Reconciliation, Healing, and Charcuterie – Part 2

This the middle of the story.  If this looks unfamiliar to you, you may want to start with Part 1.

Even though I kept my eyes locked on the entrances to the rail tracks, Dave still managed to sneak up on me.  Since he’s not active on Facebook, I hadn’t seen many recent photos of him, and to my surprise, he looked substantially the same as he did in college, although I’m sure the same can be said about myself.  We were both older but no worse for wear. Not wanting to waste a moment of catching-up time, we decided to stay in the building while we plotted out our day.

We headed downstairs to the dining concourse and talked over coffee for a long time, cramming 13 years of status updates into conversation rife with interrupted thoughts, tangents, recalled memories, and misrememberances.  Talking to Dave now, much as I did so many years ago as we sat in Sloppy Louie’s at South Street Seaport, was like starting an old car.  You’re afraid that it won’t turn over, but after a few cranks, the engine roars to life, and a few minutes later you’re cruising the neighborhood as if it were yesterday.

Before we knew it, a couple of hours had passed, our coffee had turned cold, pastries were reduced to crumbs, and it was time for lunch.  Using my phone for research, I started rattling off the names of nearby eating opportunities, but as soon as the word “fondue” left my mouth, our course was set, with Artisanal as our destination.  In less than ten minutes, had exited Grand Central Station, walked a few blocks, and were breezing through the front doors. We had the fortune of being seated immediately.

Artisanal is one of those restaurants where, if you needed a long, lingering meal as a backdrop to conversation, you’d find it there.  We ordered way, way too much, starting with the fondue and augmenting that selection with bread, salads, pork belly hash, and unending cups of coffee.  We never ran out of food, and we never ran out of conversation, which is pretty much the perfect combination of unlimited things.  Service was invisibly efficient, and I don’t recall ever seeing the bottom of my coffee cup. Eventually, I looked up to see that the restaurant was emptying out, and we found ourselves between the lunch and dinner service.

Stuffed, we walked off the meal by heading north, on our way to the second declared destination of the day, Laduree, for macarons.  It was a long, necessary meandering, notable for our passage by several locations of former, familiar, landmarks.  FAO Schwartz, which has now become a shell of its earlier glory.  The Apple Store cube, now standing where there used to be a pit of forgettable dining establishments.  We trudged up Central Park East, stopping occasionally to check our phones to get our bearings.  Eventually, we hit the right cross street and headed east to Madison Avenue.

Laduree was packed, so much so that a line of about 20 people spilled out of the doorway and down the block.  There was no sale or special promotion to be had – this was an everyday occurrence.  After about 25 minutes, we finally made our way inside and were blown away by the display cases, which were filled with a colorful array of macarons in flavors that ranged from citrus to straight-up chocolate and vanilla varieties.  We spent too much, but as in the days of old, we did it in stride.

The sun was starting to set on Manhattan, and it was time to decide where to end the evening.  I had heard much of Eataly, some good (an astounding array of Italian food and drink) and bad (so crowded you can’t even move) – but given that we were just two souls with relatively light baggage, we decided it was worth weaving through the crowds.  We hailed a cab and rocketed downtown…

Part 3 to come.