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Sunday, January 12, 2014

From Bumpkin to Brooklynite and Back Again

The first trip back to NYC after a long absence was a funny experience. In some ways it was like I hadn't left at all. I'd picked up right where I'd left off and was back to speedwalking and running for trains and just riding the energy of the city. And then I'd realize that my bed was on the other side of the country and my Brooklyn apartment belonged to someone else now and it stung my heart. But then I'd sip a fantastic mocha and feel blissed out all over again. It's a confusing thing to feel like you're right where you belong and yet not really have a place there anymore. I kept saying it's a good thing I have a dog back in Pullman waiting for me or else I might never go back.

Because c'mon, how could I ever abandon this face.

Well, feelings of belonging and confusion and whatever else aside, I got to fill up on some great food while I was back in the city. I'd been deprived of so much -- bagels, oysters! -- for months, that the things I loved when I had them every day were appreciated so, so much more.

There was the spicy bowl of Akamaru Modern at Ippudo, with a seasoned soft boiled egg that added creaminess to the bone warming bites of thin noodles and fatty pork. The spicy soppressata sandwich from Faicco's with fresh mozzarella and artichokes, and the BLT from Murray's with burrata cheese and bacon that we're pretty sure was fried in butter. Around the corner I had my favorite dish at Annisa, the miso sable with silken tofu in a bonito broth brimming with roe. In the mornings I alternated chocolate croissants with almond croissants and a cup of Stumptown coffee with plenty of cream. At Bagelsmith, I alternated smearing fresh bagels -- egg sesame, pumpernickel --  with jalepeno cheddar cream cheese and hot butter.

At Sripraphai, I piled crispy basil pork onto coconut rice, crunching the porky shards into the sweet scented rice. At Cull & Pistol and of course at Maison Premier, I threw back freshly shucked oysters with tiny squeezes of lemon, keeping the shells level with salty liquid while the tiny fork did its job. I bit into a perfectly greasy double cheeseburger at Shake Shack and had a celebratory New Years waffle from the Waffles & Dinges truck parked in Forest Hills. 

In Jackson Heights, I had Nepalese food in the middle of a blizzard, warming up with some spicy chickpeas and beef dumplings. Another night I joined the vegetarians for dosas and spicy soup. In Long Island City, I savored the French trifecta of crepe: Swiss, ham, egg on top.

As I toured the city for my familiar favorites and sought out new specialties, I realized how lucky I was to have at my disposal the array of all types of cuisines, low end to high end, fast food to slow dine to elbowing at the bar. I immersed myself in it and tried to forget that the Thai and Chinese restaurants in Pullman aren't even sort of palatable.

I had a nice high end lunch with my family at Union Square Cafe and indulged in hours of omakase at Momo Sushi Shack. I got a ceremonious hug from Phil, the owner, and Rob got a print of Phil one on of his travels. 

I miss the randomness. I think it fed my creativity. Now I have to rely on endorphins from Jillian Michaels videos.

Anyway, this being New York, I had to stay on top of what's new and visit a highly recommended small plates spot in Nolita, Pearl & Ash

I really have missed the whole experience of dining out on a Friday night. Making a last minute reservation, rushing the train to get there on time, sliding across the sidewalk and trying not to get sidetracked by glorious things in windows -- like chocolately rice pudding at Rice to Riches. I miss taking in new atmospheres and people watching and overhearing ridiculous things that boys say to girls on dates because we're all squeezed into our tables shoulder to shoulder.

I didn't take many pictures while I was in the city, but I couldn't help snapping a few crappy iPhone pics when each new dish came. It's old habit, I guess.

Ahh. New flavors. Exotic ingredients. One plate after another of eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head bites. 

From top left:

Fluke crudo with cucumber -- a nice palate cleansing start

Dessert of blood orange, pistachio and graham cracker -- so much more than the sum of its parts. 

Diver scallop with green tomatillo and crispy corn nuts on a creamy white sauce... revelatory.

The BEST crispy sweetbread I've ever had, warm and crunchy with sherry and heart of palm.

Not shown: 
lamb belly with black garlic, gamey and fatty
cod as soft and mild as butter, colored by Thai flavors: coconut, Thai basil, lemongrass
butternut squash with mascarpone

Long story short, it was great to be back. It fed my desire for new things and familiar things simultaneously. Seeing old friends and joining them for brunch and beers and other normal things helped remind me that I'll still have a place in Brooklyn when I get home, and that I can jump back into things pretty easily.

For now, I'm back to homecooked meals and liver cleanse tea and couch snuggling with the above mentioned pooch. I think I'll be okay for another six months.

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