Pete lost his one true Sweetheart when she wouldn't walk home with him one hot summery day; last Pete heard, she was looking after a small grocery in his old Ditmas Park nabe. Pete only mentions that because if you are not careful, you will walk right past Sweet Heart Coffee Bakery on 8th Avenue just south of 14th Street since it has no sign and it's in that confusing section of Greenwich Village where 4th Street and 13th Street intersect--Pete once wrote a song about this phenomenon in a larger ode to his bad-direction giving. The easiest way to locate it is to get yourself some strapless heels at Shoegasm, and then walk one store in a southerly direction. And you don't want to walk past it because they have the self-proclaimed best empanadas in New York City. Pete is not an expert on such matters--but doubts most of these claims as a general rule--but they are damn good, definitely better than any he can remember having. Pete recommends the Argentinean beef, the cod fish, and the pumpkin with goat cheese. They also have daily specials--today's was pepperoni and mozzarella--as well a combo deal of an empanada and a banana shake (the super thin, slightly watery kind) for four bucks; plus, they have really good pastries--pan au chocolate and big-ass cookies.
It's that part of the summer when you can "Visualize a magical time where everything is freshly made, where lettuce leaves are crisp and green and tomatoes are red and from the vine..." That's right, it's Hoagie Fest! Alas, there isn't a Wawa in NYC so Pete will have to wait until his trip to Philly for the Fourth to see the Hoagieman in the blue balloon. Pete had to satisfy himself with a Farmer's Market Fest instead. A red leaf lettuce salad with carrots and a big juicy Jersey tomato; a cup of freshly picked blueberries in Ronnybrook yogurt; and a mushroom, mozzarella, and plum tomato stromboli from Baker's Bounty. Pete would have enjoyed a bagel ice for dessert, but apparently these New York-style bagels can only be found at Bagel & Bagel in Japan.
With apologies to Ernest Hemingway... This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well located. The light is very good and also, now, there are the shadows of Notre Dame. Pete took a long stroll along the Seine perusing the bouquinistes (book stalls) and dreaming of living on one of the peniches (houseboats) that are docked all along the river; he then had lunch at a river-boat restaurant in the shadow of Notre Dame. He ordered a steak with Cafe de Paris sauce--a super rich, creamy butter-based sauce--and pomme frites; after the food and a couple of glasses of red wine, Pete had two cafe allonge--like espresso but more water is poured through during the brewing process--and a strawberry torte. Life was good. It would have been better if Pete had been able to stumble home to his imaginary peniche and take a nap with his imaginary belle ame.
Pete was ready for the pastries in Paris--which he'll get around to at some point--but he was surprised by all the ice cream everywhere. Parisians are mad for it, but then again, who doesn't love ice cream? (Check out the grave photo.) And is it any surprise that French glaciers make some of the best in the world. Pete's two faves were Maison Berthillon (sounds a little classier than Baskin Robbins, right?) and Gelati d'Alberto. Berthhillon is on the Ile Saint-Louis, one of two natural islands that sit right in the middle of the Seine in the middle of Paris. Berthillion is considered by many--like this guy who wrote the Perfect Scoop--to make the greatest ice cream in the world; Pete tried three flavors: licorice, ginger bread, and salted butter caramel. The salted butter caramel was pretty amazing, the best Pete has had. The ginger bread had big chunks of ginger bread in it and the licorice tasted like licorice. The best in the world is big words though. It is a quest Pete would gladly go on though. Gelati d' Alberto in the lovely Rue Mouffetard section of town--where you can find lots of really good street food like potatoes cooked in rotisserie chicken drippings, panini, falafel, as well as cheese and wine shops, boulangeries, etc.--is not world famous but they do sculpt their ice cream into flower shapes. Pete had coffee and chocolate bacio on a sugar cone, it was delicious and beautiful despite its unappetizing color.
Pete and his favorite fake nieces, Ilo and Fenn, spent the afternoon at the Bois de Vincennes, which is the second biggest park in Paris and lies on the eastern outskirts of the city. After rowing around the lake, walking through the woods, and watching--but not understanding--a game of petanque, Pete and the girls decided to lunch on Nutella crepes from a stand in the park. Dirty Johnny the Crepe Man--who looked like he had slept in the park the night before--threw the batter down on the steaming grill and whipped them up right in front of Pete and the kids. They were delicious, Nutella is sorely underserved in the States. But a word of advice: Don't even think about asking Dirty Johnny for an extra slather of Nutella. Because he'll tell you, "You have received the proscribed amount of Nutella--not more, not less."
Pete lunched in the Marais district--marais means "the marsh" (the area used to be a swampland); marais rhymes with gay (and it's fittingly the gay section of Paris); it used to be the center of Jewish life, and while some of that remains (a synagogue for example) it is mostly occupied by expensive, trendy boutiques and clothing shops--at the famous Jewish eatery Chez Marianne. Pete and friends ordered 16 items from the assiette menu--including a delicious artichoke, fennel, and orange salad, pickel (a shockingly red-hued pastrami that is delicious nonetheless), foie gras, hummus, aubergine, green (spicy) and red (sweet) peppers, and kefta (seasoned balls of beef)--and washed it down with some red wine. In part one of this post, you'll notice a white figure over the handsome bearded gentleman's left shoulder; you'll also notice a black figure with a red balloon on the wall of the cafe. These are two pieces of street art that can be found all over the city. There's even a graphic novel--the French are mad for graphic novels--about these pigeons that fly around and have existential (oh, the French can't help it, give them a break) conversations in front of the most famous pieces of street art in Paris, which also include tiles in the shape of Space Invaders-like creatures, a big smiling bird, and black-and-white headshots of famous actors like Cary Grant and Sophie Loren.
To quote the great American and Francophile Benjamin Franklin, "Bacon is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Pete's first lunch back in the gold ol' U S of A was a classic good ol' U S of A combo of bacon and ice cream. Pete had a roasted bacon, Granny Smith apple, red onion, and cheddar melt and a bowl of spicy gazpacho (really peppery with lots of onion and zucchini) from Blind Tiger followed by a dulce de leche ice cream cone (sweet goodness) from Cones. Pete is not a bacon-obsessive like some folks who shall remain nameless--staring at you Ms. Baconista--but he does love him some bacon. (FYI: the Blind Tiger is starting to think outside the Bahn Mi, they have added quite a few new bacon options to their menu, including, among other things, a bacon and live pate.) Pete does scream for ice cream though. If only someone would make bacon ice cream... Or macaroons like the ones Pete snacked on in France. Flavors: nougat; coffee; raspberry; ginger; lemon; pistachio; and basil with pineapple.