Urban Cowboy

Wait folks don’t shut the door on this story yet! I’m sure you’re thinking from the title that this is going to be a bad movie with John Travolta. No, this is a real life adventure in a city where my kind is near extinction. New York City.

Shannon and I had to go up to the Big Apple last week for some meetings for our upcoming cookbook. It all started with an early mission to find some coffee. I decided to take a survey in my travels to the coffee shop to say good morning to 100 people and see how many responded. I walked about 20 blocks, spoke, tipped my hat and even waved at some folks going down the street. I did get some waves (but not the good kind you’re thinking), but mostly they just looked at me like I was carrying leprosy. No reply from the concrete marathon walkers. I continued on to a nice little coffee shop where I paid for a $8 cup of regular joe and went back to the hotel where Shannon was.

After our meetings we found a sushi place for supper. Yes you heard me right, raw fish. I do love some good sushi. It’s one of those meals where you ain’t got to build a fire to cook it which has always appealed to me in my line of business. However, our sushi experience was a little disappointing. It looked fancy, but you just can’t get full on fancy.

NYC pizza

NYC pizza

So after that fiasco we headed out again in the evening’s fading light and I had time to take in the skyline of this busy city. And you know, it was sort of breathtaking for a cowboy who is used to tumbleweeds and mesquite trees. Hidden in all the concrete and steel is beauty. The tops of buildings are covered with masterful and gothic ornate concrete work. It leaves you a little in awe to think it was created so many years ago. We were walking around long enough that I go a crick in my neck from looking up. But like a feller told me once on a ranch, “You got to look up and around to see the sights not just straight down the cow trail.”

The sushi had petered out by now and my stomach was grumbling. We stopped by one of those famous sidewalk pizza shops. I’ll tell you my $1.50 slice of pizza was far better than the $70 sit-down meal and it came with a great view.

From all the walking, my dogs were barking so we decided to hail a cab. With as many as there are honking and screaming and driving down the road you would think you could get one in instant, but I thought we were going to have to rope and drag one to the curb to get a ride. We got to back to the hotel and I was ready for a quite night.

Shortly after the lights were out was when all the hollering commenced. Our hotel was near Madison Square Garden and when those folks opened the gate after the hockey game – let’s just say there was more racket than a church nursery on Easter Sunday with no bottle in sight!

It was a short night but sleep is over rated and we looked forward to our next day’s adventures. Our two times visiting NYC before was hectic and cold so we didn’t get out too much. Since we had a little more time and good weather we decided to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

9/11 memorial museum

9/11 Memorial Water Fall

Tears and silence fell through my body as I looked over the two massive holes where now water falls flow. I remember where I was when it all happened. I had been in a pasture working cows all day. My mother finally came down where I was at and asked, “Do you know what has happened?” I had been isolated and hadn’t heard anything. I went back up to the house and turned on the T.V. I watched it the rest of the day and all night, barely moving. How could this happen in America?

The museum transported me back to that day. I felt shock, fear and sorrow all over again. I felt just a small part what the families went through that day and the days after.

I left there a better person. I’ve always been a man who didn’t take things for granted but this gave me a whole new perspective on life.  Life is short and uncertain, and it’s not often that we get to walk through a place that not only shows the sorrow but also the pride and resilience of the American people and especially the people of New York City.

Right after the Museum we had dinner reservations with a dear friend, chef Amanda Freitag (Chopped judge), at her Empire Diner in the Chelsea neighborhood. It was so good to see her again and it had been way too long since the Chopped Grill Masters filming. Folks, Amanda is as real and genuine as it gets. She is a kind, hardworking lady and after being able to personally getting to eat her food I can testify she is an equally amazing chef.

kent rollins amanda Freitag

Me and Chef Amanda Freitag

We walked into her diner, which is a step back in time to a retro dining car. It’s a comfortable setting with a neighborhood feel. All the staff were kind and excited. You could tell they enjoyed working there.

 

Creamy Orzo Mac and Cheese

Creamy Orzo Mac and Cheese

We ordered our food and as it came out more kept coming out with it…compliments of the chef. Amanda had us hurting! But we just couldn’t stop! From my previous dining experiences in NYC, I haven’t really been that impressed with the food, but not the case here. Amanda understands good wholesome food. Her menu offered classic diner favorites with a twist. It was excellent and when you go (because you have to) I recommend: the orzo mac and cheese, buffalo skate wings and skirt steak. And just go ahead and hurt yourself on all of the desserts!

The Empire Diner offers food and folk that just makes you feel good.

Click HERE for info on The Empire Diner

After a walk back to the hotel we packed our bags for an early 4 am ride back to the hotel the next morning.

On our way to airport the next morning I came to the realization, this may not be a cowboy kind of place, but this cowboy has a little more culture now – and I don’t mean the kind that grows between your toes. I also have a new admiration for the concrete dwellers and city folks of New York.

It sure isn’t a place for everyone, but I do think it’s a place everyone should see at least once. We’re all just trying to get by in this world the best we can, whether it’s in a city, the suburbs or off the GPS grid. Wherever you are be grateful for what you have and cherish each moment because life goes by like a New York minute.

 

24 thoughts on “Urban Cowboy

  1. Well as your first New Yorker for cooking school, I have to say there is way more to New York State then the big apple. Upstate where I live is really nice especially the Catskills where I own my business. Look me up I’ll give you a tour!

  2. I spent a week in New York City for an education workshop, and every free minute our group had we spent looking at the sights. I agree with you. It is a wonderful experience, but I was glad to get back to Oklahoma at the end of the week. My neck hurt too.

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  4. Kent,,,,I was scrolling down thru and reading your story,,,,but it stopped me cold when I looked at the picture of you with your hat over your heart,,,not many people know the meaning of that in New York,,,,,reminded me of something Roy Rogers or Gus McCrea would do at that time……..made water run out on my face……..thanks for such a nice story and the words about Amanda just confirms what I’ve seen with her on the Food Network,,,,,,stay healthy and live till your 100+ so we can have more good things to read…..thanks again,,,,Bryan C in Idaho

  5. Kent don’t think nothing of them people not waving back. When your pants are four sizes too big without a belt and hanging half way down to your knees you don’t have a free hand to wave.

  6. Kent;

    Thanks for the “guided tour” of NYC. We’ve [the wife and I] have not had the pleasure of going there. Maybe some day.

    I’ve enjoyed this article like all the rest. You have a way of injecting a bit of wit and humor into your dialog that makes for such interesting reading. Please don’t change a thing, keep em coming.

    The best to you and your family Kent. God bless.
    Stan

  7. Hey Kent and Shannon,
    Just wanted to say thanks for sharing this wonderful post. I definitely laughed a few times and was equally touched with the picture of the 9/11 Memorial Water Fall. Looking forward to your new cookbook!
    God Bless you,
    Lisa from Temecula, CA

  8. I really enjoyed this post. Your pictures of the 9/11 Memorial were so moving. I recently watched the Grill Masters Chopped again and kept hoping the final would turn out different this time!

  9. A beautiful story. I love the way you write and from what little I have seen on tv I have a clear picture. Being from Tennessee I have been to NYC once and really have no desire to go back. The exception would be the 9/11 Memorial. God bless you and your family.

  10. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in NYC Kent. Yep, they were about the same as mine. Fortunately I have had the opportunity to get to know a couple of BBQ Brothers up there and always enjoy meeting up with them. In their own way, there are some good folks up there. I’m just a little more partial to Texas. Stay well!

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