It is hard to eat like a foodie in New York City without killing one’s self. In every moment when I am not working this week, it has been visits to what I hope will prove to be some of the best food spots in New York. Fortunately, unlike Chicago, the portions are bearable. I began with lunch at Angelo’s Pizza on West 57th Street. Online reviews post this as the best pizzeria in the area, and I really felt like I needed to try to find a really nice slice of pizza. The caveat though is that you cannot order a reasonable size here as a single diner; you order a whole pie and that is the way it goes.
At $15 or so, this pizza was the real deal. Cooked in a coal oven and hand-tossed, the pizza came slightly charred, but to perfection. I went with just an addition of pepperoni, as the sauce and mozzarella really only should need a bit of meat to give the pie its kick. Great sauce, fabulous crust, real mozzarella and the fresh basil was a nice touch. The atmosphere of the place was not compelling [not a dive, but not upscale…more 1987 tourist], but I was there for a quick lunch. I would have preferred taking V. along, so that we could have shared in the experience, but there is always lots of time in the future for New York. Final verdict: stellar pizza,and what I had hoped for today. It was better than what I had in Italy, but I still favour Abruzzo Pizza in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Go figure.
On V.’s suggestion I spent an hour in the Frick Museum. As a Fine Arts History student, I had heard of the Frick, but never really registered anything about it. For $18 I was able to get inside a glorious mansion built by the coke baron to house his Old Masters art collection. I had to admit that I liked everything Frick stood for; he seemed hard-working and he had vision – his plan to leave an art collection for Americans to enjoy in perpetuity seems like a better plan than either Bill Gates or Warren Buffet have to save the world. Seeing the Rembrandt self-portrait, St. Francis by Bellini, Boucher’s coy mistresses and Frick’s gorgeous book collection in his library made me smile and wonder what it must mean to be so rich. With a mere five years to enjoy his riches, I imagine that he missed out on the possibilities for experiencing the treasures he collected.
On a jaunt through the mid-section of Central Park I came across a Wafel and Dinges cart. Now the last thing I needed was a Belgian waffle, but then I noticed that their waffle had beaten out Bobby Flay in a “throwdown” match, and for a mere $7 with tip, how could I not try the confection? Do not leave New York without trying one of these. I would have enjoyed it more with a coffee and an empty stomach, but it just killed with its texture and flavour. I needed the long walk home just to feel like I was not going to explode. Still, a wafel and some Coltrane in the Park is not a bad way to spend an hour.
A walk on Madison Avenue took me through the boutiques of Ralph Lauren, Thomas Pink and Tom Ford. Sigh, to be rich, beautiful and fashionable…alas, that is not me, nor could it ever be. The Ralph Lauren flagship had the most beautiful motorcycle helmet that I have ever seen; the Confederate Motorcycle Carbon Fibre Ruby Helmet. The piece was to die for, but it was only in a super small size and Confederate are out of these online. Still…for a mere 700 British pounds I could pick one up in a custom colour. I would need a few gigs to pay for that luxury, but I do need a new helmet.
Going through these stores made me sad. One, I wished that V. was there to buy pretty things for and that I could actually afford to do so. Two, I realized just how different the economics must be between the middle class and the rich – $700 for a sweater is beyond my reach, and I am not a poor man. Three, seeing quality goods versus goods masquerading as quality goods made me wonder why we pay so much for the second best items? $400 is too much for a shirt, but so is $200 and $100. Today made me question what clothes I should be wearing. It also made me ask why I can never, ever looked as unwrinkled as the men I saw on Madison Avenue today. I felt like such a sweaty, slobby hack. Jay Gatsby I am, Tom Buchanan was all of the other boys shopping at Ralph Lauren with bags full of shirts….such beautiful shirts.
Getting back to Night Hotel, I took a break, shaved with the straight razor [my third shave and I am getting MUCH better with it], and then read over the next day’s workshop notes. I knew that I would have to gather my strength to go out for dinner, but I was not in the mood. Frankly, I missed V. and while I know it is important for me to have these couple of days alone to reflect, think, sleep and work, I felt lonely and disconnected from the world. Over the past three nights I have barely spoken to a soul other than food servers, and it gets hard to go back to the hotel to sleep in a city that never does. My feet are killing me.
I walked all along the mid-town area, and finally decided that the only place that would not be a tourist trap would be Bobby Van’s Grill, which was also next door to my hotel. While it was difficult, I decided to go with the Cobb Salad that subbed lobster for chicken; at $22 this salad was a great deal. I received a whole canner lobster and a very, very good Cobb salad that made my stomach feel better for having eaten a vegetable or two. Sure, a giant cockroach scared two Russian girls at the table next to me, but I have seen bigger and the little monster was outside the restaurant with nothing to do with the food.
Lastly, I decided to force down a 14oz Filet Mignon with bearnaise sauce on the side. Why? Why? When in New York I feel that it is important to try the classics to reaffirm what is truly good food. Was the filet to die for? No. Was it excellent? Yes. The bearnaise was a waste, but the Bobby Van Sauce was pretty good as a horseradish/molasses/tomato sauce for steak. Did I do a better job with the two organic steaks for Paderno last week? Yep, and that is where the reassurance comes in: you cannot cook well and improve if you do not keep trying the best of what is out there. And that is the hard part; when I travel I need to expand my palette and my waistband in a short time so as to be able to redefine my own cooking style. While that may sound ridiculous to anyone outside of the food industry, I know that a lot of why I get hired for food photography is for my food preparation and understanding of how to make food look delicious and with the times. Food styling is like fashion and the meatballs of 1980, the stacks of the 1990s, the tapas of 2005 or the Martha Stewart/Donna Hay looks will not always be de rigeur. Where next? A consumer wants to see that the next big thing can be prepared in the product they are about to purchase, and that is part of my job as a stylist/photographer.
Final thoughts are that the iPhone 4 was an excellent purchase for me at this time. I use OmniFocus to implement my GTD system of organization and that keeps my crazy life on task. Having the software on the iPhone makes it so much easier to access, add and subtract events from. The camera has proven itself to be invaluable when I just want to take snapshots of food or little stuff. I know the quality is not up to par with any of my other cameras, but it is light, it is with me, and these are not the type of photos I need to have in hi-res files. I also like being able to text easily to home, check out my map of the city I am in or even hook up to the web in an emergency [roaming fees are killer, so it would have to be an emergency]. Tomorrow is my last day in New York. I hope to head south to the Liberty statue and see that part of the city for the first time. I do not leave until 8pm, but my workshop is till about 3pm. Five hours should be enough…I can always hope in Obama’s America.