Saturday, August 12, 2006

Small Big City

I traveled last Thursday. Normally, that's not such a big deal statement. I mean really, so what?

Well, apparently, while I was pre-occupied that morning with preparing the house for sale and packing, the rest of the world was tuned in to breaking news of Britain uncovering a plot to blow up transatlantic flights with bombs compiled from ordinary carry-on items, including peroxide-based solution and cameras or music players. See what you miss when CNN isn't on in the background?

Arriving at the airport, I was asked to remove all liquids and gels, including lipgloss, contact lens solution and moisturiser, and place them in my checked luggage. No liquids would be allowed to be carried on the plane - significantly impacting Starbucks' business in the terminal I would imagine. Each flight was subject to a second bag inspection, conducted on the jetway at each gate. Not surprisingly, my flight left an hour late. No worries, I had 20 lbs of magazines with me, and I was soon happily ensconced, browsing away.

Until there was a disruption at the front of the plane - a passenger who wouldn't stay in her seat. At all. Would not sit down in her seat with her seat belt fastened. This went on most of the flight, rather entertaining once we had been reassured by the quite competent flight crew that she had been judged to be cuckoo, but not dangerous. Still - cuckoo in flight on this of all days? And then, just about 20 minutes before we should have been landing, the captain announced that we although we are about 40 minutes outside of New York, and although we have already been circling in the air on orders from the JFK tower, we will nonetheless continue to circle.

An hour of circling ensues until we finally touch down, only to sit on the tarmac for yet another hour. You could be dead, I remind myself. The airplane could have blown up, I say silently. We are all safe. I keep repeating this to myself as the clock heads around to 12:30am, 1:00am, 1:30am. And frankly, it does help. Late is better than dead, at least in this instance. My grandmother always said she'd rather be dead than late -- but I think she'd make an exception here.

The taxi line - you cannot imagine. Endless and growing. I am standing behind a couple - she is very pretty with the kind of curly blonde hair you pretty much want to kill her for having. You know the kind - curly but not kinky? wavy but not frizzy? blond and silky, not dry? Damn her! Anyway, there they were, laughing and apparently unfazed by the late arrival, behaving the way you wish you and your boyfriend would, instead of being cranky and grumpy and argumentative. So of course, you hate her more.

The next night I meet some very good friends for dinner at A Voce, on 26th and Madison. As I'm walking up Madison, I notice the very same couple I had been behind in the taxi line - sitting and having drinks one table away from my friends at Tabla. I notice the blonde head even before I notice my friends. What are the chances of that? As Rick famously said, "of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world - she walks into mine?" But there they were - making me realize that New York City isn't that big really, after all.

As for dinner - I thought A Voce was delicious. It is the chef from Cafe Boulud (76th and Madison) - but terribly Italian, but light and interesting at the same time. We all thought the gnocchi with the lamb ragu was outstanding, but I had a ricotta cheese spread of some sort with perfectly toasted bread that was out of this world. I could have eaten a gallon of it.

And then, oh boy, and then... we hightailed it down to 8th Street and Fifth Avenue, where, if you don't know, some of the best gelato in town is served. Otto - Mario Batali's 'pizzeria' - is everything you want it to be. I've been there for dinner at a table, delicious. And Friday, I walked in and my friend looked around the bar and asked "is this a singles bar?" only half-jokingly.

But to my point, which is not picking up singles, but, not surprisingly, FOOD (are you beginning to sense a theme here?) - specifically, the olive oil gelato served at Otto. I could write a poem, an ode, an entire essay on this stuff. First, admittedly, it sounds disgusting. Agreed. But you couldn't be more wrong. Everything you love about ice cream? The richness, the creaminess, the salty sweetness? It is simply more so in this concoction. Second, it is the most addictive ice cream you will ever have, and I've been around the ice cream block. Though I still have Blue Bell ice cream from Texas on my list - but that's another story. Here it is in a nutshell: if you have only one night in New York - you have to make it to Otto for the gelato, and you have to try the olive oil gelato. That's it - end of subject.

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