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Mon, Oct. 21

I bought the Brooklyn Bridge - and ate it

Peg Rhodes ate the Brooklyn Bridge – or at least a facsimile of it – on a recent trip to New York City.

Courtesy<p> Peg Rhodes ate the Brooklyn Bridge – or at least a facsimile of it – on a recent trip to New York City.

Living in northern New Jersey across the Hudson River from Manhattan, as we did before coming here 26 years ago, we took our kids to the museums, Central Park, Radio City, Times Square, Bronx Zoo and other wonderful sights (and sites) that attract visitors from all over the world. But, until 9/11, when the whole world watched hundreds of New Yorkers walking across the East River bridges to escape smoke, dust and debris from the Towers, we never thought much about the Brooklyn Bridge. It was "just there."

Recently, while back home for a family wedding, we took the half-hour bus ride into The City, hoping to snag last-minute, cheap theater tickets to "Jersey Boys." Except for scalper "bargains" at $150 each (cash only), fuhgedda-boudit. Then I saw the poster touting the 125th birthday of the Brooklyn Bridge. What a great idea for rescuing the day - a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Thunderstorms were predicted, but when in The Big Apple, you seize the moment.

Subway map in hand, husband and I navigated the A/C/E trains and connections from Midtown to Lower Manhattan, down to (what else?) the Brooklyn Bridge stop. Born in Brooklyn, I rode the subway under the river with my mother to the Fulton Street markets. But to walk over the river from the foot of Manhattan's skyscrapers was to be a wide-eyed kid again.

My goal: to find a café that was reviewed by Rachel Ray. I didn't know the name or where it was, except that it was somewhere under the Bridge. Following a pedestrian incline to the streets below, we wandered toward the water... and there it was - The River Café. A peek at the menu and, wow! Pricey, yes. But it's New York - why not? And the view of Manhattan from any table justified our decision. Besides, just as we sat down, the skies opened up with the predicted thunderstorm.

We settled for wine ($18 a glass) and appetizers ($15 and up). My order: house-smoked rainbow trout with horseradish crust, tender beet and herb salad, trout caviar, sunnyside quail egg. His: Arugula salad, fresh mozzarella, tomato, roasted & grilled eggplant, balsamic vinaigrette. Rather small portions, but we felt satisfied, so we passed on entrees ($25 to $39) because I had my eye on the piece de resistance - the café's signature dessert, aptly named (ta-dah!) Chocolate Marquise Brooklyn Bridge Cake. Oh, my.

This was an exquisitely crafted, indescribably rich, decadent piece of food art - and good enough to eat. A dark chocolate layer topped with a lighter chocolate layer, and on either side ganache (a mixture of chocolate and heavy cream, used for coating or drizzling into forms) shaped like the Brooklyn Bridge expansion. Next to the bridge, a wedge of hazelnut-crusted ice cream (claimed to be Tahitian vanilla) with a slab of chocolate on its side to complete the look of a sailboat.

We shared one, wincing as our forks broke into the masterpiece. But every palate-pleasing, tongue-rolling, prolonged, slowly-savored forkful was worth the $13 price.

Sated, our mental palates imprinted with a permanent photo of the gustatory experience, we were grateful for a nearby subway to take us back across and up to Midtown for our bus.

So the next time someone quips, "Do ya wanna buy a bridge?" I can proudly proclaim that I bought the Brooklyn Bridge.

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