When a volley of pink blossoms overtakes Gramercy Tavern and the big, picture-windows on Fifth Avenue begin blushing with brighter, bolder colors; when chefs get grabby for ramps and peas at the Union Square greenmarket, and the walls at casa mono finally swing open to seduce those turning the corner of 17th and Irving with the smell of pork and clams; when asparagus and morels make their vernal debut at Jean-Georges, and the Seussical flock on a field of seersucker and roses at Madison Square Park to lap at a pool of bourbon and mint; when the crowds at Balthazar and Barbuto begin spilling onto the sidewalk, and Central Park fills with rowboats and tourists, I get excited.
New York in May: for eight years, it’s been the only trip that has been permanently affixed to my travel calendar. What began as a weekend jaunt to attend the James Beard Awards nearly a decade ago has, for me, and for the many who find themselves in the city that first weekend of the month, become an annual excuse to visit New York, to see friends who have gathered there from near and far, and to table-hop high and low. Although Monday night at Lincoln Center may be the reason for the season, it’s rarely the highlight, eclipsed by the weekend’s lingering lunches that bleed into a succession of cocktail hours, dinners, and assorted asshattery and hot messery, to which I have learned to give a wide berth.
No other weekend brings the restaurant industry together – the bigwigs and we, the insignificant satellites who trace the periphery, alike – for a city-wide eat-and-drink on this scale. At its best, it’s the greatest culinary social of the year. At the same time, no other weekend does more to commercialize, commoditize, congratulate, and, often, over-congratulate those in the culinary arts. After eight years, cynicism has crept in.
Yet, I go. And for as long as I am able, I will continue going, because no other weekend fills me with as much anticipation and excitement, or comforts with as much familiarity as that weekend.
New York in May: for me, there is and will never be anything like it.