Week 16: Getaways and Grilled Cheese

It’s hard not to personify New York City. We often speak of the city as if it were a fellow human we had an intimate relationship with: New York is our cruel master, our shrewd lover, our needy child who takes all our damn money. As Nathan W. Pyle put it, “New York pulls you in and embraces you even while punching you in the face.”

Often, you hear the phrase: “I need to get away from New York for a weekend,” as if the city were a demanding spouse and you were gallivanting off to the country for a torrid love affair. And so people leave. They escape upstate for hiking and verdant fields, shuffle off to Long Island and Connecticut for ritzy summer homes, run away to Jersey if they…wait—why do people go to Jersey, again?

Last weekend in particular, with the one-two punch of Easter-Passover, there seemed a mass exodus, a necessary departure from the towering skyscrapers and cantankerous streets. I too was part of this getaway, Western Mass my destination, seeking family and rural air to screw my head on straight and to gain a respite from the city. But, whilst off in the pleasant country land, I got to contemplating. It was not long before I missed my dear city, and the break had done its trick.

Having been here the better part of a year now, I am no longer the love-stricken seventeen-year-old boy, awed by the bright lights, the fast pace, the Union Square drag queens and the hot pastrami sandwiches (although, if I’m being honest, the pastrami gets me every time). I still love this city, there is no question, although now, sometimes it feels like it’s becoming my entire world. And when couples get like that, it’s some scary shit.

As such, I’ve discovered the occasional escape is necessary, so that the city feels part of me and not a jail around me. But living, working, sleeping, and eating sandwiches here, how can you make a break from this prison of sprawling high-rises and Duane Reade's?

To do this, I believe one must find a way to escape the city within the city. Some achieve this with booze and drugs and women of questionable ethics. Those are all great methods, but for me, something much simpler does the trick.

Scattered throughout Manhattan, there are tiny oases, if you’re willing to look. In between mammoth towers, you can find them; brick laden pavilions with a few marble tables and chairs and a few potted yellow tulips plants. The far wall of each, and the true draw, is a two story-tall waterfall wall, added for simple aesthetic. There is no entrance fee to this grotto, only a first come, first serve, system for the tables. You clean up after yourself the best you can, and the tiny (non-pigeon) birds handle your crumbs. You leave, back to your workday, once you are satisfied.

There’s something about that placid waterfall sound, the birds chirping, and seeing people actually smile in the city, while gathered around tiny tables to grub on street truck fare that takes me away from the city, just long enough that when I re-enter, I’m jonesing for more.

Week 16: Morris Truck

Grilled cheese is sacred. For every cheese-eating kid (and the few brave lactose intolerant ones), sucking down those golden brown wedges on a half-day of school was unquestionable proof in some divine entity above. And while we grow out of many things as we enter adolescence and adulthood, grilled cheese never truly leaves you. There’s something about it, its simple and sexy appeal. Perhaps it’s the gooeyness, an essential quality for any top cheese sandwich.

This last week I spent seeking out the city’s best torta, failing miserably in disappointing taqueria after disappointing taqueria. With little time left to discover a prime sandwich, I had to throw a Hail Mary to the good people of the Midtown food trucks. My gamble paid off. There, on the corner of 52nd and 6th, it awaited me, like some curdled dairy bread angel. There, the legendary Morris Truck.

Named after his great-grandfather who wheeled a produce cart around Russia, Mike Jacober created a hub of grilled cheese on wheels. There are no fancy bells and whistles; such things are unnecessary. There’s nothing worse than being left wondering, in the wake of a postmortem sandwich, where the hell was the cheese?

You will not ask that question at Morris’. The man peddles only quality, honest grilled cheese, because that’s what the people want. It should be no surprise that the gooey factor is through the roof on all of his offerings. If you’re a purist (I am not), then you can go with the classic comprised of only New York Cheddar and New Hampshire Landaff (a unique NH cheese forged by an old-school Welsh recipe). In its simplicity, it is lovely, but the New York Sandwich Project prides itself on its edginess, and as such, went for the more obscure.

My ‘wich of choice was known as the Ragin’ Cajun, infused with andouille sausage and pickled serranos, along with a spicy remoulade sauce. And the choice of cheese for this glorious creation? Raclette (no, I’d never had it before either, but it’s bomb).

This is the game at Morris’ though. Minimal, interesting ingredients. The Gouda is made with apple butter and fat back bacon. The Delicate Cheese features truffle butter and caramelized shallots. There is something profound going on here. Something profound and cheesy.  

He also slangs quite delicious spicy tomato bisque (the Robin to the grilled cheese’s Batman) and a slew of homemade sodas.

And, it was the perfect meal to sneak off to my water wall alcove, to consume in my escape from the city. For gourmet grilled cheese on wheels, groove over to Morris’.