Un weekend superbe avec Ralph à NYC

My weekend started on a high note: instead of flying SFO-ORD-EWR and arriving after midnight, I was able to switch to an earlier SFO-JFK that arrived before 9PM. Thank Zeus! I hadn’t flown American in ages and it was quite a pleasant trip, with a kindly FA providing free booze and advising that the front row of coach was empty, if I wanted it to myself. I think I may have been invisible to the naked eye due to the speed with which I moved from row 30 to row 10.

The view, chez Ralph

Of course, as it turned out, the free booze led to my first (and thankfully only – I think) social atrocity of the weekend. Not only did I show up in Manhattan intoxicated, I’d also not managed my bathroom breaks appropriately. Thus, when my Town Car dropped me off on Bleecker St., I was having a bit of an emergency and ducked into the nearest bar to find the john. I then proceeded to call Ralph and ask if he wanted to join me at the bar. Seeing as how he’d  prepared a lovely spread of wine, cheese, salumi and other treats chez lui, he was less than pleased with a drunken phone call from a bar down the street. In my defense, I knew that if I’d had to climb seven flights of stairs to his apartment without a bathroom break, I’d have peed myself. I guess I wasn’t exactly hewing to Emily Post’s rules for houseguests.

Lucky for me, he’s not one to hold a grudge – he even carried my bag up the stairs!  We were soon ensconced in his charming apartment, noshing and catching up. A lovely welcome to NYC.

Saturday morning, a traditional French breakfast of tartine: thick slices of excellent bread, toasted and topped with slabs of French butter (Ralph likened American butter to candle wax) and jam (he had six different types to choose from, plus Nutella). A perfect start to a blustery Saturday.

Spent the afternoon wandering through Soho, including a stop at (of course) Ben Sherman, where the sale was still in progress. Ralph found a handsome jacket and I added four shirts to my rapidly growing collection. Topman was a bust, but we both stocked up on undies and socks at Uniqlo.

Oh, and I should add, before we left for our outing, Ralph advised he was planning to prepare a tarte aux citrons – and that he needed to make the pâte brisée. He then spent about five minutes measuring, mixing and kneading and – voilà! – it was done. I was impressed, to say the least.

So, after an exhausting day of shopping, we retired to Ralph’s place for snacks and a lie-down. Of course, he did have to finish up the tarte – lemons, butter, eggs, sugar, then into the oven. Though I did do my part – choosing between the burgundy and the friuli, while also cramming my maw with pâté aux champignons and Gruyere as I lounged on the sofa.

Since we had a late snack, we went for dinner late – not arriving at Frankie’s 17 until nearly 10PM. But our timing was perfect, as we got the last two-top in the tiny place. I had pappardelle bolognese (quite tasty) and Ralph had sweet sausage and peppers on top of polenta (it was excellent and the clear winner). We planned on having dessert at home (see tarte aux citrons above) but when we saw prunes stewed in red wine with mascarpone on the menu, we decided that a pre-dessert dessert might be necessary – especially considering that Ralph and I share a fondness for old-lady-ish desserts. It was a wise decision – the prune-and-mascarpone combination was simple and sublime. And here’s the recipe, for any who are interested.

Thankfully we burned off a few calories on the way home – and were happy to tuck into the tarte aux citrons. It was so delicious – the caramelized top hiding a very tart and lemony interior, which is my favorite. There’s nothing worse than anticipating something lemony and instead getting Lemon-Pledgey. And I remain amazed that Ralph was able to throw together such a thing nearly with his eyes closed. What a treat!

Sunday was spent lazily, though by late afternoon we had to think about getting ready for the theater that evening – American Idiot at the St. James. The show was good – set was amazing, some great voices and performances, though not a traditional Broadway musical. And lots of hardcore fans in the audience – some either singing or playing air guitar along with the songs (seriously). I almost rolled out the “I didn’t pay $120 to hear you sing, lady” to the gal sitting next to me, but I was in too good a mood to spoil the fun.

Also, Adam Scott was sitting just a few seats away from me. Saw him again at the coat check and, despite never wanting to appear like some starstruck hayseed who just fell off the turnip truck in Times Square, was tempted to actually tell him what a huge fan I am of both his work and the hilarious Party Down – I was even contemplating asking for a photo. But some starstruck hayseed who’d just fallen off the turnip truck in Times Square got to him first and I didn’t want to subject Mr. Scott to further persecution.

Dinner at Maria Pia on 51st – and then on to Posh, a little bar with a dance floor down the street. We spent more time on the dance floor than in our little corner booth and had a marvelous time. The evening was capped by light snowfall on the way home – rather magical, even to this jaded old thing. And despite being tired, once back at Ralph’s we found ourselves engrossed in conversation until after 3AM – the topics ranging from haute couture to politics to WWII. It was great…

Monday was snowy, so we didn’t venture far from home until dinner that evening at Café Cluny with Michael and Justin. It was great to see them, as always, and the restaurant was wonderful – though our adorable waiter was something of a low-talker, meaning we never did figure out what the specials were. But his hair was fabulous. Started with foie gras and chicken liver crostini – quel dommage! Then I had a pancetta-wrapped pork tenderloin that was out of this world – Ralph declared it the the winner, though I thought his steak was fantastic. It was another lovely evening…

Said our farewells, then back to Ralph’s. I had to pack and arrange for a car to take me to JFK at noon the next day.

We were up early-ish on Tuesday, had lunch at a diner on the Lower East Side – conveniently just a few doors down from Katz’s Deli, so I was able to pick up a pastrami sandwich to eat on the plane. And then it was time to say “au revoir.” It was very strange – it felt like I’d been in NYC forever but the visit also seemed like it was over in the blink of an eye. And it’s always sad to say goodbye to Ralph…

Flight home easy and uneventful. And Calvin was pleased to be back home after four days at his sitter’s. But I sure do miss NYC… Guess I’ll have to go back soon.

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