November-December 2009


My mother’s a woman of passionate opinions, and whether you’ve dazzled or disappointed her is seldom in question. She possesses both a sensitive palate and a sharp tongue, so I always prepare for her visits by strategically mapping the city’s best snacks.

A few years back my parents were here for the holidays and after a stop at Union Square for smoked fish and seckel pears I ushered them to City Bakery to thaw out over a few cups of their euphoria-inducing hot chocolate, viscous as melted bars, which it probably is. After one thick swig my mother, choked with emotion, turned to my father and said with solemn sincerity, “When I say it’s time, I want you to wheel me in here and I’ll drink this until it’s all over.”

I gather she liked it. While few dispatch the phrase “to die for” quite so literally, City Bakery’s been awing Gotham grownups with their modern, metropolitan madelines for almost 20 years. In my interview with New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, he cites City Bakery’s pretzel croissant as the single thing that convinced him it was right for his family to have left France for a city with the creative capacit to cross a Parisian pastry with a pedestrian pretzel. All our lives are richer for the buttery, salty, sesame-kissed result—and the writer it brought home.

Speaking of that melting pot (not the magical one in which I imagine Maury tempers chocolate but the metaphorical one in which our cultures and cuisines commingle), this issue rounds u a lip-smacking smattering of far-flung flavors, from the endangered pastrami sammies served in the last few true delis to the sweet-and-spicy fried chicken that Koreatown pilgrims crow about, and from the rummy Puerto Rican eggnog called coquito whirring in West Harlem blenders to the crispy-skinned turkeys cooked Peking style for our annual American feast. Whether or not such a fine, five-spice-perfumed bird is your centerpiece, don’t miss the last page of this issue, in which we look back to Manhattan’s first Thanksgiving, or at least the eats available on our island when Hudson arrived four centuries ago. It so moved me I momentarily considered rechristening the magazine Edible Mannahatta.

Cubic Confection at City Bakery. Photo credit:Michael Harlan Turkell.