After a revitalizing visit to Stony Brook--meeting students, reading poems, and answering their questions reminded me that THIS is what I actually love, THIS is what I do--I am taking a quieter morning to pack my bags and begin the long haul back to DC. I don't know how I will manage this luggage. Seriously. I was given eight books, including three hardback, one of them being David Lehman's Oxford Anthology of Poetry. I need a camel.
As promised, a rundown of the food highlights while on this trip:
-Onion bagels at the Library Hotel. Free, every morning, small, dense and chewy but soft. I don't even usually eat bagels, but I could not resist the way the ships of onion had caramelized from what seemed to be just-applied heat. I now understand what a true New York bagel is, versus the puffier and oversized ones in DC.
-The coffee an agent brewed in his home kitchen for us--from grounds brought back fresh from Germany, where he had attended the Frankfurt book festival.
-Cocoa-rubbed baby back pork ribs at Kittichai. Given I can't eat (milk) chocolate, it was literally a flavor I had not had in years. The meat was thick and without gristle. All hail Jeffrey McDaniel for insisting we order them for the table! This restaurant also takes the prize for most chic interior.
-Having a bottle of Veuve Clicquot opened for us the moment we sat down for a 1 PM brunch at the Rainbow Room. We didn't even debate the indulgence; it was just there. And what a view! I didn't even know that Central Park, and the many bridges, could be seen from such an aerial angle while still indoors. Okay, so the buffet-styled food was nothing spectacular (at least the things safe for me to eat), but the blueberries were the biggest I've ever seen. I knew this trip had a Cinderella quality when I told my mom I was going to the Rainbow Room and she said "Oh my gosh! I've always wanted to go there!" When I arrived, the hostess all congratulated me.
-The pear Bellinis in the Library Lounge's Bookmarks lounge. Normally it's scotch, but when hosting someone for one last conversation at the close of the day, I wanted something a little softer. Pear puree, champagne, and a vanilla/pear liquor.
-Ginger and duck dumplings at The Kitchen Club. Not the most adventurous flavor profile--this place specializes in fun, Asian comfort food--but perfect for a large group dinner (one half of a table with family, one half with Poets & Writers folks) following the reading at Housing Works. The rice had currants, spice and chewy black grains mixed in; it was so good I ordered a second cup in lieu of dessert.
-EVERYTHING at Cendrillon. This may have been my favorite because it was a "discovery"; my new friend Noel took me there after at reading at the Center for Book Arts. I was so inspired I brought my family back the very next night. I knew they'd like the place's casual elegance: honeyed wood interior, hand-made rice-paper lanterns. The dishes I got to sample: clams with black beans, chili and scallions. Trout stuffed with mushrooms and leeks, steamed in banana leaf. Pork belly in a vinegar sauce. Curried lamb shank. Chicken Adobo (not easy to make something simple so moist). A chef generous to come out and not only chat with us, but to send out a trio of desserts--a young coconut cream, an apple tart, and raspberry sorbet. Every plate served to our family went back licked clean.
-The anagi eel sashimi at Sushi Samba. This nuttier variation on the more common kind (the kind you see brushed with BBQ sauce) was arranged as a somersault of feathery, delicate flesh that melted on the tongue. A simple thing, but by then I craved meals closer to what I'd have at home. Same reason I reveled in the carrots and Brussels sprouts layered under my arctic char last night at the Silverleaf Tavern. Green vegetables! For the first time in, um, a week!
-Carly's hot toddies with bourbon, tea, and blueberry honey. The perfect way to end a long, long, long night. And there have been nothing but long, long, long nights. Carly has been a perfect and tolerant hostess, as I have been completely oversaturated by each day's conversations. They should put the award-winners in social quarantine after these trips, to let them process; Carly let me decompress while I crashed on her couch in Brooklyn.
Okay, so this is not the most insightful literary post. But damn it, this food deserves to be remembered! Here's the thing: I had no allergy attacks on the trip. Those who know me (or have read the "Allergy Girl" sequence from Theories of Falling) know this is a particular concern. I did not want to exit an important meeting choking, swelling, and spluttering. Nor did I want to make a series of first impressions of being neurotic as I questioned, requestioned, and edited every order I made. Somehow, we got through. And that really gives me joy.
But...I will now return to a diet of nothing but almonds, oatmeal, kale and broth for the next two weeks. Seriously, a fast would be warranted. Lord help my stomach.