We are back in New York City for our annual art and tasting tour. My friend’s sturdy briefcase is a warm and sophisticated shade of orange which makes it easier than ever to follow him through the city that never sleeps.
“In a warm glow of light,” Baudelaire’s refrain, we’re inspecting Matisse’s Nude with a White Scarf at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She looks relaxed and happy on warm pillows of red and pink. Museum goers are dressed in gray and black, moving furtively through the exhibition. Teenage visitors strut and prance like nobody’s looking.
I stand behind an elderly gent in a Tommy Bahama sweatshirt whose wife’s thinning braid is coiled in a large plastic claw. Her expression is pure bliss. He leans on his cane, benignly disengaged, looking only at his wife. Her happiness is clearly the show he has come to see.
Marital equipoise continues through our evening’s entertainment with Giant, a new musical based on the Edna Ferber classic. Texas-sized themes of love, marriage, and middle age engage us for three hours until the well-deserved ovation. The newly renovated Public Theater space gets two thumbs up, too.
We return to Eataly, the crowded 5th Avenue Italian emporium/eatery, brainchild of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. We begin with sea urchin crostini and crisp Bastianich rosé. The earth moves. The unctuous urchin on a bed of buttery leeks is absolutely the most beautiful thing we have ever tasted. In thrall to the lowly urchin, we return to Pesce again and again like greedy homing pigeons.
In an attempt to diversify slightly, we detour briefly to Eataly’s Manzo for silky squash agnolotti with sage and brown butter, and a rich and robust seared foie gras. Mm.
We make post-theater detour for a late dinner at Babbo, Batali’s flagship restaurant. I follow the briefcase to Waverly Place, and from polpo to grappa, Babbo is inspiring, grand, delizioso. The waitstaff at Babbo is quirky and charming. How hard they are working and how smooth they appear – well done.
Baudelaire insisted that urban adventures would inspire “sudden leaps of consciousness.” My leaps include a new appreciation for the spiny sea urchin, a symbol of rebirth – a great way to start a new year. •