Friday is chock full of eating, and also of meeting: Anna Roth, whom I've had many friends in common with, who was a fellow Citysearcher back in the day, and who is the author of West Coast Road Eats. Yet it took until last week, in the Big Apple, for us to meet.
And hello, deluge! Rain like we don't get here--the kind that soaks through your coat after 5 blocks--and so when Anna and I meet at Fatty Crab in the West Village/Meatpacking, we are the only fools who went outside. We've got the joint to ourselves. We eat well: fried pork belly and hunks of watermelon in a sweet-spicy vinegar dressing; a claypot soup with noodles in the shape of fat worms--outstanding, and just right for the weather; and chicken wings that bring to mind those at Pok Pok in Portland (but Pok Pok's are better!), with a salty-tangy sauce that sticks to our fingers.
Then we're off to Eataly. I was dreading-slash-intrigued by Eataly, the 16 million square foot Mario Batali crazy town of Italian food. It's like Mario and his business partner, Joe Bastianich, got tipsy one night and were riffing on all the things they could do in a place called Eataly--"We could have proper gelato that we made very day." "And we could bake 30 varieties of bread, right there in the store." "Yeah, and what if we had separate restaurants for veggies AND meat AND pasta?" glug glug glug.
Except instead of forgetting this conversation the next day in their sobriety, they totally built that place! I was so overwhelmed I could barely function: I ended up buying an embarrassingly tiny slice of aged sheeps cheese and 8 slices of incredibly good wild boar sopprasetta. Feeling like I was getting dizzy from the enormity of Eataly--the Italian candy!, the Italian olive oils!, the Italian pastas!, the Italian (and Mario-branded) bakeware!--that Anna and I walked outside into the fresh, non-Italian air, and we said goodbye.
That night's dinner was at Osteria Morini, another reservation I had to procure a month in advance. Michael White's the chef--he of Marea fame--and this is his newer, more casual, downtown place. But who was it that recently said, "there's a difference between rustic and not knowing how to cook"? Because so much of our dinner was fine, pleasant rustic Italian plates, but so few of the dozen dishes we shared--a delicious porchetta, finger-licking lamb ribs which I couldn't resist picking up and eating with my hands--stood out.
After my first six months working as the Restaurants Editor at Citysearch.com in New York City (this was back in 2002, when I had a most generous expense account and reviewed new restaurants several nights a week), the most intriguing trend I noticed was that the average New York restaurants were largely overrated, and the average Seattle restaurants were largely underrated by the people in those cities. In other words, New Yorkers think they have it better than they actually do, and Seattlites have an inferiority complex that is largely unfounded.
A recent meal at Spinasse--plate after plate of incredibly delicious food--blew away my meals at both Morini and Babbo. No comparison. Of course, eating out is so largely about the company one is with, and there's nothing more fun than dining out with your oldest, most hilarious friends in your old hometown, in this case my favorite downtown neighborhoods of Manhattan. But judging by food alone, with one major meal left to go during my recent New York excursion, Seattle's ahead by quite a distance.
Stay tuned for the the fourth and final report.