Meanwhile back in New York, it was time for another dinner with a blogger. Well, it was time three months ago when this actually happened. Our appointment on that breezy September evening was with Beck of Not A Fat Opera Singer.
Beck is the Queen of Planning. We had been emailing for weeks beforehand, trying to decide where to meet. Or more accurately, where to eat. She had suggestions for every borough and every cuisine, and it all sounded good. In the end I suggested we go somewhere that was special to her, so I could get a good stickybeak into the Life of Beck.
I was a little nervous as Dr G and I headed to Union Square for our rendezvous. I'd never met an opera singer before, let alone a redheaded opera singer. How do you talk to an opera singer? Would she greet us in song?
She chose a traditional "hello" instead, and was not wearing a horned helmet. She was also tiny, thus destroying the last of my opera singer stereotypes. The three of us jumped on the subway and chatted merrily all the way to Bayridge, Brooklyn, one of Beck's old neighbourhoods.
Our first stop was a wee Italian bakery where Beck purchased some of these crazy tri-colour cookies that she'd been telling me about, for our dessert later on. This was my first American Bakery Experience. I was amazed that you can buy items by the pound. So instead of saying, "Two cookies please. No! Three. I mean, ten!", you have say you want half a pound or whatnot. Then they put the goods in a little white box and tie it with red string! That charmed my pants right off.
That weigh-and-pay system would take some getting used to. So much mathematics involved! You'd have to decide if a particular cake looked dense or fudgy, and was that frosting whipped or heavy? How substantial are those chocolate chips? Etcetera, etcetera.
My only experience of orchestra drivers was the recent BBC reality show Maestro, in which celebrities had to learn this fine art including Blur's Alex James. It looked like a bloody difficult thing to do, so it was good opportunity to quiz a real live Maestro about his profession as we ate a delicious dinner at Beck's favourite Indian restaurant. Really profound questions like, "Do you have a favourite stick?"
Seriously though, Beck and Carmine were two of the most deliciously interesting people I've ever met. Dr G and I grilled them with nerdy questions about how voices work and how the hell you conduct orchestras and why opera singers aren't so large these days. Television, that's why. Bloody television.
After dinner we walked for miles in the beautiful evening, over to the bay and down to the Verrazano Bridge, which I'd previously only known as The Bridge From Saturday Night Fever. We then walked down a really long street that I can't remember the name of, but being New York it was probably named after a number. It was full of shops with amazing old school fonts on the signage. And there was one shop with dresses in the window, and Beck and I said at practically the same time, "That dress is so my colour!" Holy fellowship of the redhead, Batman. (Although Beck pronounced it color.)
Finally we wound up in a coffee shop, in which Gareth was completely bedazzled by the fifty varieties of coffee on offer. "Can I just get… coffee?"
Beck sneakily distributed chunks of tri-color cookie under the table. The cookie was more of a cake; almond-flavoured and so very tasty.
ETA: Serendipity! Smitten Kitchen has a recipe today for homemade seven-layer-cookies, tri-color cookies, whatever ya want to call 'em!
Alas, soon it was time to head back to Manhattan. The four of us piled back onto the subway and gabbed the whole way, with Beck remembering at the last minute, "PHOTO!" We arranged ourselves around a pole and The Maestro took about twenty million shots.
Dudes, I feel misty-eyed just looking at these pics. Beck is such a good egg and likewise the charming Maestro. I wish they lived closer so I could go see Beck sing and Carmine wield his baton, although there's not much call for opera singers and maestros in our wee town. We do have a Carnegie Hall but we don't have red-string bakeries or a subway. There is a regular bus to Tesco, however.
Thank you again Beck for showing us your 'hood. I really hope we make it back someday 🙂