Fresh Vegetables Or: Giving Up On ‘Green Values’, By Mara L.

This is another entry to my food-series, which Jens kindly invited me to write for his blog (devoting himself, as he should, to the most urgent concern of his fellow Europeans: culinary survival in New York). Today, I shall report on another find, hoping to save fellow-Europeans from what, for me, was a slow learning-curve. On first coming to New York, I was infected with ‘Green Values’ regarding food (which conveniently overlap with the long-standing values of gourmetship!). An illness which needed curing if I wanted fresh vegetables.

Copyright 2006 Jens Haas

For at least six months, the plastic containers with pre-washed and pre-cut vegetables didn’t register with me. Plastic containers with vegetables are not the product of choice for the Green- or gourmet-minded person from Europe. Thus, I reported back to my friends at home that, sad as it is, there are no fresh vegetables in New York. Rumors abound: A conspiracy? Do New Yorkers like rotten spinach? Or do they really only eat take out? Especially my mother was ready to believe anything that was going to bring me home sooner rather than later. However, life here gradually opened my eyes. Unpackaged vegetables, as I now know, rot away because *no one wants them*. Just turn to the other side of the shelf, and you’ll see perfectly nice vegetables, sitting there safely in their plastic containers.

So, today’s entry is a piece of practical advice: Just get over it. Buy the pre-washed, pre-cut, pre-portioned, and, most of all, plastic wrapped, container-protected vegetables that healthy New Yorkers buy. Giving up resistance is anyway just a matter of time. And New York really does have fresh vegetables.

Coming Up: Raspberry Cake In Salzburg

Real Latte Macchiato In Manhattan, By Mara L.

My last entry to this blog ended on a somewhat unhappy note regarding the vexed issue of good coffee in New York. In my first months here, I used to cite one of Jens’ expatriate friends as if he had discovered one of the first principles of reality: That after every trip to Europe, it takes roughly two months to sufficiently forget the taste of real coffee, in order to then be able to enjoy American coffee. But I’ve come around—he’s not right! There is good coffee to be found.

Copyright 2007 Jens Haas

Of course, good coffee needs more than imported Italian espresso and an ok machine. It needs, first of all, good water, which, unfortunately, seems to be very much a matter of what one’s used to. So here’s a point where a tiny bit of open-mindedness doesn’t hurt, or rather, it really doesn’t help to get caught up in quest for water that tastes like home. The pragmatic way out is to go for latte. Which of course brings up issues about milk. However, somewhat more resolvable ones. Of course, there’s the Starbucks type of latte, and it should (grudgingly) be admitted that they do a quite good job. But what about atmosphere? Our task is genuine latte in the right kind of setting, i.e., a real café––as opposed to ‘room where Americans sit with their laptops and large paper cups’.

I’ve only found one such place in all of Manhattan: The Sant Ambroeus on 1000 Madison Avenue (near 78th Street). It’s totally overpriced and you should better wear a fur coat when you’re standing at the bar. And, of course, speak Italian. Don’t go in the touristy season, when all kinds of Europeans come, desperate for something they recognize as a café. On dreary, rainy days in the middle of the week, that’s when you’ll be alone with rich Italians. If you can take the disapproving stares at whatever you’ll be wearing that falls short of high fashion (the elegant, understated Italian kind, not the flashy, tight-jeans-high-heels U.S. kind), you will happily drink creamy (meaning: full “fat” milk which is probably flown in on a daily basis, hence the prices, and hence a bit of a bad feeling regarding global warming), strong and delicious latte macchiato.

Coming up: Fresh Vegetables, Or: Giving Up On ‘Green Values’

Fruit Tarte In New York, By Mara L.

Remember: When you came to Manhattan before, as a tourist, you kind of enjoyed the odd meal at a diner, and you even went so far as to get some pommes frites, which they call french fries, when you were in a hurry. You thought that this was part of the local flavor, slightly adventurous, and it didn’t matter, since very soon you were going to sit in front of your nice plate of ravioli again. You actually did get meals at so-called delicatessens, which serve ready made dishes, prepared in a less than delicious way.

But now you are here and suddenly things are serious: Is this how you are going to live? Emphatically No. Without as much as a conscious decision, none of these touristy treats seems even conceivable. You are going to search for real food.

Copyright 2005 Jens Haas

I shall spare you the frustrations, and immediately jump to a first find. A tiny café, somewhat French. Not, of course, French enough to spare you the usual offer of muffins, but French enough in other ways. The Ansonia café on 74th street, around the corner of Broadway, home of many Europeans, and regular meeting place with Jens and a companion of his (whom I shall introduce to you at a later point). Here they serve a truly amazing clafoutis au cerises (this is a cherry tarte which I used to bake—still in the lands of real butter and milk, where baking was actually an option—according to Lenôtre’s recipe, learning from his book that it originated in the lovely planes of the Limousin). There are drawbacks to the location, such as a less than French-tasting café au lait. But that’s not their fault, you tell yourself, they can’t be expected to import French milk (which even *you* have not yet begun to do).

Coming up: Real Latte Macchiato