Finding The One

Since moving to the West Village last December, I’ve felt a little like Goldilocks in The Story of the Three Bears. Instead of a bed though, I’ve been looking for a place to make my neighborhood go-to, my spot if you will.

I’ve tried coffee shops, wine bars, and all sorts of eateries, from greasy Chinese take-out to homey Italian to sushi directly below our apartment and yet nothing’s felt exactly right.

That is, until Buvette, which might just be the one, the one that’s cute and charming, has good food, wine and coffee, and feels right whether I’m alone at the bar with a book or at a small corner table with the beau.

Snuggled in to a small space on Grove Street, Buvette is a casual eatery that feels like something you might find in a picturesque Parisian neighborhood. The food has a decidedly French slant with Italian notes here and there, like the Campari spiked lemonade or the selection of Italian wines. From the times I’ve been there, here are my favorites:

Pomodorini tartine

On my first visit I had this tartine, which I’ll admit I didn’t think would be more than a snack, but ended up being  pretty filling and a great lunch. On top of the crunchy toasted bread were creamy blobs of mozzarella, juicy, tart sun-dried tomatoes, soft, purplish-colored olives and a crisp, almost bitter green mixed in.

Spoon bread

For dessert on that first time, I followed up with the spoon bread, if for no other reason than because I had no idea what spoon bread was. It turned out to be a delicious carrot cake-like dessert, served with in a rammekin and topped with a small mountain of a thick, rich, cream cheese frosting.

Croque Madame

On my most recent visit, I had the ridiculously good Croque Madame, a neat little stack of  crunchy toast topped with a fried egg, buttery ribbons of prosciutto and a sprinkling of parmesan. When I poked the fat, orange center of the egg peeking out from underneath the ham, it erupted with runny yolk oozing over everything. My mouth is watering as I type this. Torture, I tell you, torture.

Croque Forestier

Flaneur, who I couldn’t wait to take to Buvette, had the Croque Forestiere, a mini tower of pieces of toast smothered in gruyere and mushrooms, browned to a warm, golden crust. This would be amazing for breakfast, lunch or dinner… or even all of them all in one day.

Chocolate mousse

Finally, because my sweet tooth always has to have the last word, we split the chocolate mousse, a seemingly shapeless, fat scoop of chocolate mousse with an equally haphazard but generous dollop of whipped cream. It might not have looked like much, but man, was it good. The chocolate was not as airy as other mousse desserts I’ve had but instead was thicker, richer, the perfect dessert to share. The whipped cream, which tasted home made, was only subtle in its sweetness, perfect for the chocolate to shine through in all its delicious glory.

I’ve been there a couple of times now and every time I go, I start thinking about when I can go back again. I want to spend whole afternoons there in my new spot, washing down croques with fresh lemonade, letting the day slip into night while I sit snug as Goldilocks taking a nap in a bear’s bed.

Buvette on Urbanspoon

I’ll have “Every Thing On It”

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Growing up, Shel Silverstein was one of my favorite writers, and even now when I see his books, especially his collections of poetry like A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends, I always stop and pick them up. Shel died in 1999, but his family just released a new book with 145 previously unpublished poems and drawings called Every Thing On It.

If there was any doubt in my mind that this collection would be great, and of course there wasn’t, the poem below would have changed my mind. His writing spoke to me as a kid, and clearly, still does today.

Italian Food

Oh, how I love Italian food.
I eat it all the time,
Not just ’cause how good it tastes
But ’cause how good it rhymes.
Minestrone, cannelloni,
Macaroni, rigatoni,
Spaghettini, scallopini,
Escarole, braciole,
Insalata, cremolata, manicotti,
Marinara, carbonara,
Shrimp francese, Bolognese,
Ravioli, mostaccioli,
Mozzarella, tagliatelle,
Fried zucchini, rollatini,
Fettuccine, green linguine,
Tortellini, Tetrazzini,
Oops—I think I split my jeani.

Read more about it on NPR.

