I love New York, I really do, and I'm going to miss the place like hell whenever I leave for good. J and I just formulated our 5-year plan, and the integral part of it requires exiting NYC in order to raise kids who will get a few years under their belts before their initial exposure to subway porn, grit, and rampant F-bomb deployment.
This kind of planning is necessary when starting a family unit, but it's entirely new for me personally, as my philosophy up until now has been to put big life decision-making off as long as possible and think about my future in terms of where my next meal is coming from.
Which brings me to my point. My favorite thing to do throughout the day, right or wrong, is to plan what I'm about to eat. For those of us who love food, NYC is our theme park mecca. It's Epcot Center for the epicurious. Where else on earth can you make a three-tabbed spreadsheet of restaurants within a five block radius, listed by 26 different kinds of cuisine, with 89 entries?
So now and then you stumble on something that truly blows your mind and makes you reconsider everything that came before it. It could be jamaican jerk roti, korean fried chicken, chorizo tater tots, or some other kind of wacked-out combination of things you thought you already knew, or something that comes out of the blue, like Halal food.
My favorite form of Halal food, gloriously, is nothing more than skewered slabs of lamb mixed with chicken over rice and salad, with scattered spices, a chopped up pita, and cocktail of white, hot, and BBQ sauces. Oooooooooh Lord. And the best part is, it never costs more than five bucks for about three pounds of food.
You can usually find Halal on street corners, where nomadic cart jockeys hone their culinary skills by taking a dozen orders at a time and somehow remembering them all while they simultaneously slice, chop, flip, and make change like angry, mustachioed, middle eastern Edward Scissorhands. The carts look like this:
They say you can get the best Halal in the city from a cart on 53rd and 6th, right across the street from Radio City. I've never been, but this is what the Bobby Flay of sidewalk Halal looks like:
You can find reviews of this nameless cart on all of the serious food review sites on the web, and it's amazing to me that someone can come to a huge, completely insane metropolis in a foreign country, set up a cart selling $5 piles of meat, and literally become famous within a few months.
And these guys work HARD in every kind of weather on any given day. My buddy Kevin called me from the cart a few months ago during hurricane conditions horrendously late on a Friday night. I wish I could post the message - it was classic - but here's a transcript:
"Hey man...I'm at the Halal cart in midtown...you know, the one I told you about. It's raining, goddam, it's freezing. I'm about 20th in line, but I can smell it!"
"Remind me to tell you..."
(loud metallic bang)
"Whoa...crazy...the cart tent just blew away. Okay, I'm almost up. Talk later, man."