Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eataly and such pleasures

Nicole Bengiveno for The New York Times

The view from inside
My daughter and I finally made it to Eataly last weekend. That's the Italian food mall, more like holy ground for foodies, that opened on Twenty-third Street a few months ago. My daughter visited the original Eataly when she was in Italy last summer, and heard then about the one that would soon open in New York. She could hardly wait. And then school started and she was swamped with homework and soccer, and I was occupied with my mom and long story short, it took us this long to get there.

After waiting in a line that went around the block (the line moved quickly, admitting twenty-five customers every five minutes) we stopped for gelato, vanilla hazlenut for me, lemon and raspberry for my girl. Then we meandered through the aisles full of gorgeously packaged foods and fresh ingredients, with my daughter reliving her experience last summer as she happened across items she had used at the cooking school in Asti or learned about as part of the Slow Food Movement she was studying. It was fascinating to watch her pick out fresh produce, the way she tested one tomato and set it back down, then another, then chose the third. The way she held the asparagus up to the light, the sure manner in which she passed the sage in front of her face, then rolled her eyes heavenward with a sigh of pleasure. None of this sort of food play had ever been remotely thrilling to me, but on this day I got such joy watching the way natural food speaks to my child.

Bundles of freshly cut spaghetti
The best part was when we stood at the pasta counter so she could order freshly cut spaghetti. The people behind the counter seemed to move in slow motion, even blinking in slow motion, which no one seemed to mind. As we stood there waiting for the woman behind the counter to package our two bundles of spaghetti, wrapping it up in brown paper with as much care as one might handle an expensive gift, the man standing next to us smiled knowingly, then asked how we planned to cook the pasta. I pointed to my daughter and said, "She's the cook." My daughter answered that she was going to just toss it with freshly made tomato sauce and maybe some basil, and he said, "You know what would be great? Saute some sage in olive oil, don't be shy with the sage, but watch it so it doesn't start to get brown, then mix that in. And take a handful of salt, this much"—he opened his palm and drew a circle to show how much—"and toss that into the pasta water when it starts to boil. The spaghetti will drink it right in and give you great flavor." My daughter asked for a couple of clarifications as I stood aside and enjoyed her delight at exchanging cooking notes with an obviously seasoned chef. Afterwards, when we went back over to the produce section to get the sage, my daughter and I both had the feeling that we recognized the man from the Food Network. That made it one of those serendipitous New York City experiences, a brush with celebrity that was generously human and sweet.

The smells were heavenly
Back home, my girl whipped up the sage infused olive oil just as the man who might have been a Food Network chef had instructed, and mixed it into her pasta. It was delicious! My husband and I enjoyed the pleasure of our daughter making dinner for us. It was all ready in barely any time at all, from which I learned that fresh pasta cooks in three or four minutes, not the 20 minutes or so it takes to rehydrate the pasta I'm used to, and then cook it. This is something real foodies know, but I had no idea. I learn so much from my daughter.

On another note, the college kids arrive home for Thanksgiving break tomorrow night. I can hardly wait to look into their eyes, hug them.

10 comments:

  1. i've been hearing about this! these pics looks amazing! i need to mosey on down there...

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  2. I just went to Eataly on Tuesday night to pick up some wine. I pass this every day as my school is just a few blocks away. It was busy but no lines. I hope you also checked out the lights in Madison Square Park.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

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  3. I can't believe we didn't go there this past Feb when my daughter and I did our whirlwind touring.. but it's a good reason to return to NYC.
    We are a food family , all love to cook, and my husband is Italian.

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  4. Candice, it's definitely worth a trip, but weekends are pretty crowded.

    Expat mom, hey there, my friend. Eataly is a perfect place to find hostess gifts (i loved your post on this subject!).

    Gary, Happy Thanksgiving to you too! I will have to go back to check out the lights in the park. In fact, my niece, my daughter and I may be going back there today! Thanks for the tip. It must be really convenient to pass by Eataly every day. You'll never be caught without a beautiful dinner party gift. (see Expat Mom's fabulous post on this.)

    deb, i think you and your family would enjoy strolling through. Especially on a weekday morning when the rest of the city is at work or school. I want to go back on such a morning. Maybe I'll see you there!

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  5. what a sensory rich post. i am STARVING now.

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  6. What a fabulous post!!
    I love everything about it! I can almost 'smell' the food items you described! Yum!!
    You and your family are so much fun to read about - and get to know.
    Happy Thanksgiving, my friend!!
    (Who'll do the cooking?:)
    Hugs,
    gabriele
    I really want to know who that chef was!! :)

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  7. Hi,

    I love the updated pictures you posted. This is indeed a popular place! If you went back to this area I hope you had the chance to spend some time in Madison Square Park as well.

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  8. Gabriele, my husband does most of the cooking! I contribute two dishes and lots of conversation. Oh, and i clean the house obsessively beforehand. Which is a challenge with all the young people home from college. Not complaining!

    Gary, we didn't make it back there after all yesterday, but soon.

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  9. ooooh can't wait to check it out...hoping to make it to nyc in january..... show at the rubin i want to catch. hope to catch you too! will give you a head's up should i get to town. xxxx

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