Chocolate Brioche, Dark Hot Chocolate, Sushi & Satisfaction

Tony Bennett’s heart might belong in San Francisco, but mine is definitely in New York! I think I was born to live in New York! They say that when you move to Charleston, SC that you are never ever considered part of the in circle even if you were born a southerner. Well, in NY the philosophy is the day you arrive there. You are a New Yorker.

New York has such a bad connotation attached to it. People think of thugs, Law & Order shows, the mob movies, murder and mayhem, but there is so much more to New York than all of that violence. I was once told to never ever make eye contact with a New Yorker or they may kill you.

New Yorkers are some of the nicest, most down to earth, kind people you can ever meet. If they are rude to you it is because they are on a tight time schedule. Someone explained it to me once and it is so bloody true!

In NY, you figure out how long it will take you from the time you wake up to the moment you walk into the office. You figure it out like a science. Thirty seconds to brush your teeth, two minutes to pee, ten to get dressed, ten to make and eat breakfast, five to walk to get a coffee, ten in line, five to subway, twenty on subway, ten from subway to office. So, when a tourist comes up to you and asks for directions to the Empire State Building it is throwing off your schedule. It may seem like a New Yorker is being rude or abrasive, but in reality they are thinking I am losing valuable time here! I am on a tight schedule. I was on the poddy for seven minutes instead of two and now you are taking five minutes and I have now lost ten essential minutes. I have to get to work.

Gosh, I love New York!

I become this insanely happy, confident, full of life person when I hit my home of New York even though born in Ohio. I am a New Yorker at heart.

So, I had this wonderful opportunity to go to my beloved city for four days this summer. And just thinking about it makes me do my happy dance!

I arrived late in the evening and immediately went to my favorite sushi place. I didn’t even go to my friend’s condo first. I went directly to Nobu. I love Nobu. He is this brilliant Japanese chef that has restaurants in L.A. and New York and probably several other places and he is AMAZING! I always order his miso cod. You think miso soup and cod fish. Trust me on this one…it is not just another piece of fish tasting like miso soup. It is a piece of fish that sings to you, it resonates with your taste buds, and it is akin to Yo Yo Ma playing a moving piece. And then the sushi. I have no idea why it tastes so much better at Nobu than another New York joint or a sushi spot in Cincy, except the man must have an eye and nose for good, fresh fish.

I belly up to the bar and order my food. I start to giggle because I am so excited. My regular waiter Lee is next door at the other restaurant. The sushi chef is across from me and I watch his every move. His knives are incredible. They cut through thick, heavy pieces of fish like they are butter. The artistry in the presentation is exquisite. I eat my sushi with my fingers. No chopsticks for me. MY friend/neighbor Stephen from Boston spent a year in Japan and came back and said, “You are supposed to eat sushi with fingers. I do! I went to Japan and learned this is true! The other thing I learned is how to say thank you. Put your hands palm to palm in front of your chest. Bend over and say, R-E-GATO. That is the phonetic spelling for thank you in Japanese.

I left my suitcase there by the front door and went next door to find Lee. I told him I would be back this winter and see him. He hugged me goodbye. I have a friend that loves Nobu, but thinks I am nuts to go back. When she finds better sushi than Nobu. I will go there. Until then, I do not go to NY without going to Nobu!

If anyone has wondered about sushi but scared to try it. The first time you go, you must go somewhere really good and really special. Fresh, high quality sushi and then you too will be hooked. I always wondered if they put opium in the wasabi? There must be something in that sushi that makes you crave it like a drug.

I left Nobu, and dragged my suitcase down the streets of Tribeca and hopped on the Franklin Street subway for 72nd Street. I got to my friend’s apartment and showered, brushed my teeth, read and was asleep fast.

Next morning, my first stop was Central Park for a run. I can’t believe how skinny everyone is and too skinny. Leave a little meat on the bones. The weather was beautiful. Everyone was leaving me in the dust. I jogged from Central Park directly to LeVain’s.

I probably shouldn’t say this in a blog, because people will read it and go get it. If I go and they are out of this one particular item, because ALL of you that read this went and bought them, I will cry! Everyone loves their decadent cookies the size of a hockey puck. I fell in love with their chocolate brioche. It sounds so simple. It looks so ordinary and yet it so extraordinary. I just love it! You bite into it thinking I will only eat half and you eat the entire thing and then you need a big glass of milk. You have chocolate all over your mouth, face, in-between your fingers and you are so happy that you could careless!

So, I grabbed my chocolate brioche. I went to the market Fairway for a thing of milk. I went to Jillian’s flat and out on the balcony with the sun beaming down on me. I sat there looking at skyscrapers, eating my chocolate brioche, drinking my milk. I was home. I was in my heaven. I was in New York! Love. Unconditional love. Most people have a love/hate relationship with New York. I just loved it! Always!

