Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wherein My Mother Says, "PUT THAT BACK IN!"

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When I was a kid, mom took me to Rumpelmeyers in New York. The magnitude of this experience can only be appreciated if you lived in a household ruled by broiled tempeh and a myriad of seaweed products, as I did. Not a sweet treat to be found. I was raised in a macrobiotic dungeon and dreamt non-stop of sugar.  

When we traveled to my parent's place on the upper west side, mom and I would embark upon adventures in the big city, walking past Lincoln Center towards Columbus Circle and then diving into the beauty of the park. Once, on such a lovely stroll, we happened upon a man pleasuring himself on a prominent hilltop, Shake Spear in the Park, if you will. All the natives walked by unfazed. My mother, however, marched up the hill and scolded him with her commanding German accent, “You stop that! Put that back in!”

Victorious in breaking the romantic mood, my mother took me directly to Rumpelmeyers, the cradle of confectionary civilization. Smart woman that she was, she knew the healing power that pink chintz and an old-fashioned ice cream soda could have on a girl scarred by the spectacle of a homeless gent manhandling his member in public.

Years later, a grown woman working in Hollywood and filming a movie in NYC, I found myself in a laborious production meeting in a vacant storefront. Bored out of my skull, I focused on my sad surroundings. I shouldn’t have. They hadn’t bothered clearing out the white, wrought iron filigreed chairs. The cream and pink wallpaper still clung, just barely. And the chintz window treatments suffered the indignity of framing windows boarded by plywood. In shock, I muttered under my breath, "For f*ck's sake, this is Rumpelmeyers." There was no succor to be found in that space anymore, just heartbreak.

Thankfully, I’ve since found a replacement. On the upper east side, nestled in a small gem of a museum called the Neue Gallerie, is the Café Sabarsky. This is the Viennese Pastry nirvana the Austrians wish they had. The space is sublime, old world coffee house perfection. The service is silver trayed and Germanic. The desserts exhibit the beauty of a Klimt and possess such beautiful flavors that they have all the healing powers of a Rumpelmeyers ice cream soda, and then some.

So if you ever find yourself in New York and in need of sweet succor, get yourself to Café Sabarsky. Have a slice of Dobos Torte for me.