Feasting with Friends

There was the promise of great food in Zagat-rated, Michelin-starred restaurants. And a Global Kitchen exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. There was the opportunity to travel with my friend Celia, and to stay with our friend Paula, who is now transplanted in New York City for six months. It was to be a brilliant foodie-fest, not to be missed. Still, Celia had to drag me out of my house as I kicked and bucked back and forth about whether or not to go.

Part of my leaving-town ritual is to eat down to the very last crumb in the refrigerator. So I knew for sure I was really going to NYC on that last morning when I breakfasted on leftover pierogis, an over-ripe pear and a last piece of turkey ham from last week’s birthday lunch. Faced with the particular pain and depression that comes from a barren fridge, I can be coaxed to almost anywhere.

NYCNIGHT            So shortly after we arrived and shook ourselves out at Paula’s miniscule temporary quarters in the Big Apple, we jogged over to Eataly, a huge and amazing conglomeration of Italian marketplace and restaurants. There, amid a cacophony of textures and tastes, smells and sounds of masses of people celebrating food, we picked out prosciutto, bread, cheeses and pasta for a breakaway brunch at the end of our two day trip. And that evening we began our restaurant romp that had been planned, reserved and rescheduled several times over the last two months.

We wanted to taste and savor everything. So early on we worked out a system where we ordered three different dishes of appetizers, mains and desserts and divided each three ways. This was a mind-boggling feat of coordination and self-control as each dish was a highly crafted work of art with many minute scrumptious components. In addition, there was sometimes an extra pasta course and often an amuse bouche and parting sweets that came “compliments of the house.”

Among the most memorable plates, we had seared Hudson Valley foie gras with pear, vanilla, Marcona almonds and brioche followed by venison with sweet potatoes, sour cherries, salsify and black trumpet mushrooms at Aureole. We merrily brunched on buttermilk-masa pancakes with chipotle butter and smoked maple syrup and then a melted cheese – lobster – fried tomato tortilla and a “tasting” of seven exciting salsas at Empellon Cocina. We swooned over sea urchin crostinis, squid-ink pasta with shrimp, scallops and butternut squash, followed by a dessert of dark chocolate cream, salted caramel mousse, coffee crumble and milk-flower Robin Botie in New York City with friends. Times Square lit up at night.gelato at Marea.

Paula’s tiny apartment was in the East Village so in between meals we waddled through the nearby Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s. We lumbered over to the Global Kitchen: Food, Nature and Culture exhibit to whet our appetites for the next meal. The mild sunny streets of the city, a far cry from icy snow-blown Ithaca, greeted us warmly during the day. After dinners, we stood mesmerized by the nightlights of Times Square.
Feasting with friends feeds my soul. I love to conspire, cook, shop and travel with foodies. I am not the only one who can be moved beyond pain to share good food with good friends. On the first morning of our NYC adventure, Celia and I watched in helpless horror as Paula fell down a flight of stairs. She’d bruised her ankle badly but stood up ready to sally on despite the pain and promise of swelling. She still romped the streets and subways with us, only sometimes slowing to a limp. She reveled with us in the middle of Broadway as her ankle swelled and her plans to start her Tuesday Flamenco Dance class disappeared like the delectable delicacies on our plates had. And this morning our dear friend Paula cooked up an exquisite brunch with all the gatherings from Eataly. A brunch that hugs and holds us as Celia and I ride in the bus back to Ithaca, past crammed highways, grey woods and blinding snowfall.

I’m full. I’m happy and I’m going home. Home, where I left the fridge almost empty. Home, where I probably won’t have to eat for the next week anyway.

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