We flew United. Thanks to Dan's monthly trips to Ottawa in 2009 - and thanks to United having a severe computer meltdown at O'Hare last summer that resulted in us flying to Cincinnati on American instead of Dayton on United, we were able to get tickets to Newark for $125 a person. Better yet, they came with free "so sorry about having to go to Cincinnati" upgrades to first class, which meant we were served omelets and delicious chicken salads on the flights instead of pretzels in a bag like usual. We flew through Denver airport, which is cavernous, boring, and apparently home to a serious bird infestation - if you look carefully, you'll see little rivulets of bird shit gracing most of the overhead signage, which although certainly distinctive, is probably not something anyone really wants to see.
Once at Newark, we landed right next to gate A17, American flag waving in the breeze. To be honest, I never really like seeing gate A17, but what are ya gonna do: every time I fly to Newark, I seem to wind up next to it for some reason. At any rate, it was easy getting out of there: within minutes, we were on a fantastically dilapidated bus on a short, bouncy, noisy run to the nearest PATH station. Just before we got there, the heavens opened up and the downpour began; thankfully, everything was under a roof until we got on a train to the WTC site. Once there, though, we had to walk a couple of blocks to get on the red line, where we then got confused (hey, hadn't been to NYC in a while), mixing up express with local trains and wasting a couple of minutes, but no problem really, we were at our hotel just south of Houston before too much longer.
Speaking of hotels, I'll take this opportunity to thank the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card for the sign-up bonus that we used to score five nights at just $60 per for a comfortable, quiet, clean room with a fantastic shower and cozy bed just a block from the subway. Pretty damn good - and we could even see a tiny bit of the Empire State Building from the window. More important, though, was the location: just blocks away from all kinds of interesting places to eat. We started that Thursday night with salt, which I picked because it was close to the hotel and looked pretty OK. OK pretty much sums it up: I had a fish that was a bitch to eat due to a huge number of tiny bones that were hard to see because the overhead lighting wasn't working, but it did taste good and wasn't overpriced. The dessert, though, made up for it: Earl Grey ice cream, citron tart, and a glass of Tokay. Damn that was good; I'd go back just to taste that ice cream again, honest. After dinner, it was off to bed because I had to rest up for the ultimate experience in grueling terroir that I had planned for the next day: lunch at Ko.
Why? Well, the story goes like this: I'm a fan of The Grateful Palate. I like their wines, and yeah, that one winemaker they work with is hawt, but I digress. A designer by the name of Beth Elliott put together a series of awesome labels for a wine called Punk Bubbles - and it turns out they'd done custom labels for David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants. That piqued my curiosity, I investigated, realized that they were supposedly pretty good, and figured I was tech-savvy enough to get a reservation at Ko. And how hard is that to get? Amusingly, I picked up a copy of Anthony Bourdain's new book Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook earlier this week, and he had this to say about Ko: "Momofuku Ko is the most sought-after and hardest-to-get-reservation in America." Hell yes. I believe I chose wisely.
Given that we were going out to eat at a notoriously impossible to reserve and Michelin two starred restaurant, I figured that appropriate attire would be that awesome raglan sleeved T-shirt I picked up at the Bass Pro Shop at the Cincinnati Mall earlier in the year. Why? Well, I figured, what the hell. If I'm going to eat at one of the best restaurants in North America, I'm going to be comfortable, especially if it's served while you're seated at a countertop. And as it turns out, it felt just about right. It was a fucking incredible experience; we arrived on time, spent four hours there, wound up having some great conversations with the people sitting on either side of us, and of course the food, the food. The most memorable things for me were a sort-of barbecue spare rib thing, the frozen/shaved foie gras over riesling gelée with pine nut brittle, and a single oyster that was the most delicious I've ever had. Even better, they offered a beverage pairing - thankfully, not just wine, but also beer and sake (and even a French vermouth that radically recontextualized vermouth as an entire beverage category - honest) - that kept things rockin', starting with really wonderful, toasty Champagne and ending with another Tokay to go with the dessert. Plus, being a total wine nerd, I felt compelled to share a bottle of the Scholium Project Riquewihr 2008 with the folks on either side of us (hey, they started it by pouring me some of their Selbach-Oster riesling). I've said it before but I'll say it again: Scholium Project make some of the most fascinating, delicious wines I've ever had. (Go and buy now - they just released their new wines yesterday. Yes, they're $20. Yes, it's worth it. Go!).
Anyhow! After that lunch, I was damn well done for the day. We walked back to the hotel and crashed hard. When we woke up, though, Christopher suggested we meet up for a nightcap, which sounded pretty awesome even though I was technically already hungover. So: bad New Orleans themed pizza aside, the rest of the night was unmitigated awesome, with a few beers enjoyed with Christopher and Jeffrey in the not entirely awful but still pretty lame ex-Dugout, now Rockbar, which was saved by our being able to stand outside, beers in hand, on a wonderfully balmy New York City night, watching the Jerseyites plod past in their baggy pants on their way to the PATH station, talking about dentists and Cheyenne Jackson and MacDuffs and what have you. And then it was well and truly off to sleep for the night.
We were there a few more days. I'll likely write about them, but for now? I have a conference call to join.