New York City is a food destination. It’s one of the most dense food cities in the world with thousands and tens of thousands of restaurants. So many, that it would be impossible to try every single one even if you ate at a new restaurant three times a day for fifty years. It’s beautiful to see that the diversity of the city is reflected in its food.
My interactions with food in the city has been amplified by the fact that the film production company I work for does culinary content for a few networks/clients. My experiences with chefs, restaurants, and food has often revolved around making recipes and making the process of cooking look as cinematic as possible. This is a sharp contrast from the cooking I do myself on my own dime, often this involves the cheapest groceries I can find that are easy to make in my post-work zombified state. However, I have had a few more glamorous food experiences than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at my desk.
One of the great things about New York City and its plethora of food options is the lunch or dinner out with colleagues or friends. This activity is a right of passage. A way to meet new people. Catch up with old friends. Get to know your colleagues.
I think one of my first real experiences with food came with my emergence into legal adulthood. For my 21st birthday, my sister and her friends took me out to a trendy restaurant that served unconventional American dishes and craft-cocktails. I had a gnocchi-styled dish called lemon-pepper gnudi, a few vodka-based cocktails and a tequila soda before we headed to our next stop. However, the food. I don’t know what gnudi is supposed to be but it was perfect. The sauce was creamy, full of flavor, the lemon-pepper was well balanced, and the gnudi was soft and melted in my mouth. From the first bite to the last scoop of sauce, I enjoyed my food. I felt almost guilty for the amount of pleasure I derived from this dish.
This isn’t the only great food experience I had. There was pizza, of course. My favorite experience being a slice I got in Bed Stuy at this place called Tony’s Pizza Spot. It was a tiny shop with only one guy working, presumably Tony, and it had no seats just a counter. I got a cheese slice to-go. He put it on a paper plate and wrapped it in a white paper bag. As I walked down the street, it started to rain and rather than watch my slice get stuck to the bag,or worse, fall on the ground—I pulled it out and took a bite. The ratio of cheese to sauce to dough was perfect. The ingredients were the freshest I’ve had on a New York slice and the dough was the perfect thickness and it had crunch on the outside but was doughy in the center. Walking down the street in the rain while eating this slice of pizza was probably the most classic New York experience I could have.
I think I will miss New York’s food the most. Specifically, I will miss all of the pleasure that comes with finding a new favorite spot and the universal appreciation of food. Although Ann Arbor has a great food scene, I don’t know very many people back on campus who think of food like New Yorkers. I’ve learned so much about what food means as a cultural exchange and the importance of engaging with our food such that we see it as an experience rather than a fuel for doing work.