It all started a couple of months ago when I realized that Zarah Maria and Martin were planning to spend far too brief a time in New York during their fairly pretty comprehensive tour of the US. I simply couldn't allow my city to be given short shrift.
Zarah and Martin at Kalustyan's
For certain questions, it's wise to choose your time carefully. Sometimes early morning (when your partner is still curled in fetal position and his consciousness level is questionable) is best: "Honey?" "Mmmphh." "Can we have some food bloggers from Denmark -- well, actually, a food blogger and her boyfriend -- come stay with us at the beginning of May?" "Mmmph. Sure."
Later that same morning: the aforementioned partner is now both vertical and ambulatory, and has even had coffee, but this doesn't necessarily mean that the level of consciousness is particularly elevated : "Sweetie? Do you remember that I asked you earlier if Zarah and Martin could come stay with us?" "Uh huh. Sure. No problem."
Sometime during the afternoon of the same day: "Did you ask me before if some people could come stay with us?" "Yeah, Zarah and Martin from Denmark. You said yes." "And you know these people how?" "I know Zarah through food blogging. We've been corresponding for quite a while, actually." "Wait. Wait. You mean you've never actually MET these people and you've invited them to come stay?"
Despite repeated mutterings and dire predictions, Zarah and Martin (after an annoying mishap detailed by my dear chum Bakerina here) did indeed come to stay, and a lovely time ensued. I was deeply embarrassed by the fact that I didn't cook for them even once during their 3 days with us, but in my own defense, I a) had just returned from San Diego, and b) had to immediately start a rather challenging work week. Food shopping and meal planning were not in the cards, nor were extended guided tours of the city.
What we were able to offer was housing, and a couple of evenings together, which turned out to be very lovely. Conversation and laughs never lagged, even for a moment. On their last night in the city, after a walk-through of Kalustyan's Market and a spin through the closing farm-stands at Union Square's Wednesday Greenmarket, we took them to a little Moroccan dive in the East Village, Cafe Mogador, a place I've seen through many changes and of which I've remained a devotee. Tuesday night we were all up to our own devices, since G was working late, I had a late class and we wouldn't be around at all until bedtime, more or less. Zarah and Martin showed up even later, whereupon we learned that after yet another inexhaustible day of walking the length and breadth of Manhattan, they'd taken themselves off to Les Halles, where they bathed in Bernaise sauce and enjoyed peerless frites with their steaks. But on their first night, Monday, ah Monday, our guests insisted on hosting us at the Bread Bar, which as readers of this site know, is one of my chosen places and G's absolute, world-without-end favorite restaurant, at least in NYC. It was on Zarah's must-try list for their New York visit, so off we went.
I always think that good restaurants know how to strike a balance between keeping enough of your favorite tried-and-true treats to draw you back, as well as enticing you with new things to try. This time there were several new cocktails as well as new dishes on the menu. We ordered lavishly, drank, ate and got acquainted. One new item (or at least new to us) was the Cauliflower Caldin, described as a Goan coconut curry. I hesitated, knowing G's distaste for coconut. I've broken down many barriers in the past few years. Successes include rhubarb, lamb, leeks, and yogurt-based sauces. Still in the column of hated foods are raw onions, avocadoes, olives, mushrooms, and, I had thought, coconut. But G affably agreed to this dish.
It dawned on me that recently he's eaten and enjoyed coconut-based curries in Thai restaurants, as well as my own coconutty version of mulligatawny soup, and the coconut rice that Luisa brought to my attention. When I teased this out with him a bit, he told me that he still doesn't like coconut itself: the texture, the shreddiness, the getting-caught-in-your-teeth quality of it. But he now likes the flavor of coconut or maybe coconut milk, at least in savory dishes. So much so that as he was scraping the bowl of cauliflower coconut curry at the Bread Bar, he suggested that I make something like it at home. "This would be good with that coconut rice you made a while ago," he said. He was asking for two coconut dishes? In one meal?
Last night's dinner was the first time I've done any real cooking in more than a week. My own bastardized version of Nigella's chicken tikka was on the menu, as was some spiced naan we picked up at Kalustyan's. But the piéce de resistance was the cauliflower coconut curry, served over coconut rice.
My only question is, if we can conquer coconut, can mushrooms be far behind? Sadly, I think I know the answer.