After my chocolate brioche, I went to hangout with my USOpen friends. It was so great to see them all. I just love them! We all chat up a storm. We say anything. Working at the USOpen was always like two weeks at summer camp with your best friends. You all have the same interests, similar backgrounds, and you are away from home and what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. And you can say anything to these people because they do not live in your immediate circle of friends. They go back to Rome, Paris, Sydney, Vermont, Boston and so it creates this wonderful safe illusion. I just love it.

Friday evening my crazy friend Lizz with two “z” in her name and I went to some new restaurant on the Upper Westside. I normally do not do chain restaurants and I try to avoid them like the plaque, but she had tried it in Philly and said it was great. Cool concept. The food was good, but not killer. It was called Luke’s Lobster up on Amsterdam. So, we ordered 2 lobster rolls, 2 crab rolls and 2 shrimp rolls and we each got a bag of Cape Cod chips. We sat outside on the sidewalk at a table and pretended we were in Maine by the water. It was good! It was fun! Best lobster roll is still Mary’s Fish Camp or Pearl Oyster!

Lizz walked me back to my friend Jillian’s and then made the long drive back to her home in CT. Lizz and I met at the USOpen and really are like two peas in a pod. We just have a ball together. She and her hubby grew up and live in CT, but she always came into the city to meet me frequently. We were hamburger hunters. We were two women on a mission to find the best burgers. We both fell in love with this obscure place in the Parker Meridien tucked into a corner where you can get a cheap and good burger and fries. We were also fans of Shack Shake in Madison Square Park. I remember when that was a man with a fold up table selling hotdogs in the park and it turned into a restaurant in the park and one of the hottest and hippest places to eat in Manhattan!

Saturday morning I woke up and excitedly went to meet my friend Michael for our traditional New York brunch at Noho Star. We meet there because Noho Star has the best bloody mary I have ever drunk! And Michael only lives a few blocks away.

Michael and I met ten years ago when I used to take care of his dog Diogie.  We stayed friends. He started his career at Columbia and is now over at NYU. I love Michael. We sit and catch up on each others lives, careers, love interests or in my case lack thereof. We talk for hours! Always at least two. That morning to the left of us were these four women that had legs so long that I seriously felt like they stopped at the top of my head. No joke. They looked like models. They sat down and immediately became very affectionate with one another. I thought so this is what they call the lipstick lesbians. Really pretty gay women are sometimes called lipstick lesbians. Behind Michael over his shoulder was Olympia Dukakis. I loved her in the movie MOONSTRUCK. I use one of her quotes constantly. “Do you love him Loretta?” Cher responds yes. Olympia’s character says, “That’s a shame! When you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can!” This is true!

I walked Michael down to his apartment building. He did something he always does, which I treasure. He always says, “Move back to New York, Erin.”  We hug goodbye and know we will see each other the next time.

I left him and took a walk in my old neighborhood of Soho. It was crowded as always. Somethings changed others didn’t. When I lived in NY years ago, I found this fabulous place up on Madison that had this class called Core Fusion that I adored. It took me thirty minutes to subway up there and another thirty to get back and the class is 1.5 hours long. They now have a space a block from my old apartment. So jealous! My apartment building has two crepe places alongside it.  Glad those weren’t there. I may have been tempted to get one for dinner after work, way too many nights. I went to Dean and Deluca. I used to buy an iced cappuchino there every single morning on my way to work for $4.50 cents and then throw the change into the tip jar. I bought a bag of that expresso when I was there and have been making capps at home. The bag cost $15 which I thought was exorbitant, but I have already gotten nine capps out of it, so why was I buying those $5 capps? I know, it was all part of the New York experience. So, I could walk a few extra blocks, so the ladies behind the counter could say, Hi Erin, and I could say hi to them with all their names. Because Dean and Deluca is so decadent and wonderful. Who knows why I bought those capps instead of making them at home? This time, I bought the bag instead of one iced capp!

I then went to the other extreme of Dean & Deluca. I went to a massage parlor in the Village that my friend Jackie had introduced me to years ago and I try to go when I am in town. Imagine an hour-long massage for $52!! This includes the tip. And it is good! As my Asian friends used to say to me, you always want an Asian giving you a massage because they give the best massages. They know exactly where to go and what you need.

Well, the first time Jackie took me there. She said this is where the Goldman traders come. It smells funny, but they are good. This time they had ripped up that nasty carpet and had wood floors. Getting fancy except that the wall dividers between all the tables are curtains. And this time, I almost got a happy ending. She went a little to high up for my liking. Yikes! Glad I keep my undies on! I wanted to yell, Girl here! Girl who does not want a happy ending…you want to bring in George Clooney then that is a different story. BUT…she, the masseuse, didn’t speak English so I couldn’t say anything. Oh well. The massage was great!

