Tastebuds: "What a great weekend!"

Moving to a new city can be so stressful. You start over in so many ways. How to arrange the apartment, which spices to start re-filling cabinets with first, how on earth you'll ever find a job, which neighborhood spots are worth becoming a regular at... The possibilities are truly endless. Now move to Brooklyn and multiply those possibilities by 5,000.

We moved in on Saturday and everyone kept saying, 'How excited are YOU?'. And for some reason, I just couldn't muster up more than a half-honest, 'Soooo excited'. We found a great apartment, with an even better roommate, in an amazing part of Brooklyn that's convenient to everything, and I couldn't even find the energy to elaborate? To be honest, I was overwhelmed. I've wanted to live in New York since I was old enough to decide such things, which my sidekick and I determined last week was... about five or six.

It's like Chanukah (insert Christmas, Goyem); I'd wait and wait and wait for one specific present EVERY year, let's call it 'Hot Shots Basketball'. And every year I'd tear through my presents hoping for that ONE present to be unveiled. But every year my parents saved it till last, hidden away under their bed or something, just to see me squirm. They'd bring it out in this triumphant 'We got you' moment at the very end of the night, but by then I'd worked up so much agita about not getting it that I was exhausted! This is kind of how I felt about New York last week.

Now, let me be clear, this is not New York's fault. New York is wonderful and I love her. It's not you, New York, it's me. But don't worry, I don't want to break up. I still believe in us. Even more after this weekend. And New York, you and I have my tastebuds to thank for this...

Well, to be more specific, New York, my tastebuds and my loyal and supportive sidekick have another person to thank. Her name is Kathy.

Kathy writes a blog called 'A Passion for Food', which I was introduced to by a certain benevolent-food-and-booze-appreciating uncle, and I'm beginning to suspect that Kathy's tastebuds and my tastebuds have an awful lot in common.

This is a bowl of beef noodle soup. The beef, probably neck-meat, but 'parts' to be sure. The soup, a salty, murky, oily broth of dubious origin that achieves that perfect, blissful state of umami. But the noodles are the real star.

They're hand pulled.

The phrase itself really doesn't do the process justice. Here's what happens: When you walk into Lan Zhou Handmade Noodles at 144 E. Broadway -- if you are lucky enough to have someone clue you in on what this magical address holds -- you are greeted with the distinct feeling that you don't belong here unless you speak Chinese. Ignore that. It's a stupid reflex that will keep you from enjoying heaven on earth for your tastebuds.

There is a very short English menu, a noticeably larger Chinese version, an array of condiments unfamiliar to most and, in the back of the room, a man beating the truth out of a long glutinous strand of dough. When you order, this man in the back of the room interrogates the dough, slamming it down on a metal table like it owes him money. Twisting, adding flour, adding water, slamming, twisting... and then suddenly, out of absolutely nowhere, the dough confesses, falling into perfectly uniform strands between this artist's hands.

My friends, we call these NOODLES.

And we call this: BLISS.


But Lan Zhou isn't quite done with us yet. There are DUMPLINGS. Doused with my new condiment of choice: Chinkiang Vinegar. Or black vinegar. Or... I don't know, mother's milk. I threatened to drink it off the plate with a straw. It sounds silly, but LOOK at the plate:

It's blurry, Mitch, I know, but you can only take so many pictures before things get cold. And that's just not in my nature. These things are piping hot, crispy and tender on the outside and filled with exactly the right ratio of pork : chive. Trust me on this, I've investigated, there's no other word for this but SEXY.

Now here's what happens when you leave the noodle bar on East Broadway: You know a secret. A very delicious, very cheap (noodle bowls max out at $4.50, I think), very share-able secret that will make people who love you only love you more. And if you're a recent New York transplant struggling with your ability to enjoy your favorite city in the world, you walk out of the noodle bar feeling warm from the soup and ready for anything. Because if you've found a place like this and enjoyed it, then my friends, you get it. You win. Your tastebuds, and possibly your sense of life-purpose will thank you. Don't thank me for this.

Thank Kathy.

It was all her idea.

Coming up next: Kathy's next contribution to my tastebuds, Parisian macarons a la Mitzy of Itzy Bitzy Patisserie. I'll let 'A Passion for Food' introduce you, as she introduced me, and in a few days, after I've devoured all dozen of them, I'll report back.

Lan Zhou Hand Made Noodles
144 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002
(212) 566-6933


Jackson, TN: I'm Staying

There has been so much to catch up on this month (another cross-country road-trip, some time in Cape Cod, New York). I'll have to backtrack a little. Specifically, to Jackson, Tennessee, where I almost decided to spend the rest of my life.

The Scene: A Waffle House. My second Waffle House, to be precise. And as promised, I had a date with Hashbrowns-All-the-Way. She showed up looking like this:

For Waffle House nubes (like me), Hashbrowns-All-the-Way are hashbrowns scattered across the grill, then smothered with onions, covered with cheese, ham, tomatoes, mushrooms and jalapenos (usually including 'house chili', which scared the bejeezus out of me, so I left off).

And let me say that the combination of total potato induced euphoria, the charming Waffle House employee banter, and our waitress (named Betty Boop; a woman with tattoos, a gold grill and possibly the cheeriest disposition of any Waffle House employee in the nation) almost made me stay in Jackson, TN.

So, while my sidekick and I hunker down in New York, frantically searching for apartments and jobs, I hold onto the idea that if we can't hack it here, maybe there's a career for me in a waffle house somewhere. I've always wanted a gold grill.