We have returned to San Diego safe and sound, if not a few pounds heavier. Both T and I have been avoiding our bathroom scale; we figure we know it’s not going to be good news (who goes on vacation and loses weight?) so we’re giving ourselves a little equalization period. We must have eaten well if T claimed rights to the elliptical machine the first night being home. I’m usually the one who’s conscious of what’s gone in my mouth and how much jumping around I’ve done lately.
New York is a big city. We did manage to orient ourselves rather quickly and learned the Metro system pretty effectively. I don’t think I got yelled at once for being too slow or turning in the wrong direction. Once, we even tried to give directions to some other lost soul before she started asking questions that went beyond our limited Metro knowledge. We did the touristy things like the Statue of Liberty (tickets to the crown are sold out through the end of this year!), Ellis Island, Wall Street, the Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, and Rockefeller Center, mostly in two days. We walked up Broadway, past all the theaters and Radio City Music Hall, but we didn’t take in a show this time. We also didn’t visit any museums – just not enough time. Plus, I feel like we’ve seen plenty of museums, art, and dioramas of dinosaurs and saber tooth tigers.
Our main reason for the trip (well, my main reason; T kind of came along for the ride) was to meet the other recipe testers from The New Portuguese Table and to finally meet David Leite himself. He may not have his own tv show (yet) but the anticipation of meeting him in person made me giddy and excited. Being involved as a recipe tester for Leite’s Culinaria and then later on his book is like leaving a back door into the food world unlocked. It’s not quite a foot in the door, holding it open for me to cross through; it’s more like knowing that the possibility of access through that door is there and if I decide I want to cross that threshold, then at least I know where to start.
Meeting David and talking to him is like meeting my favorite foodie celebrity. Except it’s better because I’ve e-mailed with him, talked on the phone with him, and he shipped me salt cod when I couldn’t find it anywhere in San Diego. So, seeing him in person is like turning it all into reality. And, it’s just really cool. He is friendly and funny and warm and I was sad when we had to leave everyone to go back home. Meeting the other recipe testers (as well as Linda Avery and Donna Desfor, who are in charge of the general website testers and with whom I’ve traded many e-mails) was also like a dream come true. I don’t consider myself a food snob or really even a chowhound, but sitting down to gorgeous meals with these people and discussing dishes, preparation, chefs, restaurants, and comfort food was a true joy. It’s like spending time with people who understand you, if that makes sense. Eating a beet meringue topped with crème fraiche and caviar, having it all melt away in your mouth, and knowing that everyone else at the table is feeling the exact same awe and delight is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I loved it. I loved every moment of it.
It’s also extremely motivating to be around people who have been able to incorporate their love of food into their lives. The people I met teach pastry and cooking classes, are published food writers, and develop their own recipes. I spend 40 hours a week as a civil engineer and then try to find time to assemble a dish in my spare time. Sometimes I write things down, sometimes I’ll even make a dish a second time, but it’s rare. After this weekend, though, I’m determined to start a file of recipes of my own. A signature dish; something I’ve made from scratch that is reproducible.
I took quite a few pictures of the meals we ate this weekend (it seemed appropriate) and I’ll post them later – Momofuko Ssam, Aldea, Mesa Grill, and Eleven Madison Park. But, before I got to all of that, I just wanted to tell David thank you. Thank you for starting Leite’s Culinaria so I could sign up for something I just thought would fill some spare time. Thank you for sharing the opportunity to help test your recipes for the book. Thank you for opening my eyes to a culinary world I wasn’t even aware of. And thank you for organizing our Testers’ Weekend in New York. It was one of the best trips I’ve been on and I can’t wait to see what comes next.