Saturday, December 12, 2015

Good Dates, Part I

I've said it before and I'll say it again: sometimes the best dates you'll ever go on are the ones you go on with your friends.

RD and meet in Chelsea at around 4pm. We drink tea and talk about boys who kiss us, who don't kiss us, and who kiss us strangely. He slices an edge off of his almond croissant for me because I tell him I'm not eating dessert again until the holidays but he wants me to try it anyway. It's delicious, and I wish I could eat the whole thing.

We make our way to New York Live Arts, where one of my favorite modern choreographers, Sonya Tayeh, is exhibiting the piece she's been working on as a part of a residency at the space. The dancers wear black and the space is almost grey with low light. They flick their legs and arch their backs in time to interviews set to music, where Sonya talks about the aftermath of coming out to her mother, who has barely spoken to her since. Afterward, Sonya sits quietly for a talkback with the audience, musicians Jo Lampert and duo The Bergsons, and Janet Eilber, Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Dance Company. Sonya's hair is long and thick, shaved on the sides of her head. She wears pieces in long, draping black. RD notices how her gestures when she speaks are a dance on their own, long, lithe fingers moving perfectly in time to the music of her speech. I always like seeing dance with people who aren't dancers because they notice things like that.

After Sonya, we head to dinner at Mizu, one of the spots RD usually goes for lunch. We eat soup and sushi and talk about gender inequality in the workplace. I nibble at his black cod sushi in miso dressing and wish I had ordered it myself. He tries to get me to order dessert again, cocking his eyebrow at me mischievously. I want the green tea mochi, but I drink water instead. Somehow he forgives me, and we bundle ourselves into our coats for a brief stop at Flying Tiger. The store is originally Danish, and is kind of the Ikea of home decor--tea towels for $3, funny cocktail napkins for $1, a set of magnets for $2, and so on--where it might fall apart but at least it looks cute for a while first. It turns out we've arrived 10 minutes to closing, but the store's bright lights still welcome us and nobody shoos us away.  The store has a path you have to follow to go through it, so you end up seeing everything and snatching up what you like along the way. I end up with some kitchen cloths patterned with hearts and red lip magnets that I will immediately come home later and neatly place on my fridge.

We part ways soon after, each of us heading uptown on different sides of the island. "This has been such a nice evening!" he says. "I thought I was just going to do the requisite, 'Hi, I miss you, your hair is gorgeous' and then leave, but this is so much better."

HanOre and I always have a fantastic evening, but this evening was made even better by an adventure to a hole-in-the-wall joint for one of the best meals I've had since moving to New York. I had taken my Sunday slow, spending most of my time in my neighborhood, and wanted to explore. Someplace new, someplace unusual! Casa Adela, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Alphabet City, had been on my radar for a long time, but probably out of sheer laziness I never made the trek to 5th Street and Avenue C to actually try it. Sunday night, though, seemed like the perfect opportunity, so I asked Han if she wanted to try it and she agreed. What better way to spend the first night of Hanukkah, we reasoned. The restaurant is almost literally a hole in the wall, with only five or six tables and bright fluorescent lights. Signs behind the counter are all written in Spanish, and stacks of Goya juices still in their bulk cardboard containers sit right in front of it. We wait for a table, but as we'll learn it was well worth the wait.

The waitress asks us for our order in Spanish, so I respond in kind. We both order Pernil Asado--roast pork--yellow rice and cual tipo de frijoles, what type of beans? Frijoles negros, por favor. Black beans, please. Y a beber? Solo agua, por favor. Muchas gracias. My Spanish comes back to me in waves, often very rocky at the start then much smoother at the end. By the time the food arrives we are ravenous, and dig in almost immediately. We are each given a giant plate of yellow rice and a teacup of black beans to pour onto it first. Then shortly after arrive two small plates of roast pork. It has that gorgeous reddened exterior flecked with seasoning and I can tell just by looking at it that's juicy. I'm able to slice into it smoothly and when I pop it into my mouth, I realize part of my food life has thus far been missing. We both MMMMM audibly while we eat and just stop talking because it's taking away from the eating experience. It is, in fact, juicy--bursts of salt pop in my mouth and combine with the juices and I think this is the right time to use the expression "I literally cannot even"? We sit in stunned silence, continuing to eat, and then soon, sadly, it's over. At least for me. I haven't eaten since the early morning and have destroyed the plate of pork. I am envious of Han, who will have her leftovers for lunch tomorrow. But I will have my memories! *swoons, faints, dies, is reborn again as a plate of Pernil Asado*

Mouths still watering, we pop into Lois at Han's recommendation. It's a wine bar just a block away, on C between 6th and 7th. All of the wine is on tap--but don't worry, the taps have been engineered to prevent oxidation and maintain the wine's original tastes--and you can order in a variety of sizes: glass, carafe, and so on. What's interesting about Lois, named for its Avenue C (Loisaida Ave) location, is that it's also a no-tipping bar; the price of gratuity and tax are both included in whatever you get. The very friendly bartender allows us to taste a few varietals before we settle on our choices, too. We both choose something light, dry and fruity then sidle up to a corner booth and talk about the book Han is writing, the books other people are writing, and the couple next to us who we think are on a first date.

Pork and wine? Sounds like a good way to spend Hanukkah to me.