Obligatory disclaimer about a post which, as is often the case, should have happened a while ago: I'm WAY behind. On everything. But as I look around me, taking a gander at a few other blogs, I realize that pretty much everyone else feels exactly the same way all the time. I'd very much like to find someone on whom to blame this feeling, so if you can think of anyone, please let me know.
That being said, it's been ages since I had meet-ups with three quite wonderful bloggers, one of whom is known to me quite well, one whom I had the pleasure of seeing for the second time (this time in her city, not mine), and one who was new to me and utterly delightful. And I've been meaning to write at least a bit about these meetings for some time, and am only just getting around to it now. So finally, in chronological order,
Tale #1: Seattle Sojourn
Quite some time ago, at the tale end of my Cascade Mountains retreat, I had a day to spend in Seattle. Who would be the best possible person to a) recommend some great places to go on a free afternoon in Seattle and b) to be one's dining companion in that fair city later on into the evening? Yes, I know you know. None better than Molly, the darling doyenne of Orangette. Since it was a Friday, she had to work, but kindly allowed me to drop my bags at her office and then made maps for me to have my own little walking tour. Following her suggestions, I walked to Salumi, where I'd long dreamed of going and which was a perfect walk from Molly's office. I waited happily on line to buy a gorgeous, drippingly delicous porchetta sandwich (which is long gone, of course) and a salami (which still resides in my fridge, waiting for an occasion of some sort or other, since it apparently lasts a long long time).
I then made my way to Elliott Bay Books, another brilliant Molly recommendation, where I proceeded to spend the greater part of my afternoon, even sacrificing time at Pike Place Market (books win out, even over food) in order to lose myself in a big, beautiful, wandering, multi-storied, multi-roomed, funky, independent bookstore-cum-cafe, the likes of which really doesn't exist in NYC, to my ongoing dismay (it's true that there are independent bookstores in NYC, of course, but all of them are missing something -- atmosphere, selection, a café, a certain bookstore je ne sais quoi. My favorite is probably the HousingWorks Used Bookstore, which has the best atmosphere -- but a somewhat limited selection, since they sell only donated books. Why is it that the books I buy at bookstores like these and lug home in my suitcase are always better than other books? I try saying to myself that I don't need to add 15 pounds to my luggage, I can order these on Amazon or buy them at the dreaded B & N, but somehow or other I always buy good books when I have an afternoon to browse in an independent bookstore and leave my money there. So far, this is what I've read in my haul from Elliot Bay Books: Perma Red, Resistance, and Truth and Beauty, each of which was, in its own way, so remarkable and so compelling that I had trouble returning to the world when I was done).
From there I walked up to Pike Place Market, stopping along the way to buy a slightly extravagant mud-silk kimono jacket (one of those purchases that you make, knowing it costs more than you'd like to pay, but secure in the knowledge that if you don't buy it, you will keep remembering its beauty, perfect fit and suitability-for-many-occasions and gnash your teeth in regret later on). I meandered in the market, buying luscious local apricots but forgoing the seductive-smelling doughnuts, since Molly and I were to meet for drinks and then hook up with Brandon for a what turned out to be a perfectly lovely meal at the Boat Street Café. Although Molly and I have only met once before, and we have about a generation between us in terms of age gap, we seem to have no trouble chatting an afternoon away. After all, when you both find writing, food, work and love to be utterly compelling topics, time flies pretty fast. And there are always personal histories woven in, so no one needs to resort to recently-viewed movies. Take it from me, Molly is every bit as dreamy, smart, funny, and elegant in person as she is on her blog.
Our dinner, too, was marvelous -- as was Brandon (and yes, Orangette readers, he IS worthy of your treasure -- if indeed a worthy suitor exists). We shared plates, talked, laughed, and then they took me on a little driving tour of some favorite Seattle spots before leaving me at the airport to catch my red-eye flight. It's a glorious thing to see a city through the eyes of those who love it and know it well, even when it's just for a day. You know your hosts have done a particularly excellent job when you begin ruminating on the cost of living in that city, as compared to your own much more expensive and population-dense hometown, and noting the "For Sale" and "For Rent" signs as you peruse the various neighborhoods. Thanks so much, Molly and Brandon.
