Fashion Week excitement was the tip of the iceberg for actress Alison Brie last week. Her visit coincided with the premiere of NBC’s new show Community, in which she plays high-strung Annie, an overachieving student. It’s a considerable shift from her role as composed wife Trudy Campbell on Mad Men, which went on to win three Emmys on Sunday, including Best Drama. Until shooting for the current season of Mad Men wrapped this month, Brie was filming both roles in tandem, but “the sets are so different, it was easy not to get confused,” she assures. Switching coasts, she swapped L.A. eating habits for her New York Diet, which found her mixing coffee and late-night dinners with Community press ops and fashion parties at GoldBar.
Wednesday, September 16
I took a red-eye out of L.A. on Tuesday and arrived Wednesday at 7 a.m. and had a soy latte from Peet’s Coffee at JFK. A disclaimer: This really is the New York Grub diet for me — I find it so different from what I eat when I’m in L.A., because of the energy of the city and being on the go. I don’t normally drink coffee at all. Getting three hours of sleep on the redeye didn’t help, but there’s something about New York that makes it feel right. You’ll notice that it happened every day on the trip.
We went straight into meetings, meetings, meetings, so at noon, I had my late breakfast: a Naked Juice Superfood drink from Starbucks. It’s like a big green drink. I think greens are the most important thing to have.
At 3 p.m. I went over to the Milly show, and after that I went to the VIP lounge catered by ’wichcraft. I’ve been to Craft Bar in L.A., and Craft, the restaurant. Any incarnation of Craft is really good. My favorite thing I had Wednesday was poached pears with Manchego cheese and pecans.
Then at 8 p.m. we ended up down by the San Gennaro Festival, and so we went into Parigot. I had the beet and mâche salad, tuna tartare, French onion soup, and a glass of Pinot Noir. It was sort of a weird meal to have in Little Italy. It was fine but the atmosphere was strange because the San Gennaro festival was going on outside, which I’ve never seen before in New York. There were a lot of loud concerts going on that were interesting, but it was the end of a long day and we wanted to sit down, so we didn’t go for food off the street.
Then I went to GoldBar. I didn’t have any food, but I did have some cocktails. It was the after party for Timo Weiland’s 2010 line for men and women. They were celebrating with a signature cocktail that was vodka and cranberry and something.
Thursday, September 17
At 8 a.m., I started out at Starbucks again with a soy latte, and then at noon I had a banana in the car. The studio sent some cars to send me from meeting to meeting because it was very hectic. It was our driver, Freddie, who gave us a tour down to the San Gennaro Festival because he was really into it. He was like, “You have to come down here!” He got us submersed in the festival; I didn’t mind that at all.
I was in the Condé Nast building at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday in between meetings with Vanity Fair and GQ, and I went to the Condé Nast cafeteria, which was very nice. They told us we could go in and I thought it was open to the public, but it wasn’t. So luckily somebody from Vanity Fair who I’d just met sprung for my lunch, which is good because I’d already loaded up on the salad bar. It was just a guy from the office who recognized me. My savior. I had bok choy with chile peppers, couscous salad with dried cranberries, and heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella that had been baked so the cheese was melted, but it was served cold. That was definitely the best cafeteria meal I’ve ever had. It was very classy. To drink, I had a hot ginger green tea.
At 5 p.m., I grabbed another vanilla latte at Starbucks, and I had a handful of gummi bears from my publicist’s backpack. Not the healthiest snack, but it would do. In L.A., I’m big on “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” I feel like my meals in L.A. are always much earlier, but in New York I’m always skipping breakfast. And everyone seems to eat dinner much later, so lunch would get later, and dinner would get later.
We ended up going to the Project Runway party for Fashion Week and then I went over to Fox and did their Red Eye show, so it was a glass of Champagne and lots of water for me until 11 p.m., when I got back to the Hudson. I went next door and got a big salad from the EuroPan Deli Café on the corner and it was GREAT. It was all fresh ingredients, and they made it for you. I kind of went crazy at the deli — I was like, “so many options, I’ll get them all!” I had spinach, beets, olives, cucumbers, sun-dried tomatoes, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, corn, peas, spicy grilled chicken, and sunflower seeds, topped with a little balsamic vinaigrette. It totally hit the spot after a long day.
We have delis in L.A., but everything is just more immediate here. In L.A., it is more of a “to-do” to go in and park somewhere, and if you see some place that you can just pop into, it might not have the freshest ingredients. If I’m doing a salad bar, I’m going to Whole Foods. There’s not just a chain of amazing delis in L.A. — it is something I appreciate when I’m in the city.
Friday, September 18
7 a.m., I had green tea with honey and a glass of water with Emergen-C, and a couple of glasses of orange juice at the hotel.
After that, at 11 a.m., I had a fruit-and-nut bar in the car.
At 2:30 p.m., I grabbed a soy latte from Starbucks, and at 4:30 p.m. I had my Naked Juice Super Food drink.
