One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years. - Tom Wolfe
I want to tell you a story. Wait here.
It begins and ends in New York. City of cities, that crown jewel of glittering skyscrapers and trash bags that curl like seaweed around my feet in the wind. It’s the grease trap of the world, catching the lost and those without hometowns (like this army brat from everywhere but here). And so, I arrived like everyone else - with a backpack and one pair of Doc Martens and eyes turned up to the skyline.
Don’t look up, they say, that’s how you can tell a tourist.
So I don’t. I keep my eyes on my Converse. One foot in front of the other, single file.
This is the city of restaurants, an explosion of food. They, whoever they are, say that twenty-thousand restaurants live and die in New York every year. I am voracious. I pick a corner of the city to start eating my way through.
On our first anniversary, I eat gold. Maybe not gold, but at Le Bernardin it’s as good as gold. Scallops with brown butter-washed dashi, custard cradling king crab and crowning umami-rich seaweed-shiitake broth. I lean back in the white leather chair and close my eyes, the velvet of the Dragonstone riesling still slipping off my tongue. Outside Central Park the food trucks sell gelato. “What flavor is this?” I ask. “It’s egg cream, miss” he says, passing the cone dripping with light yellow ice cream, “with corn biscuits.” I bite into it and the gelato drips from my lips to my chin to my shirt.
New York is food. It's the giant slice of foldable pizza covered in fresh mozzarella and lightly browned basil that I grab from Juliana's under the Brooklyn Bridge. It's the French bakery near the Met from the time that I ducked into for a pain au chocolat and a coffee to escape a sudden rain (seriously, listen to your wife and bring that umbrella).
But the very first thing I remember eating in the city was a Waldorf salad from a cafe I don't remember in a place I forget. Somehow, I think that's appropriate - seeing as the Waldorf was invented in New York City in the late 1800s at the Waldorf Hotel. The combination of the rich walnuts and creamy dressing, the sweetness of apples and grapes that burst against your tongue, combated by celery's natural bitters make it a favorite ever since. Here, to further balance the sweet against the bitter, I've added fennel slices and fronds. Their faint licorice flavor complement the fruits well and brings balance to the dish.
fennel waldorf salad
1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
1 bulb fennel, sliced and fronds minced
1 apple, julienned (I used Pink Lady)
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/2 cup celery, minced
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste
in a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, and parsley. add salt and pepper to your taste. combine all in a large bowl and toss generously with dressing. serve.