Monday, February 22, 2010

New York Winterlude 1, rev. ed.

self-portrait w/ snow fig. a: several large men's footprints, one giant shadow

Maybe it's the fact that Snowpocalypse 2010 has had me thinking of our friends to the south. Then again, maybe it's just that Sam Sifton's review of Motorino this week has left me in a tizzy--a pizza tizzy. Whatever, the case, I finally got around to revising a post that got started about a year ago, not long after a short, sweet mid-February New York Winterlude in early 2009.

It went something like this:

Day 1 began with us having to move our car out of our Midtown, 2nd Ave. parking spot by 8:00 am to avoid getting a nasty ticket. We weren't planning on using the car while we were in New York, but once we got in the car, we figured, "if we have to move it anyway, might as well get some use out of it, right?" So we went about as far crosstown as you could possibly go, to Jim Lahey's Sullivan Street Bakery on W. 47th near 11th Ave. A little crazy, I know, especially when you're on vacation, but Michelle had a hankering for croissants and I had designs on some of their famous flatbreads, so... Plus, we had plans to visit Lahey’s just-opened Co. later in the trip, so this was research.

They'd just opened when we arrived, and they were still very much in the process of setting up shop, but they had plenty of fresh croissants on hand and their counter display already looked pretty appealing.

sullivan st. bakery fig. b: display case, Sullivan St. Bakery

So we grabbed a couple of croissants, and a couple of slices and headed back through the crosstown traffic and the mayhem in search of coffee.

michelle nyc fig. c: Michelle & Juan

We didn't find any of New York's "serious" coffee shops, but we did find Juan Valdez, and he was happy to serve us.

central park east fig. d: sous les pavés, la forêt

Day 1 was all about Midtown and the Upper East Side. We were lucky enough to be staying with friends on E. 57th, and we had museums we wanted to visit, so we put our car in long-term parking and hit the pavement.

sullivan st. potato pie fig. e: Sullivan St. Bakery's potato pie

By the time we reached the Met, we were a little peckish again, so Michelle pulled out a slice of Sullivan Street's lovely potato pie that she'd wisely stashed in her backpack, and we refueled in Central Park. We love their basic marinara slice, but those guys definitely have a way with potatoes. Look how golden they are!

campbell prunes fig. f: one in a thousand

Our main reason for going to the Met was to check out their "Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard" exhibition, which displayed hundreds of artifacts from Evans' gargantuan personal collection of early 20th-century postcards (including this beauty depicting plums being dried into prunes in Campbell, CA) and made a very interesting argument about how this collection influenced his work. It was a phenomenal exhibit, but, I have to say, it attracted a strange crowd. It was a compact exhibition too, so it wasn't as though you could get away from all those weird people with their loud voices and their bad attitudes. It felt more like an antiques show than that contemplative museum experience I've heard so much about.

arbus postcard fig. g: To: Walker Evans; From: Diane Arbus

Even with all those difficult people, we still had a great time, and we particularly liked this postcard from Diane Arbus to Walker in particular, with its idiosyncratic script and its curious left field reference to Evans' talents in the kitchen (and his way with potatoes).

fancy feet 1 fig. h: fancy feet 1

Afterwards, we made the most of our donation and toured a fairly wide cross-section of the Met's collection, but we were particularly taken by the Medieval tapestries.

fancy feet 2 fig. i: fancy feet 2

By mid-afternoon, we had made our way up the street to the Neue Galerie. In part, so that we could immerse ourselves in its Mitteleuropean splendor.

return to café sabarsky fig. j: return to Café Sabarsky

But mostly, so that we could pay a repeat visit to our friends at Café Sabarsky. This was our first time having a full meal at Café Sabarsky, and I suspect it won't be our last. Goulash, sausage and rotkohl, beer, kaffee und kuchen--we were in Hapsburg Heaven.

The lowdown:

mains: weisswurst w/ potato salad and mustard; goulash soup w/ potatoes

desserts: sabarsky torte; milchrahmstrudel

schaller & weber fig. k: Schaller und Weber

So much so, in fact, that when we asked about our amazing weisswurst and found out it came from the legendary Schaller & Weber, we made that our very next stop. There we bought some more weisswurst and some frankfurters, and some of their famously spicy house mustard, and we admired their whimsical beer paraphernalia.

shad is here! fig. l: Shad is here!

Speaking of repeat visits and old favorites, that night we had a hankering for seafood, so we went back to visit our friends at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. We love the atmosphere at the bar--the mix of regulars, tourists, and the seasoned staff, the banter, the repartee--and GCOB’s selection of oysters on the half-shell is always impressive. We ordered a cross-section of house specialties--baked, fried, stewed, and raw (representing Long Island, the Chesapeake, Nova Scotia, and Washington)--and a round of beers, and we settled right in.

The lowdown:

appetizer: clams casino

raw bar: blue points; bras d'or; kumimoto; royal miyagi

hot dishes: oyster stew; clam pan roast

the campbell apartment fig. m: inside the Campbell Apartment

Afterwards, we found out our friends R & M had a little surprise in store for us: a nightcap at the Campbell Apartment, the cocktail bar that occupies the former office of William J. Campbell, a financier and railroad tycoon. A former office in a railway station. Sounds glamorous, right? Well, this was no ordinary office. Campbell evidently had a thing for the Northern Italian culture of the late Middle Ages--he spent loads to have the place decked out in medieval Florentine splendor, and just to make sure everyone understood that he had money to burn, he placed a huge, imposing safe in his sizable fireplace. Campbell’s 3,500 sq. ft. office has been fully renovated to its previous splendor (including the safe), but now much of the space is taken up by a big, old bar, and the Campbell Apartment functions as a swanky cocktail bar. Talk about a nightcap!

To be continued...

Sullivan Street Bakery, 533 West 47th Street, New York, NY (212) 265-5580

Colombian Coffee Federation/Juan Valdez Coffee, 140 East 57th Street, New York, NY (917) 289-0981

Café Sabarsky, 1048 5th Avenue, New York, NY (212) 288-0665

Schaller & Weber, 1654 2nd Avenue, New York, NY (212) 879-3047

The Grand Central Oyster Bar, 89 East 42nd Street, New York, NY (212) 490-6653

The Campbell Apartment, 15 Vanderbilt Ave., New York, NY (212) 953-0409


Anonymous said...

Wait, were you just in NY?

aj kinik said...

Nope. I wish.

Jim said...

For years I've been absorbing every Montreal morsel you've dispensed but I never suspected I'd be fed a little NYC. On your next visit you must try Abraço coffee on 7th. Street - Fantastic.

Leigh said...

potato pies, guys have it waaay too good!! those potato cakes look awesome!!