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10 days, tightly packed

So, the cat’s out of the bag. While you weren’t looking, I snuck off to New York with homemade muffins, the requisite amount of love-struck giddiness, and, in a remarkable display of restraint, only six pairs of shoes. My ten-day whirlwind visit included a wedding (no, not mine); a piano recital; a Little League game; a kindergarten performance of Maurice Sendak’s “Chicken Soup with Rice”; three trips to New Jersey; a road-trip to Baltimore; a visit with my favorite meatball maker, Doron; a lot of sweaty days sans air conditioning; and a handsome man; but along the way, I did find time to eat. And lucky for you, a girl cannot live on muffins alone—or at least, in New York, she’d be foolish to.

In such matters, there’s no better place to begin than breakfast. In late morning, and with an oscillating fan as musical accompaniment, we tore into a fresh Balthazar baguette and smeared hunks of it with cool Double Devon cream butter, layering on paper-thin slices of crisp radish from the Union Square Greenmarket, sprinkling each bite with French gray salt, and washing it down with purply-red blood orange juice. Each mouthful was salty and soothing, crunchy and yielding, peppery and cooling, delicious. And so it began.

A day and a half later, with a wedding reception, a falafel, and two trips to Jersey behind me, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow-blogger Amy, in town from Sweden to visit family and friends, for a warm evening of drinks, dinner, and the sort of conversation that keeps two girls firmly planted in their seats until well past midnight. We met at The Dove, a red brocade-lined bar near Washington Square Park, and after a gin and tonic for me and red wine for Amy, we moved on to Otto, where we shared a bottle of wine, two pizzas, and a side of cauliflower “alla Siciliana.” Though the place felt more cavernous and less intimate than I’d expected (and, as Amy noted, the bathrooms could use immediate attention), the pizza was fine and the cauliflower appealingly roughed up with lemon and capers. It was the company, however, that made the meal. I may have come to New York on official Brandon-related business, but I plan to always time future trips to coincide with Amy’s visits from across the Atlantic. Especially if it means getting to attend another barbeque at her family’s home in New Jersey, as we did the following afternoon. Her friends were more than welcoming to this West-Coast outsider; her father was an excellent partner for a porch chat; and her mother makes a mean oatmeal cookie.

And speaking of family, I managed to sneak out to Long Island for a few days with my own—my half-sister Lisa, her husband, and their five children. Between Little League games, school plays, and loads of laundry, Lisa introduced me to her favorite haunts, from her plot in the nearby community garden to Azure Chocolat*, a little light-blue shop on a quiet street in Centerport. And there I discovered the Azure s’more, surely the loveliest specimen of the genre retro-goes-ritzy, homey-goes-haute.

A palm-sized cube layered with homemade rosewater marshmallow, maple rose truffle, and thick homemade graham crackers, the s’mores are generously dipped in dark chocolate and topped with chopped walnuts. They are blessedly subtle in their sweetness, with a complex, hard-to-pinpoint floral quality, and but more importantly, they are blessedly easy on the tongue. Lisa and I took one home, sliced it thickly with a paring knife, and hovered over it, chewing thoughtfully and dabbing at the cutting board with our fingertips to catch every stray shard of chocolate.

And though I bought three more Azure s’mores for the road, that didn’t stop me from seeking out more sweets—also of the nostalgia variety—back in Manhattan. Brandon, ever food-savvy and already keenly aware of my sweet tooth, had studiously compared cupcakes around town and suggested a visit to sugar Sweet sunshine on the Lower East Side, where we, after only minor negotiating, decided to share an “Ooey Gooey” (a chocolate cupcake with chocolate-almond buttercream) and a pistachio cupcake with “the Moose” (a shiny, satiny buttercream).

We sat down at a table by the window with our napkins and chosen cupcakes, as well as a free bonus: part of a pumpkin cupcake with lemon buttercream, a baker’s “mistake” offered to us by one of the girls at the counter. We made fast work of the soft, creamy little cakes,
and as we were discussing the merits of sugar-laced kitchen errors, I noticed a strangely familiar-looking couple standing near the counter: it was Clotilde, of Chocolate & Zucchini, and her boyfriend Maxence! I had known that they were visiting New York from Paris, but, as Clotilde noted in her sweet description of our fortuitous meeting, the odds were razor-thin that we’d find ourselves in the same colorful little cupcake bakery at the same time on the same Saturday afternoon. But we shook off our disbelief, swapped notes on the city, and chatted a bit, and then we parted ways as surreally as we’d come together. Unfortunately, I missed her get-together at Otto the following evening, since I was on my way to JFK and back to Seattle. With any luck, though, we’ll find another time to meet—this time, maybe even with prior planning!—in New York or Paris, or on sait jamais, Seattle.

But in the meantime, I made my way home with a bag full of New York: three little vats of ultra-creamy Sabra-brand hummus; a dark and sour Balthazar pain de seigle; three cheeses from Cato Corner Farm; Jacques Torres chocolates from Brooklyn’s Blue Apron Foods; and fruity, not-too-sweet liquid loot from the greenmarket, strawberry-rhubarb and apricot wines from Château Renaissance. And as a parting gift, I also got to bring home a wonderfully food-obsessed New Yorker, at least for a few weeks. It should be enough to keep me busy—and well-fed—until next time.

*Azure Chocolat’s website is still in the works, but you can find them at 90C Washington Drive in Centerport, New York; telephone: 631.425.1885.


