I could say I went to New York because Stephen and my mom sent me there to celebrate my birthday. I could say I went to spend some quality dress-oogling time with the ladies who will, in the not to distant future, be in my wedding party. I could even say I went in hopes that a bout of jetsetting would snap me out of my prolonged period of useless moping. While all these things are technically true, the real reason I made the trek was to eat.
If you’re the sort of person who travels on her stomach, you could hardly to better than five days in New York with Whitney and Tejal. There are few people in the world more enthusiastic about a rigorous schedule of cocktails, dinners, further cocktails, and midnight snacks than those two.
We kicked off Star Chefs Rising Stars Revue, a pretty fantastic to-do hosted by the people at Tejal’s new job (which I think she’ll talk more about later). I put on red lipstick and dangly earrings, then Whitney ane I up met up with Tejal at an enormous club called Crobar.
The theme was “high-concept street food,” meaning we strolled from cart to cart with our ever-refilled wine glass, sampling bites from exciting young chefs like Franklin Becker, Paul Liebrandt, Zakary Pelaccio, Tony Liu, and Will Goldfarb.
About every five minutes, someone would ask, “Have you tried the foie gras hot dog? It’s awesome!” I did; it was indeed awesome, as was the tuna sashimi with wasabi ice and sweet soy reduction. The latter wasn’t the most literal example of “street food,” but the sweet, icy burn had eyes rolling in pleasure all over the room nonetheless.
We continued on to the after party at Bed. In route we were soundly hooted at by two guys driving a garbage truck. Which is every bit as flattering as it sounds. At Bed we partied like rock stars and learned two very important lessons. One: everyone looks sexier lounging on cushions.
Once we spied people passionately smooching, we learned lesson number two: it’s better not to think about what you might see staining those cushions if the lights were on.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery, a sidetrip to New Jersey for rest, relaxation, and excellent Korean barbecue with Tejal’s cousins, and a pilgrimmage to that great haven for gin devotees, the Pegu Club.
I’ve had a bee in my cocktail bonnet over Pegu for some time now. I like my mixed drinks both complex and austere. I shudder at raspberry pucker and most concoctions ending in “–tini” that do not explicitly begin with “mar.” At the same time, my mouth waters for Chartreuse, Campari, and Parfait Amour. The Pegu Club, with its huge, lovely ice cubes and eyedroppers of lemon, lime, syrup, and bitters on each table, is like a temple to the art and science of true mixology.
Whereas I’m usually forced to scour a cocktail menu to find the single gin-based offering, at Pegu you’d be rather hard up if you didn’t appreciate a fine juniper perfume. We ordered one round off the menu and two by bartender’s choice, and by our final drink, it seemed he had reached inside our minds and picked the cocktail that would most perfectly suit our individual palates.
Add to that our fantastic server who was happy to tell me each ingredient in every drink so I could take notes and the manager to caught up to us on the street after we’d left to return the camera I’d forgotten, and I cannot praise the experience enough.
We celebrated my final night in New York in much the same way that we celebrated my arrival, with lipstick on, eating small courses and drinking too much wine. We had my farewell dinner (slash birthday dinner, slash wedding party night out) at wd-50.
We had the tasting menu with wine pairings, and I can honestly say I haven’t had a meal that surprised and delighted me so much in some time. The combination of modern, refined food and a casual, sexy atmosphere seduced me right from the start. Although Wylie Dufresne utilizes a variety of cutting edge ingredients and techniques, his work never seems ostentatious. I never felt as though the desire to make a dish technically impressive overwhelmed the ultimate goal of it being delicious and a pleasure to eat.
Even a dish like miso soup, sesame “noodles,” which came with a little squeeze bottle of goo that turned into soft, nutty noodles on contact with the hot broth, while whimsical, was first and foremost fragrant and tasty. Other favorite dishes were Foie gras, candied olives, green peas, beet juice (an excellent balance of sweet, salty, earthy with soft, liquid, and crunchy), Beef tongue, fried mayo, tomato molasses (that played with the flavors of a pastrami sandwich on rye), and Smoked eel, peanuts, snow peas, whipped caramel (I could eat whipped caramel all day).
Even the wine pairings were exciting. I tasted both my first Slovokian wine and a wine from the oldest continually operating appelation in the world from Lemesos, Cyprus. Our server, who’s name I shamefully forgot to write down, was as delight. He patiently and knowledgably answered all our questions, gave generous pours, took us on a tour of the kitchen after dinner, and managed to get a photo where none of the three of us was making an embarrassing face.
The next morning, Tejal and Whitney peeled themselves out of bed to face Monday morning at work while I started out on the long trek back to San Francisco. My mom asked me if I had done any shopping. Nope, I told her, I can buy clothes anywhere. I went to New York to eat myself silly, and I did that with a vengeance.