Years ago, before Edible Manhattan was a twinkle in my eye, Rachel Wharton and I forged a foodie friendship based on, well, forgery.
Today she’s my deputy editor and together we chronicle the pursuit of Gotham’s most meaningful food experiences, but back then I was running communications for the city’s Greenmarkets and she covered food for the Daily News. We’d worked together on a few stories but one fall we really connected over the way people typically respond to their first taste of Concord grape. Almost without fail, they stop, startled, and pronounce, “It tastes purple!”
We’d both noticed this reaction and shared a common consternation over its underlying amnesia that purple perfume, the kind in Hubba Bubba or magic markers, evokes Concord grapes-not the other way around. When that original inspiration faded from popularity, contemporary consumers knew only its colorful counterfeit, and the lucky few who tasted the real thing were reminded of the artificial flavor they knew too well.
It’s a blunder akin to observing that lard resembles Crisco, that satin reminds one of polyester, that the great barrier reef calls Sea World to mind, or that Tchaikovsky must have riffed on the Tetris theme song-that life imitates artifice.
These days Rachel and I are out to reintroduce our beloved readers to authentic-if-overlooked eats, and this issue is full of them. Don’t miss our stories on Dallis Coffee’s remarkable history; the secret suppers alive and well on the Lower East Side; the black-and-white cookies of yesteryear still on offer at Glaser’s Bakery; the glittering gems one can eat in Midtown’s Diamond District; the good-as-ever meatballs at Patsy’s; and especially the breathtakingly diverse edibles-from asparagus to bear-available at the Washington Market in TriBeCa a century ago.
Editing such stories can bring on a mighty appetite, so last week Rachel and I refueled at the Essex Street Market. We got giddy on the goodies at Formaggio Essex, a tiny shop packed chock-a-block with some of the finest cheese, cured meats and accompaniments available anywhere. The gorgeous proprietress Ayse Gurdal handed us morsel after delectable morsel, and when she gave me an exceptional Sicilian almond, the flavor knocked me senseless.
“It tastes like … almond!” I exclaimed.
Must-try meatballs bathed in marinara at Patsy’s Italian Restaurant. Photograph by Michael Harlan Turkell.