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.