Sunday, July 15, 2007

Chelsea and The Food Cop

I devoted an entire day to a fictional friend last week, so today I decided to devote part of a day to a real live friend. My friend-since-4th-grade-Jaci and her husband come to New York every Christmas and stay at a bed and breakfast in the Chelsea neighborhood, so even though I woke up feeling groggy (and was actually stuck to my plastic mattress because my non-fitted sheet slipped off and I literally had to peel myself off of it and hop all the way down to the floor so far below and rummage for my room card in order to go alllllll the way down the hall to use the bathroom) I did laundry, went to the gym, and felt that, yes, I had enough energy to go to Chelsea and see Jaci's winter 'hood and also to the Chelsea Flea Market I had heard so much about.

I bought a deck of "City Walks, New York" cards before I left, and they have been a lot of fun. This is what my Chelsea walk was supposed to look like (you follow the red and on the back, you are told what you are walking by). In NY, things never happen like you plan, though. Well, I had no problem finding Jaci's favorite barbecue place, called
Righteous Urban Barbecue, run by Paul Kirk (he wasn't there but Jaci has hung out with him a few times). I had the pulled pork with a side of collard greens. The pork was the most tender I have ever had. Will you just look at this?

Then I proceeded on to her grocery store, The Garden of Eden. What a beautiful store. Everything designed so appetizingly. Here are some artistic grocery photos:

And I also got a tour of her bed and breakfast, which is absolutely cute and comfortable and a little wacky, just like she is.

Well, I was heading for the market after that when two policemen sort of started walking beside me. One of them saw my map and asked me where I was from. Now, I am not making this up when I tell you his second question: "Do you like dumplings?" Just like that. And I had to reflect, later, whether his passion for dumplings compels him to ask every visitor this question, or whether it might be me channeling dumpling energy into the universe that prompted it. If he does ask everyone, I could just imagine the spark leaving his eyes if the eager question was met with a shrug and a mumble. But my eyes lit up and we connected. And so he changed the course of my destiny for this Sunday with a few recommendations. He commanded his partner to give me a pen so I could write them down. Actually, before I headed for Chinatown, I went to the Chelsea Market (also his suggestion...a huge, long warehouse FILLED with gourmet food, and, at the very end was Emeril's Food Network studio) and ran into them a few more times. Each time, the food cop would offer a suggestion, and his partner would pull a pen out of his pocket and offer it to me so I could write it down. This gelato was his suggestion... chocolate and "yogurt" flavored gelato. I had never heard of yogurt flavor, but it was truly one of the best I have ever tasted.

So I boarded the Red Train to Chinatown, and when I found his favorite place in NY, called Wo Hop (at the end of Mott Street) there was a line all the way up the staircase that led down into the lower levels of the street. I was so excited, but you won't believe what happened next. I looked down a side street and there it was: the Fried Dumpling place I had found three summers ago, the one that made it onto my top ten food experiences list. This place was recommended by Ruth Reichl because these women are all just about the dumpling. You can't get drinks here, only dumplings. They don't speak English, but there is just one thing to order, and you get four for a dollar. Homemade dough stuffed with pork and fried on one side in a wok. Another reason it made it onto my top ten list three years ago was because it was so hard to find. But here it was, right in front of me. I looked at the long line for Wo Hop and knew that I would be back within the week with people from my program, but that the four dumplings were happening to me tonight. Will you just look at these. They were even better than I remembered! By the way, when I was at the gym today, I weighed myself, thinking that I would have to calm down on eating for a few days. But I was two pounds down. I guess there really is something to all of this walking!

So, Jaci, I really love your neighborhood!


Dad said...

You are making me hungry again, Marjie; those dumplings look delicious. We did just finish a great smoothie made with fruit from our yard, so I'm not hurting too badly.

I'm impressed that the policemen were friendly. Perhaps being female and attractive helps.

The Norris Clan said...

In all those run ins with the food cop, did you happen to use his partner's pen to write down his 411? Hello... is that a coincidence, or what? His fav dumpling stand, your fav dumpling stand! It's divine intervention at Wo Hop! Oh, and those markets are divine themselves. Garden of Eden is right... oh, I am jealous now...

Brian Bowker said...

On the surface I'm glad that you found your favorite dumpling shop. But deep inside, if I'm really honest, I'm a little sad that you haven't had humbao yet. I was getting kind of excited that the food cop might have pointed you to a place that served it. Sigh.

Can you write the name of the fried dumpling place down so years from now, when I find myself in NY, I will be able to look it up on Google Maps and find it?

marjie said...

Ahhhh....don't worry, bro, I will eat humbao for you soon. It is a heavy burden I have to eat so many things and see so many shows for so many people. But you are on the top of my list and if I don't eat humbao next time I am in Chinatown, I will not even write about my experience- I will be so ashamed!

The fried dumpling place is called Fried Dumpling (see the picture?) and it is at the very end of Mott street, which you will see when you are in Chinatown.

Karyn- the food cop, I think, was a part of a youth food cop training program. He looked about 15, but he was probably at least 21!

Marjie Bowker said...

Amy's comment:

Look at me, ma, I'm bloggin'! (I was 3 mm off in my previous attempts) So, sorry it's late but: happy dumpling day! I'll send a card next year. I spent the day selling hot dogs and goGurt, so thanks for sharing your culinary experiences. What will NY do to you tomorrow?