It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Caity Weaver was both. She is not dead, nor is she a spider, but she is gone now, and that, I think, is cause for a tribute.
To me, the Best Restaurant in New York column was a way of finally getting to experience iconic New York City landmarks that I’d never previously gotten around to visiting (probably because I didn’t have a good enough excuse to get me over the tourist-trap snobbery I carried as an NYC resident for 17 years). BRINY was a way of writing freely without having to worry too much about form and how criticism is supposed to look and function. By reporting my observations of strangers, it was a way of celebrating the joy of humanity, the inherent hilarity our fellow people provide on a consistent basis. It was a way of getting Gawker to pay for my lunches every few weeks. But mostly, it was an elaborate excuse to spend time alone with Caity Weaver.
Everyone who has read her knows that Caity is great. There is no difference between Caity in person and Caity on the page. To read her is to know her and to know her is to love her. She is funny, well-read, and wise. Her presence is an enhancement.
There are friends, and then there are people who help make you better versions of yourself. Caity Weaver did the latter on our shared page. Not only did she edit every BRINY post, she kept me on my toes. Attempting to keep up with her sharp, wildly imaginative mind for our back-and-forth writing method was the most pleasurable of creative challenges. And it was all organic—long before we started publishing them, our private G-chats were similarly flavored and paced. BRINY was a slightly exaggerated, but ultimately accurate indication of how we’d be spending our time anyway, even if we never set foot in a single tourist trap together.
Caity left Gawker, and I hate it. (And this goes for all of my departed co-workers, by the way.) Caity and I will remain friends, and I hope we can even find a way to work together again, but it won’t be in the same way that we did when we were both here. That makes me sad. We had so much fun. I miss her.
The best restaurant in New York is
The Trie Café at the Cloisters
À la carte
Cost, including the “recommended” cost of adult entry to the museum:
I chose the Cloisters as the last-ever BRINY destination because it was on the list of places that Caity and I had planned on visiting were the column (and her time at Gawker) to continue indefinitely. I had wanted to go since my early college days, when I was timid to leave the Village and Washington Heights seemed so inaccessible, it might as well have been on another planet. It’s a good thing that I went alone to this one because Caity, whose sense of direction is approximately that of a blindfolded child who has just been spun around five times and is on her way to whack a piñata, probably would have gotten lost in Fort Tryon Park and perhaps never made it to the Cloisters or out of Washington Heights. (RIP, Caity, thanks for referring to me as “some pig” and saving my life that one time.)
The Cloisters museum has been assembled from architecture mostly dating back to the 12th through the 15th centuries. Not only does it look like a castle, it looks like a castle on a hill. Getting to it requires a considerably steep climb up several stories through Fort Tryon Park and then a circuitous route once atop.
Nearing the museum, I found myself behind a couple on an increasingly narrow path. I consciously slowed my pace beyond what felt comfortable since passing them would be noticeable and probably seem dickish, especially when we both found ourselves waiting in line to buy our tickets just moments later. Things move more deliberately in parks. Greener spaces call for patience. Recalibrating from city pace to park pace is as conscious a process as writing alone in a column you once shared with a partner.
I paid the suggested donation of $25 to enter the Cloisters museum and then was directed downstairs to the mandatory bag check. There, I noticed a sign that said note-taking in pen was prohibited in the museum; pencil was the only writing implement permitted. A pencil is about as useful as a pacifier to me at this point, and it feels like it’s been an equal amount of time since I’ve used either. Here’s a lifehack: Ignore that rule. I avoided taking deliberate notes in the faces of any guards, and in turn, they didn’t hunt me down and make them show what I was using to put letters on the page. Mutual respect.
Because so much of the art at the Cloisters is from medieval times, almost all of it is Christian in nature. Art that old (and older) is always impressive to me in the exact same way: as a triumph over the limited resources people had at the time. It doesn’t move me the way I like art to move me, but it does impress me. My visit was a series of appreciative, mental “Huh”s.
I also couldn’t help but notice the solitude that I went to meditate on was reflected in many of the Cloisters’ offerings.
This is just the spitting image of Caity Weaver, who left the world alone and died for our sins.
This, too, reminded me of Caity. (It should be noted that Caity is not a big fan of healthy eating, so the idea of her holding fruit is kind of a stretch.)
I couldn’t decide if this unicorn featured in perhaps the Cloisters’ most famous collection, Unicorn Tapestries that date back to 1500, represented me or Caity in our current employment states. Or maybe it’s Caity before she left and thus was in Gawker’s captivity. If only she were a pegasus so that she could truly spread her wings now that she’s free.
