The past month has been a wonderful Spring Break by way of reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. After a whirlwind weekend with family in Chicago, I followed it up with a culinary excursion to the Big Apple courtesy my childhood friend. We met when we were in Class 5 and bonded over reading Austen, Bronte and company; watching Hitchcock movies and drooling over Gregory Peck; making fun of our older brothers; eating street fare like gol guppas; and of course, entering puberty and discovering that mysterious species known as boys. Our environments – both family and outside – helped shaped our love for the arts as well. We both learnt, and grew to love, all kinds of musical genres, classical dance forms, as well as the theater, anything that hangs in a museum, and of course, the visual and sensory delights of everything gastronomical.
So anyway, old habits really die a painful death. Almost 25 years later, we still talk books, movies, mothers, and the men in our lives. Only the places and circumstances have changed. And we also talked theater and food. Over a leisurely brunch at the Spotted Pig, we had hot cross buns followed by the Brunch special of the day – I had the salmon with the rye toast and she had the fried eggs with spicy sausage – all this with shoestring fries and a glass of Pimm’s Cup (beer and ginger ale, I think).
I dashed off to see a couple other friends for coffee, and promised to meet her downtown again for a play called My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. Between brunch, traffic, and catching the play, I was seriously running late. We exchanged frantic text messages which essentially told me to pick up my ticket at the box-office and if I was too late to be let inside, then I would have to wait for 1.5 hours for my friend and a couple of her friends who had come to see the play as well. As I reached the window, an usher hurriedly took me upstairs to the mezzanine section and I couldn’t see anyone remotely Indian looking. She was down below, in fact, with front row seats. All I was thinking was, “I’m so effing late, the show will start at any moment, and I need to get to my seat downstairs.” As I ran towards the door, I tripped down 2 stairs and strained my ankle with a four-letter word in tow. I was secretly howling in pain but managed to sit on a chair when the usher came dashing back upstairs to see what was going on. “Do you need to get help or do you want to see the show?” he asked. “I’ll see the show, but you need to help me downstairs to my seat.” I walked down and sat next to my friend just as the actor was coming on to the stage. In. The. Nick. Of. Time. After suffering through the introduction, the show was funny enough to make me forget my injury for the next hour or so.
Our little play group of four then decided to get an early dinner and so we trotted off to L’Artusi, an Italian joint in the vicinity that would not make me hobble too far. We arrived there close to 5:30ish and there were maybe 2 tables occupied on the first floor. The hostess still made us wait for a few minutes to check if we could be seated before leading us to our table – under which reservations had been made for a party coming around 7:15 or so. We thought we would be done with dinner by then. And it was a splendid meal – we shared the roasted mushrooms (fried egg, pancetta, ricotta salata); bucatini (tomato, pancetta, pecorino); and the cavatelli (butternut squash, pancetta pecorino). Our entrees included the roasted chicken with hen of the woods mushrooms plating the bottom, and we shared the Brussels sprouts. We topped it off with a dessert of bittersweet chocolate budino (vanilla cream, chocolate honey crisp) and panettone bread pudding (orange gelato, phyllo crisp). The latter was so decadent that we wanted to order another round, but were told by the hostess that “I’m afraid we are out of it.” Yeah, right. At 7:30 pm. They could have just told us the other party had arrived.
But happily satiated, we trudged off and went to a nearby watering hole called Employees Only. The mixologist concocted us a few Lazy Lovers (Leblon Cachaça & Jalapeño Infused Green Chartreuse shaken with Benedictine, Fresh Lime Juice & Agave Nectar) and a Quiet Storm (Bulleit Bourbon & Red Bush Tea-Infused Vermouth served tall with Fresh Lemon Juice & Ginger Beer). A different sort of concoction was happening right outside the lounge area. A “resident psychic” was sitting outside and I couldn’t resist giving up 20 bucks from my wallet. I was told I would be getting rich from various business ventures, attracting younger men, and getting married and having twin boys and a girl when I turn 40. Watch this space.
The final pit stop of the night was Casellula – a heavenly wine and cheese café tucked away in Hell’s Kitchen. I thoroughly enjoyed the unpretentious ambience and the roller-coaster conversation topics – hopes and dreams, natural disasters and charity work, Marxism, free market theories, and the general ramblings of any drunken soiree. There are lazy vacations by the beach or pack-in-all-the-sights in 3days or endless buffets on a cruise or see-the-pyramids kind of holiday. Then there are those days which are just as invigorating because of the company you keep.. It was around 2 in the morning when my ankle finally felt the comfort of an ice pack and I could put my feet up again...