BILLY’S BAKERY : All I Ever Wanted

Billy's Bakery cupcake in Madison Square ParkMe: Happy to hear the beach was everything you wanted it to be! Did you swim?

Jackie: Indeed I did and saved some clams from death!

IT’S BEEN AN AGREEABLE Labor Day weekend and it was in these 80 degree days that I got to thinking about happiness while watching a homeless guy dip his shirt in the fountain at Madison Square Park.

Saturday began with a laundry drop-off and bagel pickup – two things that reek of Domesticity, which I generally avoid, like conversation with suburbanites, make-your-own-salad bars and the Upper East Side. But I’m running out of underwear and Jason was hungry so we pursued the cleaners and Ess-a-Bagel before meeting my cousin Lily downtown.

Later, Nicole crashed our party of three with cupcakes from Billy’s Bakery. Together we looked on with our mouths full as the topless man laundered in the distance.

Sensing the irony of the situation I decided “I’m happy as a clam” out loud, prompting Jason to counter that clams probably aren’t very happy at all. There we sat on a sun-drenched bench in the middle of Manhattan contemplating the emotional state of bivalves. Then I thought, “There’s too much frosting on this cake.” So I let the excess icing melt to the ground and moved aside for a sharp-eyed pigeon who flitted over to feast on my crumbs. After all, one man’s loss…

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September 7, 2009. cupcakes, Dessert, Madison Square Park, Manhattan. 1 comment.

ELEVEN MADISON PARK : dinner with a side of rent

Hawaiian Prawns Appetizerinterior

The Macaroon Stands AloneEleven Madison ParkAS A FREELANCE RESTAURANT WRITER I’m often asked one of two questions: “How do you stay so tiny?” and “Does restaurant writing pay the bills?”

While my compact size gives me a competitive edge on the 6 train during rush hour, it also means I’m smaller than the average woman (which renders the clothes-buying process a task I generally avoid). More important than bone structure, however, is my zeal for spinning and yoga. I exercise as if I’m preparing for a photo shoot with Megan Fox or about to meet an ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend. Irrational, perhaps, but awfully motivating.

I get squeamish when it comes to money-related questions. Still, I answer truthfully (usually), which backfires more often than you’d think. Generally, strangers assume I’m hoarding an expense account and are pretty disappointed when I say I don’t. Some see me as a walking meal ticket while others think I’m their way into the Wine & Food Festival or at least dessert on the house. After all, why do it if not for free food?

The trick is: I don’t pay rent, which lets me squander a negligible income on…not rent. Bananas, mostly. There are perks to restaurant and travel writing, sure, but you can’t live on comped meals and free hotel rooms alone. The secret of many young rent-paying New York writers are rent-paying parents. And those who don’t have that luxury find other ways, like a “real job”, to keep overhead low.

In the past, I paved my way into different homes with rainbows, unicorns and sunshine. Charm doesn’t always work but, while it does, I substantiate the intangible by treating my rent-paying boyfriend to dinner.

I invited Jason to Eleven Madison Park last night. Dinner was French and unpretentious – as the French often are when they’re not making you feel inferior for not being French. Bruni gave it four stars and, as his review and my photos show, it was a seamless, tastefully done two-hour experience from the pão de queijo (cheesy buns) to the table-side duck-cutting demo (for those who order the duck entree) and, finally, the after-dessert dessert: macaroons. I love macaroons.

I’d never been more pleased to pick up the tab. Yes, it was expensive for the times in which we live, but not for the place in which I stay. Besides, I’m about to paint his walls bright orange for my upcoming non-cooking web series. Get excited.

September 3, 2009. French, Madison Square Park, Manhattan, reservation required. 3 comments.