Tale #2: Of Cell Phones and Cellophane Noodles
It's my great pleasure and privilege to call myself friend to the adorable and talented Jen, aka Bakerina, who is deserving of more praise than I can find to heap upon her. Out for drinks, in for cooking and baking, on a shopping crawl, it's all better when Bakerina's there.
A few weeks ago, as I set out for a Saturday mid-morning market ramble, it occurred to me that maybe Jen was there at Union Square too, and we could, perhaps, meet up for a nosh and some prattle. I called her, and left a message on her cell phone. A few minutes later I felt my phone vibrate, but I'd missed the call. The message, however, said that she was indeed in the neighborhood at her favorite yarn haunt, and would return to the market to meet up with me. Somehow or other we kept missing calls. I finally realized that my phone was not ringing -- and neither was hers. It seemed that yet another monster corporation was conspiring to ruin our day. But we were victorious, finally just leaving message after message that said things like "I'm on the West side of the market, at Mountain Sweet Berry Farm. It's 12:00." Or "I'm approaching the market from 17th Street. It's 12:10." And finally, "I'll meet you at the Coach Farm stand at 12:15." We had triumphed over the hellishly evil technology that seeks to rule ever more of our lives.
We swaggered across the street to Republic (which, for some reason, I always think of as Revolution -- maybe the red star logo?) for glasses of restorative basil lemonade and bowls of noodles, to finally have our chat. To spend time with Jen is to laugh, to swap horrors and victories, and to feel truly heard and understood. Add all of that to someone who's endlessly erudite, witty as all get-out, and has a real gift for putting things into perspective, and you've got yourself one hell of a friend. I know, I know. I am a lucky girl.
Tale #3: Just Deserts*
The email subject line said "are you around this weekend?". It was from none other than Shuna Fish Lydon, phenomenal author of eggbeater and pastry chef par excellence, who had come to NYC and wanted to know if I were game to meet up. I have long been an admirer of Shuna, whom I find fascinating and extraordinarily moving as a writer and photographer, as well as a consummate teacher of all things culinary, particularly in the realm of the sweet.
Shuna suggested that we meet at Room4Dessert. I was excited both to meet her, and to have an eating adventure into the realm of molecular gastronomy, which amuses me but about which I take a kind of "now kids, don't try this at home" attitude. After all, it's only a bit over a year ago that I got my humble little ice-cream machine. I'm not really set up for a pacojet.
Shuna was standing outside the restaurant, wearing the eggbeater t-shirt. We went in and sat at the long bar -- which, incidentally is the only kind of seating the restaurant offers. It's a lot of fun to go to a dessert restaurant with a pastry chef, since you'll get to taste almost everything. We tried two of the dessert "glasses", which had layers of various tastes and textures, and three of the tasting plates, each of which were composed of four little things in various sorts of precious little dishes, bottles and cups.
After we left the restaurant, we walked and talked for a while. It was Shuna's perspective on the food we'd shared which really helped me to understand what they were doing -- and not doing -- at the restaurant. When she talked about her disappointment that at this time of the year, there was so little fresh fruit on our plates, I thought about the connection between food and values (I know I've been writing about that a lot recently). Through much of what she said, I saw that what we value on our plates is easily a metaphor for what we value in our lives. Do we sacrifice freshness for convenience? Value innovation over quality? Look for novelty instead of authenticity? Create luxury at the price of ethically produced food?
Later we spoke of teaching, and found ourselves united in our contempt for scripted curricula; my experience has been in public schools and universities, and Shuna's in the world of culinary classes, where some of her employers wanted her to teach from a script rather than from her experience, her instincts, and what she knows to be true -- which is what all real teachers should be permitted to do.
What I'll say about the evening is that I enjoyed Shuna's company far, far more than I did the desserts -- which isn't nearly enough praise for Shuna, since the desserts were fun but didn't knock me over. Of all the many things we tasted, there was really nothing there that made me feel I'd have to go back to this restaurant to get another taste of this or of that. But I would certainly enjoy more of Shuna's company -- and I hope to next month, if schedules collide, when G and I visit the Bay Area again this summer for a couple of weeks.
So ends this installment of Meetings With Remarkable Bloggers. With any luck, it'll become its own category...