I left there and rushed up to meet my friends Natalie and Sabrina at Bouchon Bakery. We got there and Natalie’s daughter was a little shy and a little rambunctious and itching to go to Central Park and play and quite frankly, I didn’t blame her.

We went and sat on the bench and then Natalie’s daughter took off and Natalie followed. Apparently, Natalie’s hubby had a college friend from Yale over for dinner the previous night. She was a filmmaker. Apparently quite the character. She decided and told my friend and her husband that she was sleeping over and it was too late and she was too tired to go back to her apartment that was thirty blocks away. She could have grabbed a cab and been home in less than 10 minutes. She could have taken a subway and been home in less than 10 stops, but she wanted to stay and the next day, afternoon she was still there. I was a little worried he may be stepping out with this gal until I met her. She looked like John Lennon. Glasses, long hair and all. She was dressed in tight black clothes from head to combat boots. She had a fanny pack on and she saw all the kids and started to reach into her fanny pack and pull out a joint to which we all said, “KIDS! You can’t smoke on the playground!” She was completely perplexed and confused. She claimed she used to smoke in the park in the 60s. “Why has that changed?” She left and I looked at Sabrina and asked how much older her sister’s husband is. She told me he was 16 years older when they started to date, but every time you ask him, he drops a few years. She is waiting for him to be younger than her sister. I absolutely loved the story. I think SO many people do that! Natalie and Sabrina are such lovely and wonderful people. A delight to be around them.

I left them and went to meet my friend Jillian for dinner. We went to Atlantic Grill. We shared Crispy lobster & shrimp rolls with a green papaya salad and spicy coconut sauce. For my entrée, I ate the fiery Maine lobster & salmon roll with green apple, avocado, honey calamansi sauce. It was good but not killer.

I left Jillian and pretended I was 25 years old and went to a party that didn’t start till 10pm. It was a USOpen party. It was a lot of fun. Nice folks. Folks I had never met before. I sat between a gal from Brazil, a guy from Sydney who had a Thai mom and a Swedish dad. I got home from the party at 2ish!

That is what I would call a classically typical New York day! So NY! So odd, so fun! SO NY!

Sunday morning Lizz started calling me at 9ish to meet her for hot chocolate. Our newest tradition when I was in town for the last four plus years. I was tired. I wanted to sleep in a bit. I wanted to go for a run. I thought she should come to the Upper Westside to meet me. She was on the Eastside in the mid-30s. I did not want to go. I wanted to sleep, but when I am on vacation, I realize, sleep when you are home. See friends while you can. Lizz is one of my best friends in the world. I had to go! So, I jogged to the subway. I jogged from the subway to City Bakery. It got me there faster, and I got a workout! This is good because this hot chocolate rivals Parisian hot chocolate. It tastes like they melted three luscious, dark chocolate gourmet bars into a cup. Heavenly. Decadent. Out of this world good AND a homemade marshmallow on top. Usually. This time. No. No marshmallows in the summer. I thought Lizz was going to pass out from the shock and disappointment of no marshmallow. We drank our hot chocolates and chatted.

I was watching this geeky, nerdy, seemingly sweet man fall all over his dime store, trashy wife. They had a kid. She had a rock on her finger and a skirt that barely covered her hootchie cootchie. The kid did all sorts of things and she flat out didn’t care. The dad was a nervous nelly and the wife would have let the kid play in traffic. I wondered if in the end it was worth it for him to have eye candy and not even good eye candy on his arm in exchange for a gal with seemingly no redemptive qualities.

Lizz and I said our farewells. I jogged from 5th & 18th back to 7th & 18th…they are long blocks. I took the subway to 59th Street. I got out and jogged through the park and came out near 79th and went to Zabar’s  for coffee.

I have this dear friend named Eric from Cincy. We have been friends for 24 years. I love Eric. He is a wonderful, wonderful friend. A wonderful person. We met at Bouchon Bakery for my final café au lait and I was going to get Quiche Lorraine, which sings to me. I am certain that no one else’s Quiche Lorraine holds a candle to Thomas Keller’s. Why mess with perfection? Well, they had some kitchen difficulties and so we couldn’t eat there. I was deeply saddened. Eric had found a place in Hell’s Kitchen called Taboon. It is on 10th between 52nd and 53rd.  I like to be adventurous and finding new things is so great. I ordered the Green Shakshooka with ground lamb, swiss chard and I had them toss halumi into it. Oh it was so yummy. Their bread was so yummy. I would highly recommend it.

After lunch Eric walked with me to say my farewells to Fairway & Citarella, which are fabulous grocery stores!!!

I went back to Jillian’s flat and chatted with her till it was time to go home. I just love my Cincy flat, but I do indeed miss NY!

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