How much can you fit into a day? How far can you go past exhausted? Saturday was the day to find the answers to both those questions.

Started the day at Eataly, Mario Batali’s foodie-playground. What can one find there? If it’s an Italian food you’ve ever heard of—or even if you’ve never heard of it—if it’s wonderful you’ll probably find it there. Pastas in shapes I’ve never seen. Chestnut honey. Cases of Italian cheeses.  Cured meats, suckling pigs, jars of amazing, unexpected things. Baked goodies. Two coffee bars and several restaurants. Sign-over-the-paycheck-and-send-one-of-everything-home: That exciting.

Next, the Union Square Farmer’s Market, the largest one in NY, I believe. City blocks contained into a square, overflowing with all things fresh. It’s a space that is an evidence of and a tribute to New Yorkers’ love of anything that’s out-of-New-York, one of the most delightful contradictions of this marvelously contrarian city.

We bought potatoes, broccoli, Brussels spouts—and horseradish jelly. And Art. The southern and eastern peripheries of the Market are devoted to artists. A wonderful print, “Melissa & Alphonse”, was the thing we purchased from the artist, an early Christmas present from Belinda.

That should have been enough for one day. It wasn’t.

We tried to get into Per Se, Thomas Keller’s monument to extraordinary eating on Columbus Circle. Were placed on a cancellations wait-list and never heard from them, so we showed up on the doorstep of Jean Georges, just across the street, an old stomping ground of Belinda and me.

They took us right in. (“We’ve been here about 9,000 times,” I said.  “Welcome for the 9,001st time,” said the smiling woman who ushered us in.)

Jean Georges is an elegantly simple restaurant surrounded on three sides by light from Columbus Circle’s great open space . Tall ceilings. Minimalist décor—the food is the art, here. The potted trees outside cast their faintly Asian-seeming patterns on half drawn shades. The staff is breathtakingly professional.

And the food. Oh my.

The next two-and-a-half hours served up one of the most extraordinary lunches ever. An amuse of oyster mushroom ragout, with sides of a baby beet, and a square of salmon tartare with something spicy that lingered on the tongue. Then (for me) foie gras on brioche, veal scaloppini, and an added course of sweetbreads. For dessert, little bits of chocolate in different flavors, a pumpkin pastry, and fresh marshmallows that were brought on a cart, drawn from a glass decanter and snipped off with a silver scissors. Made a major dent in NY’s champagne supply. One of the most profoundly memorable lunches of my life.

It was at the end of this day that I sat on Belinda’s terrace, going through the moment of profound sensory overload I described in the previous post. Not surprising, no? We smiled a lot that evening. Smiled in that stunned, wordless way of folks who’ve said everything, felt everything, seen everything.

I am exhausted again, just thinking about it. Would I have traded an instant of it? Not for anything. And profound and endless thanks to my partner in crime, the one-and-only Belinda.

For Monday: How the earth caps off an extraordinary four days.

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