Sunday, June 14, 2009
an ode to uni, among other things
My year off (and counting) has of course been about deep introspection and spiritual growth and achieving a new plane of consciousness. On a less rarefied level, being at loose ends also means I can accept nearly any invitation lobbed my way, whether for a long late lunch on a Friday, my nephew's ninth birthday party (midweek, Connecticut, 6pm - no way could I have made this in past years), or, perhaps, an extended stay in Paris.
Right now, thanks to the generosity a pair of traveling friends, I'm happily ensconced in a lovely, comfortable apartment in Harlem, listening to Vijay Iyer, type-type-typing away, and being distracted by the view (as seen in the photo above). The past couple of days have been quite social - dinners, an extended wine-filled lunch, a farewell party, ballet, a book reading, dates at various drinking establishments; I've caught up with a veritable flock of friends, chatted like mad, and had some delicious food, too.
My Friday lunch was with Pia, who's moving to DC for a job at Politico. Pia might in fact be the only person in the entire country who has just landed a job in journalism. We were meeting at Resto, near Madison Square Park, so I walked down from Grand Central. I was apparently invisible during that walk, as people kept plowing into me, and I was almost creamed by a Lexus with Jersey plates (a deadly combination). I was peevish and hot when I got to the restaurant, and then, as I walked in, water from the a/c unit dripped on my head. I hate being dripped on in New York; in the summer, you can probably assume it's just condensation from an air-conditioner, but really, you can never be sure. The drip was steady and dead center in the doorway, which I pointed out to the host, who said, "It's just condensation from the air-conditioner," and I gave him A Look and said, "It's a drip in the middle of your doorway." Then, to myself: "Let it go, Siobhan."
At any rate, Resto is a very handsome restaurant, and we had a good (not great) lunch of salad and big pots of mussels, accompanied by a bottle of Spanish rosé. The biggest thrill for me was the fresh mayo that came with the fries.
Just a couple hours later, having barely digested anything, I met Nicole at El Quinto Pino on West 24th. Last summer, on one of the hottest days of the year, she and I put away far too many frozen gin-basil lemonades (basically, lethal Slurpies), and with hot weather sort of here, it seemed time to kick off the summer with a somewhat less suicidal reprise (i.e., two rounds, not seven). El QP is a tiny spot, with tiny tapas that are, in my experience, consistently delicious. In fact, if I were to make a list of Top Ten NYC Restaurant Dishes (sort of a desert island list, if one could order take-out on a desert island), El QP's uni panino would be right up there. Skinny baguette with butter, mustard oil, and slathers of uni, pressed, and served hot slipped into a paper bag. Oh, mama. I've been known to order seconds. I think what I really love about it is that you get so much uni - not just the one or two pieces you might have at your favorite sushi joint. And I do love uni. A chef friend in Los Angeles who was similarly obsessed said that, for him, uni is the essence of the sea.
Actually, I think he said that eating huitlacoche was like eating the earth, and eating uni was like eating the ocean, but that sounds kind of horrifying to me, so I've prettified his language a bit, whilst retaining the sentiment, with which I wholeheartedly agree.