New York Food Panoramas

Last weekend we drove down to NYC for one of the major events in our secular calendar: the annual Amherst dinner at Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse on the Lower East Side. This was the epochal XXVth dinner, about which a separate post is forthcoming. But even in a short visit we enjoyed so many other bounties of food and friendship in NYC. Plus, some young whippersnapper pointed out to me that in iOS 6.0 your iPhone can take cool panorama photos (be sure to click through to see them full size). Put them together and you’ve got a delightful visit and great self-entertainment options–kids with phones!

These first two shots are from DeRoberti’s, an extreme old-school joint on 1st Ave near the more famous Veniero’s. DeRoberti’s rocks the same tin ceiling and tile walls that were good enough in the late 1890s, and are good enough now. We met up with our old friend Elaine and her husband Jeff, and it was just awesome to hang out, have a few thousand quality calories, and have the place pretty much to ourselves for the kids to ogle the pastries. Elaine and I are both late adopters of being into fitness, and there’s nothing like half-marathon training and delicious coffee and pastry (she abstained! swear to G-d!) to justify each other.

I guess the true mark of a pastry’s impact is whether it turns up in one’s eating fantasies for days afterwards. This cannoli-topped cake seems to have done the job given this post from Elaine on FB today, five days after initial exposure:

I thought of a good house-warming gift! The theme is faux & real 
ricotta. For the real, I purchase the cannoli cake!! YES!!! For the faux, I make tofu-spinach "ricotta" 
lasagne minis in a silicone muffin pan, and that's part of the 
gift too. Along with the recipe.

This is a wonderful exercise in public management of fantasy combined with an undercurrent of “vegan-curious” cooking behavior, all suggesting a perfectly healthy alignment of mind, body and spirit.

After a refreshing late-morning snack at DeRoberti’s, we returned to our friends’ house in Queens (another Jewish-Baha’i family…we’re everywhere!) and dropped off our younger set for a happy afternoon of play. Then, without taking a second to reconsider doing this a few hours before Sammy’s, we went with mature Ms. A. and our friend Eric to Kabab Cafe in the Egyptian part of Astoria, Queens. Amy and I went here maybe 12 years ago with some of the same food obsessives that got us into Sammy’s trouble. The place is a true hole in the wall with maybe 15 seats. No menu. Ali, the chef and owner, comes over and banters with you and tells you what’s up. If you’re not going big guns for the lamb sweetbreads etc., but instead just want to top off before your annual food orgy that night, you can get a simple avocado salad (the avocados are presented whole but also mushed up with wonderful spices) and a mezze platter with light, tender falafel, foul (pronounced like “fool,” fool), baba ganoush, and pretty much everything else a boy could want. It is one of those NY places where all the races and nations of the world converge to eat the best foul available, and a food person can fantasize about a coming Age of Aquarius that starts when people of irreconcilable differences look up with the same expression of tearful delight from a mezze plate and realize that we are all brothers and sisters. We were sitting right in front of a 100-year-old map showing the settlement of said races and nations in the City of New York (Frenchies were in what is now Koreatown), which kind of brought home this same melting-pot-full-of-stew aspiration.

Next up: Sammy’s!


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