This visit, for me, was a little bit of both. On one hand, I will just come out and admit: New York kicked my ass. The crowds, the traffic, the pavement…did I mention the crowds? I’m just not cut out to have that many people around me all the time. On the other hand, with my brother as local guide, I was treated to some of the most magnificent meals imaginable. We started with a transcendent birthday lunch for Adrian with our mom and my sister-in-law, Sarah, at Sushi Yasuda, described by the NY Times as a “shrine” to sushi. That’s the first course above, and after years of dreaming of this place, I have to say, it did not disappoint. Every single bite was incredible. Second course, below, featuring blue crab body meat and fresh grilled eel. After that, I was so absorbed in the experience, I forgot to take any more pictures. Mind blowing.
That evening, after the book event, Sarah organized a party at Calle Ocho, a kind of pan-Latin joint with plate after plate of vibrant food from everywhere Spanish is spoken. Handmade corn tortillas, fried plantain, lobster paella…it just kept coming, and all of it startlingly good. Next day started with lunch with my agent, Valerie, at Le Colonial, an elegant French-Vietnamese restaurant that felt like a trip to a supper club where the Southeast-Asian elite dined in 1957. Delicious, earthy flavors of fish sauce, cilantro, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and fragrant jasmine rice…with white table cloths, heavy silverware and dark wood furniture.
It took a while, but late that night, after an opening party for Warby Parker Brooklyn–where Adrian did a number of illustrations–we were hungry again. So of course, we made the trek back to Manhattan to visit the world-famous soup-dumpling emporium of Joe’s Shanghai. Holy smokes. I could eat those dumplings every day for years. The delicate pasta casings literally melted in the mouth, revealing a rich, savory pork broth. Throw in a plate of handmade noodles with black pepper beef, some pea vines, and crispy-fried salt pork chops and I was in heaven. That’s Adrian, above, heading out into the night with our treasured leftovers. Hard to believe there was anything left at all, but the two of us ordered enough for five, and only ate what four normal people would have.
Finally, on the way to the airport the following day, we took a little detour to Juliana’s, home of the finest pizza in Brooklyn. Crisp, thin, lightly charred crust from the wood-fired oven, melting slabs of mozzarella, and a sauce of tomatoes so fresh and light it tasted like biting into a tomato from the garden. With local knowledge, we ordered ahead, walked right past the long line to pickup our pie, then strolled down to the water on a hidden path that led to a beautiful, shady–and empty–picnic table. Awesome. That’s my brother with eyes on the prize. I made my flight and returned home exhausted, satiated, and feeling like the luckiest country bumpkin on earth. And somehow, in spite of all the hustle and bustle and long walks…I seem to have gained about seven pounds. Go figure.
Great book event “in conversation with” my brother…and a rare chance for me to hang out on his turf and talk about books, writing, family and food. That’s Adrian and me fielding questions after the reading, Patagonia Upper West Side, New York City.
Huge thanks to Adrian for thoughtful questions and an amazing food tour of NY (more on that later), to my sister-in-law Sarah for putting together a fantastic post-event party, and to the crew at Patagonia UWS for a fun event. Also to our mom for making the trek, the Brennan family for being there, and to good friend Smarty, for a surprise appearance in the Big City. A night to remember for sure.
As our good friend Smarty says, it just wouldn’t be a spot-prawn opener without weather. And so it was. After days and days of blue skies and sunshine, our Puget Sound shrimp season–now down to a single, partial day–arrived with rain and wind. The kids and I joined Smarty for a few quick pulls and found serious abundance, which is, I suppose, one of the benefits of such a limited season. Since he moved away for work, we miss Smarty, and it was great to be out on the water with him again.
Spot prawns spoil quickly if the heads are left on, so the kids made fast work of cleaning and counting our haul. That’s Skyla and Weston, above, twisting shrimp heads.
Since we were already running late for a dinner party at our friends, Earl and Doreen Harper’s, place in Seattle, we ran for the ferry, hauling a big container of prawn tails on ice. That’s Chef Earl, working his magic in the kitchen, under the watchful supervision of the peanut gallery, aka, Dave McCoy.
And…Voila! The best spot prawns I’ve ever eaten, by far. Earl’s secret was a fast, hot, dry saute, followed by salt, butter, garlic and parsley in a hot–and humongous–pan. Seared on the outside, coated in salty, garlic-y butter, and firm and sweet inside, they were magnificent. Of course, Earl’s other 9 courses–including Spanish blood sausage and shredded apples wrapped in nettle leaves, and marinated pork skewers with roasted tomatoes–were off the hook as well. On the long, late drive home, full, happy and tired, we felt lucky to have such great friends and days.
My good friend Kate Taylor was passing through Seattle, carrying 30 pounds of elk meat for me (a treasured gift, for sure), plus my clam gun, which she “borrowed” a couple months back. I didn’t want to drive onto the ferry for such a short trip, and had to figure out how to haul it all back home on foot. So I grabbed my trusty Black Hole Wheeled Duffel and ran for the boat.
We met under the viaduct for a vaguely sketchy exchange. Well, okay, I didn’t have anything to give her, so it wasn’t exactly an “exchange,” but meeting in a trash-strewn downtown alley to load black plastic garbage bags from her truck into my wheelie definitely felt shady. Then, in a completely unplanned bit of perfection, I discovered that the clam gun fit through the end grip and roller handle of the duffel, locking it in place for transport. Awesome. Quick hugs and I was on my way…with a brief stop for Thai food to go, which is where I took the picture. Hey, gotta make the most of any trip into the city…
On the ferry home, my luggage was the subject of several comments and questioning looks, but I was stoked, rolling along, to quote Bob Dylan, with one hand waving free. My guess is that whoever designed the bag never had 30 pounds of frozen elk steaks and a clam gun in mind, but the fit was so perfect, it sure seemed like it.
I am stoked to be talking about and reading from Closer to the Ground at the Patagonia Upper West Side store on Wednesday, May 18th. I’m even more excited that this event will be “in conversation with” my brother, Adrian Tomine. There will be food and beer, courtesy of the good folks at Patagonia Provisions, and I think it’s going to be an awesome time.
If you don’t know my brother, he’s a New Yorker cover artist and the author/cartoonist of Summer Blonde, Shortcomings, and most recently, the highly acclaimed, mind-blowingly good, Killing & Dying. <But don’t just take my word for it, check out what New York Times critic A.O. Scott had to say HERE.>He’s also a dyed-in-the-wool Brooklynite, which should set up an interesting country-mouse/city-mouse conversation.
Of course, I’m also looking forward to “foraging” my way through all that great NY food while I’m there, so stay tuned for the report. In the mean time, if you’re in or near The City So Nice They Named It Twice, drop by the event and say hello.