I didn’t so much as fall off the wagon as land in New York. I went for a week, to see my daughter, an actress and writer, and to meet with my agent about my current project, which, like me, seems to be in search of a new identity.
Let me make this perfectly clear: I heart New York. One of my sweetest memories is taking a cab across Central Park to the West Side. Fresh snow had fallen that night and it was early enough that the blanket of white remained pristine. I drifted past a winter wonderland as Paul McCartney crooned Michelle Ma Belle from the radio. This was before Big Brother-esque television screens padded the back seat of every cab, blasting tourists with restaurant and shopping opportunities. That morning with Sir Paul was surreal and I will never forget it.
But I don’t like the cold. And it’s always cold in New York in February.
Born on a tropical island. Check. Live in Southern California. Check.
I had a frequent flyer ticket that would expire if I didn’t fly before the 27th of the month. A series of unfortunate events the year prior had prevented me from going earlier to enjoy more favorable climes. Now I was forced to brave what was typical for this time of the year: a high of 32 and a low of 8.
I thought I was prepared. I really did. I’d studied abroad in Paris during winter session. I’d traveled to the very tip of Scotland once for a friend’s wedding in late fall. I had a really great coat. But nah.
My solution for inhospitable weather? I would eat and drink my way through the city.
My daughter served as my able guide. I feasted on butternut squash schnitzel, spaetzle with spinach in a delectable garlic and chili meyer lemon butter at Freemans. Gorged on grilled corn with chili powder and lime and Cuban sandwiches (voted best in NYC!) at Cafe Habana. I got my Southern on at Sweet Chick where I indulged in a bloody mary adorned with maple-glazed bacon and the best shrimp and grits to tease these taste buds. Really, it was a Foodapalooza. I’ve done the work for you. If you go to New York, just follow my bread crumbs ... or maple-glazed bacon, as it were.
But we left the best for last: dinner at Recette.
I could be irritated with my daughter that she has known about this gem for three years but mentioned Recette for the first time on this visit. But I’m a writer and I understand point of view. My daughter exercises daily, varying from kick boxing, distance running, and yoga to avoid muscle fatigue--she wants me to join her in something she calls the “squirrel diet.” So yeah. Delicious food, probs something she tries not to think about all that much. And she certainly wouldn’t throw down serious cash on it. On her weak calorie days, I imagine a jar of peanut butter or Girl Scout cookies may be involved.
But even she admitted, “I can’t believe I haven’t taken you to Recette before now!” She knows I’m a foodie. And Recette is foodie heaven.
We should have just put in for the tasting menu. That would have been the smart choice. But along with my daughter, we invited a good friend of hers, and as three intelligent, strong-willed women, we thought we knew better.
I ate a lot of food that night. A lot of wonderful food. It was culinary Christmas and we just kept ordering.
I’ll mention the high points here. Location: Recette reminds me so much of classic Paris that I felt transported. Quiet, romantic, timeless. Cocktails: Fleur de Citron, featuring, you guessed it, St. Germain with sparkling wine and lemon-thyme foam. And the J’ardin D’Eden, Hendricks gin, cucumber, basil, fresh lime and ginger syrup. Not since attending the José Andrés Mezcal festival in DC had I drank such inventive and delicious cocktails. Food: Of course, there is the “Buffalo” sweetbreads with pickled celery and blu di bufala dip, the sweetness from that tender crispy goodness complimented by the kick of sriracha and the sharpness of the cheese. But the most amazing thing I ate that night was the beef carpaccio, burrata with tomato jam, porcini puree, basil seeds and watercress, a decadent purse of carpaccio filled with the creamy richness of burrata cheese--melt in my mouth scrumptiousness complimented by the tang and sweetness of tomato jam.
There was another wave of deliciousness involving salt cod fritters in a lamb sausage ragu with curry aioli and guinea hen with flavors of coq au vin, pear, and trumpet mushrooms, as well as berkshire pork belly with rock shrimps, turnips, romesco, and sherry caramel. Later, I licked the plate clean of the apple upside down cake while the girls devoured the chef’s unique interpretation of S’mores.
I’m not a food writer but everything that night was innovative, balanced, and, to use a very technical term, yummy. I will miss that beef carpaccio. I will miss you, Recette.
I came home to a disastrously gutted couch, doggy revenge for my absence. Given my foodie hangover from New York, I thought it a fitting metaphor. As I snipped off strips of kelly green duct tape--this was not my dog’s first rodeo--to piece together my leather couch, I wondered how to do the same with my grand plans for change.