I came, I saw, I stuffed my face

Back in Italy, the people of Napoli (i.e. the original guidos and forefathers of the American breed) revere San Gennaro as the patron saint of their southern city. Here in New York, you might say Saint G is the patron saint of zeppole, sausage sandwiches and the absurdly un-Italian fried Oreo.

Every year for a week in September, the Feast of San Gennaro fills the streets of Little Italy (what few haven’t been completely consumed by Chinatown) with dozens of vendors selling these carnival foods and more, along with all sorts of trinkets and souvenirs. (T-shirt reading “Not only am I perfect, I’m Italian too?” Yea, file that under treasure.) Everyone and their mother seems to go and it’s kind of a crowded mess, but starting last year, the fine folks at Torrisi Italian Specialties took it upon themselves to bring a little bit more of a gourmet edge to the Feast, by offering eats from actual restaurants.

Below, my highlight reel, with food so good San Gennaro himself would be getting in line. (A small miracle in and of itself, since Italians struggle with the concept of forming lines.)

Pork tonata from The Breslin

First stop was at the trifecta of awesomeness, the temple to April Bloomfield: the stand from The Spotted Pig, The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar. The pork tonnato, a sandwich made of thinly sliced roast pork and creamy mayo with tomatoes, wispy slices of onion and arugula, on a fat, round, flour-dusted bun.

Cucumber cooler
 To wash down the hunky sandwich, and to provide some refreshment on what turned out to be an unexpectedly warm afternoon (damn you summer, will you just go already?), was the bright green cucumber cooler. Made with what looked like straight cucumber puree and seltzer water poured over ice, it was an interesting drink with a bubbly, soothing coolness.  The only thing that might have made this drink better was alcohol, maybe an ounce or two of gin. (Even my conservative drinking beau agreed.)
April Bloomfield’s jelly doughnut
Also from the Bloomfield crew, what could be the textbook definition of a superb doughnut: one of the most perfectly spherical, wonderfully delicious, plump full of rich, ruby red strawberry jelly and sparkling in the afternoon sun in its coat of sugar. I could eat these till I keeled over dead of a sugar overdose.

Brrrwich from BYGGYZ

Finally, there was the one thing my friend and I loved, but my Italian boyfriend and her Italian husband hated (further proof that Italian men are in fact, crazy), the Brrrywich ice cream sandwich from BYGGYZ, a coming-soon sandwich shop from Dewey Dufresne. Made with shockingly minty ice cream, the same sparkling white as freshly fallen snow, and dark, crumbly chocolate cookies, this was the ice cream sandwich version of a York Peppermint Patty on steroids. I love the combination of mint and chocolate, so this thing blew my mind.
I’ve never followed saints much before, but I think San Gennaro might’ve made me a believer this year.

So much lobster, so little time

If you love lobster— and really, you absolutely should love lobster, unless you’re my boyfriend or a similar unfortunate soul who can’t delight in the wonders of shellfish due to allergies— get thee to New England. Everywhere you go, it’s lobster, lobster, LOBSTER!

During a recent weekend spent in Rhode Island and Cape Cod, I saw it incorporated into everything short of dessert, and even that, I’m sure was out there somewhere. Lobster ravioli, lobster rolls, lobster bisque, plain ol’ lobster— you name it, it was on the menu. I ate more lobster in two days than I have in the last two months, and even though I kind of felt like a selfish bastard for not being able to share it with Flaneur, let me tell you, I got over that fast.

Brenton Reef Benedict, a damn fine way to start a day off in New England

Of all the lobster indulging I took part in though, the most stand-out lobster inclusive thing I ate was the Brenton Reef Benedict at Franklin Spa, a homey, classic style American diner. Two soft, doughy Bolo rolls, grilled just slightly enough to make them warm and a tiny bit crispy, were topped with steamed spinach, tender, sweet hunks of native lobster meat, poached eggs and then coated in a creamy, buttery hollandaise sauce to make for one of the most indulgent, ridiculously good breakfast/anytime eats.

