Months ago, my best friend, Tracey and her husband, Dan, introduced me to “Adventure Time”, the most imaginative little 15-minute program on the Cartoon Network. Kam and I started watching it together, and while we were out walking and uncovering unknown parts of the city a couple of weeks ago, we talked about how “Adventure Time with Jake and Fin” should really be “Adventure Time with Kat and Kam”. And at the same moment, we said, “We should probably start a blog for that.” Well, I can’t even keep up with the blogs I have now, so I’ll just try to make it a feature here.
So I present the very first:
The night before our walk, I submitted a plan to trek down 2nd Avenue to Meatball Shop, since Kam had never been there. He objected, citing the fact that we’re trying to live healthier, non-sandwich-oriented lives and blahblahblah. So instead I found us the health food restaurant Natureworks, where he would get something dumb like a Super Salad, and I would attempt to pass a meat lover’s pizza (with low-sodium cheese, Dishy!) off as something one might eat when one is not trying to slowly kill one’s self. And then we would go to my favourite pay-by-the-pound frozen yogurt joint, where I promised I would only get fruit toppings instead of my usual cookie-dough-gummy-bears-Cap’n-Crunch combo. (But I was lying.)
Fortunately for me, Natureworks is closed on Sundays. So instead, we decided to play it casual and look for something delicious on our way to the fro-yo. Thanks to Tasting Menu, Kam’s favourite food blog (other than donuts4dinner, of course), we knew to stop into Kalustyan’s for a falafel sandwich when we came across it, only we were never actually able to locate the falafel counter.
What we did find were rows upon rows of shelves upon shelves stocked with every single spice you have and haven’t heard of. We’re talking twenty kind of cinnamon, beet powder, granulated garlic, five kinds of mustard seed, tomato flour. We saw pickled wild cucumbers, every flavor of honey, canned ghee, every color of salt, nut mixes like you wouldn’t believe, fifty kinds of sugar. Kam was in I-haven’t-seen-this-since-the-last-time-I-was-in-Iran heaven, and I just enjoyed listening to Indian music while I perused.
Next, we made our way down to Gramercy Park to admire the fine architecture (which still isn’t as pretty as Kamran’s building) and watch a squirrel dig a nut out of the ground (we don’t see a lot of wildlife around these parts, if that isn’t obvious):
Kam informed me that Gramercy Park is actually private and requires a key for entry. Indeed, we saw tourists leering at locals through the iron bars and watched as one man flounced his coveted key about before unlocking the gate and settling down among the manicured greenery to read his Sunday paper.
We continued downtown and resolutely concluded that it was finally the day that we were to try Artichoke Basille’s famed pizza. Since its launch in 2008, Artichoke has been lauded as one of the best–if not the best–pizza in NYC. You have your Lombardi’s holdouts and your Grimaldi’s hangers-on, but I can tell you definitively and unquestionably that Artichoke is ten times better than either of those.
Let me state for the record that I like a thick crust. I would say that I like Sicilian-style pizza, but that’s not even true, because in New York, they always overbake the crust. The point of thick crust is that it’s bready. So what I’ll actually say I like is an underbaked crust. I don’t even mind if it’s straight up dough in the very middle.
Artichoke is not a thick crust. It’s a thin crust, and it’s a crusty crust, and I should not, therefore, like it. But it was delicious. It was perfect. It could convert me. It was done but not overdone. It wasn’t burnt! DO YOU HEAR THAT, OTHER NYC PIZZERIAS?! IT IS POSSIBLE TO BAKE A PIZZA AND NOT BURN IT.
We got a crab slice and an artichoke slice, and although you’ll have to wait for the full review on donuts4dinner, I will tell you that the artichoke slice was like eating a piece of crusty bread coated in the Alfredo sauce they serve in the little cup with the pizzas at Olive Garden. I know that won’t seem like a big deal to you snobs who refuse to like chain restaurants, but those of you who have tried the Alfredo will understand, I know.
We also saw what we think might be the tiniest apartment building in NYC. Do you see how thin that thing is? Even if each apartment takes up the entire length of the building, that’s still only . . . 200 square feet? Less?
Next, we went to Porchetta, a tiny storefront where the pig is given top billing, both with the giant stencil on the wall and with the display case full of the most succulent scored pork:
We took our sandwich to Tompkins Square Park and sat at one of the chessboards to chow down and throw back some ginger soda.
The sandwich was–to put it lightly–very, very good. The pork juices soaked into the crusty bread and dribbled out onto our fingers, and the moments where we bit into those suuuuuuuuper-crispy bits of skin were truly blissful.
So blissful, in fact, that I guess I sort of audibly expressed my joy. Without realizing that a makeshift soup kitchen had been set up behind me. I had thought it was just a large family enjoying Sunday lunch in the park until Kam told me I might want to keep it down. “Soooooogooooood,” I was murmuring in a porkdrunk stupor as the homeless people behind me were eating what was probably their only meal of the day.
