Monday, November 2, 2020

Morsels II

Writing about food and drink makes me happier than I realized.

Before Hannah and I meet for cocktails at four o’clock on a Sunday, I sidle up to Everyman Espresso in the East Village. In the Before Time, it was my home base, where I was enough of a regular that the baristas greeted me with smiles, knew my coffee order (milk and two Splendas, please), and asked how I’ve been. They didn’t get annoyed when I asked what song they were playing because somehow the music was always good, whether it was Chet Baker or the Psychedelic Furs or something in between. I have a coffee and sit at a table, hoping to read quietly for a while before cocktail hour. I realize a light sweater was a tad too ambitious and try to lose myself in the coffee but to no avail. I very politely ask Hannah if she wouldn’t mind sparing a jacket, and she kindly obliges.

The walk to Cafe Cluny warms my crisp exterior and, soon, so does the dirty martini I will pour into my interior. Hannah’s red leather jacket helps. Our next martini is a block away, at our beloved Corner Bistro, former haunt of the Beats. It arrives in a plastic cup and we toast and it’s wonderful and makes me spill my secrets. Underneath a wooden portico, we stare through a plastic window at the bar’s red neon lights bearing its name, martini goggles in full bloom.


It’s a Monday night and I haven’t seen Naomi in more than half a year. She arrives to meet me at the new Lazy Sundaes location on Waverly Place, a denim shirt and a neon beanie and a smile. The lovely ladies at Lazy Sundaes have treated us to fabulous bingsoo sundaes, Korean shave ice made of oatmilk and topped with “red bean preserve, condensed milk, mochi and soy bean powder” and bubble tea. In their storefront, a drawing of Frankie the cat lounges belly up on the wall, overseeing yummy cups of textured, creamy, icy goodness. We’ve caught them just in time, for in a few weeks it will turn little colder and their hot bubble tea will call our names a little louder.

Naomi and I walk our teas and sundaes to Washington Square Park, where The Youths are skateboarding and wearing mom jeans with crop tops and smoking pot. A man tries to sell us edibles, but there are achievements to discuss on the horizon, fellowships and chapter completions and offices made from closets while thick tapioca bubbles find their ways through straws. A skateboard hits me in the foot, but it’s the nature of the beast.

Our next stop is Bar Pisellino on Grove Street, which looks like it fell out of 1933 with its wood paneling, elegant coupe glasses, and intricately tiled floor. Dark liquors are on the horizon, a black walnut Manhattan for myself and a ginger hot toddy for Ms. Naomi. It arrives so beautifully on a silver tray with cleanly folded, imprinted napkins that I briefly turn into an Instagram whore. It is just cold enough for the dark liquors to make us warm again. There’s a rogue saxophone player in the street drowning out our explicit discussion of sexuality. "I don't think I have friends who aren't hot,” says my friend, the poet and scholar. “I’m all toasty with friendship and bourbon and thick thighs save lives,” I say. We are giggly enough to go get a slice at Joe’s on West 4th. I slap cash on the counter and soon the pizza is hot (enough) from the oven, the perfect and perfectly New York end to an evening. Naomi’s partner arrives in their SUV to take her home. I’m excited to meet him but I avoid saying “your other half” because they are both complete on their own.


Now that Kitchen Arts & Letters is open on Saturdays, Steven and I are able to put our incessant texting of “Are you free…” to a rest, trying to figure out the right afternoon to take off. Fittingly, he is wearing an M.F.K. Fisher sweatshirt embroidered by Fat Little Stitch with an oft-present octopus necklace. Amongst the bookstore’s food writing and memoirs and cookbooks and postcards we each find stories both old and new that we’re excited about. I’m not quite sure how we developed this mutual love of food writing, but having procured our texts, it feels as if we’ve made some sort of pilgrimage.
Lunch happens at The Barking Dog a block away, lovely for salad and coffee and a shared autumnal, brown-sugared apple crisp with a side of gossip. And then, ever my favorite pièce de résistance, a trip to Zabar’s. I fill my cart with gnocchi and smoked salmon and mango and arepas probably too many prepared foods. But what can I say? I am perpetually weak for the tastes of someone else’s kitchen.