Do You Work Here?
Excuse me, do you work here? is one of those awkward shopping questions. And now it’s actually confusing. The saleswomen at certain Manhattan boutiques have taken to carrying purses on the floor, giving them the appearance of customers.
At the Bottega Veneta store on Madison Avenue, a new staff dress code mandates little braided leather purses with thin straps. Standing on the second floor of the store was Gabriela Beretta, a Uruguayan saleswoman with long hair. “All Bottega!” she said of her uniform. She showed off her bag: “It’s practical. I have a calculator, Chapstick, lipstick. All my little goodies!”
Hope Nutter, who works on the first floor, waved a tiny, leopard-skin address book. “Special customers!” she said, and tucked it back into her bag. “The bags are just for the staff, but sometimes, for a special customer, we’ll do a special order. And they’ll wait three months for one!”
At the Fendi store on Fifth Avenue, the staff wears all black. Ribbed turtlenecks and stretchy side-zipper pants. No pockets . And a purse, imprinted with the Fendi logo, slung across the chest by a skinny leather strap. Every female staff member has one. Anna Tagliabue, a 30-year-old redhead from Milan who is stationed behind a table of fur, keeps all sorts of stuff in her little bag. “Pens, cards. Little comb. Locker keys. I have Vaseline for my chapped lips. My little Christ for luck that my general manager gave me.”
So does it work?
“Yes. It brought me luck. Lots of sales.”
“People are always like, ‘ Ummmmm, do you work here? ‘” said saleswoman Amy Miller, 23. “But they’ve totally sold out since we started carrying them.”
The bags cost $295.
Jenny Levinson, a Russian saleswoman with a big diamond ring who keeps “notes about her customers,” doesn’t much like her chic black uniform.
“It’s unhappy,” she said. “Very sad. The uniform of New York.”
Quick Manhattan Recipes
Here are some recipes for meals you can make in a hurry, or else when you’re feeling too lazy to do even the most rudimentary kind of cooking, or else maybe when you’re just so depressed that you can barely get out of the chair–and yet, you’ve got to eat, right? So here are some recipes for tasty meals–tasty enough, anyway–that you can make fast (under one minute).
Go to the refrigerator. See that block of Cracker Barrel cheddar cheese, crusted over at one end? Grab it, fast, get a knife and chop the cheese into hunks (don’t even attempt slices). Eat some of the hunks as you chop the cheese. Now, quick–dive back into the refrigerator, grab whatever bread there is (the heel will do nicely), lay the uneaten cheddar hunks between two pieces of the bread (or else one piece, rudely folded) and eat it up. Beverage: Turn on faucet, stick head under it, suck in the water for all you’re worth. How you feel after: Pretty full, actually.
Fig Newtons and Milk
For a somewhat different mood, go into the cabinet, grab the Fig Newton box, pour a 16-ounce glass of milk and, quick, like this: Take a bite, take a sip, take a bite, take a sip, take a bite, take a sip. Do this until at least 12 of the cookies (or an entire Fig Newton “column”) have disappeared. How you feel after: Burp!
Hummus on Pita With Cranberry Juice
Grab the pita bread, grab the plastic canister of premade hummus (“traditional” style is best). Now, here’s the key. Do not bother trying to split open the pita bread. And do not get a knife out of the drawer. Simply open the hummus container and, with a sweeping motion, apply the hummus to the pita. Then, like an animal, eat it up. You will soon be thirsty. That old bottle of cranberry juice in the back–get it, drink directly from the bottle, allowing some of the juice to dribble down your chin and neck. Continue, irritatedly, to gobble up more hummus and pita. Preparation time: 8 seconds. Eating time: approximately 1 minute 30 seconds.
Nuts and Scotch
Look in the cupboard, see if you have any nuts up there. Pour the nuts into a bowl. Then pour a big glass of Scotch, eight ounces or so. Eat the bowl of nuts while drinking the Scotch as you stand there, alone in your apartment’s sad excuse for a kitchen, gazing out at the one or two windows still lighted in the building across the alleyway and wonder why, in Manhattan of all places, everyone seems to go to bed so goddamn early.
