Saturday, October 22, 2016

Beyond Frank

When EH visits, I like to construct an evening out for her of some kind. As I've mentioned before, she works hard at the hospital and barely gets a day off, so I'm always happy to help her blow off some steam when she comes into the city from New Jersey. One time she came in I was working weekend mornings, and had fallen asleep by midnight. I felt so bad that I couldn't give her her evening out that the next time she came in I promised we would go hard, and I delivered: we stayed out until 5:30am. I pissed off my roommate at the time, a light sleeper, when we came giggling in around 6am, the sun just beginning to peek through the windows.

The last time she came in, though, she wasn't in the mood for a "go hard" kind of evening, and frankly I don't know that I was either. But I would have rallied for her without a doubt! She wanted to "go medium," and we ended up going on a petite walking tour of the East Village, starting with a gallery opening. I asked her what she wanted to eat for dinner, and she decided Italian, so I took her to Frank. I went to Frank for the first time a year or two ago, but for whatever reason hadn't been back since. It's an unpretentious little Italian joint on 2nd Avenue, with tables outside, a bar, and a small dining room that wraps around the other side of a doorway. In true 'EH is Visiting' fashion, we end up being able to waltz right into Frank and sit at the bar on a Friday night around 8pm, prime New York eating hours in which it's often difficult to get a table anywhere, let alone someplace especially tasty. We order what ends up being the perfect amount of food while perched at the bar, first sharing a pear and gorgonzola salad. The sharp cheese is softened by the crisp, juicy fruit, and there's enough cheese left over for us to spread it across the warm bread previously served to us with olive oil. Next up is black linguini with calamari. It's in a tomato sauce that's just a little bit spicy, perfectly tangy, and it presses up gently against the inky pasta and the subtle chew of the calamari ringlets.

We head to Mayahuel a few short blocks away next in hopes of mezcal cocktails, but have to leave our name at the door with a man named Josh. Josh will call me when our table is ready, about 20 minutes. In the meantime, though, EH has the genius idea to get some dessert somewhere, and we trot over to Big Gay Ice Cream on 7th Street between 1st Street and Avenue A. It's a bit chilly out, so magically we don't have to wait in line for more than 2-5 minutes, an impossibility when the summer heat swallows the city. I hadn't been there all summer, waiting on line forever for their delectable soft-serve, and it feels like I beat the system.

We decide to share one of their massive cones, a special that day called the Violet Beauregard. Named for the Willy Wonka character whose greedy noshing inflates her into a blueberry balloon, the cone is dressed accordingly with blueberry sauce, pie crumble, and whipped cream atop vanilla ice cream. No sooner to we begin digging into the cone then Josh calls from Mayahuel--interestingly, his area code seems to be from Utah and I wonder what on Earth a Utahan thinks about New York when they first arrive here. We say we are on our way from Avenue A, when in reality we stand outside Big Gay and finish the cone, perhaps the walking equivalent of saying "I'm in a cab" when you've only just gotten out of the shower. Shortly, though, we click-clack over to Mayahuel and are escorted upstairs to a blue-and-white tiled table. We sip our mescal and the drinks are nice enough--but at $15 a pop, we decide our next venue will be a little different. Inside, there's a little old man with a cane, conservatively dressed, waiting for a sundae. EH and I smile--something like this (read: both an ice cream store called Big Gay Ice Cream and a little old man happily going to it for a cone) probably wouldn't have happened 20 years ago.

Our last stop of the evening is a place I pass the evening before, Huertas. This is the first place we go this evening that I actually haven't been to before, and I'm reminded to add some more new venues to my roster. Huertas is actually a Basque-inspired tapas restaurant, but they also make pitchers of cocktails they call refrescos. This actually means 'sodas' in Spanish, but the pitchers they say are more like Spanish wine coolers. We sit at the bar--magically, yet again, there are two seats waiting for us--and head for a pitcher of Agua de Valencia, made with prosecco and orange soda (but not Sunkist, more European in style--think Aranciata, a bubbly, orange-infused, only slightly-sweet construction). The bartender swirls out a neat twist of orange for each of our drinks and each time we pour a new drink (three times possible each with this particular pitcher…and at a cost of $30 total, practically a steal) a whisk of orange oil enters our noses. Soon, though, the bubbles invade our senses and we teeter ourselves into a cab. It was a night, we'll say, where we went hard enough. Are we getting old, I wonder? Or sometimes are a few good bubbles enough?