nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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And one more

About the Lower East Side. Katz’s Deli. Blimey.  It is like going back in time, maybe 50 years? A New York institution, Katz’s sells Jewish comfort food writ large. And I mean large. The biggest salt beef (corned beef to Americans) sandwich ever. And we have eaten a few over the years. I illustrate my point below:

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Yes, that is one half of the sandwich. I was eating the other half. I don’t have a picture of the pastrami, but believe me, it was just as ginormous. Half the fun of Katz’s is the atmosphere. People come here on the tourist trail and locals come too. It’s a loud, crowded and chaotic place. The walls are covered in photos of the boss with famous people. The toilets look ancient (didn’t get further than the door, too off putting).

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And the staff. Well, the staff are the loveliest I have come across in some time. Here’s the lovely man who cut the pastrami for my sandwich.

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So go, take cash and have a lot of time and sharp elbows to beat the queues. I may have jumped the queue, but who cares, it was great.

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Not quite Damien Hirst

There was a Damien Hirst retrospective at Tate Modern last year. It was full of predictable spot paintings, medicine cabinets, dead animals and some rather pretty butterfly pictures. But the real draw was the diamond encrusted skull. To see this you had to queue separately in the Turbine Hall and see it in a pitch black room, with access via a scary looking security guard, with spot lights strategically placed to allow the diamonds to dazzle. It was impressive. It was expensive. It was 50 million quid!

I was reminded of this when I went into Dean and Deluca earlier today. As New York gears up for Halloween (it’s everywhere and it’s nearly a month away) they have put on sale a solid chocolate skull. I took a snap to share my incredulity with you today. It’s price?  A mere $65. Gumph. How would you eat it?

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Let’s talk about coleslaw

Yes, I know this is possibly not the most interesting topic in the world, but it’s on my mind and I feel the need to vent. I like coleslaw, I like the combination of shredded cabbage and carrot in a pleasant mayonnaise that I can add to my sandwich. I like it on ham and I like it on cheese. I quite like it on a baked potato too. It is a savoury snack. Not a sweet snack. I hate coleslaw in the US. What do they do to it that makes is so incredibly sweet? I know, I’ll pour some sugar into the mayonnaise just to up the calorie count. Great idea. And whilst I’m on about it, when I ask for a quarter pound (yes, the US still uses Imperial, an entirely separate subject to rant about) I want 0.25 of a pound, also known as 4 ounces. But no, you always get more and today I was given 0.42, which is pretty much half a pound. I was experimenting with a new source of coleslaw from Sable’s and it was equally hideous. I have, however, discovered the answer to this problem. Low fat coleslaw, sometimes known as ‘healthy coleslaw’ – ahem, I don’t think there’s anything particularly healthy about coleslaw, either way it’s mayonnaise and that’s pretty fattening. But hey, by making it low fat all the sugar seems to disappear. I now have the answer. Try Morton Williams deli or Fairways to see what I mean.


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Tea talisman

I don’t drink coffee. In fact I have said on this blog before that I love tea. Big time. But I don’t feel the need to walk the streets holding a cup of it all the time. I like it at home, in a mug, sometimes with a biscuit. Nothing fancy. But here, my goodness holding a styrofoam or some other kind of cup, it’s like a fashion accessory. I was in the 42nd Street area earlier today, this is the busy bit around Grand Central Station, and I think that pretty much every person I went by was clutching a cup from all manner of places, slurping or just holding it like a talisman. It’s encouraged: the small silver coloured carts sit on most street corners dispensing drinks for a bit over a dollar and a range of artery hardening sugary snacks to boost the energy levels. They are cheap. Very cheap. But gone by midday to be replaced by the hot food vendors: caveat emptor, that’s all I can say about that. So off I go to my 10am appointment and I am strangely driven to go into one of the many food places that will make the enormous bagels (blogs passim), get a cup of tea, English Breakfast, black, and clutch it hoping some of the magic will rub off on me too.


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A hierarchy of gourmet

Gourmet must be the most overused word in New York. The corner shops selling everything claim to be gourmet, the pizza joints do the same. But there really is a hierarchy of food here. It starts with the independent deli, ubiquitous and fairly generic, selling sandwiches, bagels etc. Then there are the supermarkets, starting with Gristedes, which has been around since 1888 and here is open 24 hours, great for a quick in and out to get odds and sods. D’Agostino around since 1932 is ok, but a bit over priced. Morton Williams, founded in 1946, is similar but so tightly packed with goods it is a real challenge with a buggy, especially on Tuesdays when seniors get their ten per cent discount. My regular haunt is Fairways, huge, with great fresh produce and big on organic. The Food Emporium is similar, but I rarely go in as it is hidden by the horror of the Second Avenue subway construction works. I did go to Trader Joe’s once, out of my way, but as so many people had raved about it I went and had a look. I didn’t think it was anything special, especially the queues, so long they have someone specifically to indicate the end of the queue with a white paddle saying ‘end of the line’.

Then you change to the fancy specialist supermarkets cum deli shops. This is where the true meaning of gourmet comes to life. There’s Eli’s and its West Side relation, Zabar’s. Wonderful cheese counters, great on Jewish food but hefty on price – definitely treat territory. Agata and Valentina is a real favourite: mouth watering cakes and the best liquorice all sorts. There is also Citarella with its famous fish counter – don’t count on much change here.

And top of the hierarchy? It has to be Dean and Deluca. It is incredible. Located on Madison Avenue and very close to Central Park and the Met, its clientele don’t need to look at the prices. It has amazing cakes, bread and the best sushi I have had so far. Its white understated bags undersell quite how expensive and upmarket this place is. When you see the local private school girls buying their lunch here, you know you are in Gossip Girl territory. Best not go in with a credit card and a post run appetite, that’s for sure. Now that really is gourmet.


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Open all hours

It’s funny to think about Ronnie Barker on the streets of Manhattan, but it did strike me that Arkwright is alive and well here. The supermarket is open until midnight every night (no Sunday trading laws to scupper business here) and the pharmacy is open 24 hours. The pharmacy has gone way beyond its drug dispensing remit and sells pretty much everything. I am yet to see Nurse Gladys Emmanuel, the object of Arkwright’s affections, in the queue (that’s ‘on line’ here in the US, apparently queues don’t exist here) at CVS. I like it at CVS because it doesn’t have cashiers and the self service tills take all of the change I keep accumulating because I’m too slow to count it out in normal shops.

I love our local deli, open 8am till 9pm 7 days a week, which makes its own cakes in front of you. I think they may start charging me and E for watching them several times a week. So nice. I am gradually trying them all out. In true New York style we don’t cook and get take out from the deli – don’t want to boil those sprouts? Then buy them ready cooked, as the guy in front of me did. Want chicken for dinner? Well, how about 8 different types cooked and ready to eat. I frighten the man in front of me by saying I will have the other half of the chicken he has just ordered; he looks at me like I’ve just proposed to him. Nearly home and there’s a delivery guy in the lift (elevator) with a small brown bag that says Luke’s on it. I ask him what he’s delivering. Lobster. He’s delivering 2 lobster and prawn (shrimp) sandwiches and 2 fish soups. Now that’s true New  York. You don’t go out to get your food, you get it delivered. Granville used his push bike, up and down the hills of his Doncaster suburb to deliver barm cakes to local housewives. The delivery guys here use mountain bikes to deliver lobster. Not so different from 1976, eh?