Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple

For most of my adult life, I’ve lived by the mantra that we eat to live, not live to eat. That thinking served me in good stead–until I moved to Manhattan.

Food–gloriously good food–at all price ranges is available everywhere at all times.  At any given hour a good half of the pedestrians pushing past me on the busy streets are eating on the go. Once I saw a young woman, dressed to the designer nines, clicking down Fifth Avenue eating sushi. Okay, it was California Roll but still…

Apple 2000/01 by Stephan Weiss (1938-2001)
Apple 2000/01 by Stephan Weiss (1938-2001)

I’ve been playing gastronomic tourist since February–and grooving on every bite. Just as you can walk out your door and easily hear five languages other than English being spoken, you can step out onto most city blocks to a smorgasbord of cuisines from around the world. And if you don’t feel like going out, you can get any or all of those diverse cuisines delivered to your door. It’s well, pretty great.

I’m a seriously big list maker, and I have a food-to-try list just as I have a list for practically everything else. Topping my to-do’s since moving here was to partake of yes, a cupcake from the West Village’s Magnolia Bakery.  Sounds like a modest enough goal, right? If so, then you’ve never seen the line, which is usually not only out the door but wrapping around the corner and snaking up 11th Street. And yet the other day when I was walking home from my run at what should have been peak time, there was no line.  Nada. Peering through the storefront glass, I spotted two, maybe three, customers max.

My first thought was to ask what my fellow city dwellers must know that I didn’t. Were we talking evacuation? Armageddon? A return trip by Benicio Del Toro with me missing him yet again?

Sure, even one cupcake would pretty much cancel out the previous 6+ miles of cardio pavement pounding.  Then again if “Rome” was burning, was this really any time to be carping over calories or denying myself yummy carbs?

The bakery was even running a promo special: buy one Pink Ribbon cupcake and fifty cents of the proceeds would be donated to a popular breast cancer charity.  Scarfing down that high calorie, high carb cupcake wouldn’t just be physically satisfying.  It would be positively philanthropic! Social awareness blanketed in buttercream–really, does it get any better?

In the spirit of “an heir and a spare,” I bought not one but two cupcakes: a red velvet number and yes, the special Pink Ribbon promo.  The red velvet one I ate like a true New Yorker, which is to say while walking home.  Only unlike the uber cool chick with the sushi, I couldn’t pull it off. When I got home I looked like I’d been on the losing end of a paintball competition–assuming the game was played with pastry bags, not paint guns.

The cupcake was most certainly scrumptious.  Would I stand in line for it a really long time? Honestly, no.  But then at this point in my life there isn’t much in the way of food for which I would stand in line barring catfood and that assumes my fur-babies were down to their last collective can.

Other good eats for this week include lunch at Tea and Sympathy, also in the West Village, where I caught up with writer buddy, Dee Davis. Being what I like to call a “recovering vegetarian,” I’m not usually much for “British food,” so I gave the bangers and mash and like menu options a broad berth.  Instead I opted for the “Tweed Kettle Pie,” salmon and cod in a parsley sauce with a potato topping.  It was seriously delish.

And no New York City food report would be complete without pizza. One of my favorite stops is Amore’s on 14th Street though on the service end, the staff is starting to royally pi** me off. Memo to the young lady working late nights at the register: if I’m ever going to cross over to the Dark Side and embark on a Life of Crime, I’m a lot more likely to knock off the Manolo Blahnik store across from the MOMA than I am to scam an extra eighty cent pizza topping. Really. Maybe you might want to reward a regular customer with a little trust rather than making “her” untape and open her friggin’ pizza box every time like you’re the guard tasked with making sure the Crown Jewels don’t take a walk. If I say I ordered the white pizza, the one with the mozzarella only, then that’s what I’m packing–period.

Eat and be merry,


Head Over Heels

Okay, I have officially become one of those people. You know, Those People. The People who a mere week ago I felt completely justified, even compelled, to make fun of. The People so besotted with their Blackberry AKA Crackberry devices they can’t take their eyes or hands off them for a minute. No matter how public the place or how scintillating the social scene, their gazes are fixed on that tiny backlit screen, their nimble fingers tap, tap tapping away at the miniscule keyboard. These are the people who suddenly draw to dead stops on busy sidewalks–and hey, it’s Manhattan, so it’s not like there are lots of un-busy sidewalks–Subway stairs, and yes, sometimes even crosswalks.

