Thursday, February 01, 2007

It's strange, everytime I leave the Lower East Side (Manhattan), I'm in a unbelievably great mood.

One of the reasons is that few places feel more like "New York" to me. Times Square? That's not New York. That's some hideously gaudy, tourist-trap of an area painted over a den of strip clubs and XXX theaters. To me, nowhere in Midtown is New York, anymore than you are your job. It's just where New York works. The Lower East Side represents New York now. Gourmet food shops lay in the shadow of the housing projects, the same market has both an area which smells like dirt and rotten fruit and another which smells like stinky cheese and kids trying to look like gangsters walk with young fashionistas. It's possible to pay $2,000/month for an apartment where someone might have once O.D'ed. It's that odd dicotomy that, to me, defines New York now.

Then again, maybe it's because two of my favorite places to visit are there. First up, there's Saxelby Cheesemongers. In many of Anthony Bourdain's books, he talks about the places chef's go to eat. Saxelby's is the place where I go to get my cheese geek on. One would think I'd be heading back to my old workplace, Murray's. After all, at a stock of over 250 cheeses, there's plenty to geek out over. But, it's too much! Too much uniforms and waiting in line and constant rotation of staff. It's nice to go somewhere and see just about 40 cheeses (if that), laid out nicely, with the same person behind the counter everytime, someone who knows each cheese as well as you know your friends. Plus, there's always something new, something I find myself unable to leave without and I like that.

As it that weren't fatty enough, the other place is a donut shop! Not just any donut joint though, this is the Donut Plant. Just a few blocks away from Saxelby's, the Donut Plant makes donuts so impossibly good that, at $2.00 each, you feel like you're getting a deal. This time, I picked up not only a Blackout cake donut (imagine if they made a flourless chocolate cake in donut form!) and a Tres Leches donut, which provoked the, honest to god, reaction of "rolling my eyes back in utter extasy", that usually is only reserved for cheese. While I was at the Donut Plant, I got to experience a bit of scene, as well. Apparently, a newspaper had called the store looking for it's opinion on part of the neighborhood being renamed LoHo (a very common thing in Manhattan). He was infuriated.

"Loho, what is that? It's the LOWER EAST SIDE! Why change the name? You know why they want to change the name? Rich people! You name it LoHo and charge more for the rent. Rich peope love it! I didn't always live here. I grew up in India. There, I'd read books about New York and, in those books, they talk about the Lower East Side. Now I work here! Noho! It's all for rich people!"

a customer ask for Chai, then complains that they don't make it with soy milk

"With *soy milk*?! That is not chai! That is some hideous American tea! We make this chai here and we make it right, with milk! Chai with soy milk! You know, Chai needs some basic components: first, it must have at least five ingredients, in order to be called Chai. Then, it must have milk. Chai with soy milk is.not.chai."

Sometimes, I can't help but love this city.