some jalapenos and avocado on a burger suddenly qualifies America’s trademark sandwich as “Mexican.”  Actually, it kind of scares me to think just what these countries are calling the “American Omelet” or “USA Burger”…. :: shudder ::

{wait! there’s more…}

accented properly: salsa verde

One of the things that has always bugged me about Giada DeLaurentiis is her affinity for saying very Italian words in the middle of a very English sentence in very exaggerated Italian.

“And today, I am going to make a special “REE-GAA-tone-ay!” pasta with a chunky “bol-ohn-YAY-SAY!” and some homemade “ree-GOAT-AH!” cheese….and for dessert, a delicious spread of homemade “BEES-GOHT-ay!” cookies and a very special “ah-mah-REY-TEY!” coffee surprise!”

I mean, I get it. I do. You were born in Italy. You speak fluent Italian.  You were probably brought up eating amazing and authentic Italian food, and you can undoubtably homemade “ree-GOAT-AH” me under the table any day.  But forcing words in that grating and over-enunciated-know-it-all way makes you sound like you should be slanging pies at Grimaldi’s, not explaining how to properly layer a veggie lasagna to a mostly American crowd.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Grimaldi’s, I love Italian accents, and I am all about not dumbing things down for any uncultured American ears.  But the sudden and jerky interspersal of tricked out Italian words in the middle of a calm and non-accented sentence just doesn’t jive with me.

Then last week, I made salsa verde.  And I can never make fun of Giada again.

“We are having ‘SAL-sahhh VERRR-day!’ tonight!” is all that came out of my gab, over and over…and over again.  It’s just so fun to say! Why deadpan the boring “why yes dear, we are having some green herb salsa over scallops this evening” when you can have “SAL-sahhh VERRR-DAY!” time?!

{wait! there’s more…}