concrete jungle // start your engines

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02.15.2013 by Andrea

It’s amazing that I have officially signed off on a month of being bi-coastal. My friend D was laughing at me when I said my commute is from NY to Seattle and back. He thinks it’s sounds like a lot of time but when you compare other people, say in LA, who spend an hour or more in their car everyday my commute is a snap. I snooze, hydrate, snooze, game plan for the week, and actually force myself to be still. I like BUSY, I thrive on it, and one of the challenges of moving to a new city is not having a full roster of invitations to attend shindigs and what not. While that was certainly one of the most exciting aspects of the acclimation process sometimes when reality slaps you in the face it’s not like a T.Swift fairytale song. The strange thing is, I’m okay with that, welllll 98 percent of the time. I am realizing how much I want to be integrated into the colorfully sewn fabric of this city, today. But, the opportunities I’m getting to shuffle along [sidenote, shin splints can occur when you don’t have arch support, I’m learning], amass tons of pictures, and play tourist all while living here is a gift. I feel I barely have time to check off all the things I want to eat, see, touch and am hardly making a scratch in the surface.

What I am really soaking up is the small moments. Glancing up on the 4 train and realizing I’ve been on this line going to old Yankee stadium. Getting off the subway in the Upper East side and seeing the hotel that I stayed at in 1998 the very first time I came to the city with my mom and decided I would one day live here. The best part as new and old marry is how they both bring smiles. I had virtually avoided shopping at Century 21 since ’98 because all of the hot bodies and bustle made me anxious and yet I scored a killer deal there this past weekend and felt like a triumphant New Yorker. All of these flashbacks are embedded in my mind and I can’t wait to be back in the same situation in a few years remembering how I felt like Bambi finding his feet when I first moved in.

I’ve been eating my way through the city since the week I started apartment hunting. Unbuckle your belt and get ready for the tour that explains why I am doing daily doubles at the gym when I am in Seattle.

Ordinarily I might question the authenticity of a section of town where street signage is sponsored by one of the biggest pasta manufacturers. I will say having Little Italy on one side of my apartment and Chinatown on the other makes for interesting mingled odors. Nonetheless the opportunity to eat in Little Italy can’t be bypassed.

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While I don’t know the name of this little bistro, I do acknowledge for a solo meal of one it was pretty good. I am trying to find the meatballs in this city that I crave everytime I step foot here. This was a first foray but not the jackpot. The salad was simple, but very vibrant flavors.

It’s not easy to hop from small family owned businesses to the commercial circus and fanfare that is known as Eataly. But after an hour of walking Highline Park and resisting all the offerings of Chelsea Market, Eataly was where it was at. Frankly there were so many options it was a bit overwhelming. I circled by the pasta counter, hunted down some spices, oils and gifts for people, grabbed a sandwich and people watched. Choosing to go here on a Friday afternoon was like going to Costco the day before the Superbowl. It was nuts.

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I definitely have tasted more Eataly goods by hanging out with B & M, my Brooklyn buddies. They were who introduced me to it by bringing home amazing cheeses and meats. I likened the experience to Costco because when I go to Costco I am usually able to scoot in and out by only buying what I can hold. It eliminates frivolous purchases and make for efficient shopping. I’ll enter Eataly armed with a plan next time, but also a willingness to linger over a glass of wine and plate of meats or seafood treats.

Speaking of the Brooklyn duo, M and B. One of the best days of eating and moments of “yes, this is where I’m suppose to be” occurred the first night I landed on their couch. M had given me spot on directions on how to navigate from JFK to their apartment. I love that when I’m on the J train I’m able to be see outside and observe so much of what’s going on. While the subways are beautiful and mysterious, they whisk you away and bring you to a destination without knowing what’s happening above you, I love seeing the city from airport to my apartment. Nothing thus far trumps crossing the Williamsburg bridge from Brooklyn to the city and knowing I’m home, the view is amazing day or night and I’m glad I’m not underground when that happens.

As soon as I dropped my gear off at M & B’s, M and I decided to eat. It felt magical to me to walk a few blocks and all of a sudden amongst the other doorways leading to homes was a restaurant. Even better was that Mrs. W had done two recent meals featuring roasted chickpeas when I saw them listed on the menu I couldn’t wait to order them and connect to cities in my heart to my stomach. Our other little snacky was patatas bravas which I had never had before in name but knew it probably had something to do with potatoes and it was spot on. The spicy aioli served with it was perfect. Ironically this little bar, Tandem, was in an unusually mellow trancelike state. I’ve been back and it’s usually shoulder to shoulder packed and turns into a dance club as the night gets later.

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It felt a bit like an Alice in Wonderland moment as M gathered me up after snacking, hustled me to a wine store where each grabbed a bottle, squired me away on a subway line where I had no clue which way it was going, and upon exiting twirled around and then set off in another direction after rattling off how avenues and streets worked. A few short minutes later we were huddled in a doorway with B and waiting for a table to down some sushi. Bring your own bottle is definitely a new concept to this West Coaster. It’s apparently very popular in a lot of New York restaurants, and I like it, a lot.

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We missed the tail end of happy hour but the sushi was bliss. The nightcap of the evening was walking around the Lower East Side and visiting the street where M used to live and then the bar M and B worked at before they got married. I couldn’t have asked for a better re-introduction to Manhattan. That night of eating cemented my urgency to find a place. Thanks M & B, couldn’t have done this move without you.

Chopsticks down, fingers ready, mouth open, go! Clearly a departure from the sushi joint the next day I went straight to a place I had been wanting to eat at since I saw the write up in Esquire and a few other breezy printed periodicals. The Meatball Shop. Doesn’t the name alone, if you eat meat [though they do offer meatless options as well] make you lick your lips?

I went to their Greenwich Village location and made sure I had an empty stomach because I knew I was going to pig out. Thanksgiving was still lingering in the air and the special ball of the day was stuffing [dressing depending on what part of the country you’re from] inspired with a cranberry chutney. My mouth waters as I think about how good that was as a standalone. With that as a base I won’t tell you how many of these sliders I downed.

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I loved the creativity of how you order your balls, and the depth and diversity of the menu. If you’re not making your way to NY anytime soon I highly recommend picking up their cookbook. It almost makes me want to try my hand at … but not quite.

Finally. In a city like this it’s important to remember that there a famous eateries, and sometimes you just have to say yes even when you would traditionally say no. Sweets and I don’t have a longstanding rapport, but there is bakery that has a month long hot chocolate festival. It sounds a bit schmaltzy but when I read they had a pretzel croissant I was sold. Much like The Meatball Shop I made sure I was good and hungry before I walked into The City Bakery last Sunday. It was midday and not too crowded. It didn’t smell overly chocolate-ly so I determined it worth my effort.

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The croissant was amazing. I hear Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle might give it a run for its money with their twice baked almond croissant. In the meantime I barely had a croissant to nibble on when I found a table because I had been attacking it in line. Kind of like when I was a kid and thought I was being sneaky by taking a french fry or two out of the bag when we had the occasional treat of fast food. There were never very many left when we got home. The hot chocolate of the day was caramel and it was thick, rich and topped with their specialty marshmallow. My only wish was that I would have wanted it hotter, but maybe that ruins the integrity of the chocolate. All in all, a great experience and one that was slightly outside of my norm, but received a star in my food logbook.

It’s little things such as City Bakery or sushi where you get to bring your own spirit of choice that make me excited to share the city with family and friends as they come visit. That quest for insider information, on great eats, will probably never die.

Until the next bite. I’ll be reporting in on a pizza-off taking place at the W’s next. Happy Friday, cheers.

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