“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Wait, this is a blog post – the first one after more than six months on the road.
Left NYC on almost the last day of June of 2012. Driving. We wanted to make a northern route because of the season but we still got caught up in a countrywide heat wave.
No Global Warming here. Move along, move along.
Spent the first nights in rural Pennsylvania. It had not at all struck us what an odd endeavor this all was. It did later and the same thoughts of tetherlessness would keep coming back. It’s one thing to travel for a long time – something we had never done unless two weeks count – but all together another thing to sell our apartment and have no fixed address, and travel for a long time to stay in cities and towns for about two months at a time. We sold and gave away almost all our furniture and have a very small storage place in the middle of New Jersey somewhere. But could not quite give away the cooking equipment – about the equivalent of 50 boxes – enough to easily arm a small restaurant. And it did arm our micro underground restaurant at our apartment in SoHo. We had a dinner very roughly once a month for over six years. Typically eight people. Sometimes ten or more. About 13 for my birthday a few years ago. Small courses, usually about seven of them. Multiple desserts. The cooking equipment is with a fabulous and sharp knife maker in Brooklyn, Joel Bukiewicz of Cut Brooklyn and his wife Julia Dahl. They hope to use the equipment for their own parties or to entice chefs to their shop for knife demonstrations (www.cutbrooklyn.com). We eventually will retrieve all the equipment when and if we figure a place to stay.
So back to the story, from the idyllic farm in Pennsylvania (where for breakfast we picked up some eggs from the coup – those yolks! – some greens and other vegetables and made a simple frittata) we drove to Ohio and from there to Michigan for a couple of days and then to Chicago. We’ve gotten better at driving long distances but initially we tried to limit it to five or maybe six hours a day. And the heat wave was still there in Chicago. It only reached 95 degrees – but that was the low. At night. At 9:30. We made dinner the following night or the night after. We cook at almost every destination – when staying at friends we literally cook (and sing – Kate) for our supper. We stayed for about five days and then on the road again. Because we wanted to see a friend and great and knowledgeable wine aficionado we took a detour to St Louis for a night and, since there, why not go to Kansas City for some barbecue! The barbecue was so very mediocre. We had hunted out the most storied and recommended place, and, well…maybe an off night! From there to South Dakota. First Sioux Falls and the Black Hills and then to Rapid City. Rapid City environs of course has Mount Rushmore – astounding, but more importantly it had our first good restaurant meal on the road at The Corn Exchange (www.cornexchange.com). Almost every restaurant on the road before this was somewhat to wildly disappointing. The errors were large and small and almost all easily overcome. Restaurant errors mostly spin from this I think: the owners treat the restaurant firstly as a pure business and only secondarily as the perfect place to make others happy revolving around food and conviviality. Next life: Restaurant Consultant. Hmmm.
From Rapid City to Casper Wyoming. From there to Jackson, Wyoming for several days and staying with a friend and now ex-client. I think we made pasta. She also hosted me to make dinner at her place two past times for about ten people. We carry our Atlas pasta roller around with us. It’s really too heavy, but still. I loved the clients at this particular firm, but the only thing that held me up is that the principal of the firm, although he’s jovial, smart and has been a brilliant investor also harbors right wing fantasies and helps fund those fantasies to – not to become true, that’s impossible of course – but to help change laws.
Happily in NYC I had another client on the Left who did lots of funding himself. So it cancelled out for me!
From there we made our way through the Tetons and then Yosemite. Not camping of course.
(Side notes: I believe in the separation of powers of the three branches of government; global warming is real and has been materially helped along by humans; the planet is way more than 10,000 years old – by about, oh, 4.5 billion years; evolution through natural selection is true not because I want it to be or not, but because mounds of empirical data show it to be so; less guns would mean less killing; pâte brisée is the pent-ultimate tart pastry – 3:2 by weight flour:butter, a little salt and some ice water, be gentle.)
Then onto Spokane for a night and then to Kate’s brother and family in Seattle. Consumed the best espresso Seattle has to offer and that’s saying something.
Then finally, our first real rental place for a month in Emeryville, CA across the bay from San Francisco and right next to Berkeley. Heaven. The food markets! (www.ecologycenter.org/bfm). And in San Francisco itself around the Ferry Building (www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/farmers). They put NYC’s Union Square on notice. The supermarket(s) Berkeley Bowl (http://www.berkeleybowl.com/) completely and utterly knocks any other market.
Worked for a couple of weeks in Oakland at a restaurant where casualness and serious flavors intersect, Pizzaiolo (www.pizzaiolooakland.com).
Then to the teeny tiny town of Marfa, Texas. In the middle of nowhere. Very west Texas. Three hours to the nearest airport. Seven hours to Austin, driving – legally – 75mph. Small town with layers of modern art and architecture. Judd Foundation (www.juddfoundation.org), Chinati (www.chinati.org), Ballroom Marfa (www.ballroommarfa.org), etc. People rarely lock their doors and drivers keep their car running if going into a store for only a minute or two. Everyone really says hello. Worked for a day or so at a food oasis there, Cochineal (www.cochinealmarfa.com). Generous and sharing owners. New Yorkers don’t expect great pizza except in New York or maybe possibly in Naples, and certainly not in a west Texas town with a population of 2,000. But ho! There it was – Pizza Foundation (www.pizzafoundation.com). Also, a food truck kept us fed multiple times a week, Food Shark (www.foodsharkmarfa.com). The owners of Food Shark opened a brick and mortar place just as we were leaving town – called Future Shark. We were sorry that Austin Street Café was not open on a regular basis, but we did sample their wares on multiple occasions. (www.austinstreetcafe.com). Generous and charming owners here too. The whole town was embracing. I’ve never been to a town where I knew by name about 5% of the entire population. And this after seven weeks.
Now in Pasadena. Really too far from LA. The driving is quite distracting here, but the weather beats the East Coast with little effort.
Next stop: Rome. From Mid March through the end of April.