I landed in New York a little after 4 on Wednesday, a full 45 minutes ahead of schedule. Of course, just because Royal Air Maroc kindly decides to land its flight from Casablanca early does in no way mean that Turkish Airlines will vacate the hangar in time to get its ass out to Istanbul so that I get on with my day. We ended up deplaning after 5. I made it to Maya’s in Park Slope a little after 7 and in no time, I was ready to go out to dinner with Maya’s posse from high school – a crew of smart and stylish Brooklynites who could make up the cast of a movie. We headed to Robin des Bois for dinner out in a candlelit garden. Residual afternoon heat wafted in the night air but jovial conversation and a hearty risotto had me in heaven: it was the most remedial experience I could have asked for after having spent four dark weeks largely in solitude. The only thing that enhanced the experience to something celestial was our post-dinner trip to Blue Marble, a Brooklyn hipster ice cream institution that takes you from the ground to the Cloud Nine in a lick. I fought through the jetlag blues to hang out in the park, soaking in the sounds of company.
The next day it was the Brooklyn Museum, then the Upper East side with Rachel for lunch at Nanoosh, back downtown for a surprise dessert of artisanal ice cream out of a truck courtesy of Coach (yeah, the bag and shoe people … strange, right? Hey, I might have been the only male standing in that line, but did you really expect me to walk by when you offered me Earl Grey Tea ice cream?) and then a jaunt through SoHo and the West Village for window shopping at Marc Jacobs and MC J Books (great place to scope out models). A caramel cupcake from Magnolia Bakery ended my outing. Headed back into Brooklyn for a picnic at the Brooklyn Bridge park in Dumbo and an outdoor screening of Annie Hall with the Hudson River and all of Lower Manhattan as the backdrop.
The following day, it was breakfast with Michelle at the Park Slope bakery she works at (everyone must go! It's named Blue Sky Bakery: it is adorably hipster/hipsterly adorable and they have the best muffins you'll have EVER tasted) --> lunch at Grimaldi’s with a friend I had made in Morocco --> uptown to hang with Fadey and her fam at the PENTHOUSE SUITE in the Bestwestern on Broadway --> SoHo for coffee and the park with Yanie --> the LADY GAGA concert at Madison Square Garden (she is my goddess) --> Late night reunion with Noor ... and a really long game of Kings.
Post-Lady Gaga and a 4AM bedtime, Fadey and I went to get breakfast at the Chelsea Market. We went a little overboard, getting iced coffee from Ninth St. Espresso, brownies from Fat Witch and a blueberry-cardamom popsicle from People’s Pops. Noor, her boyfriend Ted, Fadey and I then went down to the Meatpacking District for brunch at the sexy Café Gitane at the Jane Hotel. We then eventually found ourselves in SoHo at the Arab Cultural fair which seemed to pop out of nowhere, the sound of a dabkas and the smell of falafel rising from 3rd and Broadway so surreptitiously that it took everyone by surprise. With nothing else to do and the fear of rain, we took a cab all the way uptown to the Met, where I went a little gaga for their South Asian art collection and their current exhibit on painted Ramayana narratives (this my shit, as you all know). After wandering the museum, I rushed back downtown for dinner with Maya, Mike and Brooke at the East Village outpost of Frankie’s Spuntino (as Maya will not let you forget, the original is in Brooklyn, y’know, the one that Beyonce and Jay-Z really like?). We had the most amazing and scarily grownup dinner, digging into Italian food perfectly paired with wine, ending our meal with dessert and espresso. Though the bill might have had us on the cusp of a nervous breakdown (I spent that much on ravioli?!), Maya and I shared a look in which both of us knew that we’d done it up right. After dinner, Maya and I went back uptown for a second dinner, this one cooked by my darling Tommy with the help of Barefoot Contessa. I didn’t know what I was more excited about: the requisite Whitney on the speakers, the exquisite guac or the fact I was with Tommy and Tess for another one of our signature weekend hangouts, New York edition. I think it was an easy choice though… the guac was sensational. Joking, joking… Being back with T. Nels and Tess is like being at home: it always just fits. The two T’s ended up going to East Village, but I stayed in the Upper East Side with Maya’s friends from Williams. It’s always weird when things like that happen, be it in Fez, Granada or Manhattan, the Williams experience can oftentimes defy spatial constraints. Put a critical mass of Ephs together and I feel like I could be back in Billsville with just the blink of an eye.
My last day in New York read like this:
- Eggs Benedict from Choice Market, a café that could not be more Brooklyn even if it tried
- Shopping side-by-side with the Lower Manhattan hipster crew at Opening Ceremony
- Goodbye with Noor uptown
- Watching the glorious game in Brooklyn
- Airport to catch my flight back home.
What is it about New York? For one thing, the city inspires a blog post that reads like a journal entry slash food blog (and for that I apologize… this might as well be an ad for all the establishments that I visited in the city since I’ve namedropped about a jazillion times). Chock full of things to do, a moment is never lost, a second never spared. It’s thriving, alive and filled with some of my closest friends. I just can’t get enough and I can’t wait to be back.
Boy, it would really suck if even after spending half a year traveling, my fave locale is a place that has been under my nose all this time.