Sunday, April 13, 2008

A New York Institution

There's something about the Upper West Side that makes me feel like I'm in a movie about New York. Have you ever noticed that so many New York movies take place on the West Side? It's very odd to me. Whenever I go up there, I feel like I'm in a cleaner, fancier version of my life. I expect to run into Woody Allen or Jerry Seinfeld at any moment, but instead yuppie parents (ok, really yuppie nannies) push their toddlers along in strollers and young professionals walk their dogs and eat brunch. And then I see a homeless man hack up some phlegm and spit it on the ground, and I'm reminded that New York is kind of the same wherever you go.

Yesterday, I was at the Lincoln Center Library of Performing Arts, copying sheet music, and I thought, hey, it's a nice day. I'm going to walk up to Zabar's and finally use the gift certificate that Josh gave me for my birthday last year (which granted, seems like a very long time ago, he didn't actually give it to me for several months after my birthday, so it's not as long as you think). I stopped at the Fairway on the way to get some duck legs (more on that another day) and continued my walk up Broadway until I finally reached Zabar's.

For those of you who don't know, Zabar's is classic New York. They're touted to have the best lox, the most authentic knishes, they even sell a Zabar's New York Treasure Chest, filled with rugelach, black and white cookies, babka, coffee and more. I've never actually been there, so I was excited to make an inaugural visit to one of New York's most beloved Jewish food institutions.

I had $25 to spend. I wanted to buy as many "classic" Zabar's things as I could. I started with Zabar's "world famous smoked salmon." The man who sliced it for me (who told me that he'd been working behind this counter for 14 years) made me wait while he talked to an old man about his wife's recent surgery (I didn't mind, I wasn't in a rush) and when he finally turned his attention to me, he started going on about how our generation didn't stay married anymore, how this man and his wife had been together for fifty years and were so lucky to have each other, because when they got sick, they had someone to take care of them and how we were going to be all alone when we were old and frail because we can't make marriages work. I suspect that he had some personal issues going on there. He sliced the lox paper thin though, so that's really what I'm looking for from a fish counter worker.

I grabbed a bag of Chocolate Rugelach as well (I've tried to make my own, but I've yet to actually master the recipe) and some Matzo balls (ditto), since they both seemed very Zabar's to me. Then I strayed from my original mission a tad and got some freshly grated Parmesan/Romano mixed cheese (hey, it said Zabar's on it and I needed some cheese). For my final item, I grabbed a Zabar's coffee mug, which was on sale for a dollar! I figured when my food was gone, I'd still have this mug to remind me of Josh's nice present.

Then I decided, I've got lox, I need a bagel. I was right next door to H&H bagels, so I went inside, dug around the bottom of my bag searching for enough change to buy one, came up victorious and purchased one perfect everything bagel. Here it is:

Yum! Here's my lox, all unwrapped and lookin' pretty.

This was truly great lox, very thin and flavorful, soft and oily and delicious. I tried to take a picture of my lox on the bagel, but my camera died and I didn't have any more batteries. Then I got hungry and decided to just eat it. Whoops. I don't regret it though. It was good.


Meredith said...

Yay! I love Zabar's. And, yes there are a lot of yuppie nannies up there (present company included) but designer strollers right next to stinky homeless men is a true vision of the city I think.

Anonymous said...

Lena, I loved this posting. I laughed out loud when I read the part about the server! You have inherited your dad's wit and your granddad's literary accumen! Keep it up.