Sushi on Sunday?
A couple of Sundays ago, 30-year-old photographer Roy Tzidon and his girlfriend went out for some tuna rolls at the restaurant Avenue A. “We went out for the nice sushi,” said Mr. Tzidon, speaking from his Lower East Side studio, “and sashimi deluxe. Nice. That’s it, and a nice bottle of sake.”
After dinner, they strolled over to Deanna’s on Rivington Street to catch a jazz show–and that’s when it hit them.
“Two glasses of wine later, and at the same moment we’re both, like, fighting for the same bathroom at Deanna’s jazz show … which was pretty embarrassing. They’re trying to close the place down and we’re both, like, hugging bowls.”
Mr. Tzidon called the restaurant the next day. “I was like, you know, ‘Just to be fair with you guys, you’re not trying to poison me, but you have a lot of bad fish there.’ And I told the guy exactly what I ate. And the guy was like, ‘You can’t get your money back, because it’s a charge card … but you can get credit to come eat again,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not sure I want to eat your fish again.'”
What Mr. Tzidon experienced after his meal gives some heft to a classic New York culinary fear: Sunday sushi-phobia.
“I’ve always heard that you don’t eat any seafood on Monday or Sunday,” said Richard Saja, a 34-year-old advertising art director whose brother is a chef. “Because supposedly it’s not fresh.”
Mr. Saja had a Sunday-night story of his own: “I had dinner at an Indonesian restaurant in Chinatown and I had squid. The consistency was like old gum. It was really bad. You would bite in and it would give a little, but then just sort of turn to mush.”
Peggy Kauh, a 24-year-old Columbia graduate student, said her Korean-born parents–who often prepare sashimi at home–feel the same way. “My parents won’t eat it on a Sunday, because of the fact that all the fish markets are closed and they think it’s bad.” (Ms. Kauh herself is more of a skeptic. “What’s the big deal? It’s never really fresh, anyway,” she said.)
There’s no Federal Express or mail delivery on Sundays. And the Fulton Fish Market, Manhattan’s most famous seafood source, is shuttered all weekend. But sushi wholesalers say such hitches don’t stop them.
“We deliver seven days a week,” said Erica Slavin of M. Slavin & Sons, a fish wholesaler in Brooklyn.
As for the no-fish-on-Sunday rumor, she said, “Fish is caught seven days a week, so there really is no basis to that. Sure, a lot of customers won’t order as much, or they’ll cover themselves on Friday for Saturday and Sunday. But actually Saturday is one of our biggest delivery days.”
Ms. Slavin added that sushi can be stored, at between 36 and 38 degrees, for up to five days.
“Your Japanese deliveries, the fish from Japan, don’t come in on Sundays,” conceded Chris Johnson, manager of the East Village restaurant Bond Street. “But that doesn’t mean that you’re not getting fresh fish. So when people say, ‘Oh, don’t eat the sushi on Sunday,’ I would direct that more towards [the fact] that there’s a lower availability of the specialty fish that you’re getting.”
Raymond Li, manager of Japonica on University Place, said having fresh fish is a matter of supply and demand. “On Sunday we’re still busy,” he said. “Depends how’s the business. Some restaurants, if they’re not busy, they keep the fish around for days.”
Contacted for comment, Mana Premanna, a manager at Avenue A, had a few words for his restaurant’s detractors (only two of whom have complained to him in five years, he said): “Last night, I go to eat at Michael Jordan’s. I get back, I get sick all night! I’m never complaining. My stomach bad. I go to the bathroom two, three times, I don’t know. Maybe I eat too much! I had steak. I never called to complain. Maybe my body’s not used to it. Whatever. You know, once in a while, you’re gonna get sick.”