On Friday, we traveled to Brooklyn for a quick visit with Mary, Brian and Saltie, and departed mid-morning on Monday. In between, we mostly ate. We ate very well, thanks to Mary's and Brian's excellent recommendations. From Spanish to Southern cuisines, to Italian to Yemeni, to Chinese and French – we enjoyed every bite.
Juliana's Pizza: located just around the corner from our hotel by the Brooklyn Bridge, we met Mary there for a late lunch. Thin-crusted and coal fired: Just the way I like my pizza pie!
La Vara: located in Cobble Hill (Brooklyn) and featuring small plates from Southern Spain. We met Mary and Brian and friend Carrie here for a fabulous meal. From the first plates: marinated olives and fried chickpeas to eggplant and honey to house-cured salt cod to noodle paella, lamb meatballs, to crispy suckling pig and finally olive oil cake, each dish was delicious, perfect for sharing around our table.
Fort Defiance Cafe and Bar: a neighborhood gathering spot in Red Hook, just around the corner from Mary's and Brian's loft apartment, it features seasonal American cuisine. For Saturday brunch, I had The Charleston: two poached eggs with collard greens, cheddar-chile skillet cornbread and mustard hollandaise. Yum.
Roberto's: A destination Italian eatery serving homemade pastas (and more) in an old-style setting. Located in the Bronx in Little Italy, Roberto's is one of Brian's favorite places. One of ours now too!
Yemen Cafe: We stopped in for lunch after church and were greeted with bowls of hot soup, platters of warm clay-oven bread, cups of sweet Yemen tea -- and all before we ordered our lunch of slow-cooked lamb over basmati rice. To end our meal, we couldn't resist the fatah with honey, a comfy bread pudding of sorts.
Hwa Yuan Szechuan: an upscale Chinese restaurant in Manhattan's Chinatown. Today marks the Chinese New Year, but we celebrated on Sunday night with a feast of two kinds of dumplings, cold noodles with sesame sauce, Beijing duck with pancakes, eggplant with garlic sauce, and seafood stir fry. Definitely the night of the Pig, to kick off the year of the Pig.
Almandine Bakery: We met Mary for one final meal before saying our goodbyes at this traditional french bakery near her office in DUMBO. I'm still thinking about the almond croissant.
In between breakfasts, lunches and dinners we walked miles through Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg in Brooklyn; the Upper West and East Sides and Chinatown in Manhattan, and Little Italy in the Bronx.
Non-food highlights include:
In a tiny little shop in Gowanus (Brooklyn), you can find hand-sewn animals and dolls with matching clothes for their "owners." Our Hazel got her first playmate, Ivy the Goat, from her Aunt Mary at Thanksgiving. Ed and I walked over to the shop to see for ourselves the magical offerings. You can follow them on Instagram: @hazelvillage.
First Presbyterian Church, whenever we visit Brooklyn, we make a point of attending Sunday service at this most welcoming church in Brooklyn Heights. Wonderful service, inspiring music and touching sermon.
Baggu: I needed a new wallet and Mary knew just the place to take me. We headed straight to Williamsburg (Brooklyn) to the Baggu shop and found the perfect wallet for my Valentine to give me next week!
American Museum of Natural History: located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it is one of the largest museums in the world. Amazing dioramas.
Guggenheim Museum: We crossed Central Park and made our way to the Guggenheim Museum to see the Hilma af Klint exhibit. If you find yourself in NYC before the end of April, go see this exhibit. It was fabulous.
Arthur Avenue I'll let you in on a well-kept secret. Arthur Avenue, way up in the Bronx, is the REAL Little Italy of NYC. You can buy beautiful bread, pasta, meat, pastries, expressos, Italian sausage, olive oil and a staggering number of cheeses. Plus you can find one incredible restaurant after another, all within a few square blocks. Brian was an expert tour guide and most of the shopkeepers seem to know him by name.
It is always fun to visit our grown children, wherever they happen to be living. This weekend was no exception. Mary and Brian were terrific hosts. I'm missing them already and looking forward to a visit this summer when I'm sure we will continue our quest to dine at the best of the 24,000.