Saturday, December 31, 2011
It’s not what you’re thinking. No Times Square, no ball dropping, nothing like that. More like running to catch a train back to Boston following a trip to Long Island, NY and Cape May, NJ visiting with family. Half of you are thinking “What? And you didn’t stay in NY for New Year’s?” and the other half are thinking that there could not possibly be anything worse than the Times Square scene in NY. Both are reasonable sentiments, I think, but let’s just say “been there, done that.” A story to tell, for sure, involving two drunken Marines, a crowded hotel room full of friends, a freezing cold winter’s night, and a dog named Max.
(Yeah, okay. I made up the dog part. The rest is true, though, and about that particular new year’s night oh-so-long-ago: my lips are sealed. Honor, and all.)
Anyhow, I was deposited in Penn Station by my parents to catch a train back to Boston and, as the traffic was much lighter than expected, I was more than an hour early. This is unusual—nay, unprecedented—as I’m usually running rather speedily to catch transportation of any kind. I first considered trying to get myself onto an earlier, more expensive train using my feminine wiles, feeling fairly confident I could bat my eyelashes at the conductor while gasping “But I didn’t know my ticket was only for the 2pm train!” in my finest Southern drawl. Fun, perhaps; tempting, indeed. Nevertheless, I decided instead to do a quick bit of shopping and enjoy a jolt of frenetic Manhattan energy. I had just enough time to buy new gloves and pick up an inexpensive pair of earbuds. (I’d left my high-quality earbuds at home, where they dwell with seven cheap pairs that I’ve collected upon forgetting them under similar circumstances.)
My zippy jaunt through midtown culminated with an obligatory slice of pizza. And I do mean obligatory, as in absolutely, fundamentally required of any trip to NYC. Many of you know that I am a New Yorker, and, like all New Yorkers, I adamantly maintain that there is no pizza like New York pizza, and it’s the best. Period. Full stop. No question.
(Well, um, with the possible exceptions of Naples and Rome, where I’ve had truly outstanding pies though it’s not really the same thing. I’ll say more about Italian pizza next time I’m in the country in May. In the meantime, let’s just say NYC pizza is the best this side of the pond, at the very least. But I digress.)
It’s been a while since I’ve lived in Manhattan, so I can’t really give this topic its due respect by contrasting various slices around the city and so forth; quality varies widely, of course. My favorite pizza spot used to be in the West Village, but now I often find myself enjoying a slice or two at a place right in Penn Station. Believe it or not, it’s one of the best slices I’ve had in the city, and definitely a highlight of my day when traveling from NY to Boston.
I love making pizza at home, by the way, with fresh marinara. Favorite pies include heirloom margherita, garlicky white with herbed ricotta, artichokes, and arugula, and caramelized onion with white beans and chard. I don’t often make pizza for dinner for what I think are obvious reasons, but I do love it and my recipe is fairly healthful for what it is. Also: very, very delicious.
But when I pop into a pizza place for a slice, it’s always cheese. I adore veggies, as you well know, but find that the toppings always disrupt the critical cheese to tomato sauce ratio that I find most pleasing. These things are all about individual preference, certainly, but for me there’s got to be a goodly amount of tomato sauce. It also needs to be piping hot. Finally, the slice must be adorned with four crucial elements: parmesan cheese, garlic powder, oregano, and crushed red pepper. If my husband had been with me today, I would have had him take a picture of me eating my NYC slice lovingly, much as I did with my London fish and chips.
Sated, I then boarded the railway for the afternoon’s trip while remembering fondly my previous train journey to London. A mellower New Year’s Eve awaits back in my hometown that is now Boston. Our first gathering is an early evening on a patio overlooking the Boston Common, where we’ll watch fireworks with friends. We’ll then head to Cambridge for a late-night sushi party. (We’re making the sushi, by the way, which is great fun if you’ve never made your own. I’ll show you how one of these days.)
There will be no drunken marines this year, I think – though they do tend to show up where you least expect them, no? (Or Is it just me?) No screaming at midnight in Times Square. And nary a dog named Max. (Oh, right, I already told you I made that part up.) Even so, an intimate evening ringing in the new year with champagne and sushi is a bit more my style these days.
That this year’s holiday also included an unexpected hour or so in New York, with just enough time for my favorite slice of pie this side of the pond … well, that’s just an extra added bonus.