Friday, October 9, 2015

A Tale of Two Betties

HanOre and I were trying to think of something to do.

"We could get really dressed up, go to B&H, then go someplace really fabulous with cocktails we can't afford," I offered in half-irony, half-excitement. And HanOre approved! A Monday evening can be really boring if you don't play your cards right, but it looked as though we would be doing just fine.

B&H, our beloved kosher dairy lunch counter (though neither of us are kosher or vegetarian) in the East Village had reopened in August after the sad 2nd Avenue gas explosion a few months ago. All was as it was before, and fortunately the restaurant had barely suffered any damages.

That day, I asked:

"What is our vibe tonight? Bettie Page? Beyoncé?"

The best evenings out, after all, require the best possible costuming. HanOre chose Bettie, so into my closet I dove for something that would pair well with red lipstick and red peep-toe pumps a la the famed 1950s pinup. After a whirligig of flying clothing, a bold, black and white striped dress with a sweetheart neckline caught my eye. Perfect! I zipped myself in and proceeded out into the night, lipsticked and heeled into a neo-Bettie reverie. Though I would have to be careful about gusts of wind so I did not also Marilyn myself that evening.

I arrived at B&H to find HanOre in her own take on Bettie regalia. Next to the restaurant's pale green walls, she was a vision in an indigo blue wiggle dress with cap sleeves, her signature magenta suede pumps, and red lips. Men in flannel and t-shirts sat hunched over the lunch counter while a crew of NYU students huddled together in the back. We were a sight for sore eyes, throwbacks to an era the East Village hadn't known for 60 years. We said our order to the man behind the counter and stood up to take the platter of blintzes (she) and kasha varnishkas (me) from him when they were ready. Diving into our Jewish soul food, we discussed all manner of magazine gossip and news of potential suitors, careful not to smudge our lipstick. Glamour is as glamour does.

Our cocktail adventures brought us to Angel's Share, suggested by HanOre. Up a set of unmarked stairs on 9th Street, there's Village Yokocho, a Japanese restaurant where patrons sit and munch on sushi or udon or what have you, and you walk right next to them as you open an also unmarked wooden door and enter the bar, a speakeasy of sorts. Over the bar there's a mural of cherubic figures and the space itself is a neat little box with small tables and chairs overlooking the street. There's no standing room in this bar, either--that is, it is not an option to stand and that's strictly enforced. Their cocktail menu changes seasonally and includes named cocktails for every major kind of liquor: this is not a place you go for a vodka soda. Well, you could probably have one if you wanted, but you'd be missing the point.

Bartenders in white dress shirts, black vests and bow ties shook and stirred gorgeous constructions. HanOre chose what ended up being a green concoction topped with fluffed egg whites, a sprig of rosemary and freshly shaven nutmeg. It was a sensory experience, tasting the bubbly beverage and inhaling its woody, sweet scent. Mine was a drink called Cheek to Cheek, which included vodka, a wildberry puree, and a mascarpone espuma. The latter was thick, so the cocktail was served with a petite silver spoon. Imagine, a drink and dessert in the same glass! We sat and savored our beverages, crossing our legs and leaning our elbows off the backs of the bar chairs like the 1950s goddess we sought to emulate for the evening. Sounds of 3rd Avenue buzzed past us, as lights from Stuyvesant Square crept in through the window and we continued our gossip. It was a Monday evening done right.