The Super Tops Best Friend and I, without a word of a lie, have dreamed of going to New York together for at least two decades. The idea was to celebrate our, ahem, 40th birthdays with a fortnight of fun, frolics and freedom in one of the world’s greatest cities.
Finally, on the 18th of September 2015, the moment of departure arrived, and off we jolly well went.
I might have a bit of a moan anon regarding the seemingly interminable flight over which, by the end, had me stroking my plastic cutlery with murderous intent.
But right now, I want to discuss ice cream. Specifically, big gay ice creams at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in the West Village, our ‘hood. Obviously they had us at “Big Gay”, but the ice creams and what they did to them were seriously good.
We also gorged a couple of times on those pizzas the size of tables – so good, so cheap (99c a slice / $8 for a whole one) and so delicious, especially when paired with beer. Yes, American beer. Which, nowadays, has much improved and developed beyond the varieties that Monty Python likened to making love in a canoe (fucking close to water). We found ourselves quite partial to Brooklyn Brewery‘s Pilsner.
Continuing with my health food theme, the menu at The Federal Bar in Brooklyn included a plate of waffles and deep friend chicken. It was either going to be unbelievably good or bowel-churningly ghastly. I was swayed by our waiter, who assured me its deliciousness was akin to a religious experience. It was. The chicken pieces were southern-style moist and crispy perfection, and the waffles were pikelet-sized, savoury, and flavoured with fresh rosemary.
My ultimate eating experience was the fulfillment of a long-held dream of a Reuben at Katz’s Delicatessen. The deli itself, which I didn’t realise until I noticed a sign dangling above our table, was the location of Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. I now maintain that Ms Ryan was quite possibly having a real orgasm as she tucked into her Reuben.
So, we’ve covered ice cream, pizza, beer, fried chicken, waffles, Reubens … okay, bagels. A mere stagger just a few blocks from our West 8th Street apartment was Murray’s Bagels, a haven of hangover-salving wondrousness. The perfect bagel? check. Freshly squeezed, ice-cold orange juice? Check. A large, perfectly palatable coffee? Check. Seriously, though, what is it with America’s reputation for bad coffee? Of course there is bad coffee, but we experienced nary a one during our whole time in New York. Which, now I come to think of it, is possibly why – we ventured no further than the island of Manhattan and the fringes of Brooklyn, and drank the majority of our coffees in the West Village, the caffeine-related-beverage-equivalent of Sydney’s Marrickville.
Thank the flying spaghetti monster we did such a lot of walking every day. The Super Tops Awesome Best Friend has one of those get-up-off-your-fat-arse tormentor wristlets, which would beep excitedly the moment we exceeded 10,000 steps. We easily did so every day we were there, and our record day was something like 21,000. All this walking was the only reason we both looked and felt a tad trimmer at the end of our stay, because, my lord did we eat and imbibe as though we were never going to be able to again.
Sure, we went to gorgeous cocktail lounges and craft beer basements and rooftop bars with stunning views. My absolute favourite evening of inebriated silliness, however, began innocently enough. It was the night before The Super Tops Awesome Best Friend’s actual 40th birthday, for which we had a fancy schmancy dinner booked (more on that shortly), so we decided to have a night in over some white wine and YouTube videos. Okay, and a giant pizza. Well, let’s just say the evening concluded the next morning following some achingly beautiful interpretive dancing in the kitchen fuelled by ill-advised post-wine vodka tonics.
I am not allowed to included photos of said evening. It has been forbidden.
Somehow, we recovered sufficiently to actually be able to eat the birthday dinner, which was fortunate, as it was at Mario Batali’s restaurant Babbo. As we agonized over the menu (I know, poor us), our waiter approached wielding a bottle of Champagne. As he no doubt expertly proceeded to describe it, The Super Tops Awesome Best Friend and I looked sidelong at each other in bewilderment, until his concluding words, “courtesy of your husband”. He had arranged the Champagne from Australia as a birthday gift for his beloved wife. We sipped it very, very slowly given its excellence, me whilst enjoying Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chilies, then Grilled Quail with “Scorzonera alla Romana” and Saba, then Saffron Panna Cotta with Quince, Buttermilk Sorbetto and Saffron Shortbread. It was all totally gross and I would not recommend eating there.
I’m not a Seinfeld fan, but The Super Tops Awesome Best Friend is, so I took it upon myself to locate the diner whose exterior was used for Monk’s Diner in the show. It’s actually called Tom’s Restaurant and, despite the Seinfeld-related paraphernalia adorning its walls, it is a really great, authentic place to eat, with a menu of inexpensive, comforting and classic diner food.
Whilst The Super Tops Awesome Best Friend stuck with wine, I assuaged my final-night-in-NYC sorrows with oysters, cheeses, and a series of cocktails at SixtyFive, the lounge at the top of 30 Rockefeller Centre – two Champagne Cocktails, a Gin & Tonic and finally, of course, a Manhattan.
I’ll take it any time.