Wednesday, July 2, 2008


When we first announced that we were moving to London, nearly everyone pointed out the amazing travel that would be at our disposal: France, Italy, Spain, Iceland. Coming from California, it takes a serious effort to get to these places, but from London, all of Europe is at your fingertips. Because Maggie just finished her Master's degree, we decided to take a celebratory trip somewhere fun. So where did we decide to go? Amsterdam? Madrid? Zurich? Nope, we decided to go even more exotic: New York City. After nearly a year in London, a dose of American culture can sound incredibly appealing, and we both love New York. What a crazy feeling it is to be living in Europe and vacationing in the US - it boggles the brain.

New York has many charms, but for me the food is paramount. We talked about other things to do in New York (plays, museums, etc.), but really all we wanted was food (and perhaps to find the Cash Cab). The first thing we did after we dropped our bags off at the hotel was to head straight for pizza.

A pizza masterpiece from John's of Bleecker Street

I like the European style pizza, don't get me wrong, but nothing in the world can compete with a real New York coal-fired brick oven pizza. I won't get into the argument over who serves the best (Lombardi's, Grimaldi's, Patsy's, etc.), because I honestly haven't spent enough time in New York to fairly judge; all I know is the pizzas served up at John's of Bleecker Street are pure pizza perfection. Only an 850° coal-fired oven can produce the crispy smokiness needed to make the perfect pizza. I would never order anything other than a plain pie here; adding a topping would just distract from the perfect harmony of the cheese, sauce, and crust.

John's has been operating in the same location since 1929. An older couple saw us photographing our pizza and offered to take our picture. They had been eating there most of their lives and still come regularly. The woman said to us, "The best thing about John's is that everybody in here just loves pizza. You can't be unhappy in John's." We couldn't agree more. Judging by the pictures on the wall, Mickey Mantle, Al Pacino, Bruno Kirby, and Vanilla Ice also agree.

The British Invasion

Just before coming to New York, we had seen the Sex and the City movie, and we both gasped in horror when we saw Carrie and Miranda eating sandwiches from Pret a Manger. When we first came to London, Pret seemed to be a decent enough place to grab a sandwich. An overpriced and pre-made sandwich, but decently tasty. You get tired of them really quickly, particularly when you're forced to eat them multiple times per week at meetings like Maggie. Much like Starbucks in other parts of the world, there are so many Prets in London, that you can commonly stand in a Pret and see another one across the street. Anyhow, we're kind of sick of them.

Proof that Pret is not needed in New York

I understand why Pret is so popular in London: 1) there aren't that many great places to get a freshly made sandwich (there are some really good ones, but not many); and 2) everyone is in a crazy hurry in London, such that waiting the necessary 2 minutes for a sandwich to get made might cause people to explode out of impatience in a burst of hair gel and spray-on tan. Oranges are declining in popularity in the UK, because people are in too much of a rush to peel them. Seriously. Anyhow, the point is that Pret makes sense for London where soggy sandwiches are the norm. But New York? I just don't understand why anyone would go to Pret when there are incredible delis all over the place. Granted, a pastrami on rye from the Carnegie Deli costs about $13, but then it is the size of your average toaster.

27th Annual Pride Run

This past Sunday was also Gay Pride Day, and we wandered through the festivities at the parade on our way to get pizza (the second time). It rained a bit on the end of the parade, but this didn't deter anyone from staying out and having a good time. On Saturday, we went strolling through Central Park in the 90° super-humid weather. We were suffering just walking around, so we were majorly impressed by the runners going by in the Pride Run. It was so hot out, we decided that maybe going to a museum was a good idea after all. Sadly, it took air-conditioning to get us to actually go to the Met. This turned out to be a great call - not only was the air nice and cool inside, but the museum was spectacular.

We spent a lot of our time wandering around the Egyptian collection, which is particularly impressive. There are two entire temples moved from Egypt and rebuilt inside the Met, including the impressive Temple of Dendur which sits in a massive sunlit room surrounded by an indoor pond.

The Pharaoh Gropehotep I

While the Met has a predictably amazing collection, I was most impressed by the spaciousness of the galleries and the sense of light that seemed to permeate the architecture. Even on a Summer weekend day, the museum was mellow and not crammed full of people like I had feared, and it was all-in-all a very pleasant time.

But we didn't come to New York for the museums - we get enough of those in London to be honest. We came for the hot dogs, the pastrami, the bagels, the pizza, the sushi, and to soak in the unmistakeable Americanness of the place. Unfortunately we didn't find that Cash Cab...


Doug said...

i'm so addicted to cash cab. It's on from 6-7 which then leads right into jeopardy. nice 1 1/2 hour block of trivia. man, sucks you didn't get on there, i bet you'd be good at it. The question is, would you go for double or nothing? Also, who would you use on your mobile shout out?

glad to have you back in the motherland, even if it is only for a weekend.

Andy M. said...

You have to go for the double or nothing on Cash Cab: they're generally not that hard, and at the very least you get a free cab ride and a good story to annoy your friends with for years. Hmm, the mobile shout out is tricky - it depends on the question and whose number I actually remember (which means I'd be calling my parents, my brother, or 1-800-Mattress).

Steve said...

Perhaps the decline of the orange is linked to the banana peel phenomena...