Day 1: Saturday 9 May 2008
Paris is hot and sunny. Load suitcase into car. Drive to Boulangerie Poujaran/Secco, 20 rue Nicot to get madeleines for Robyn. Long line at the boulangerie. Everyone dives like lemmings when they bring out a tray of warm croissants-flaky and too buttery. Madeleines get packed in a Filipino salt cracker box, tied with ribbon and snugged into special nook in valise.
Earrings set off metal detectors. Hands scanned for explosive powder. French man had in his carryon luggage toiletry case containing humongous bottles of perfume, aftershave, lotions plus a nosehair clipper. Hello which mountain did he sortir from?
At the 'best of France' shop, consider buying the crystal studded pooch harness. 150 euros, the equivalent of 20 fresh rabbits. Erm, no thanks. How about 80 euro shoulder massages? Relax. things will be cheaper in US. Repeat to self, over and over.
Flight arrived 3.35 pm. Wait for the sisters and cousin in the lobby of his apartment building. Hesitate before greeting each other. Me a little sulky after waiting 40 minutes, and everyone else controlling their surprise at the first sight of my very big newly-permed hair.
Cousin's apartment overlooks a big field where people play ballgames. Don't know what games though. The two white cranes in the upper left quadrant is where Ground Zero is. Beyond the skyscrapers is the sea.
Dinner at Prune. I am the clever one, booked 3 weeks ago. They actually called my Paris number the day before to reconfirm the reservation. Small and aggressively hip but have no fear, I am wearing silver spangled Repetto flats! Parmesan omelet outstanding. Fiddlehead ferns a novelty, never again to be honest, too glue-y. Fried veal sweetbreads with caper sauce excellent. Further details hazy but overall a fun dinner.
Day 2: Sunday 10 May 2008
Wake up 6 a.m. Check out 24 hr convenience store (meanwhile husband in Paris laments that because of long weekend many restaurants are closed), stock up on tea, juice and mik.
Eat madeleines. Eat one banana. Drink milky tea. Exit apartment.
Navigate subway system. Painfully.
Exit subway, bumble along Madison Avenue until we locate Sarabeth's East for Sunday brunch. Sucky service, ginormous portions, average food. Real maple syrup should run, not sit recalcitrantly in plastic tubs. Waffles sprinkled with old raisins is too pathetic. Big thumbs down. And they didn't want people to take pictures of their lousy food....
Central Park. The Frick Collection. Since I am not a steel magnate I buy a postcard copy of my favourite painting of Sir Thomas More by Holbein, only 1 USD.
Ferry to Staten Island. It's FREE. View Statue of Liberty through grimy rain-slicked windows. Back on the Manhatten end of the ferry terminal, I buy a Jamaican pie at the refreshment stand. It has rubber casing and an oddly tasty spicy meat filling. Sisters horrified by radioactive glow emanating from it.
Met cousin at Blue Ribbon Sushi near Houston St (pronounced How-stone). Hugely popular, casual and noisy. Fish very fresh. Uni test: pass.
Day 3: Monday 11 May 2008
The day we ate too much
Wake up early again. Try to make sense of the maps. Give up.
Drink tea and juices. Eat butter cookies leftover from AirFrance flight.
First stop is nearby- Century 21 is the place to find a bargain as everyone tells me. The walk though, seems forever because it is raining hard and my expensive high-tech ultra-lightweight Japanese umbrella crumpled piteously at the very first NY gust. When we finally made it there, C is hungry so we exit the store to find some food. Into randomly chosen Roxy Food Shop on 20 John St along the next block.
Roxy fulfils all the criteria for what my sisters and I romantically imagine as the typical American coffeeshop/diner. Not tricked up with too much chrome, shiny leather and jukeboxes. More stark lighting, linoleum and emanating strong proletariat vibes. With handy coatstands attached to each banquette no less. Their menu has all the expected omelets, sandwiches and platters of meat-with-token vegetables but everytime I find myself in such a setting, I only want lots of bland watery coffee and corned beef hash with toast and jelly.
And that's what I order. Should have ordered rye toast instead of plain though. Hash very yummy. Potatoes underseasoned. The waitress, cook and other customers eye the three of us with open curiosity, and maybe some awe too, as they witness our two pint-sized sisters devouring pan muffins.
The muffins are soft, fluffy and moist with very tender crumb. With no discernible baking powder feel on the tongue. What goes into them F asked. Buttermilk? Cream? Don't know he says, it comes pre-mixed. Mysterious...
Pit stop at Century 21. Socks for the sisters. Kiddie clothes for V and the niece.
Onwards to Momofuku Ssam Bar for lunch even though we are not hungry. Still, totally awesome food. If I live here I would come often. Their version of samgyupsal is different from what I ate in Seoul but still incredibly delicious, love the clam-XO sauce condiment it is served with. Fluke with sour cherries and olive oil also impresses. So does roast cauliflower dressed with fish sauce and spices. Steamed pork buns let the side down but redeemed by accompanying pickles.
Shopping. Lots of shopping once past Greenwich Village and into Houston and Bleeker St. We get trapped in Bleeker the rest of the afternoon. It's a long street, every store is different. Vintage clothing, small boutiques, cult stores, high chain fashion names interspersed with even more eating opportunities: Jewish bakery for cookies, Rocco's for more cookies in fennel and liquorice flavours this time and why not a cannoli piped with sweet cream on the spot? Grom gelato. Between us we sample many flavours, the all-round favourite is cassata. Creamy with a hint of iciness, laced with sweet liquor and studded with colourful fruity bits. We get so full just from grazing and have to forego Magnolia Bakery cupcakes and red velvet cake at Amy's Bread.
7.30 p.m. Oops we have dinner appointment with Robyn at El Castillo De Jagua at 113 Rivington St. Say goodbye to Bleeker St and promise to come tomorrow for breakfast. Decide the subway is too complicated and hail a yellow cab instead. Robyn has brought her friends along: Kathy of A Passion for Food and Olivia of olivia abtahi.com. We exchange madeleines for MORE cookies. I confess to Robyn that we have eaten way too much already so she wouldn't think me a spoil sport. Seafood soup, just the thing. My fried sweet plantains remind me of bananas. I prefer the salty version that Olivia let me try.
Stagger out of restaurant. Thought we were done for the evening. But Kathy keeps urging us to try the all-American dessert we have never heard of, its name is Banana Pudding. One of the best can be found just across the road at Sugar Sweet Sunshine she continues to tantalise us. Oh hell, why not? We have already crossed the point of no return way back in the afternoon, giving in to all the baked goods temptation, what's one more? Or two? The bakery-cafe is crowded, we squeeze ourselves into a tiny table and order a banana pudding as well as a baby cheesecake. The pudding has banana pudding matter, whipped cream, wafers and chopped bananas. Creamy with soft crunchy bits though I wish they put more bananas inside. A bit too rich even between the four of us but who is to say, if we live in NY maybe we will build up our endurance. The cheesecake on the other hand, is super, we finish that at lightning speed. The staff asks if we are Malaysians, she is one herself she admits, and had noticed our accents right from the beginning. We chit chat with cousin a bit more until the bossy owner kicked everyone out- it's closing time she said, and her face looks so fierce nobody wants to mess with her. On way home, our cab passes How-stone St again. We are fated to cross it again and again.