When I saw this “acrobat” from across the Saint-Guilhem Cloister, I thought, “Finally, a statue I relate to!” even though that makes no sense because I cannot do this (nor can I suck my own dick, which is, I guess what I was referring to in my lie to myself?). Regardless, I had to stifle my laughter at the thought, and the somber atmosphere of the Cloisters made it that much funnier and my laughter harder to contain. For my entire visit there, I spoke in the firm but barely audible tone that you do at funerals, and only when necessary (mostly to thank someone who’d just held the door for me). All the religious imagery made me feel guilty and like I was paying respect. That Jeanette Winterson quote, “Why is the measure of love loss?” popped into my head at one point. (Why didn’t I tell Caity I loved her when I had the chance, before she ascended to her home planet?!) Tonally speaking, the Cloisters was a great place to mourn.
There’s Caity and me, dead and resting. I’m on top :)
This looks like Weird Al.
This Christ was carved out of walrus ivory. I had no idea people carved anything out of walrus ivory or that walrus ivory cleaned up so nice. The “treasury” section of the Cloisters confronted me with my deep love of the aesthetics of ivory. Ivory is gorgeous and looks incredible carved. Poaching is disgusting and I should feel ashamed for even enjoying looking at its product. Exploitation begets beauty and the world is a fucking garbage dump.
After about 45 minutes in the museum, when I couldn’t tolerate gazing at sheets of stained glass for another second, I made my way to the outdoor Trie Café, which is situated around a garden “planted with medieval species to evoke the millefleurs background of medieval tapestries, such as the Unicorn series.” Before ordering my food, I waved to Caity, who was confined to a small pen in the middle of the garden. She had a placid look on her face and didn’t seem to notice me at all.
The Trie Café is a café in the same way that Nescafé is a café. (Nominally!) After being reprimanded by the Trie’s surly worker for attempting to take a “display sandwich” that sat by the register, I purchased a sandwich and a salad (procured by him from some cooler out of my range of vision).
The “Aged New York White Cheddar” comes with sun-dried tomato spread and baby arugula on a French baguette. It tasted cold and like 1st grade. You can see that by “French baguette,” they mean spongey hoagie roll. The arugula didn’t entirely compensate, but it did class the sandwich up a bit and I’m not going to be mad at anything trying to give me aged cheddar, be it my mom’s schoolmarmish next door neighbor or a museum sandwich. This was fine, and I ate all of it.
This was referred to as the “Three Sisters Salad.” It supposedly contained “grilled corn, fava beans, baby zucchini, walnuts, sumac, and sunflower seed vinaigrette,” though the corn was not grilled and I was not clear as to which ingredients were the three sisters, and how the other ones were related. I’m guessing the walnuts, by virtue of their nuts, were not considered sisters, but were they then brothers? Cousins? The sisters’ mother’s hot boyfriend? I’m almost positive that the sunflower seed vinaigrette was actually made with almond butter, and the presence of beans and nuts made the whole thing heartier than your average salad. One bite tasted like a cigarette in the best way possible. I also ate all of this. (A little story-behind-the-story magic for ya: I almost always eat all of everything that’s in front of me.)
The social atmosphere outside was slightly more chatty than it was inside, but still hushed, excepting the couple who sat behind me and spoke loudly in an Eastern European language (let’s say it was Polish). Signs on the tables warned against feeding the birds. The sparrows did seem awfully precocious, coming within just a few feet of where I was sitting to regard me with their kind eyes, moving their tiny heads ever so slightly in a variety of positions to take me all in. Those micro-movements fascinate me. I wonder if bird time feels more drawn out or goes by quicker than human time. I wonder if examining cruel circumstance in bird-sized bites would make it seem that much more enormous, or just easier to swallow.
Soon after finishing my meal, I left the museum. On my way out, I thought about how much my time there would have been enhanced if Caity were there with me, being the witty audio guide that she is as a matter of course, regardless of location. I doubt I would go back to the Cloisters. It’s not a particularly good first date spot (Jesus is watching). It’s not a good place to have an affair (Jesus is watching!). It’s certainly not a good place to bring a doll (Jesus likes being the only doll in the building). But it was an ideal spot to contemplate an old friend, her absence, and what that means to me.
There are a bunch of restaurants in the world, including some in New York City. But in a city of over 24,000 restaurants, how do you find the best? You begin your search in places that are already popular: New York’s hottest tourist destinations. In The Best Restaurant in New York Is, writers Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak attempted to determine the best restaurant in New York. It was the time of Rich’s life.
Previously: The Best Restaurant in New York Is: The Best Restaurant in New York Is: Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar; The Tenement Museum; FAO Schwarz; The Rockefeller Center Ice Rink; The 9/11 Memorial & Museum Café; The Empire State Building; The Macy’s Basement; Wall Street Bath & Spa; El Museo del Barrio; The Williamsburg Urban Outfitters ; The Central Park Boathouse; The Tommy Bahama Store; The Bronx Zoo; The Armani Store;The Crown Cafe at the Statue of Liberty; The Campbell Apartment inside Grand Central; The U.N. Delegates Dining Room;Play at the Museum of Sex; Le Train Bleu inside Bloomingdales; LOX at The Jewish Museum;The American Girl Café
[Top image by Jim Cooke; Pictures by Rich Juzwiak]