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New Haven Via New York City

June 26, 2017

Saturday was an interesting day. It was a long day. And a lot of great things happened. Except none of them happened upstate. And nothing went as planned.

The plan was to pop down for the day to visit my grandmother in Great Neck. We were going to pick up some chicken for lunch, and bring it by the house for a late celebration of her birthday. Getting old looks like no fun at all. Once you reach a certain age, things are often touch and go. As it turned out, this visit would have to be rescheduled.

So there I was, with my sister, her partner, and my daughter up in Morningside Heights. We had nothing on the books, and only a few hours to make the most of a gorgeous Saturday.

Naturally, the first thing we needed to do was get dumplings.

My sister had been talking about her neighborhood dumpling shop for years, and for some reason there had just never been the time to pop in for a basket of the XLB she always gushed over.

Because of the neighborhood, I always assumed the place would be some small dingy joint. But La Salle Dumpling Room was totally cute, and a polished NYC take on a dumpling shop. I’m probably biased, but Ala Shanghai still holds the high water mark for its pork soup dumplings. La Salle’s pork and crab were better, with an assertive crab flavor that rocked. Plus, the crab meat was a far less shocking shade of yellow.

Should you ever get to this corner of Manhattan, the big winner was the chicken dumplings in spicy vinaigrette. Dang, I would have been happy skipping everything and just ordering serving after serving of those until no more could slip down my gullet.

But I behaved myself and only had a few. Actually, I couldn’t have eaten any more, because I wanted to try as many different things as I could.

Then it was off to take in some culture at the Met.

Part of me wonders how long it would actually take me to take in just half of the items on display at this phenomenal place. I honestly think it would take a lifetime. Which means I would need two lifetimes to adequately do justice to the museum itself.

However, on these visits to the city, it seems like we’re always on the move.

No time to check out any of the masters. We had an old family friend to meet up with in the park. And it was great to see D.E. and catch up a little bit. It’s a real treat to have Little Miss Fussy meet her grandfather’s childhood friend. Especially since he’s such a sweet guy.

More than anything, he wanted to buy her a milkshake from Shake Shack. So for afternoon snack, that’s what we did.

Summer has got me all mixed up. With these longer days, somehow snack time got pushed back to 5:30pm and Little Miss Fussy drank an entire chocolate shake. That meant she was too full to even split a small dish of cereal milk ice cream with me at Momofuku Milk Bar. I got a taste of it, which was really more than I needed, and picked up a slice of Crack Pie for later.

This was the second time in a week that a late afternoon milkshake foiled my dinner plans.

When looking at the drive from Manhattan to Providence, one thing became very clear. New Haven would be a great place to stop for a bite. Beyond our lack of hunger, there were a couple other problems.

We left the city later than expected, and still wanted to get to Providence before midnight. So, that meant anything that required table service, or really any preparation at all, was out of the question.

The larger problem was that neither of us were hungry for a big meal.

Little Miss Fussy doesn’t really love pizza, so the New Haven Pizza shops were out. I was thinking about Louis’ Lunch for a hamburger, since I’ve never tried it. But when I explained the toast and the absence of ketchup, Little Miss Fussy’s look was somewhere between shock, horror, and incredulity.

Then I remembered the one thing in New Haven that I’ve always looked at with great longing, but never had the chance to ever try. And that is the taco truck village right off the highway by the water.

Huzzah! Was it all brilliant? Certainly not. But I did have a perfectly serviceable al pastor taco, which was virtually free. Those few tasty morsels cost a paltry $1.50. That’s two tortillas, a scoop of meat, chopped onions, chopped cilantro, a wedge of lime, and a few slices of radish.

More than anything, I want to do a taco crawl on this little strip of asphalt, just going down the line trying an al pastor at each. Or maybe I should go with carnitas.

My hope of hope is now that I’ve made the first move, I can convince my cousin to return with me when I’m in that neck of the woods come November. Heck, maybe instead of bringing down meats and cheeses, I can just pick up a few dozen tacos and bring those over to enjoy before the turkey.

What could possibly go wrong.

For those who were wondering, Little Miss Fussy and I did indeed make it into Providence before midnight. So we unwrapped our Crack Pie and savored each sugary, buttery bite. It was a long day, and dammit, we deserved it.

Now, I want to try and make one of these myself. But man, it’s a lot of work.

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