Last week Allegra and I got into my new/used car and drove into NYC for a visit to my hometown for over 3 decades for the first time in 3 months. Without missing a beat I found my way to the East Village like Pavlov's dog. It was nice to be in a spot that I have loved just about all my life. My recent move does not diminish my feelings for it. Even my parking karma was still at work as I found a place to put my car on the correct side (Tuesday- Friday, after 10:30 am - you know what I mean?) of the street smack in front of my friend's building. After settling in, Allegra & I took our customary afternooon walk to check into some friendly spots - Timbuktu, a Moroccan housewares emporium on 2nd Avenue between 2nd & 3rd streets to say "Hello" to shop manager, Robert. Owner, Blaoui, was in Morocco on a shopping spree. Then onto to the two John Derian stores on 2nd street between the Bowery and 2nd avenue. Allegra was especially happy to trot through the doors of these exceptionally well-stocked dry goods and assorted home goods and accessories shops - that make you absolutely giddy with happiness with all the colorful and luxurious choices - because the shopkeepers always had a biscuit ready for her. And they still have biscuits for her. Then back to our home-away-from home and dinner for Allegra. I rushed over to The Bowery Hotel to meet my friends from the Dominican Republic who were passing through the city. Sitting in front of the hotel's baronial roaring fire, we sipped single malt Scotch and had a good catch-up. I had to force myself out of the hotel lobby's uber comfortable chairs and make a bee-line for Soba Koh on 5th street just east of 2nd avenue where I was meeting my friends, and NYC hosts, for dinner. I was hearten to see the noodle maker just leaving his window work spot. That meant the noodles that I was about to eat would be very fresh. Soba Koh was one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants when I lived in the city. It's Japanese home cooking at it's finest - and noodle heaven. For starters we shared a plate of age soba - fried soba noodles, a succulent salad of paper thin daikon, and steamed broccolini with sesame sauce. I had soba noodles in miso broth with floats of age tofu - fried tofu, and streamers of green onions as my main course and could not have been happier. We shared a dish of black sesame pudding to sweeten our palates.
Wednesday's weather was nasty and as soon as I ran a few errands, I met my friend Roy at what was essentially my FAVORITE neighborhood restaurant (even although I had to walk 5 blocks to get there - oy!!!) , Momofuku. It's right up there as an all-time favorite dining spot - anywhere in the world. Chef/owner David Chang never ceases to amaze with his stunning creations made with a combination of disparate flavors and a deft hand. Vegetarians, beware. This place is not for you. Chang uses pork as if it were a spice.
No meal at Momofuku begins without an order of their legendary pork buns. The slices of melt-in-your-mouth heritage pork are lightly painted with hoisin sauce and propped between a cloud-like bun with thinly sliced, barely-pickled cucumbers and scallions. We shared a a bowl of apple cider (and other Asian ingredients) glazed root vegetables that were tossed with tiny, crunchy bits of pumpernickel, golden raisins and crispy ham. And, a bowl of what I would describe as David Chang's interpretation of a Portuguese seafood stew - his was made with grilled octopus, scallion kimchi, salsify, chinese sausage, a kind of foam of cara cara oranges - topped with baby arugula. My palate was dazzled. I paid no attention to the chilly, grey, drizzling outdoors - and went home to sit on the couch with my friend, Rita, and our dogs, while we watched a bad movie - Contagion, if you care to know.
We ventured out a little later to pick up our opera-dinner sandwiches at the fairly new, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. Opera-dinner sandwiches, you ask? Yes, a tradition. My friend, the late Rose Inghram and I used to go to the Met together years ago. Rose brought sandwiches to snack on during intermission. Her caveat - they couldn't make noise while eating them and they had to be neat. We almost always ate cream cheese and olive sandwiches on white bread. Leap ahead to my opera companions of the past few years. We bring sandwiches to eat at intermission too. They have no caveats. I live in fear that someday the Met will follow our trail of crumbs and put us on a "do not allow entry" list. However, the risk was worth every bite of our Il Buco sandwiches. Even before the Met's crystal chandeliers were magically pulled up to the ceiling (I go to the opera just for the thrill of seeing that happen), we ate our "first course" sandwich - cheddar cheese and copious amounts of caramelized onions on a baguette, and a bonus piece of torta Pasqualina, a kale packed torte - not a tart because it was about 3-inches high with an egg hidden inside. As Don Giovanni and Zerlina sang their famous duet, la ci darem la mano, (I forgot to say that our opera was Don Giovanni - another favorite), I couldn't help but wonder about our next sandwich course. During the only intermission we ate a sandwich made with salame rosa, an Umbrian-style mortadella, and Rupert cheese ( gruyere-like) from Vermont's Consider Bardwell Farm. Lest you think that we were major pigs - we had 2 sandwiches and 1 piece of torte, all cut into 3 pieces each. We were completly sated.I was happy with my NYC sojourn. I ate food from three well-loved spots and relaxed to the sounds of Mozart's lively and lovely Don Gionvanni. All favorites.
And I came home to Hudson just in time for the opening of the 2012 Farmer's Market. What joy.