Okay, so maybe I haven’t done the zombie stuck in crosswalk thing, but it’s only been a week.

I got my Blackberry–The Curve, she’s called–exactly one week ago, last Friday. Chalk it up to the whole Mercury about to go into retrograde thing or just damned bad luck, but getting her programmed and primed to come home with me wasn’t exactly a cyberspace cakewalk.

Stepping into the Verizon store I realized I’d left my glasses at home. That’s bad. For those of you who are shrugging like that’s no big deal, I’ll just say this: Girlfriend isn’t a kid anymore. As we get ahem…older, size matters in ways you’d never really thought about size mattering before. Reference the words “tiny” and “miniscule” above. Ditto for “glare” and “light.”

After the glasses panic, the episode turned into one big downward spiral. I didn’t get the woman retailer I like, the one who speaks in soft, lilting Indian-accented English, the one who explains technology “stuff” so calmly and so well that I always leave the store humming “I am woman, hear me roar.” Instead I got one of her relatives, the smug, unpleasant man with the bad comb-over and the brusque manner. For all his posturing, he didn’t really understand how the device worked. Unfortunately for me, he didn’t much care if I understood how it worked, either. We had to call Verizon technical support–a lot.

The store is in Manhattan’s East Village, on the ambulance route to Beth-Israel. Fridays are busy ambulance days. I’m not sure why. They just are. Being on the Verizon hot line with sirens blaring and the store’s disco music going at full throttle was…well, a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I like Donna Summer as much as the next child of the 80’s, but when your head is splitting, you’ve left your glasses at home, and your not-yet-purchased Crackberry is down to two bars and the seller is refusing to spot you a charger, five back-to-back choruses of “Hot Stuff” is quite enough.

Another thing that tends to happen more on Fridays than any other day of the week is people freak out. It’s as though whatever’s been bugging them all week builds and builds so that by the time Friday rolls around, instead of hi-fiving each other and doing a TGIF version of Snoopy’s happy dance they detonate.

Case in point: a young man whose cellphone had stopped working came into the store. It turned out he just needed a charger. Unfortunately he only had $10. To get rid of him, the retailer (the reasonable woman, not the bad comb-over dude) agreed he could just pay the $10. The “reduced price” charger with tax came to $10.60. But remember, he only had $10–period. She told him he could pay just the $10 but bad comb-over guy wasn’t having that. The kid, who’d begun to sweat and speak at a high volume (AKA scream), went outside and panhandled the 60 cents in record time. Looking on with my one ear plastered to the store phone funneling precious tech support instruction and the rest of me prepping to hit the ground if need be, I was impressed. He returned with the change, only by now bad comb over guy suddenly decided he could keep it. An even ten dollars would do.

Only this young man had gone to some effort to get that 60 cents. He didn’t feel like he was being treated respectfully. He wanted to be appreciated.

“People are rude sometimes,” he howled into my free ear, part fury and part lament. “People really should be nicer.”

Yes, they should. Fortunately there is a Happy Ending to report. The kid slammed the 60 cents down on the desk and left without brandishing a weapon (bonus!). The technical support guy and I struck up sufficient sympatico to get the basic set-up on my Blackberry programmed. (Did I mention he had a very sexy voice)? The bad comb-over guy shoved my “free gift,” some crap carrying case, at me along with my receipt and rebate instructions and wished me a nice weekend in the tone usually associated with “Go to hell.” I got back to my apartment, my Blackberry fully functioning (albeit down to one bar) and my body fully intact, and poured myself a glass of wine.

Curvy and I’ve had quite a week together. I’ve taken her all over the city, checking and sending email in places I never would have dreamt of checking and sending email before. Last night we went to The Modern, the sleek, white-marble topped bar/lounge at the Modern Museum of Art or MOMA. While I waited for my buddy Liz to join me, I sipped my glass of chardonnay and yes, tapped away at Curvy’s cute little raised button keys, sifting through emails, panning through photo attachments, sending reports on my “status” to Facebook. Ah, the techno-life! I’m not sure whether I’m taking Her out tonight or if we’ll be spending a quiet evening at home instead. Aside from cats on Fancy Feast patrol, there’s no traffic to speak of in my apartment, so staying home is probably safer. Either way, my Blackberry won’t be out of my sight.