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Have liver, will travel

Monday, March 20, 2006

On the Town

Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in On the Town, MGM, 1949

Friends have asked about our impressions of New York, and it's a difficult question to answer. We're still tourists here in some sense, though we're gradually making friends and discovering our druthers. Last weekend it hit 74 degrees, and we had a glorious amble through Central Park, but other than that one day, winter has put a damper on our usual free-wheeling, follow-your-nose method of exploring. We also continue to be leashed to a dog who can't stand being alone. He's been making it through the days all right, but howls desperately if we go out at night. Still, when cabin fever strikes, we've left him with his kongs and chew toys to howl as he pleases, the neighbors be damned.

On the glorious 74-degree Saturday, we paid a visit to what has become my favorite local wine shop, Union Square Wine and Spirits, which happend to be hosting two free tastings as we walked in. The salon upstairs hosted a tasting of biodynamic wines from all over the world. We even sipped a (very dry) Blanc de Noirs Brut from New Mexico. Downstairs, we were treated to wines from Italy, including an excellent $10 Primitivo, 2003 Cantele Primitivo del Salento, and a knock-out 2003 La Spinetta (Guiseppe Rivetti & Figli) Barbera d' Asti Superiore Bionzo. The Primitivo was especially exciting for me because I confess I'm in a bit of a Zinfandel phase, and Primitivo, as it was recently discovered, is the Italian sister of Zinfandel, which was found to originate in Croatia on the Dalmatian coast.

This Primitivo had nice concentration, with that lively, astringent character I love so well in Zinfandel. The fruit was bodacious with plum, raspberry, and cherry, leaning a little on the sweet side—I usually prefer a little more oak and alcohol in the mix, but for ten bucks, I have no complaints.

The Barbera was a revealation. Dry and dense, with a Havana nose and a rustic oak finish, it stood up to the Alcotouristess's homemade lasagna like a champ. It's listed at $49.99, but we got it on sale for $24.99. Sweet. Look for the rhino on the bottle.

Last night, we visited New York's favorite Pizzeria, Grimaldi's, located just under the Brooklyn Bridge with a view of downtown Manhattan. It was an early Sunday evening, yet the wait outside in 40-degree weather was 25 minutes. Perversely, I noticed from the line that the lights were on in the quaint riverside lighthouse that is the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. The Alcotouristess waited in line while I picked up a hot fudge sundae to go, with a scoop of Chocolate Chocolate Chunk and a scoop of the best Butter Pecan I've ever tasted. I took it back to the line, and we shared in the ecstasy of this frozen treat, despite our red wind-licked noses and blue-with-the-cold fingers.

We were finally shuffled into a tiny table at Grimaldi's, and ordered a large pie with roasted red peppers and onions. We ordered a too-young 2004 "Badia Al Monte Marche Sangiovese," which was fine for pizza but nothing to take home. The pie was outstanding. The dough was thin, yet formidable in texture. The mozzarella (no other cheese is used on Grimaldi's red pies) was fresh and perfect. When we return, we will opt for the simple cheese pie. The toppings were great, but they weighed down the pizza, whose expression is perfect in its thin-crust simplicity.

We returned home on the train to find an agitated dog. We'd been using our video camera to record his progress with our anti-separation anxiety training, and were disappointed to find pictures of him standing on his hind legs, front paws in the window frame, his head cocked back, howling plaintively for over 30 minutes. Wouldn't you, if you'd missed out on Grimaldi's?

—The Alcotourists


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