Any weekend worth mentioning starts with a breakfast worth writing about.
We made our way across Brooklyn to Williamsburg, a neighbourhood that Mari lived in for a while when she first moved to New York. Here a little restaurant called Okinomi serves up a traditional Japanese style breakfast with a seemingly never ending flow of Japanese tea. The only decision you must make is on what kind of seared fish you’d like to eat and the rest of the plate is made up of (but not limited to) sides like pickled vegetables, japanese omlette and miso soup. You can’t reserve tables for the restaurant (an apparent trend in New York) and instead have to arrive early or expect around an hour wait before you can be seated. This is hardly a problem in a city which has coffee shops, cafes and bars on every nearby street corner.
After breakfast we tightened up our walking shoes and set out for more street wandering as Mari reminisced over her earlier days in New York when her tiny apartment sat above some trendy whiskey bars and views of the Manhattan skyline were just around the corner. It didn’t take long before Alice and Gabe ushered us into a little pub down the road where I tried my very first American made bloody mary. The pub put their own spin on the drink which was spiced up with a homemade beef broth and garnished with pickled green beans. I guess that in a city with such a variety of gastronomical options, any way you can set yourselves apart is an important part of establishing yourself as contender.
Worn out from all the walking of the last few days, we took the subway back to Mari’s friends’ 7th Avenue apartment and kicked off our shoes for a little bit of rest. The evening coming was bringing a party that was both a delayed flat warming for Alice and Gabe and a celebration of Mari’s temporary return to the city. The chance to take some weight off our feet was a welcome one as the jet lag still swam around our head, making any night past midnight a daunting one.
After a little rest we set out to catch one more New York experience before our flight the next day would take us away from the city. We stopped off for a slice of New York pizza at a local pizza joint, something I’d been eagerly awaiting, and made our way up to nearby Prospect Park. The slice of buffalo chicken pizza was as close as I could have imagined a slice of New York pizza to taste and the chance to watch the people of New York take advantage of one of the last warm days of the year was worth the tired feet. We arrived late in the afternoon and it didn’t take long before the long shadows filled the park and the wind picked up some evening chill.
Before we got home for the party we had a chance to stop in at a the local co-op that Alice and Gabe were a part of. A co-op is a store where in order to use it you have to put work in to the store, doing things like running the check-out, bagging groceries and stacking shelves. We had to get guest badges in order to enter the store and got a chance first hand to see the discounted prices and wide variety of choices available to its customers. It’s an excellent system and it seemed to be incredibly popular. The store was filled to the brim with shoppers.
We met up with some of Mari’s friends for dinner before the party at a local Mexican restaurant which specialised in Tacos and Burritos. We scoffed down our share of potato and chorizo tacos and washed it down with cups of watermelon ale. It seems every new dining experience here brings some new treat that I wish I didn’t have to live without. Party time was approaching quickly so we knocked back the last of the ale and set off back to the apartment.
People began to trickle in little by little and it was fun to watch Mari reconnect with old friends and to witness and be a part of conversations around politics, sports and life in the city. I was getting to see a side of New York that I’d never have been able to see coming by myself and I tried as much as possible to let the reality sink in. Despite my best efforts though, by the time midnight struck, my body was already well on the way to calling it a day. It was a day filled with food, drink and experience and as people eventually filed out of the apartment around 2:00 I was very happy to grab a few hours of sleep before the early start and flight to Chicago.