And now we come back to our not-so-recent-anymore trip to New York. As mentioned previously, I didn't have a lot of restaurants on my list of destinations, so a lot of the time we just drifted along and stepped in whatever place looked good; after all, there is no shortage of restaurants in NY. But there was one place, apart from Momofuku, that I absolutely wanted to visit: Prune.
It started, as it often does for me, with a book. Having read stratospheric praise for Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir Blood, Bones, & Butter, I bought it soon after if came out. I’ll review it in my next post, but for now, suffice it to say that I absolutely loved it. I was dying to know what kind of food was made by the woman who had written this book. So, the day after we arrived in NYC, I dragged Laurent to the East Village for lunch, where we got lost and wandered around for a while before finally locating the tiny restaurant. As we examined the bright room, with its fuschia barstools and old mirrors, I couldn’t help but think of Hamilton’s description of the place when she first saw it: abandoned, cockroach-infested, covered in rat droppings, and packed with rotting food. I promptly put the passage out of my mind, as the place bore no remaining trace of its former filth, and who wants to be thinking about rat poop right before a meal?
I want to take a minute here to describe my state of mind on that first visit. It was a warm, sunny October day. There was a light breeze. I was wearing my favourite black polka dot skirt, the one that swishes around my legs in a way that makes me feel like a girl. And I was just married, and honeymooning in one of my favourite cities in the world. Most likely all these wonderful things influenced how I perceived my meal. But I’m thinking the food had something to do with it, too.
I confess, I didn’t even take pictures that first time. I didn’t feel like being a food blogger, I just wanted to enjoy myself. Descriptions of the dishes probably won’t do them justice, because they were so very simple. For starters, we split a half-avocado filled with olive oil and sprinkled with Maldon salt. Was it something anyone could have whipped up at home? Sure. But the avocado was perfectly ripe, and the olive oil was fragrant. Next, I had a shaved celery salad with a thick slice of blue cheese on the side, while Laurent had a coddled egg with wild mushrooms. Again, nothing fancy. But everything was just right, from my salad’s vinaigrette to the texture of Laurent’s egg. I could feel the love in the food, and that’s not something that happens very often.
We ended up coming back for lunch again a few days later. This time, we took pictures. Also, we were hungrier, so we ordered more food. We started with a chicken noodle soup with cracklings and matzo balls, which was fragrant and warming.
Next, I couldn’t resist ordering something which is mentioned in Hamilton’s book: an egg-on-a-roll. Apparently, she lived on these during her early years in the city, and I myself have eaten my share of these classic deli sandwiches. With crispy bacon, runny yolks, and a side of cold noodles, it was pure comfort food.
Laurent had a burger and fries. The meat was cooked rare, as requested, and was satisfyingly juicy.
Finally, we splurged on dessert: a poached peach with caramelized pecans and crème anglaise for Laurent, and fresh figs with lemon cream for me. Both were light and nicely cleansed our palates, but Laurent’s choice won, I have to admit.
Was this a pure act of fangirlism? Probably. Then again, so was our trip to Momofuku. But in both cases, the quality of the food spoke for itself, despite the absence of frills. Sometimes, you have to put cynicism aside and just recognize that there are cases where a good reputation is well deserved.