Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Things I Miss

Inspired by Alex Lobrano’s blog about New York food he craves when he’s in Paris, I thought I’d put together my own—considerably more lowbrow—list of the ingredients, dishes and restaurants I miss from the 3 cities where I’ve lived as an adult: New York, Oxford and London. For while Paris is a great eating city, sometimes I just want what I can’t have. Specifically:

-the exceptional pizza pies served here and here, and the perfectly serviceable pizza-by-the-slice sold in dozens of Manhattan joints (often named Joe’s). Hazardous to eat while walking, but otherwise the ultimate street food.
-Moro: My special-occasion restaurant of choice for 10 years now, it has stupendous bread, meat and fish from a wood-burning oven, a friendly waitress who always recognizes me and a bar where a glass of salty-dry sherry, free refills of that amazing bread, and some slabs of tortilla española make a cheap and wonderful treat, no birthday or anniversary required.
-Montgomery’s Cheddar: As English cheese prices have risen sharply in recent months, I’ve experimented with some cheaper alternatives. But nothing comes close, and I’m yet to find a French cheese which combines sharpness with sweet and salty notes.
-New York’s Greek diners: not for the coffee, which is almost uniformly weak and acrid, or the eponymous salad, usually spoiled by sharp dressing and indifferent olives, but for the pancakes, round-the-clock hours and wise-alecky service.
-Lunchtime in Oxford’s covered market. Whether a ciabatta lined with cheese, pesto and marinated veg from Fasta Pasta, or the ultra-healthy but delicious salad served by the hippy-dippy staff at Alpha Bar, lunch hasn’t been as good—or as cheap—since.
-It’s certainly not true that all New Yorkers use their ovens only for storing shoes. But I’m yet to meet one who doesn’t know which Chinese restaurant in their local delivery radius not only does the best version of their favourite dish (i.e., tofu and broccoli with spicy garlic sauce) but throws in free beer too.
-I know that people make a big deal over fleur de sel, but I prefer Maldon every time. Although I do store it in a French jam jar…
-Celeste: Because it’s infinitely useful to have a local Italian restaurant whose pasta dishes are much, much better than you could ever make at home, but where dinner doesn’t cost that much more than a takeaway.
-Bagels: Ideally from the bakery on 107th and Broadway in Manhattan. (Damn those university friends who have an apartment upstairs and three small children occupying their former guest room.) In truth, I’d happily settle for H+H, or even the little ones sold at the far end of London’s Brick Lane, because while baguettes and croissants make great breakfast food, they fall short as an accompaniment to the weekend New York Times. (Note: I have no similar attachments to Philadelphia cream cheese. Bring on the chevre.)
-The bhel puri, a sweet-tart, crunchy mix of chickpeas, potatoes, chutneys and little fried things served by all of the vegetarian South Indian restaurants on Drummond St, near Euston Station, or their less convenient, but more authentic, counterparts in Tooting.


Lorrie said...

Hey Shira!

Saw your comment and question about obtaining kale in Paris on Mark Bittman's blog. I am the fellow food blogger who remarked about the kale recipe from Bordeaux. My friend's mom grows it in her garden there. While in Paris, I went to a few fresh markets, and was able to procure some during both spring and summer. There was one time I found it in a supermarche off Les Halles and another market off Bonne Nouvelle, when I was housesitting for a friend. I am sad to say I do not remember exactly where, and my memories seem to fade the longer I am stateside.

On a side note, I really like your blog, and am going to link to it from my site. If I make it back to Paris soon, I'd love to share some wine. Are you a permanent ex-pat?

I can relate to your feelings of homesickness. I often worked remotely in East Africa, and simultaneously comforted and crushed myself remembering the sweet things from home. The paradigm is now that I haven't taken any assignments for a while, I miss my life in the field.

Give my regards to the City of Lights.

Cheers and Bon Appetit,

Shira said...


Thanks so much for your kind and helpful comment! Look forward to reading your blog, and certainly do be in touch if you're heading to Paris.

Funny about the kale. I made visits (not just for that)to the Batignolles market and Joel Thiebault's stand this morning, and still no kale. Perhaps it's too early? On the plus side, I found more wild garlic and raw milk.