New York, So Far

Plus: A Quick Panzanella and Howlin' Rays.

Hey everyone,

Live from New York… it’s me! I’m writing to you now from an apartment in Williamsburg where Craig’s been staying while shooting the tenth episode of the new iteration of Gossip Girl (now available on HBO Max). It’s so crazy being in Williamsburg in 2021. I remember this place when it was gritty, when it was off the beaten path. Now it feels like EPCOT: Brooklyn. Not only is it eerily clean, there’s a J. Crew. In Williamsburg. Somehow this became the Upper West Side?

Before I tell you all about it, I have to tell you about today’s podcast: it’s my first ever couples Lunch Therapy, with authors/husbands Steven Rowley (Lily & The Octopus, The Editor, The Guncle) and Byron Lane (A Star is Bored).

We talk books, we talk marriage, we talk Palm Springs, we talk cancer, we talk Carrie Fisher, and we talk hiding peanut butter. CLICK HERE to listen and be sure to leave a nice review if you like it!

Okay, back to New York. I love being here. After a year (or more) locked up in L.A. during quarantine, it’s such a joy to walk out the door and to encounter life! Dogs on the street, guys fishing on the pier, children running through sprinklers. This is what New York is all about.

That, and restaurants. God, have I been obsessing over meals (shocker). My first meal, upon arrival, was at Leo — a pizza place praised mightily in The New Yorker and on Eater.

Leo was the perfect place to go after a long day of travel. I was craving pizza and wine and Leo has pizza and wine. I ordered the clam pizza, which reminded me of the legendary clam pizza at our old favorite Brooklyn haunt, Franny’s (RIP).

I thoroughly enjoyed my clam pizza (though, between us, I like the sourdough pizza at Hail Mary in L.A. better; and I’m not being biased, I just prefer their crust, which crackles, to this softer version) but the real highlight was the dessert: soft serve cantaloupe and strawberry sorbet swirl.

Now that was something special: drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, I would go to Leo again just for that. (But sit outside: the acoustics inside made it hard to hear anything.)

Next day, we toured through Domino Park, poked our heads into a few stores, and then had brunch at Sunday in Brooklyn (even though it was Saturday).

This felt like a place that used to be the “in-the-know” spot that, because of its popularity, had somehow morphed into a hipster Cheesecake Factory. They ran the place like the Apple Store: every name entered into a tablet, you’re texted when your table’s ready, there are tables outside, there are tables inside, there are tables upstairs (which is where we sat).

The food was good. I had a salad (I needed some veg) and of course we ordered the famous pancake, which is baked in a giant pan and covered with a praline maple syrup and brown butter.

My salad needed more acid — it was a little one-note — but that pancake was a warm delight, if a bit sweet. (Sunday in Brooklyn is now open in L.A. if you live on the west coast and want to check it out).

On Saturday night, we met up with our friends Daniel and Luis at Falansai in Bushwick.

I first heard about Falansai in Pete Wells’s review of the place; then others recommended that I go.

The food is Vietnamese, but with twists and turns you don’t expect. Like, for example, these confited duck necks:

Imagine duck ribs, and you’ll get the idea. Beautifully marinated and then braised and possibly fried (I’m guessing), these were so fun to gnaw on and one of the best bites of the trip so far.

The rest of the meal was equally thrilling; here are the egg rolls and the vermicelli, which had a little (but not too much) heat.

There was also fried rice and grilled pork shoulder with a fried egg, but this email already has way too many pictures.

On Sunday, we met up with my friend Eric Edelstein (who’s writing for Gossip Girl) at Le Crocodile at the Wyth Hotel.

Le Crocodile has early Balthazar vibes — French, chic, beautiful on the inside — though, by the time we got there, they were out of croque monsieurs, almond croissants, and eggs royale. Still, we persevered with a chocolate croissant:

Most excellent. And then I had the omelette with salad and fries. It was just okay.

Yesterday afternoon, we met up with my cookbook co-author, Gideon Glick, at Dante in the West Village for drinks.

It’s so weird because we lived in the West Village for two years and never noticed Dante — it turns out, it was originally on McDougal Street. We learned that fact from Wallace Shawn (!!) who was walking down the street with his wife, the famous short story writer Deborah Eisenberg (!!), and we spoke to them because Craig had just directed “Wally” in his episode. Inconceivable!

Last night, we went to Craig’s favorite New York restaurant, Estela.

It’s weird to love a restaurant for one dish specficially (although the rest of the food is fantastic), but that’s clearly the case with Estela and the famous endive salad.

Never have you had a salad like this. It just looks like a pile of endive with a drizzle of dressing on it and some orange zest. But dig a little, and you’ll find a savory granola made with toasted bread and toasted walnuts and anchovies and cheese and olive oil and freshly squeezed orange juice.

You scoop up that filling on to each piece of endive and it’s heaven. There are recipes online (Deb has one, so does Food52), but to understand the salad, you really have to try it at the source.

That’s it for my NY trip so far! I have so many more reservations planned (I went a little overboard). But how could I not? What if the world shuts down again and I can’t come back for another two years? (God forbid. Please get vaxxed.)

Back in L.A. (before I left), I made a pretty incredible panzanella with tomatoes that my friends Rachael and Jeremy grew and gifted me.

It was as simple as cutting up the tomatoes, toasting two slices of thick sourdough in the toaster until really dark brown, tearing them up in there, adding some olives, then a glug of olive oil, a little glug of white balsamic, salt, vinegar, a crumble of Feta, some cilantro (I didn’t have basil), and Aleppo pepper. It was dreamy.

Finally, I ordered Howlin’ Rays right before I left, because I hadn’t had Howlin’ Rays before and I was packing and… I don’t need to explain myself.

What can I say? A fried chicken sandwich coated in hot sauce (I ordered mine mild) and topped with slaw and a mayo-based dressing on a toasted bun? It was a wonderful experience. I highly recommend it.

Now for some links that’ve caught my attention:

If you missed my Thursday dispatch, I wrote about slow-cooking your green beans. If you want to read that and other paid-subscribers only Thursday posts, here’s a discount code:

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That’s all for this week, folks!

I’ll be on vacation next week (in Provincetown) so I’ll see you back here in two weeks.

Have a good one!