At 7 p.m. we had dinner at SHO Shaun Hergatt restaurant. This was just the highlight of my dining experience in New York. Thursday the show had premiered and I was excited to celebrate that with some good friends from college, and my publicist, who is a friend of mine. We wanted to go somewhere nice, and from start to finish it was decadent, surprising, and exciting. They started it with a canapé, which was a mix of little bite-sized things: something with duck, something with goat cheese. And for my appetizer, I had the handpicked peekytoe crab with some gelée and Santa Barbara uni. It was almost like they were laid out like sushi: Three little mounds on the plate with the gelée on top, it almost looked like melted cheese on top, but it wasn’t. And it was so good. I eat a lot of sushi in L.A., and first you can tell the difference between imitation crab and real crab, and then you can tell the difference between good crab and bad crab. This was the most fresh crab I’ve ever tasted.
For my entrée, I had the slow-poached halibut with silky celeriac, white asparagus, and white truffles. They said this was one of the chef’s specialties. It’s like a piece of halibut on top of maybe three pieces of white asparagus with a celery-and-truffle cream on top, that is just the length of the halibut. It was sensory overload, my whole body felt so relaxed while eating it. I also got to taste the River and Glenn rabbit loins. My friend was like, “Oh, I got the rabbit, do you want a taste?” Then I looked back at the menu later to see what it was and read the description and was like, “Oh jeez.” I don’t eat red meat and I don’t eat pork. It was not something that I would have ordered, but it turned out to be the standout dish of the night. Everyone at the table was going crazy for it. They prepare it with cocoa beans, parsnips, and a bit of cinnamon. And the meat, the way it was cooked with the loin forever, it melted in your mouth; it was so good.
It was like a five-course meal … we were celebrating! For dessert, we ordered a couple of things, but then they brought a selection of chocolates and petits fours. My favorite thing was this chocolate ball with caramel and truffle inside. I could eat a box of them. Every taste bud is perking up. They actually did give me some to take home. They gave me a box with a few of them, and I was so excited later that night to eat a few more.
Saturday, September 19
Saturday morning, I got to sleep in because it was my day off. I was up at 10 a.m. and I had a soy chai latte from Starbucks and a cashew-cookie Larabar, which is my favorite kind of Larabar.
At 2 p.m., I met up with friends for lunch at Union Square Café and I had the Yellowfin-tuna burger with ginger-mustard glaze, grilled red onions, and creamy cabbage slaw. Since I don’t eat red meat, it is nice to find a burger option that is not turkey. I like a good turkey burger, but I go crazy for fish, and this was really good lunchtime food. The first two days in New York my body was adjusting to the time difference and I didn’t have time to sit down and have a good meal really until dinnertime. To drink, just water with no ice — that’s how I roll.
At 5 p.m., I had a snack. My friend got a new juicer and, again, something that’s great in New York is just fruit stands. We bought some bananas, strawberries, apples, oranges, and a grapefruit and juiced it up! Well, you can’t really juice a banana … we learned that after attempting to juice it. We were left with a little banana essence, but not a lot of juice.
At 9 p.m., we had a home-cooked meal. We made a green salad with tomatoes and homemade Dijon-mustard dressing, and had some Brie cheese on baguette. They like to do that. It’s college friends who live in New York (though we went to college in California). They made penne with fresh vegetables, an olive-oil drizzle, and cracked pepper. We paired it with a Riesling — it was delicious.
Sunday, September 20
Sunday at 8 a.m. I had my final soy latte at Peet’s at the airport. It was a nice bookend to the trip, and then I got on the plane and left.
I was on the plane for five hours. I had another Larabar, coconut. And then when I got home, I went and got Thai food from Patakan, which is in South Pasadena where I live. I felt like I was a little under the weather from my trip, so I got some spicy Tom Yum Goong soup, which is my go-to remedy when I feel a cold coming on. It’s like a spicy shrimp-and-mushroom soup. I also got my favorite dish from there. Pad Kapraw eggplant, an eggplant-and-tofu dish with basil leaves, garlic, and crushed chili. You put that over brown rice — that was really good. But I think the soup was a lifesaver; my voice is a little hoarse, but I dodged the bullet. I ended up eating that at 2:30 or 3 p.m., and then my boyfriend baked some chocolate-chip cookies for me around 5. I had some with a little glass of vanilla soy.
He made them from scratch using my recipe: Chewy! With walnuts. Since I’ve stopped baking because I’m so busy and he still wants chocolate-chip cookies, he’s taken to baking them. I was so wiped out, I was like, “sure you can go ahead and do it.” They’re your standard Betty Crocker chocolate-chip cookies.
I watched about half of the Emmys before I went to bed. I didn’t go to after-parties because I had to be on set at 5 a.m. for Community. And I put off celebrating for our wrap party Thursday at the J lounge with everybody else. I TiVoed the show, but I saw that we won before I went to bed. I follow AMC on Twitter, and my friends in New York texted me congratulations, and I sent texts to Matt Weiner. I thought I could go to bed because I know what’s going to happen. Oh! Before I went to bed I had a little bit of Kraft macaroni and cheese that my boyfriend had made. You can see that he eats really well when I’m gone.