There we were, grounded at Newark, watching helplessly as the day’s last flight to Seattle backed out of the jetway. And the situation was about to get worse. The man at the Continental Airlines counter peered deeply into his computer screen and said, “Air traffic control issue, ma’am. It isn’t our responsibility.” He handed me new boarding passes and $30 worth of meal vouchers. The airline was paying for us to spend the night in the terminal.

While I enjoy a good argument as much as the next person, I came to my senses pretty quickly. In short order Charlie had us booked into a nearby hotel, and we were scheming to hop the train to New York and eat ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar. How long had I been salivating over chef David Chang and his myriad ways with pork? Our timing, which had been very bad all day, was now on the upswing: we arrived in the East Village around 10 pm and slid right into a couple of seats at the bar. While we munched happily on steamed buns stuffed with roasted pork belly, I deliberated over every dish on the menu, finally opting for the house ramen with crispy strands of pork shoulder, more belly, pickled vegetables, and a soft- poached egg.

The ramen came in a deep bowl with dark, steaming broth. Oh, sweet Jesus.


Just about then our friend Frank walked into the place — we’d phoned him between the hotel and train station — and greeted us warmly. He said, “The best pasticceria in New York is just around the corner, and it’s still open. But not for much longer. ”

“Seriously? The one with those piles of cookies in the window?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. That one.” Frank, a third-generation Italian-American, was on pins and needles. He glanced at his watch.

We were out the door and over to Veniero’s pasticceria just in time, munching sfogliatelle for dessert. In the end it was one of the more expensive bowls of $16 ramen a person might opt for, once you add in train and cab fare, five hours in a hotel, and an extra night of dog sitting. But I’m almost inclined to say it was worth it. And it was a small, good thing to tuck into those creamy canolis this morning, not so long after we reached cruising altitude.