Well kids, I’m back. Luckily Monday and flying and travelling were noneventful.
New York City is wonderful, I love New York, I really do, but it is a difficult and expensive place to live, and right now I think I’m happy in Chapel Hill. Less expensive to live here too. Yes, I am applying for jobs, I will let you all know when I find one.
And yes, the Dilettantista will continue! Just because I am in Chapel Hill does not mean that my life will become boring. This blog will still focus on the sights I see, the food I eat, and the places I go. Before I left Chapel Hill I was making strides in my endeavor to learn to cook like a grown-up, so much of this website will probably become recipes and photographs of my cooking explorations. I will also, of course, review Triangle restaurants and make this blog all about Chapel Hill-Durham-Raleigh, because I think there is a general lack of blogs dealing directly with the Triangle. Tons of NYC blogs, no Chapel Hill blogs? Maybe I’ll find a niche.
Anyhow, thank you for reading this summer, and please continue to check back over the next few weeks to see how the blog continues to change and develop!
After cleaning up from the earlier day’s rain my parents and I headed across the park to Kefi, Michael Psilakis’ Greek mega-restaurant on the Upper West Side. Because the park is always lovely, and was particularly serene on this post-rainy evening, I had to take a few pictures:
We also stumbled upon some beautiful flowers near a fancy building on Central Park West.
Love. Urban. Flowers.
We met up with several of my amazing friends who helped make this summer super-fun for a rustic Greek meal at Kefi. Which is huge. Evidently the original location only sat about eighty people and did not take reservations or serve lunch. So Psilakis and his business partner decided to move to a larger space that seats two hundred, takes reservation, and serves lunch. And the place, from what I understand, is consistently packed. I’d read fairly good reviews of the restaurant. Frank Bruni complained that there was too much feta, too much salt, too much everything in the food but I personally have no problem with food that is unsubtle.
The restaurant is very, very large, and it seems that smaller parties get seated at big round tables downstairs. Both upstairs and downstairs were loud, which I have come to expect from New York restaurants, so whatever. We started off with appetizers; several of my tablemates ordered the white bean soup, Ashley had a Greek salad that looked like it might have been over-dressed in terms of vinaigrette (correct me if I am wrong) and I ordered a few appetizers for the table: the spreads platter which came with pita to dip in tzatziki, red-pepper hummus, an eggplant spread, and “caviar” which I believe was some sort of fish roe but was actually pleasantly salty and had the texture of a grainy hummus, an order of fresh-cut potato chips served with tzatziki (home made chips are always a hit) and the meatballs, which were large, salty-sweet, and came in a sauce that was liberally studded with giant chunks of tomato and cloves of roasted garlic (win).
For dinner I had the sheep milk’s dumplings which came in a sauce of tomatoes, pine nuts, lamb sausage, and something like a pound of spinach. The dumplings themselves were fantastic: much lighter than gnocchi, like little happy pillows of creamy goodness, but I thought that the pasta-to-sauce ratio was not well balanced (too much sauce and not enough pasta to handle said sauce) and I found the amount of spinach overwhelming. The flavors were great, I just would’ve liked more dumplings.
I, alas, do not have pictures of the other entrees (I didn’t want to be overly obnoxious). My father had the branzino, of which he spoke highly, my mother had a shrimp and orzo dish, Theresa got the macaroni and cheese (which looked really excellent and creamy), Brad had the lamb shank and his comment regarding said lamb shake was: “That shit was awesome,” (thanks, Brad) and Phil and Ashley had flat pasta with braised and pulled rabbit. I got a picture of that, and a taste. The rabbit had clearly been braised for awhile, as it was extremely tender. I have never had rabbit before and I can’t really say much of the taste of the meat, as, once again, it was swimming in extremely unsubtle sauce. Still, Phil devoured his portion, so I’m assuming it was a win.
We opted to skip dessert at Kefi for a walk down to the Upper West Side Shack Shack and some custard. Clearly my parents had enjoyed their first experience at the Shake Shack, and I was fine with one last custard run before I departed New York City. I had vanilla with hot caramel, and didn’t take a picture because you can see one here. Custard turned to conversation and ten 11:00 rolled around and we decided to roll out. I bid farewell to my friends (sniff) and then headed home to finish packing and to get some sleep before my flight out the next morning. It was excellent spending my last night in New York with food and friends–major thanks to the parents for enabling that to happen.
Sunday morning the parents and I woke up, looked outside at the dismal and rainy weather, and decided to brave the great outdoors in order to take the Big Onion’s tour of the Jewish Lower East Side. The tours are led by history doctoral candidates at Columbia. Our tour guide was a native New Yorker who is writing her dissertation on public health issues of the turn of the century, and her personal interests definitely became evident in the meandering tangents she’d take in regards to listing the problems with milk available in the Lower East Side, or the unsanitary nature of the streets.
The rain had stopped for a spell when we trekked down to the Lower East Side for our tour, and we spent the first half of the tour with clouds but not-rain. We saw an old Ashkenazic synagogue, built in an old church, that is now abandoned, as most of the Jews from the Lower East Side have left. We also saw old tenement houses and the former headquarters of theYiddish Forward, a newspaper (still in publication) that was read by the Jewish community in American in the early 1900s.
Then, it started raining. And raining, And it rained harder. And the tour continued, and even though interesting things were happening it was a lot of standing in one place listening to our guide talk for extended periods of time rather than seeing lots of sights and getting stories along the way. Anyhow, other than the rain it was a perfectly enjoyable experience and I feel further enlightened regarding my cultural heritage, etc.
The tour ended on a little street in Chinatown at the Eldridge Street Synagogue, the first free-standing (not built in a church) Ashkenazic Synagogue in the Lower East Side. It was built in the late 1800s and has been used ever since, though the main sanctuary fell into extreme disrepair in the middle of the 1900s. The main part of the building has since undergone a twenty million dollar renovation, so it looks really beautiful. The building is now both a functional synagogue and a museum. Evidently the main sanctuary had leaks and holes in the wall and all sorts of issues, but the Torahs–which had been left in the ark unpreserved and unprotected–were in mint condition. Amazing, no?
The rain was still pouring when we left the synagogue, so we caught a cab to SoHo rather than walking. We went to Grandaisy, formerly Sullivan Street Bakery, and I introduced my parents to the wonders of pizza bianca and pizza patate. By the time we finished eating the rain had ceased (yay!) and we spent the next few hours shopping around SoHo, buying some fun clothes and wandering slack-jawed through the oddity that is Evolution, a store that sells, among other things, human skulls and taxidermy-ed animals. Around 6:00 we headed back uptown to clean up for dinner and to eat the mini-cupcakes my father had picked up at Baked By Melissa, also in SoHo.
Anyhow, that was the first half of Sunday. I’ll update on dinner at Kefi with the friends in a bit. In the meantime, listen to the podcast to which I linked in the previous post and enjoy the week!