I made a meal so outlandishly amazing the other night that I was moved to pause and say grace before eating it. And shed a little tear of gratitude. It was beautiful. If I were a man, I’d have had wood. It was that good.
Fran, from my first novel, would have said ‘I’ve got fanny gallop.’
That’s Fran, though. Not me.
The meal in question was American. Yeah, man, I cooked soul food! HEAR ME NOW! The stuff they eat in the south; the stuff that is guaranteed to have you either dead or morbidly obese if you eat it more than once a month. Why did it taste so good? Because EVERYTHING, every tiny harmless natural organic ingredient, came in a coating of fat, flour and sugar. Lush.
We had southern-fried chicken. Nice organic chicken. So healthy I wrote that in green! Mmmmm, lean and corn-fed and free to roam!
It was doused in heavy amounts of buttermilk, flour, garlic and other Bad Things and then deep fried in an inch of lard. (Well, sunflower oil.)
We had creamed corn. Perky little blobs of fresh yellow veg. Fabulous! Bursting with energy and goodness! Cooked in cream, butter, sugar, flour until soft and fatty and amazing. Ah.
Collard greens: the freshest chopped greens! Bursting with nutrients! Um, yes, cooked in fat, chicken stock and bacon. Delicious beyond any reckoning but still wrong.
Nothing in this meal was virgin. Nothing was pure. Everything was dripping with filth.
And let me tell you, everything was amazing.
Anyway. This fatty feast reminded me that I have yet to share my New York recommendations with you, so here I am at your service.
[NB I should warn you that the vast majority of my recommendations involve food. Eating is my primary purpose in life. ]
I should also say, before kicking off, that I owe most of these recommendations to other people. Mostly cool people who live in New York. Thank you, cool people. You know who you are.
The Man and I stayed in Brooklyn. We did this cos it was way cheaper and also because I have been told by people AND books AND magazines that Brooklyn has now out-cooled Manhattan by a good 80%. I am not remotely cool so I like to hang around people who are. It helps me forget the basic facts of my existence; things like the fact that as a child I listened to Beethoven rather than Kylie and had to hide my face from my friends when they were singing The Locomotion. So they wouldn’t realise that I didn’t know the words. Or things like the fact that I thought Elie Saab was a woman, or that I once spent half a day downloading cool music before an internet date with a music journalist because I knew that he wouldn’t be up for my Phil Collins Serious Hits…. LIVE! CD.
Brooklyn did not disappoint. It is full to bursting with moustaches, skinny men in skinny jeans, ironic restaurants, trendy coffee, craft beer and people who wish, fervently, to be edgy. Weirdly, though, these people were nowhere near as offensive as their moustachio’d counterparts in Hackney. Perhaps because they are not all twenty years old. I don’t know. All I can say, though, is that – save for one ridiculous hat-wearing facial-hair-sprouting tight-jeans-wearing twat who was following The Man and I round on our first day – I was not offended or annoyed by a single one of these trendies. (Or ‘hipsters’ as they’re called out there, which, for what it’s worth, strikes me as a woefully inadequate and thoroughly stupid term. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s just too reminiscent of the change in jean fashion that took place in the late 90s when me and all my teenage friends started asking for hipster jeans for Christmas.)
Trendies aside, I don’t want to do Brooklyn a disservice. It is a truly excellent place – cheap, fun, packed with good food, loads of cultural stuff, nice people, great parks and of course the best views of Manhattan you could ask for. If The Man and I manage to pull off our plan to move to New York for a few months, that is where we will head.
We used airbnb.com to find somewhere to stay. Air bnb accommodation is offered by a load of people all over the world who have spare rooms that they’re willing to rent out to strangers. It’s about a tenth the cost of staying in a hotel and, as long as you choose wisely, it’s far better in my opinion. You have the advantage of staying with a real person who actually lives in that neighbourhood, they will never want a tip and they will not call you Sir, AND (my personal favourite) you can make and eat breakfast whenever the hell you want, rather than having to fight for a bit of limp egg at 8am or some other such disgusting time of day. (I suppose you could also cook in the evenings too, if you’re weird.)
