When it comes to carbohydrates, there are two distinct categories of people. There are the nonchalant carb consumers, those who prefer a nicer cut of meat or a good vegetable to anything starchy. Then there are the people with actual souls (just kidding... or am I?), the enthusiasts (a.k.a. me, the Carb Queen). I spend a disproportionate amount of time considering the chewiness, among other qualities, of items like bagels, pasta, and pizza crust.
Now that you understand my preoccupation with flour-based foods, it makes more sense when I say that a single encounter with the perfect bagel made me question my entire life back in California. Like any great love, I suppose, it challenged my assumptions and shook me to my core. Here's what happened:
Somehow, after arriving to JFK at 7am New York time, Adam and I managed to drop our luggage off at the hotel and drag our jet-lagged selves in the general direction of sustenance. That's how we found ourselves at a bagel shop, which Sarah recommended to us a few days earlier. There we were, two haggard, disheveled zombies among the smart suited workday crowd of Midtown Manhattan.
Maybe it was the lack of sleep or the lethargic hunger that traveling brings on, but that first bite of everything bagel with cream cheese (not toasted, never toasted) felt like my first bite of real food. Ever. It was wonderfully puzzling. How can something so chewy, almost molten, on the inside also have that slightly toasty snap on the outside? How can one food be so dense and so fluffy at the same time?
Adam and I looked up from our bagels for just long enough to exchange glances. I could read his gaze exactly because I was thinking it too. The bagels in California are not like this... they're more like bagel/sliced bread hybrids. This was a real bagel, a perfect bagel.
For a life-altering, core-shaking experience like ours, you too can visit Best Bagel & Coffee when you're in New York. I didn't build it up too much, right?
You know what else I couldn't get enough of in New York? Everything they sell at Eataly. If you're not familiar, Eataly is basically Disneyland for lovers of gourmet markets and Italian food. Not only can you purchase fresh, made-a-minute-earlier pasta, but you can watch that pasta being made by the pasta gurus behind the counter and then sit down at the cafè next to the pasta bar and actually order beautiful pasta dishes from the kitchen. Or you can vary the theme and visit their espresso bar, bakery, seafood counter, or pizza place. See what I mean? It's fun for the whole family.
Another place where I super-loved the pasta: Rafaele in the West Village. Such a beautiful, down-to-earth bistro setting, too.
For extremely fine dining, we visited Shake Shack at no less than three locations... and I'm only kind of joking when I say "fine dining." What other fast food joint has a Stumptown cold brew milk shake on its menu? It's pretty fancy.
You know what's not at all fancy, but magically delicious (magically in that I never have a hundred percent clarity on what I'm eating exactly)? Halal Guys. It's another must for us when we go to NYC.
I ate one of my all-time favorite slices of margarita pizza at Juliana's in Dumbo right before we hopped onto the Brooklyn Bridge and walked back across to Manhattan. This is a combo I highly recommend as it allows you to eat extra slices of pizza relatively guilt-free, knowing you'll be doing some walking after. Also, speaking of my carb obsession, that pizza crust at Juliana's was something else— the salt level, the elasticity, the crunch, the overall thinness could not have been more right.
I'll conclude with this. One night, Adam and I were walking through Bryant Park. We were dreaming and saying phrases to each other that began with, "If we lived here..." Those old fashioned street lamps were illuminating the buildings through the lacy branches of the trees, making everything unrealistically Utopian. I don't know what's on the other side of that ellipses, certainly not the Woody-Allen-movie perfection of our New York vacations. But I can say one thing for sure. "If we lived here... the bagels would be perfect."