Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bright Lights, Big Bellies

Zabar's - West side of B'way & 81st
Originally uploaded by Ed Yourdon.

Continuing the tradition that I began in London, I took myself off on some experimental bus travel this morning. As is my way, I knew where I needed to go conceptually, but by virtue of my very dodgy sense of direction I wasn't convinced I would actually get there.

Today's destination was Zabar's, the famous Jewish market on the Upper West Side, and a New York insitution. I could have taken the subway from my place to get there (the No.1 train stops a block from the market's front door), but I figured that if I took the bus and stayed above ground, I had a better chance of getting my bearings. Well that was the plan anyway. I took the express bus up 1st Avenue, then switched at 79th street and headed west through Central Park. Snow flurries had started to fall, but I was so excited about my culinary expedition I didn't even care. When the bus deposited me at 79th and Broadway, I saw the subway exit and immediately headed in the opposite direction of the market. Typical.

In my defence though, heading towards me were people carrying Zabar's bags, so I concluded they must be walking away from the store. Fair assumption, right? Whatever. Anyway the point is I finally worked out my mistake and changed my direction (nonchalantly of course, just in case anyone had been watching me do anything dorky). On the upside, my geographical error did take me past Fairway Market, one that a lady at my office told me that she actually prefers over Zabar's. Certainly the fresh fruit and vegetables piled up out the front, including big fat strawberries, looked very tempting indeed.

But I was focussed on Zabar's so I was so glad when I finally found it. I didn't go in there with any particular shopping list, but I did want to have bagels and cream cheese. As it turned out, on my way into the market I spotted H&H Bagels that I remember from an ancient episode of SATC. So I called in there and bought my bagels and cream cheese instead. Did I mention the bagels were still warm, just fresh out of the oven? Praised be.

Back to Zabar's I went and was instantly hit with the amazing aroma of cheese, smoked fish and fresh bread. Wandering around the store, picking up jars of Euro goodies and little tubs of pate, dips and spreads I was just in heaven. I didn't pick up a shopping basket (else I would have easily filled it), so I only bought what I could carry. I grabbed some signature rye bread - that the lady kindly sliced thickly for me. The rye is topped with lots of fresh caraway seeds, which I can normally take or leave but in this case, they are soooo good. I bought some Israeli hummus that is so garlicky nobody will come near me for days, and I also bought some whole wheat pasta (love) and some French raspberry & pomegranate jam. I couldn't resist throwing in some delicious cinnamon rugelach, gorgeous dense pastry shaped almost like little croissants but not as flaky. As I type this, I am dunking one into my espresso. Jealous, much?

I allowed the crowd to push me towards the registers and I made my way out of Zabar's, bag of goodies in hand. I was feeling rather fabulous at this point and brave enough to take the subway home. I don't know why I do these things to myself. I caught the right train in the right direction, so I started well. Then I listened to two Jesus preachers on the carriage, prompting the young guy next to me to suggest that we were possibly on the most entertaining subway in Manhattan. Alighting the train at 34th Street (my stop), I was in completely unfamiliar territory. This wasn't a part of 34th street I'd ever seen before. Why hadn't I thought to bring a map?

Rather than completely lose my nuts at this point, I went and bought some makeup and a giant coffee and just started to walk. Slowly but surely, 34th Street started to look more familiar and then off in the distance I could see my building. Success!

With the Presidents Day public holiday I get to be a good little ethnic for the next few days and enjoy my yummy delights, before heading back to work on Tuesday.

The next time I head back up that way, I'm going to be brave and try some of the smoked fish that other Zabar's shoppers were sampling today. I think that would be quite tasty. I'd also buy some guacamole because that looked delicious - and obviously I'd need to leave room for more signature rye bread and rugelach - a girl's gotta have her pantry staples after all.


Anonymous said...

Oy vei and shalom little girlie.

kilabyte said...

Did they have any panty Indian meal moths in their place?? Only asking 'coz Reggie might want to know.