For me, a winning dish is one that combines different flavors and textures without becoming a hodgepodge, and Franklin Spa’s lobster take on eggs benedict was just right. The slight bitter taste of spinach, the sweet meatiness of the lobster, the velvety rich smoothness of the hollandaise, and then of course, the rich, salty kick of the runny yolk— the bf’s french toast was good too, but sweet lobster-loving Jesus, it could never compete with this.

Oh New England, I hope you know how good you have it.

Reconnecting over a bowl of clam chowder

No sooner had the sun set on Labor Day, than the world itself seemed to mourn summer’s end. At least in New York, the week following the holiday to celebrate the last hurrah of summer (and labor?) was grey, rainy and dreary.

But you know who wasn’t sad about summer being on the way out?

This girl RIGHT HERE.

It’s been a long, tiresome summer and I, for one, am glad to see it go. Not only did I start a new job, have a traumatic run-in with a roach in my apartment, go through an earthquake aaand a hurricane in the same week (albeit, neither one serious but STILL) and cope with the insufferable heat of summer in the city, but I went through it all on my own while that ol’ Euro boyfriend of mine sunned his buns in the Mediterranean and lived the good life without me.

I may sound whiney, but all joking aside, it’s been rough. (Living alone is not for me, I’ve learned.) The beau’s return last week coincided with the end of summer, and made for just another reason for me to say, “So long, summer! Don’t let the proverbial door hit ya on the way out!”

Now that he’s back and the weather’s cooler, I feel like things are back to how I like having them. (It’s not so much to ask for, is it, cool weather and a decent boyfriend to keep you company?) To celebrate his being back, or more accurately, to escape the massive security crackdowns in the city over the 9-11 weekend, the two of us hopped in a rented car and drove to Rhode Island.

New England Clam Chowder on a chilly late summer night in Rhode Island

The weather in New England was crisp and cool (which made me think fall, fall, fall…yes, yes, YES) and the change of scenery was a literal and figurative breath of fresh air. Obviously catching up and spending some QT with the BF was great, but the kicker on our first night in Newport? The moment that made me feel warm and fuzzy and like everything was right and good in the world again? Sharing a bowl of New England clam chowder at the Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant.

If ever there was a food that felt like the edible equivalent of a hug, or a good cuddle, this was it. Creamy and thick, with a delicious flavor that was simultaneously buttery, sweet and warming, I thought, is there anything more comforting in the world than this bowl of soup right now? I could do this for the rest of autumn and probably clear through winter.

Summer, it’s been real, but you really should be on your way.  My loves are back and I’ve missed them.

Lessons in fancy self-indulgence

Who better to turn to for some fancy indulgence than zee French??

I’m a firm believer that every now and then a girl’s gotta treat herself to something nice. Don’t wait for someone else to spoil you, is how I see it. Go on and do it yourself. Indulge! Pamper! Splurge!

When I was reminded about Tuesday’s grand opening of the New York location of famous, fancy French macaron shop (ooh la la, alliteration!) Ladurée, I knew the time for a little something nice was now. Yes, for what I ended up spending on these Parisian confections I could have had my hair professionally blow-dried, added something new to my wardrobe, or treated a friend to a nice lunch, but spoiling yourself isn’t about being practical or rational. So I was neither.

A little bit of gay ol' Paree in New York

Because I tend to falter in the face of decision-making I went with one of every flavor they had available, which in the late afternoon when I was there was 15, after having sold out of a few others. The shop itself was to me a cross between a dainty doll house and a jewelry box, elegant and pastel hued, one of those places where I have to be hyper-conscious of my every move to avoid knocking anything over and breaking it (like a display of elaborate gift boxes or a Berkin-clad housewife in Chanel ballet slippers).

In a rainbow of soft, pretty colors, the meringue-like treats were a sweet sight in their small box. Each one, varying in flavor from raspberry to salted caramel and butter to almond, and pistachio among others, was delicate and light, a slight sugary crispness to the outside, and a burst of flavor from the sometimes jammy, sometimes creamy filling inside.

They were pricey little things but for the next couple of days when I open my otherwise barren fridge, I’ll only think about how tasty they are and just how fun it is to occasionally be treated to something nice .