Just An Online Minute... Keeping Madison Square Park Beautiful With Flatiron Chefs
Celebrate Flatiron Chefs, Madison Square Park, New York
July 15, 2009
Back in the day, when I was hunting for a new job and my lunch consisted of Lean Pockets, Bud Light, and craigslist, I could be found muttering, sometimes covered in sweat due to no air conditioning combined with living on the 5th floor, "I want to write about NYC for NYC." Last night fulfilled that goal as I found myself wandering around my favorite park, getting pebbles in my sandals, sampling some of the best food the Flatiron area has to offer - in support of the Madison Square Park Conservancy. AND, depending on what you qualify as celebrity, I even had two celeb sightings!
I arrived at 6:30 p.m., which was one hour after the VIPs were allowed to descend and get first dibs on the Long Island wines, crunchy, squooshy soft-shell crab sandwiches, and pork as far as the eye could see. Non-VIP time totally acceptable: lines usually contained about four people and moved swiftly. I made a promise to myself to eat everything from every booth, starting with Ilili's shawarma, which flagrantly kick-started my tastebuds. As I grabbed a Brooklyn Summer Ale to wash it down with, I thought I recognized a young woman standing at a tall top by herself. I could be wrong, but I think she was Colie from "The Real World: Denver."
After spotting potential-Colie, I sunk my teeth into the soft-shell crab sandwich from craftbar and began my search for The Real Housewives. No, I wasn't told they would be there, but a girl can hope. What I really wanted was to find Ramona from the New York series. Instead, I saw the logo for Fatty Crab Restaurant and Fatty 'Cue. I love crustaceans and for whatever reason I think crabs are adorable. Adorable enough to eat! Unfortunately, Fatty Crab wasn't serving crab. Fortunately, they were serving whole smoked pig and it was melt-in-your-mouth, slip-down-your-gullet, crunchy surprise heaven. It's hard to turn me off to pork, so I wasn't even close to derailed by the whole pig on his back smoking a ciggie splayed out at the front of their booth. Next!
Because Hill Country is practically my neighbor (MediaPost's office is at 26th and Broadway), I had to see what meat explosion they decided to drop in the park. I was not disappointed -- not only did they deliver with BBQ beef sliders (I had to remove the weird pickle, though, it gave the slider a sour burp taste) they also sprinkled us with teeny tiny peanut butter and jelly cupcakes. Those little guys were dangerous. Usually peanut butter frostings and toppings are too rich, but the ribboned hats the cupcakes wore were delicate and when mushed down into the jelly filling -- well, it's just love is, what it is.
You should also know that there was not one Madison Square Park Conservancy person I didn't like. Within seconds of dropping a plate on the green- or blue-clothed tables, a silver tray-toting, black-and-white-T-shirt wearing Conservancy member would materialize in a puff of pulled pork and nab your garbage with the quickness of a monkey ninja. And it wasn't a swoop-in and run away, everyone stuck around to share snippets and smiles.
The Madison Square Park Conservancy people are my heroes. I truly love the park. It's always mixed with crazy squirrels, business suits, half naked (confusing!)su- bakers, a couple of crackheads, tourists, laughing kids, tiny pups, mammoth dogs -- the works. But let's not forget it's also home to my favorite cheese fry dealer: Shake Shack. You can imagine my delight when I saw Shake Shack was manning a booth as well. No need to check the Shack cam or twitter.com/shakeshack (note to the Shack -- I wish you'd use your Twitter page for more fun, not just line updates!).
Hanging by the Shake Shack booth was Ian McKay, Senior Vice President and Director: Office Management for Grey Group. He let me know that when he moves about 1,200 Grey Group and G2 employees from their current digs at 777 Third Ave to 200 5th Ave (the old Toy Building) by the end of November, there will be about 1,200 new people in line -- which he'll be able to see from his window. So, Grey and G2 folks -- you'd better wear a disguise when the line is an hour long (winky-wink).
Last night was also a night of firsts. Banking off my recent acceptance of Rose, which I avoided because it reminded the Ohio me of white zin, I stumbled into Cabernet Franc , which introduced to me JoAnn DeAngelo and Andy MacNish of Rafeal Wine. After Rafeal, I skipped over to the table hosted by Martha Clara Vineyards, owned by Robert Entenmann of the Entenmann family of delicious coffee cakes, and declared my new favorite wine - a 2008 Vionier. Head winemaker Juan Eduardo Micieli-Martinez greeted visitors in his little crawfish-guy-embroidered, button-down T. Of course I asked him about it. Turns out his gal is from New Orleans and the designer is Perlis, a New Orleans based company. I told them of my first crawfish experience at the Crawfish for Cancer boil -- which they had heard of! Maybe Perlis will want to be a part of it next year?
After I'd harassed every vineyard from Long Island, dessert beckoned. I sampled the Ciao Bella chocolate gelato (and wore some of it too) and rhubarb sorbet, but what really surprised my palette was my final first-timer: the sardine. The presentation was red-tipped radish circles resting on slivers of fennel, all languishing on the sparkling silver body of the sardine. Scoop and chow, my friends. I don't know what the ending spice that was, but A Voce, thank you for introducing me to the sardine as a food, not just a way to describe my elevator nightmares.
I wandered around trying to decide between a tiny pastry and my sixth pork slider and found myself eyeballing what I thought was "Real World" Colie's doppelganger. Who WAS that? Why, it was "Top Chef"'s Leah Cohen! Reality show aside, Leah is Centro Vinoteca's sous chef and I had the pleasure of celebrating the boy's and my four- (or is it five?) year anniversary there. The gnocchi was phenomenal - so I felt the need to share this with her. She was wandering the grounds with a fedora sporting friend whose name went in one ear and stuck for a little, but must have shaken out over night.
I ended the night tucked into a green foldy chair as the sun sank into the elbow pit of 23rd Street, listening to the urban bluegrass stylings of Citigrass. Not a shabby night in this fair city.
While I may not have gathered many names, I took tons of food photos because my Canon had just returned from the Phototech camera hospital. Unfortunately it's going back now, since I can't use the manual focus setting. What's the fun in that?
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