We stayed in East Williamsburg which is far enough away from the moustaches to feel nice and residential and calm (we had a back garden. Can you imagine?! In NEW YORK?) and there were some really lovely restaurants near us. Local, cute, candlelit, amazing food. And a good organic supermarket. Nice little shops. Oh and – of course – the gravestone shop that also sells bread. What more could one want.
La Cocina de Mama Too – a small but mind-blowingly wonderful establishment that serves the most delicious cheap Latin American food ON EARTH. They deliver. They will change your life, but not your wallet. They are really sweet and friendly and… actually, sod it, the point is that their food is INCREDIBLE. Mmmm pernil…. plantain… beans cooked by the hand of God….
La Superior – a small, basic and cheap Mexican restaurant in the main part of Williamsburg, around Bedford Avenue. I feel like a fraud writing this beacuse I, erm, never went there. But photographer and writer and brilliant person Rachael Wright told me so many times that it was amazing that I had to include it. Plus they do tortas ahogadas which, I know from my Mexican travels, are the most perfect, dirty, delicious meal you could ever hope for.
Peter’s since 1969 Imagine rows and rows of Le Creuset pots, all filled with steaming traditional American things like meat stew, meatloaf, mac n cheese, collard greens, mash, sweet potato mash, spinach, oh shit, I’m dribbling again. Make it stop! The Man and I had the best lunch here. (Pictured.) It cost $8 and included a little corn cake AND a soup and I think some sort of slaw too. WTF?! Bargon. (That wasn’t a spelling mistake. It’s just a better word than bargain.)
Bagelsmith Probably a waste of time to put in a bagel shop cos they’re all amazing. But this one deserves a special mention because they were utterly defiant in the face of Hurricane Sandy and upheld their promise to serve bagels 24/7, 365 days a year. Dudes. Plus I had the best lunch there for $3. Pictured.
Roberta’s Pizza and Carmine’s Pizzeria Bit of an odd one this. We were told to go to Roberta’s, which is in the ugliest oh-come-on-this-is-taking-trendiness-too-far-you-can’t-set-up-a-pizza-restaurant-in-a-fucking-breezeblock building you’ve ever seen. It’s out in Bushwick; four stops from central Williamsburg. Bushwick has a lot of organic food shops and artists and industrial buildings and stuff. I believe it’s up and coming and edgy. Bushwick is also home to the best Pizzeria on earth, from what I could tell. The smells, the pizzas… I nearly passed out on arrival. And then I had a massive tantrum because they are so popular, in spite of being in a crap breeze block of a building, that there was a two hour wait. I was appalling. I had to go back afterwards and apologise to the maitre D’ for being such a disgusting shit head of a Robinson. So we instead went back to East Williamsburg and gorged on Carmine’s pizzas, which were tasty as hell (just look at them!) and cheap and served in a proper oldskool Italian American restaurant with huge glass fridges full of tiramisu and baseball memorabilia everywhere. A classic.
La Esquina Brooklyn. It’s in an old train carriage and it’s totally awesome inside. Enough said. Actually, not enough said. The staff were mostly pompous humourless moustache wearers who obviously wished that they were in a band but their humourlessness was irrelevant in the face of such excellent Mexican food. They even had Fernet, a disgusting but mind-blowing spirit which is practically the national drink of Argentina.
Wythe Hotel. Now this is a bit special. Get past the silly girl with a clipboard standing in the lobby and go for a drink on their roof. The views are utterly spectacular. Absolutely the best views of Manhattan at night that this Robinson has ever seen. There were some rip-roaring cocktails and of course plenty of Brooklyn Beer (their brewery is across the road) but even if they were knocking out cups of wee it’d have been worth a visit for that view.
Egg. We had a feckin tasty breakfast here AND they do redbush tea, which is a Robinson staple. They do lovely biscuits and gravy – mmmmm – and eggs in unusual combinations. And lovely brioche and french toast and parmesan grits and kale and… mmmm. All opposite INDUSTRIAL buildings that make you think, ooooh. I’m a cool person eating cool breakfast in Williamsburg. I’VE MADE IT.
Oh my goodness! My word count is 1640. I’m taking a break. I shall go and do my tax return and come back to you soonest, dear readers.
Happy Monday. X