The Sliding Doors Effect

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In the movie Sliding Doors*, timing is everything. The story begins when Helen, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, is shown running down a set of stairs to catch the train. For the rest of the film, her life is split into two parallels based on whether she makes it or misses it, which is enough to make you evaluate of all of the coulda, woulda, shouldas in your own life. When life seems to splinter into different storylines, what you're experiencing is The Sliding Doors Effect.

This past weekend, I schlepped back to New York for an old college friend's wedding. My best friend offered up the sleeping alcove in her East Village apartment, which she calls "The Cubby." I hadn't been back since I moved out to California in 2013. Sadly, though, it was to be a very short trip: I was due to arrive on Friday night, and was already departing by early Sunday afternoon, so I thought this trip would be a nice and easy in-and-out.

Our original plan for Friday night looked like this:

 1. Drinks at Virginia's
2. 10 p.m. dinner reservation at Lupa 
3. Go home and go to bed straight-away because...

Saturday's activities looked like this:

1. Early coffee session at Sant Ambroeus Soho
2. Go to an 11:00 a.m. Pilates class
3. Lunch at Pietro Nolita
4. Go back home to get ready for wedding

In regards to Sunday, I'd have just enough time to squeeze in brunch with another friend before scooting off to the airport. 

As you know, nothing ever goes according to plan. What can I say, I was in New York with my best friend! We were bound to stir up some mischief. And, boy, did we! (We ended up staying out until 7:30 a.m. both nights, which was obviously not planned.)

After dropping off my bags at her apartment, we did, in fact, partake in fabulous mezcal cocktails at Virginia's, and were halfway through our casarecce with shortrib ragù at Lupa when occurred to me that I owed someone a visit–an artist friend who I had missed while he was in L.A. last month.

"Do you want to meet my friend?" I asked from across the table while texting him on my phone, "He's really cool." 

"'Kay," she replied, taking a sip of red wine.

And so, at midnight, we landed ourselves at a corner bar on the Lower East Side with two artists. After a round of drinks and introductory chatter, we were spontaneously swept into a cab to go dancing at The Blond. "Let's burn off the pasta!" we screamed to each other as we bopped around the floor. After that, we all stumbled down to my huckleberry friend's gallery in Tribeca and smoked Glamour cigarettes while discussing art and drinking cheap whiskey in plastic cups. At some point, I cried. And then we hung out at an apartment somewhere. Next thing we knew, it was 7:30 a.m. 

It was one hell of a night. 

Needless to say, we missed our morning coffee, Pilates class and lunch the next day. The weather turned cold. Sometime around 2 p.m., we both stood in front of a ramen shop in the East Village, staring at their picture menu with bleary eyes. 

Me: What's the difference between these pictures?

Best friend: I can't tell.

Me: I think it's the egg.

Best friend: (long pause) Yes... Yes, it's definitely the egg.

Me: Is it weird that I want the egg with the non-spicy one but no egg with the spicy one?

Best friend: (glazed eyes)

"Is this normal?" my best friend's husband asked her, "Do you guys stay out until seven in the morning when you visit her in L.A.?"

"No... It's not like that at all," she replied. "We usually just cuddle in bed and tell stories."

Our reality would've turned out completely differently had we taken a taxi home straight after dinner. What a difference a text makes.


*It's an oldie from 1998, but still remains one of my favorites. Gwyneth cut her hair into a modern pixie cut for this film and I thought it looked so chic that I went out to the salon right after I saw it and requested it for myself. I was seventeen.

Aamanns-Copenhagen

AAMANNS-COPENHAGEN

13 Laight Street bet. Sixth Avenue & Varick Street
212.925.1313


Smørrebrød is more than just an "open-faced sandwich". It's sort of like a canapé on steroids, eaten with a knife and fork. Case in point: Look at the pic of the beef tartare smørrebrød above. It's like a miniature sculpture. A thin slice of homemade dark rye serves as the traditional vessel for the quirky onslaught of toppings: fresh beef tartare, studded with tiny crispy potato chips, cornichons, shallot rings, dots of egg emulsion, capers, and a single tarragon leaf. The flavors work together in perfect harmony. You'll find this and other intriguing combinations at Aamanns-Copenhagen, a stylish Danish eatery on the border between TriBeCa and Chinatown. 

It was a lovely place to go for a weekend lunch. The small but airy space has a decidedly minimal Scandinavian feel. Two to three smørrebrød per person is recommended, which leaves you perfectly satisfied. I read somewhere that it takes years of honed skill to become a smørrebrød maker in Denmark, much like it is to become a sushi chef in Japan. If you so desire, you can try and experiment on your own at home. They sell paper-wrapped loaves of freshly baked dark rye bread at $12 each. (I'll have to find out if they sell their fabulous Danish pork pâté too! It is delicious!)

 

Danish Birthday Cake

AAMANNS-COPENHAGEN
3 Laight Street bet. Sixth Avenue & Varick Street
212.925.1313

*Please note that this cake was special ordered.


"American birthday cakes are over-the-top and full of sugar," my Danish boss told me randomly in conversation, "In Denmark, when I was growing up, my mom would bake a traditional Danish birthday cake for me. It was shaped like a man and it would be decorated with licorice and candies." 

It was then that I knew that we had to surprise him with a Danish birthday cake for his birthday. The only problem?  I couldn't find a Danish bakery in Manhattan. One would think that you could find anything here! Thankfully, though, I recalled him mentioning a new Danish restaurant in TriBeca called Aamans-Copenhagen which seemed as good a starting point as any. So, I rang them up.

"Hello, would it be possible for me to order a traditional Danish birthday cake? It's the one that shaped like a man with all the different candies on top... We'd need it by 5 p.m. tomorrow. WHAT?! Oh nooooo... There's not enough time? Sigh. Thank you anyway." 

Don't worry—this story has a happy ending. I called them back.

Turns out, there's another traditional Danish birthday cake that's easier to whip together. It's a two-layered vanilla cake (a thinner, denser, and less sweet version) that is slathered with fresh whipped cream and filled with fresh strawberries. Red and white like their beloved national flag. Actually, it's also decorated with tiny paper Danish flags on toothpicks that are punched into the cake. Yes, they sure do love their flag! The cake has this loose, handmade quality that makes it look super special. 

My boss was shooting that day at Pier 59 Studios. As it wrapped, we wheeled the cake on set, birthday candles lit and all, with three buckets of champagne and bigger Danish flags. Everyone waved their little flag and sang "Happy Birthday." For a man who doesn't easily get surprised, we totally got him.

The cake was heavenly. I think it must've brought back a lot of memories because he had three slices. 

*This cake was special ordered at $8.00 per person. The one pictured above was made for 10 people, but it was definitely plenty for about 15 or 20 who just wanted a taste to take part in the celebration at the end of the day.