I Had A Kinder, Gentler Memorial Day Food Adventure: How About You?

We drove back home from the Cape on Sunday, and my rental car wasn't due back until Tuesday, so I found myself with a car and a window of opportunity for a little food adventure on Memorial Day afternoon. My son Will and I decided to grab a slice at Sal and Carmine's, the fine sliceria on 102nd and Broadway that doesn't deliver. We walked in, I checked out the slice pie on the counter, and I knew all was right with the world.

A Sal and Carmine's pie is irregularly shaped. It is not round, exactly. It has little notches or indentations around its edges. The crust itself is extremely thin, but it has enough lift to be crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. The cheese is nothing fancy, the sauce is canned, but all I can tell you is that a Sal & Carmine's slice is still a salty, crunchy, cheesy delight, one of the best the city has to offer. It is certainly a top five slice in Manhattan, and is in contention to be a top ten slice city-wide.

Since we were already up on 102nd and Broadway, Absolute Bagels (at 107th Street and Broadway) practically reached out and grabbed me with a set of oversized tongs. I ordered a dozen minis and six regular bagels. I tore off a piece of each as I left the shop, and two bites later I knew that the Thongkriengs, the Thai family that owns Absolute, are still at the top of their game. I had written about them in the Times a few years before, when I discovered that many Thai bagel bakers were carrying on old-world boil and baking bagelmaking traditions. The mini-bagels, especially, were spot on, chewy outside, tender on the inside, kind of like a Sal and Carmine's slice. Makes sense. Bagels and pizza are both bread forms, and all great bread shares those same crunchy, tender characteristics.

Of course once we were in Absolute Bagel territory, Rack & Soul's superlative fried chicken courtesy of one of city's best fried chicken makers, Charles Gabriel, was just two blocks away. But I resisted, as I wanted to show my son my new-found self-control.

I dropped my son off with the bagels, and made my way up Amstserdam to buy a rotisserie chicken at Pio Pio for dinner. A whole chicken cut up is eight bucks, which seems reasonable considering it's coming out of a restaurant kitchen. The skin was crunchy and salty, the green sauce very spicy, and if the white meat hadn't been dry, Pio Pio's chicken would have been perfect.

I called me wife and offered to pick her up at her mom's on the East Side. This of course gave me an opportunity to try some sorbet at Eli's Manhattan. Eli's makes very good ice cream and sorbet at typically stratospheric Eli Zabar prices, and yet he is rarely cited in New York ice cream stories. I had a small cup of half apricot and half grapefruit, and while the grapefruit was a little too sweet, it still had plenty of citrus tang. The apricot was stellar, made from ripe apricots (which are in season now) and little else. It was $4.00 for a small cup, which is in Grom-like territory (Grom's small cup is $4.25), but there was no line and it was certainly in the same league, quality-wise.

I then attempted to return the car. One of the Hertz guys came into the office where I was handing in my contract to tell me that Hertz was going to charge me $100 to clean up the dog hair my beagle Brass had left all over the seats. He pointed to a sign informing me and every other Hertz customer of this new, week-old policy. I still had a few hours to return the car, so I told them I was taking the car back and would clean it myself. I was outraged, though I must admit Brass had been shedding like crazy all over Hertz cars for years.

Of course I had no dustbuster at our apartment, so I took the car out of the Hertz garage and headed to Zabar's Upstairs Housewares Department. There I found a $19.95 Car-only Dustbuster. Who knew they made such a thing? The added bonus of buying the Dustbuster at Zabar's? I got to try Zabar's tart frozen yogurt called Z something. It was Zabar's answer to Pinkberry, and at $2.50 for a large cup it was a good deal. I ordered a small strawberry, and though it didn't have much strawberry flavor it was plenty creamy and nice and tart. The dustbuster plugged right into the car's lighter slot, and five minutes later there was no sign of Brass in the car.

I returned the car to Hertz, feeling triumphant (I had saved $80) and full. Not a bad way to end a Memorial Day weekend.

Sal and Carmine's 2671 Broadway (bet. 101 and 102nd Sts.) New York, NY 10025 Ph: 212-663-7651

Absolute Bagels 2788 Broadway (bet. 107th and 108th Sts.) New York, NY 10025 Ph:212-932-2052

Pio Pio 702 Amsterdam Ave. (92nd St.) New York, NY 10025 Ph: 212-665-3000 Eli's Marketplace 1411 Third Avenue (bet. 80th and 81st Sts) New York, NY Ph:

Zabar's 2245 Broadway (bet. 80th and 81st Sts.) New York, NY 10024 Ph: 212-787-2000