Blogger Michèle said...

Hi Molly,
It sounds like you had a wonderful and very tasty trip. A new man, AND a new friend, what more could a girl ask for. Im in Scotland this week and have had the pleasure of meeting Melissa from Travelers Lunchbox and like you and Amy, the hours we have spent together seem to pass by unnoticed. I love it when that happens.
Im happy that things are going well for you!

12:05 AM, June 30, 2005  
Anonymous maria said...

oh my my! thank you for sharing this wonderful post about nyc -- one of my favorite places to be & eat in the States for sure. i just adore that pic of the muffie wrapper post muffin.
and meeting Clotilde too ... i just love her blog! what a small world truly.
cheers! mav

3:53 AM, June 30, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

The pleasure was all mine, Molly.

I'm glad we tried Otto. Even if it was far from the best pizza I've ever had, it gave me some fennel inspiration. Next time let's do dim sum, though, I never did get around to it. Or maybe you'll need a herring fix and we'll meet up in Malmö??

By the way, Sabra's is the absolute best ready-made hummus. Hands down.

4:44 AM, June 30, 2005  
Blogger TanTian said...

Amy, you beat me to the punch. I was about to leave my own comment about the unbelievable tastiness of Sabra hummus. I hope you bought the party size, Molly! Next time you are in NYC we'll have to hit up Sahadi's. (www.sahadifinefoods.com)

6:17 AM, June 30, 2005  
Blogger margrocks said...

ditto on the sabra hummous. so smooth, so creamy, so...tahini-y. and dontcha just love the sprinkling of pine nuts on top? i got an eensy-weensy sample-size in my last freshdirect order.

i think, if memory serves, you can buy a gigantoid-size tub of sabra hummus at costco...do they have costcos on the west coast?

i've never been to centerport,ny, but after seeing that s'more (homemade rosewater marshmallows, for heaven's sake!) i might be moving...your half sister already has 5. do you think she'd notice one more?

10:21 AM, June 30, 2005  
Blogger Tisane For One said...

Hey Molly,
Your trip sounds fantastic - what a great time you must have had and I bet you probably needed a holiday after it ended - as is usually the case when excellent trips hapen to excellent people. Your mention of rosewater marshmallows made me quiver in my seat...mallows are my greatest sweet weakness.
And I am also a sucker for great hummus - How about posting a good hummus recipe?
Glad to hear you had a great time with Amy, I hope I can meet her when I am in Denmark later this year...

5:29 PM, June 30, 2005  
Blogger Chocopie said...

Hi, molly.
Your trip sounds amazing. Enjoy your trip with tasty foods.

8:57 PM, June 30, 2005  
Anonymous Gemma said...

It sounds like you had a great time in NY. I just returned yesterday from a brief trip there as well and I come to find out the place was crawling with food-bloggers! I'm glad you were able to spend your time there with lots of good food and a good man.

9:21 AM, July 01, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

How fun for you and Melissa, Michele! Although I've always been sheepish of the idea of "meeting people on the Internet," I must admit that blogging has made it an absolute pleasure. I imagine you'd agree...

Maria, you were just recently in NYC, right? As I recall, you took some lovely photos too (as usual, of course)! It's only a matter of time until we run into each other there, don't you think?

Amy, dim sum it is! And don't worry, I'll find a way to get to Malmo for the herring (vegetarian or no) at some point too. Oh, and I'm not surprised to hear that you're also a fan of Sabra--I knew you were a woman of taste.

TanTian, I'm going to take you up on your Sahadi's suggestion, most definitely. Hot damn. Expect to hear from me this fall!

Margrocks, ohhh yes, those pine nuts and herbs! Although I do love homemade hummus, there's something about those folks at Sabra. And as for Centerport, it's on Long Island. I'm not sure my sister is ready to take on a sixth, but maybe you can make a day trip?

Tisane for One, rosewater marshmallows are certainly quiver-worthy! And as for hummus, I recently posted my favorite recipe (using white beans rather than chickpeas, so it's not strictly traditional, but sooooo smooth) right here. As a matter of fact, I know that Amy made it recently, so maybe you two can swap notes when you're in Scandinavia...

Chocopie, thank you!

And Gemma, I hope you had a wonderful trip to NY, with, of course, wonderful food. Will you be writing about it?

10:22 AM, July 01, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Hi Molly - I recently discovered your blog and have thus been an engrossed reader! It has been quite fun and interesting (in the manner of a food-loving fly on the wall) to read about the connections and meetings amongst the food blogging world in nyc in the past week or so. And I was so inspired by the radish post linked in this entry (a new way to eat a radish for me, and quite delicious) that I wrote about it on my own fledgling food blog. Thanks! -Molly (also)

1:10 PM, July 01, 2005  
Blogger kath red said...

hi there, port2port directed me over here. lovely.

2:54 PM, July 01, 2005  
Anonymous gemma said...

Yep, it will be up in the next few days. I took so many pictures that I am having trouble paring down the non-food related material!

1:58 PM, July 02, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Molly, your blog has a wonderful title! And I'm so glad to hear that you are a fellow radish lover--looks we have more in common than just a name.

How funny, kath red. Only a few hours before you left your comment, I was perusing your blog--and got there via port2port! Your cupcakes and mud oven pizzas look fantastic...

And gemma, I look forward to it.

7:36 PM, July 02, 2005  

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