Travels

NYC – Day 3 Part 4, Love for the East Village

Ohhhhhhhh food baby. Major food baby. Coma imminent. Went to Hearth in the East Village for La Vigilia/Feast of the Seven Fishes. No one really knows why it’s 7, but it’s fish and it’s Italian-American, so it seemed like a great thing to try. I’ll attach the menu at some point.

I was perfectly on-time, but the hostess informed me I’d be waiting 15 minutes or so for a table. I wasn’t rushing, so I was less than perturbed by this information, and made my way to the bar for a glass of wine to accompany the wait. It’s great to have the opportunity to watch people interact. I sat for a while in a window seat, and for a while at the bar, and watched a few groups come and go to be seated whilst I was waiting. I didn’t check the time, so I actually have no idea how long I waited. It seemed to be mostly families, with grown-up children. I like to imagine what their lives are like, whether the parents are visiting their kids, bearded and bordering on the hipster, black-clad and weighed down by heavy buckled boots, showing off their girlfriends for what is evidently not the first time, and wanting to prove they’ve grown since the last time. Or wondering what the younger brother is thinking, whilst he tries to stay engaged in the conversation; maybe he’s envious of his older brother’s ease with the parents, wondering how to fit in quite so well. Perhaps the man at the bar, the one who’s buying his girlfriend a glass of wine, is just as high-maintenance as his girlfriend. Do the couple in the other window seat know that they are mirroring each other’s movements quite so closely? What would make the bartender move more spontaneously? He’s clearly skilled but the deliberate movements and measured approach belie the creativity he uses with the drinks.

The food came in several courses, but given I already had a full glass of wine from the bar (on the house, in recompense for the wait) I chose not to take a wine pairing or a sherry pairing. I don’t know whether it’s being alone, being a girl, it being Christmas, or whether the nightlife of the East Village gives all waitstaff a propensity to supply me with free alcohol, but it seems to be a recurring theme. Not directly one of the reasons I love the East Village so much, but perhaps indirectly… Anyway a nice man brought me the sherry pairings for the first 4 courses, despite protestations that I already had a glass of wine and therefore had chosen not to take the pairings. “Oh, I know that, but you had a glass of wine already and you look like you would appreciate this. I’m doing it because it’s delicious.” Ok then. Not having eaten since 10am, it naturally went straight to my head. Wonderful. The first sherry didn’t team perfectly with the first course, but it was meant to last through two courses and it fit the second like a glove. The third and fourth also went down a storm, although the clam pasta dish went back half uneaten as it was heavy and overly peppery. As someone who had eggs with hot sauce for breakfast earlier in the day, I can say that I don’t reject dishes based on their heat. Whatever it was, I didn’t get on with it. The panna cotta and cookies finished me off nicely, proving that no matter how full you feel after your savoury food, eating something sweet can reduce the stress and make you feel better. Separate pudding tummy, of course.

All in all an excellent evening. Two things make me want to wax lyrical though. Blame the Sylvaner and the sherries.

Firstly dining alone. The waitstaff were marvellous. I’m not sure if they see solo diners a lot and are used to it, if they are equipped with the East Village laissez-faire/who gives a damn attitude, or if they’re just trained to be polite. The other diners though, there’s another story. What’s wrong with people? I watch them sit at the table making conversation, playing with their smartphones and being distracted from the food. When you’re alone, you get to think about things you wouldn’t have time for if you had to make conversation, you get to taste the food properly and give it the consideration it deserves, and you don’t have to compromise on subjects for discussion/contemplation, opinions of food/wine/service, and you can watch other people into the bargain.

The second is the East Village. I know, I know, you get it, I love it. But I do. It has music in its soul. It doesn’t care what people think of it, and I know this because I find it so hard to be concise about its character. It doesn’t have one, it has many. And that makes it wonderful. It’s not full of hipsters, it’s home to the kind of people that hipsters wish they could be. It offers you nothing, and surprises you with gifts that go right to the heart. Like a beautiful stranger that knows you without trying. Everyone I’ve encountered there has been different, yet has a common interest in people. Without prejudice. They talk to a girl from England like it’s perfectly usual (everyone else says “I love your accent”) and it makes me glad. It’s a sense, nothing more. The space that is granted to each individual to make their own, without judgement and without interference. But it’s not as passive as that would sound; it’s so alive. Joyful. You’re no longer alone in that crowd.

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