Thursday, 5 November 2009

Chomping my way through the big apple

When the moon drops and the day invades, the New York dawn is electrifying. Jetlag and the city’s heartbeat have steadily rocked me awake, ensuring my front row seat for the sun’s performance as it ascends and illuminates the geometry of this vertical landscape. The ever-present hum is soon joined by a steady note of heavier traffic, punctuated by a percussion of horns and sirens, harmonies and discord building, the orchestra tunes up for the melody of another day…Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, I reckon.

nyc dawn

This metropolis doesn’t shut down; transitions between night and day are marked not by stops and starts, but rather by a change in tone. This place is brash, fast, sleepless, beguiling, never more so than during these first waking moments, and right now it feels like it is all mine. From Dad’s apartment on the 29th floor, it is all at my feet (or rather a long way below them – I am told that on rainy days you can be in the clouds up here), a man-made carpet of activity and adventure lying before me.

On the eve of my departure for this city that never sleeps, we thought we’d enter a New York state of mind with some transportative cocktails at 69 Colebrooke Row, a Prohibition-style speakeasy of a cocktail bar, a handy seven-minute walk from my half-packed suitcase. The owner and head alchemist, Tony Conigliaro, has won the title of something like ‘the absolute best bartender in the world…ever’, so says the BSG, so we were in for a treat. We stepped from the chilly night into a low-lit, cosy room, softly resonating with a tinkle of jazz. The whole place felt like a secret. Given seats at the bar, at the mouth of the magician’s cauldron and by far the most exciting place to be, we huddled over the menu, whispering at the possibilities. I had the Death in Venice, an elixir of Campari*, grapefruit bitters and Prosecco – it took me on a dreamy holiday for long after I had finished it. The BSG ordered his usual, an Old Fashioned, which he said was the best he’d ever had. We will go back, again and again, until they can no longer stand the sight of us.


So here I am, and without my BSG. With regards to spare time, I felt it only appropriate to state my intentions early on; I am a food tourist, eager to take food souvenirs back home. My Dad, Step-mum and stepsister were expecting this and have done some preliminary research…I have 10 days and an appetite. So this week, work dominates, next week, food.

Still, a girl’s gotta eat…

food emporium 

First stop was a food shop, always a good method of immersing oneself in a different eating culture, and this excursion didn’t disappoint. Dad and I squeezed our way through the adoring crowds of marathon supporters (no, we weren’t running, and no, I don’t have a marathon in me, but I think people who do are amazing), intent and devout in our mission. Nestled underneath the arches of the 59th Street Bridge, the patter of running shoes bravely soldiering on twenty feet above us and unheard, we found ourselves in an ivory temple to food, our chosen place of worship this Sunday morning, cavernous and beautiful. This was the Food Emporium, one of a chain of many supermarkets in the city, but I got the distinct impression we were in the smartest (the neighbouring Conran Shop was a clue). These ivory halls celebrated foodstuffs of every variety – this was not a weekly drag round soulless aisles under flickering strip-lights – this was an experience, an event where abundance and choice are key. How many UK shops can boast a whole shelf of peanut butter? This was my kind of spirituality, packaged any way you wanted it.

At Bloomingdales (an early stop, natch), my stepmother and stepsister led me to Forty Carrots, where we indulged (or rather drowned) in the most gigantic cumulus of frozen yoghurt known to man (Ari says it’s the best: it was spectacular, bigger than her face, and would have kept a small village going for a week). We all got brain-freeze, which explains the fit of impulse buying that ensued…

A stateside childhood treasure for me (up there with Archie comics and Reese’s Pieces), is the garish and irresponsibly categorized breakfast cereal they call Froot Loops. There it was, staring at me from the kitchen cupboard, the last box left from a variety pack; I had to try it once more. I must say that although a tiny part of me still loved them, it was to be my final foray into this hyperactive realm of coloured (all natural flavours eh?) breakfast confectionery. Well, perhaps I’ll revisit Apple Jacks just one more time…

froot loops

* When it comes to Campari, I am a bit of a Johnny-come-lately I must admit, the bitter taste was to me reminiscent of pencil-sharpenings. Until recently, that is, when I realised it was for sipping rather than quaffing.

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