Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

"Roses are red, Violets are blue, give her a cookie and she'll love you!"

Dear Postcards from New York Reader,

Last week I ran into Eli's on the Upper East Side to grab a fresh baguette for a friend and I to enjoy on our afternoon walk around the city. It's been awhile since I walked the aisles of this gourmet paradise. My pace slowed the minute I entered the store. First, I stopped to examine all the wonderful cheeses; then, the absolutely beautiful produce made me daydream about meals that I would have to come back to shop for at Eli's.

As I reached for the baguette, a juicy Milanese style chicken cutlet called me from the prepared food case; it would make a succulent complement to the fresh bread-- so into my basket it went.

When I turned to head for the check out counter, a display of large heart shaped shortbread butter cookies, lined up like uniformed soldiers covered with decorations and the most inviting red icing, caught my eye. They made me pause a moment and read the terms of endearment scrolled across them in white icing accented with flower designs, and then...I was no longer in Eli's but in my Oma's kitchen, six years old, with a Dutch boy haircut, wearing gray flannel pants and an argyle sweater vest over a snap-buttoned blue shirt a la 1976.

To protect my finery, Oma wrapped me in one of her over-the-top flower-covered aprons by Vera; these aprons and placemats were printed with the designer's signature in a thick Sharpie style ink - Vera. For years, I thought my grandmother was using someone else's aprons, tablecloths and placemats; until one year, I suggested to my mother that we should buy Oma her own, so she could give these back to her friend Vera, and my mom explained that Vera was a "designer."

Back to my cookie recollection, it was my Saturday with Oma before St. Valentine's Day, and we were making heart-shaped shortbread butter cookies for me to give to my classmates; I can almost smell the ice-cold butter mixed with vanilla and the promise the thickening dough held.

The best part, was decorating the cookies with thick red icing and piping white icing love notes on top. Oma and I sang while we decorated " roses are red, violets are blue, give her a cookie and she'll love you." Until that moment at Eli's, I had forgotten all about that marvelous day making cookies with my grandmother. My cookies weren't as perfect as the ones waiting for homes at Eli's, but my memory taste buds, tell me they taste just as good.

So treat your loved one or just treat yourself to one of these delightful cookies; it can be the perfect dessert to end a romantic dinner you select from Eli's prepared food section.

February 14th St. Valentine's Feast Day

Two 3rd century martyrs named Valentinus, one a Roman priest the other Bishop of Terni, are recorded for this feast day and may be the same person. During the reign of Emperor Claudius II, a Roman priest, Valentinus, was arrested and imprisoned for marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians being persecuted at the time. When Valentinus attempted to convert the Emperor, he was condemned to death and later beheaded.

St. Valentine is the patron saint of lovers, the betrothed and epileptics.

Mmm! So-o good.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Joseph Knight
For Postcards from New York

Address to Remember: Eli's Manhattan, 1411 Third Ave. (corner of 80th St.), New York, NY 10028, 212-717-8100,

Directions: From Times Square MTA 7 or S to Grand Central, then 4, 5, 6 to 86th St., walk east to Third Avenue and north to 80th St.

Photos by Joseph Knight

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