I’m almost afraid to write this, lest it diminish the sense of joy that I feel when I look back on the whole thing in memory. I want to write about it, of course, but I also want to keep it all inside, tucked away in that corner of the mind where only the best memories go (I’m learning that this part is larger than that sad, haunting part, ruled over by Mnemosyne like a lion in a lair).
It’s the trip to New York that I’m talking about. It’s like a long sigh; and a rush of adrenaline; and a good, hearty laugh; and a shy smile; and a sip of the most delicious wine, all rolled into one.
When New York does this to you, you can’t help but ignore all of the rest of it: sweaty bodies pressing into you on the subway, the pollution, smoke everywhere, the occasional screaming lunatic… who cares, I say. It’s New York—it wrapped its arms around me, and made it incredibly hard to leave.
Before I get to the sad part though, the part where I leave and ache all over as I sit, waiting, at the airport, I should tell you a bit about what it was like to be there. The summary version is that: I saw friends (friends! the best friends that a girl could have (I’m talking to you D., S., T., and R.)); I spent some quality time with my lovely, youthful mom; I went out on the town to openings and bars; I turned 30; I ate and ate and ate (whole grilled branzino, asparagus with capers and breadcrumbs, marinated artichokes…); I strolled in the West Village, sipped wine with an old friend as we sat in the warm afternoon sun, cobblestone sidewalk in view; I walked the highline (known to me originally through the photographs of this man, my former professor); and I let go of some things, some things that had been hard to shake back in San Francisco.
It was a good way to usher in a new decade. The best, in fact.
As I sat in the sun with my friend T., I remembered what it was like to be young and unencumbered, and to have truly good friends—the kind with whom you never feel far apart, regardless of the years that may have passed. Later, in another scenario, I was reminded of my days in college—my roommates, dear ones, laughing on the couch as we scoffed about love and men and recalled old times.
In Brooklyn, we bumped into more friends and acquaintances, we drank, we socialized, we joked around with strangers, we made plans for the future: I felt something akin to fear letting go its tiresome grip and leaving me.
I also took those train rides along the Hudson that I mentioned, and discovered that there was something wonderful to be had at both ends of each journey.
There were, of course, occasional fleeting moments of sadness and disorientation, especially at first—but these subsided, and now I can barely remember them. The thrilling, the youthful, the energized—slightly intoxicated—delicious taste of the whole thing is what remains.
I’ll have to go back soon, once this sense of euphoria diminishes.
For now, since this is supposed to be a food blog, I should really talk about what I ate while I was in New York. There were some highlights: Buvette lived up to its name, whisking my mom and I away to some other place—Paris, perhaps?—where we huddled around a tiny marble table in a quiet, bistro corner and tucked into one delicious small plate after the next: marinated artichokes with olives and lemon, chicken liver mousse (a personal favorite), octopus salad with sliced celery and olives, warm potato salad with anchovy vinaigrette.
Then came Prune, the other spot on my list, where I ate that whole grilled branzino that I mentioned (all by myself), and also: roasted marrow bones with parsley salad, another octopus salad, and crunchy endives and lettuces. For dessert we tried an olive oil cake (not as good as this one, I fear), lemon curd and meringue, and a chocolate-espresso semifreddo with hazelnuts.
In Chatham, New York, on my last night, I ate fish tacos with old friends at this lovely little spot, had happy birthday sung to me over a plate of magnificent desserts, and reconnected with people very dear to me who I hadn’t seen in years. You might remember them from this post, one of my very first.
Then, at the last, my mom made me an apricot brandy pound cake, which we consumed with strawberries and whipped cream.
There isn’t more that one can ask for out of a trip to New York, or perhaps anywhere else in the world at all.
Next week, I’ll be back to my usual baking and then writing about it—more food, less travelogue. In the meantime, my friend T. has promised to serenade me with this song, lest the farmer’s markets of San Francisco make me forget how much I loved being in New York this time around.
Here’s to being back, but having come far.