So what did we do to repent for our gluttony? EAT MORE! This time, we went to Pommes Frites, which literally only serves French fries with a bazillion different sauces of your choosing.
We went with the black truffle mayo, which was delicious but probably too heavy to follow a slice of pizza and half a pork sandwich. Their wasabi mayo or peanut sauce is what you need when you’re already ten pounds heavier than normal due to pig and cheese grease. But we dutifully finished our cone of fries, dutifully scooped the strays out of the bag, and dutifully threw what we couldn’t eat onto the sidewalk for the homeless. And then Kam kicked them around a little accidentally, inciting a deep conversation about how much sidewalk flavor is too much sidewalk flavor for a homeless person.
Are we bad people?
Next, we casually walked through the Lower East Side and realized we were near our very favourite store for discount sweets, Economy Candy. But, you know, since we were eating healthy that day, we popped in for two tiny Cadbury Creme Eggs and popped right back out, no chocolate-covered s’mores in hand. And they were only 50 cents each! Why, that’s what they cost in places like Ohio! Kamran pocketed them for later and proceeded to make incessant testicle jokes.
I was trying to push Kam to take me to a riverfront park, but the farther we got from the center of town, the shadier things started getting. There were parking lots and people playing Latin music from boomboxes in front of bodegas and . . . OH!
You guys, there was this one dude on the street who was literally just stopped dead in his tracks on the sidewalk with his feet at weird angles and his head lolling to one side. He was clearly unwashed and clearly on a bender, all stooped over with his arms hanging limply at his sides. I swore he was going to reach out and grab me as we passed, but he seemed to be asleep. Moments later, though, we turned back to stare some more, and he was hobbling along the sidewalk. SO CREEPY.
Needless to say, by the time we came upon this GANG GRAFFITI, we knew it was time to hightail it out of there.
Just kidding! Nice mural, PS 140! Oh, yeah, have I mentioned that the public schools are named by number here? Pretty creative stuff, guys.
While we were down there, we figured, “What the hey, let’s cross the Willamsburg Bridge.” Because Kamran, believe it or not, has never set foot on a bridge in his five years here.
The Williamsburg Bridge is actually quite nice, despite what I’d heard. Everyone says it’s too loud for good walking, and it’s true that you walk alongside traffic for a quarter of it, but at that point, the traffic has continued on straight the whole time, but you’ve been steadily climbing higher and higher above it on the sloped platform in the center of the bridge. Then you run into this lovely sign that I think pretty much embodies NYC as a whole:
It’s kind of pretty, but it’s also kind of super jacked up, and nobody cares to keep it nice, including the people who are paid to, so the sign ends up reading WI LIAMS U GH BRIDGE. But the nice thing about the bridge is that at the sign, the platform splits into two so that pedestrians get the lane to the right, and bicyclists get the lane to the left. If you’ve ever been almost run over a zillion times by bicyclists on the Brooklyn Bridge (not that I blame them, because pedestrians are always inconsiderate and hog the whole thing), you’ll understand what a good idea this was. Plus, the bridge was sooooooo much less crowded than the Brooklyn Bridge.
And had better graffiti, too.
mouseover this photo for hilarity
The one thing the Brooklyn Bridge has going for it is that it’s not entirely encased by fencing like the Williamsburg is. This isn’t really the best place to get pictures of the city from afar, youknow. But I kinda like ’em, anyway.
We went halfway across the bridge and then started back, just in time to catch the J train whizzing between us and the cyclists, to find someone’s dropped keys but not do a damned thing about it, and to learn that Vomito loves NY.
Just off the bridge, we found ourselves on Attorney Street, which was an excellent reminder for Kam that his New York State Bar results won’t come for another month and a half. But look how happy he is still!
And look how trashy those girls behind him are. Is that a leather jacket you’re wearing backward over your denim jacket, ma’am?
We had been out for more than five hours, and our grocery shopping duties were calling, so we started back toward Kam’s apartment in Midtown. We walked up Avenue B past Luca Lounge, the bar he took me on our first date, lo those four and a half years ago, which has been closed for years but still sits abandoned.
At 23rd Street, we started to feel a little weak in the knees.
At 29th Street, we started talking about how much pain we were in. “But good pain!” we exclaimed, trying to fake our way into fitness.
At 34th Street, we had to sit down on a bench for five minutes.
By the time we got home, it hurt to lower ourselves onto the couch.
By the next day, we couldn’t stand without wincing. Five days later, we’re just now feeling normal again. So maybe we weren’t quite ready for a ten-mile walk. But we sure did have an adventure.
If you’re curious about our path, here’s a glorious map version with all the stops: