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“Why not?” I thought. So I did.

Thursday: Comfort food
Friday: Graphic!
Saturday: All about men
Sunday: Embracing tomatoes
Monday: Unfinished business

Jump to:
the spaghetti with ketchup story | Sex Museum | eating gluten-free | the Bar Blanc diet | how to lose the Cartoon Caption Contest | on the Campaign Trail | near-misses with Angelina and Gordon | my Colbert report | ex-presidents and Oliver Stone | macaroni and NYPD wieners | magic and mimosas | Claudia Roden’s spice world | MoMA! | the tomato comeback | the perfect sandwich

My train arrived at Penn Station on Thursday, October 2, as the workday was ending for New Yorkers, and my arrival forecasted a difficult weekend. A European school group was loitering in the courtyard of the Chelsea International Hostel on W 20th, with impeccably dressed cliques blocking every unlabeled doorway I could find–the last of which was the check-in office. I forced my way through three statuesque girls idling in the narrow hallway, and the flustered staffperson nonverbally indicated his impatience had nothing to do with me.

I unlocked the door to Room 5 and met Justine and Marie, 40-ish Aussies who were shopping their way through New York as I was eating my way through it, and they seemed relieved that I looked as normal as they were. For the duration of the trip, none of the women who would occupy the remaining beds B, C, and E would be remotely loud, odorous, or suspicious.

Expectations were exceeded in every way thereafter.

I spent most of my northbound train ride researching food writers, chefs, and restaurants of note in New York City. I knew what Ruth Reichl would like like if I saw her, but a Google search of Robert Sietsema images produces only one, in which he’s disguised in a clown cover. Chefs would be fascinating to meet–but they work, especially on weekends. I had read about Per Se and Le Cirque, but their tasting menus were beyond my pocket’s reach.

When I arrived, I knew I wanted to eat something quintessentially New York that didn’t cost much and watch the Vice-Presidential debate. Francis Lam just reviewed “8 Great Noodle Dishes in NYC” in Gourmet and highlighted at Sushi Bar Hagi in a Times Square basement. A photo of the restaurant revealed a television behind the bar. Done deal.

At quarter to nine, there was a half-hour wait for seating, with the mostly-Asian diners in no hurry to get up, but I lucked out and got a corner seat at the bar. I ordered two specials, tempura eel skewer with plum salt and tofu steak with urchin. I messed up. In my enthusiasm, I burned my tongue, which makes me freak out about my taste buds’ effectiveness when travel-eating (though not as much as catching a cold). And I forgot I just don’t like uni. I stayed with authentic Japanese dishes and satisfied my carb craving with an order of udon soup, recklessly splashing broth on my book and sleeves and not particularly caring.

But my mind kept wandering back to the ketchup… so I ordered it. It was amazing—spaghetti tossed with onions, green peppers, and pancetta in a light, sweet tomato sauce that reminded me of spaghetti Os. It was the most perfect comfort food I had never imagined.

Udon with tempura prawns and the tofu steak in the background at Sushi Bar Hagi.

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There it is!

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Good point.

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I spent Friday morning sitting on the sidewalk on W 18th between 6th and 7th, waiting in line at the New Yorker HQ. Ten percent of tickets would be sold there. Both a walking tour of Chinatown with Calvin Trillin and a spice tasting session with Claudia Roden sold out immediately online. I was about 10th in line, and I refused to ask those in front of me what they were purchasing tickets for, so as not to lose hope for either of the foodie events. The wait was cold but warmed by the company of like-minded readers–liberalism was a natural assumption and conversation flowed most easily about the most stigmatized topics in America.

I got my “Spice World” ticket—and one to Steven Colbert’s program while I was at it. And then I went to the Sex Museum.

I went to China’s Sex Culture Museum in Shanghai after two cocktails, a long cab ride with an amused driver, and a longer walk because he ultimately couldn’t find it. The museum is in the Bond, on the bottom floor of what appeared to be a cheap shopping mall. (I drank one more beer through a straw as I rode the escalator down to it, and glad for the lubrication). It took about an hour to get through the six or so display rooms, and the pieces were enlightening—I alternately laughed, squirmed, and twisted my head upside down to mentally untangle body parts. The museum showed intact artifacts of sexual practices, from pleasure to public humiliation, and artworks, hundreds of years old, depicting sex culture. Somewhere not on the internet, I have a photo with a life-size wooden carving of a god of fertility. “Virile” would be an understatement; it is amazing the work does not fall forward.

In the way of sex museums, China: 1, US: 0. Huge waste of $15. It took me only minutes to get through the history of sex in the media, most of which I learned in college (blaxploitation) or could get on Youtube for free (Paris Hilton sex tape)–if I even wanted to.

A manicure was on my To Do list for the day, and I decided to head to the Village. I was hungry—I’d only had half a Lion candy bar, yogurt, and a pre-Sex Museum beer before that point. Walking down Bleecker, my officially favorite New York street, scanning the windows of shops and cafes I passed and searching completely unsuccessfully for neon “NAILS” signs, I found my body involuntarily crossing the threshold into Risotteria—my stomach had officially taken over my brain. My server generously waited for me to scan the small-print filling the front and back of an oversized menu until I blurted out, “Risotto with white truffle oil and parsley!” It was the way I want risotto to be, no cream, no cheese. Only after I asked how the breadsticks were so wonderfully soft, almost gummy, was I told that the café was ultimately gluten-free, from rice flour bread to rice beer.

My first New Yorker program would be at 8pm in Chelsea, and I had pre-selected Bar Blanc through Open Table for its sweetbreads and sterile décor (which, strangely, I go for) before I knew it had been reviewed by the New Yorker in January, and glad for the confirmation that it was, in fact, deserving of one of my 10 coveted meal spots during the trip.

The operation was almost as polished as the white marble bar. I had a glass of probably the oldest Tempranillo I’d yet tasted (2001), and an amuse-bouche and warm bread soon followed. My sweetbread and pork belly “salad” was pleasant—two pieces of each, garnished with two slices of cooked quince. I suspect “salad” was a semantic choice to appeal to people who would not ordinarily order such rich animal parts. Of all of the ways I’ve had sweetbreads prepared, fruit/compote accompaniments are my favorite. Pork belly is hot in New York right now, and I got my fill for the day in those two pieces.

To my right at the table, a woman working on the dregs of a bottle of wine with a vacant male friend began quizzing the young female bartender, an aspiring actress, about her resume. It got annoying when she texted her agent friend at WMA and dangled the connection in front of the bartender. I had a more pleasant couple to my left—long-distance daters between London and New York, together for the weekend. When we started talking about why I was in New York and I mentioned food writing, my notebook was commandeered and filled with restaurant recommendations with reservation line numbers from memory, names of bartenders, house specialties, and whether or not to mention that Kimberly had sent me. The couple and the bartender easily talked me into dessert, panna cotta with watermelon sorbet and watermelon salad.

I must have been a little sauced by the end of the meal, because I don’t remember what kind of panna cotta with watermelon salad was so exciting that I ordered it on a full stomach and ate it all (almond? basil?), nor do I remember the subway ride (assuming I took the subway) to get to festival HQ for the Caption Contest program. Robert Mankoff ran the show, and young Farley Katz, the gentleman a Slate.com “how to win” piece identified as the screener for submissions, assisted. Farley is very cute, with a pointed mustache and beard. I stayed just shy of flirtatious. Hitting on someone who will be famous for being cynical is as terrifying as it is appealing. I did get a doodle out of it. (That sounds so naughty!)

Chelsea’s known for its galleries, and this particular one was right next to the hostel.

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WasteOfMoney

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Eating gluten-free.

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Jackson Square.

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Marc Jacobs window display.

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My favorite street!

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NYU.

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“Salad.”

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Farley.

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Robert.

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Doodle. (I told him I was a foodie.)

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Given that I went to bed at 4:00am after the rest of Friday night, none of which is worth mentioning here and will be pleasantly forgotten, I slept in on Saturday and ate an early lunch at Bocqueria, at the recommendation of Kimberly from Bar Blanc. All that mattered was that it had a brunch menu and was near my first event du jour, the Campaign Trail with Hendrik Hertzberg, Ryan Lizza, and George Packer. I felt like the meal was a total waste when I took the first bite and realized that under the fancy description of Spanish ingredients, I was eating something I cook at home all the time in the form of scrambled Egg Beaters, gorgonzola, onion, and pork sausage. No wonder I thought it sounded good. (Mine is fluffier and not as gray.)

The program was as entertaining as it was informative. Hendrik Hertzberg delivered one-liners from the stage as he does in his writing—he said that at this point in the campaign, John McCain is “down to seeds and stems,” and only about half of us realized the metaphor and it took us a second or two before we erupted in laughter. Of our government, which he calls “a machine,” “Rik” said, “it’s an 18th century gadget that was cutting-edge in 1789.” Ryan Lizza is surprisingly young, and he looked alternately excited and uncomfortable—I was watching someone with an active and colorful thought process. George Packer was more dry in his remarks, but he was blunt about what he experienced in the south: racism. I thought, “There, someone said it.”

The most enlightening insights the three offered were about the candidates’ personalities. We got to hear the only known story about Obama crying since he announced his run—he was practicing his speech for the Democratic National Convention with his aides, and when he got to a part where he makes an allusion to Martin Luther King, Jr., he had to stop and leave the room. George described Obama as “constitutionally incapable” of doing anything erratic or spontaneous, and Rik used the words “serenity” and “stillness” to describe him. It was obvious who each of the writers would choose as their president, and there was a quiet confidence on the stage and in the audience.

Looking like an idiot in skinny jeans and boots—I had brought only two pairs of shoes to force me to buy more in the city—I took off for 14th Street shopping. I jumped on the Minnetonka loafer trend and picked up a pair of Vans slip-ons with a crossword puzzle design on clearance. I happened across a farmer’s market and an antique market. And it was a beautiful day.

En route back to the hostel, hungry for a late lunch, I picked up a near-perfect meal to eat at a picnic table in the courtyard in the sun—a gyro from a street cart and a Negro Modelo.

I dropped off my shoes and made my plans for the late afternoon, with just over two hours to kill before Stephen Colbert would talk at a cathedral in Hell’s Kitchen. I proceeded to walk uptown along Broadway to the London at Gordon Ramsey for a glass of wine. I enjoyed a “moment” at Rockefeller Plaza, turned the corner, and found myself on the opposite side of the street of a red carpet premiere set-up for The Changeling, Clint Eastwood’s new flick starring Angelina Jolie. Fans were pressed against metal gates, waiting for a glimpse. Disinterested (but not above taking a photo), I pressed on and had a disappointing moment when I saw the London’s exterior, and then again when I saw the interior. Restrooms notwithstanding, it’s indistinguishable from any stuffy restaurant. After tasting a 1999 Tempranillo and beating my record from the night before, I ordered an old favorite, Ridge Zinfandel, a $14 setback, which wasn’t entirely unreasonable for a $35 bottle (especially in a Riedell glass). The bartender at the London bar, who looked like a Rocco but I think was named John, made friendly conversation with his gravely New York accent. By the time I had to go, I had the courage to ask what Gordon Ramsey was like. “Like what you see on TV!” he shot back, and I’d read that (in, of course, the New Yorker). He told me that Gordon comes to his properties unannounced, sometimes staying for a few hours, sometimes for weeks. He mostly leaves the floor staff alone, but it’s inferno in the kitchen. Juicy! Just like my ‘06 Three Valleys.

I was almost late getting to Steven Colbert’s talk—I could have made it to the event on foot faster than my cab was getting through Times Square and ended up haughtily asking the cab to pull over three blocks from the venue to run there, and in doing so, I nearly bowled over a nice young man with a mousy, “’Scuse me!” He ended up sitting next to me, and as I was leaving the Oliver Stone talk later that night, he chased me down the street (which I loved) and we went for an evening walk through Times Square, just talking, no numbers exchanged, no last names disclosed. It was nice to make a friend.

Steven Colbert: funny. I don’t know if I take him completely seriously about this, but if he is as serious an actor as he claims, then I better—it’s all an act, Steven Colbert who did the White House Press Correspondents Dinner and Steven Colbert who ran for president (but not Steven Colbert who was addressing us at the cathedral) is all a made-up character that he’s stuck sharing a name with. Once the Daily Show “Colbert Report” segment stuck, it would have been too late to create an alias. The character is an egotistical idiot not-so-loosely based on Bill O’Reilly, and the comedy derives from the character’s emphatic siding with the real-life idiots he interviews. He said he doesn’t care about his own feelings, but he does worry about hurting those he holds in high regard. It’s an actual liability given that it’s all improvised on the spot and comedy is the only goal—not saving the world, not changing minds, but making people laugh. To that end, he excitedly talked about the White House Press Correspondents dinner—apparently, the guests at the closest third of the tables were in the media industry and he could not see the two-thirds of the group behind them who were not laughing. When he looked down to the stage at Bush during a spoofy video that was part of his bit, Bush was looking directly at him and gave a wink. He loved his run for the presidency and feels he achieved the purpose—to provide content for the show by taping people reacting to him. At one point, he was asked how much it would take to get him to drop out, and he said that validated the whole thing—that he was actually in it. Of the campaign trail, the baby-kissing and hand-shaking, he said he could see why people would do it. My favorite moments were candid ones like: when asked about reconciling religion with what he does and what he knows, he hesitated, then answered that he does go to church every week, and this is an off-year of teaching Sunday School. He had an intensely personal moment where he said (and here I’m hoping I’m conveying this as accurately as possible) that he has his cards in a lot of places, but he hopes religion is the right one, and in his attempt to really believe in God, he mostly succeeds, but occasionally fails. I liked that.

I had hoped to sell off my ticket to the Oliver Stone talk—it was close to 10 and I was alternating between growl-like yawns and stomach growls. Also, when I’d done a last-minute scan of Oliver Stone’s body of work, I remembered that with the exception of two scripts he wrote but didn’t direct, I didn’t like his directorial work that much. So it goes. “W.” is being released about our sitting president in a couple of months, and I saw poor choices even in the short clips. Poor Josh Brolin, who plays George W. Bush—our president has been so satirized and caricaturized that I couldn’t take the sneak preview clips seriously. At least I didn’t laugh at the scenes, like more than a few audience members… Cheers to the New Yorker staff for free booze, though. That was classy. And Oliver Stone, for the record, dresses the part. Black on black on black Chucks.

It was great to see David Denby, though—he was a dry interviewer, which should be expected because his film criticism is seriously written and only occasionally accented with cleverness, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was as baffled by the choice to make “W.” as I was (or to use a banjo ditty of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” with a situation room scene).

Later, exhausted and hungry, and after deliberating way too long about whether or not I should eat so late and spend money doing it, I knew I wanted to. After all, it was only 12:30 on a Saturday night. I found raucous gay-friendly Cafeteria near the hostel—the posted menu indicated that dinner service ended at 1, but with a half-hour wait for a table, it was an empty threat. The menu wasn’t exciting—gourmet mac ‘n cheese and burgers—but I managed to make a unique enough meal of mac ‘n cheese spring rolls and, because up-selling is the name of the game in New York, truffle parmesan fries. Two late-teens on a date were seated next to me shortly after I sat, and they didn’t speak to each other the entire time we overlapped. The guy texted a lot. I didn’t feel bad for her—one day, she’ll learn she can excuse herself from the table and leave.

Justine had been out on a date herself and let herself in very late—she was very natural and candid, an athletic redhead, and her Australian accent didn’t hurt. She met a Jewish cop at a bar on Thursday, and he had promptly e-mailed her a picture of his down-there with the promise that it was bigger than it looked.

“Pu-lease,” she told me, giggling. She established she would not sleep with him and let him decide whether or not he still wanted to ask her out. He did, and I wasn’t surprised. “He can’t drink anyway because he’s driving, it won’t be a wild night.”

“In this city? Why would he drive?”

“It’s fun to ride in the patrol car! He turns on the siren and runs red lights.”

George, Ryan, Hendrik.

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Ari, Vince, Drama, Eric, Turtle.

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Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” with Angelina Jolie premiere.

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Steven Colbert’s head is a fleck in this, I swear.

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Oliver Stone at the DGA theatre.

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I woke up early on Sunday and studied the subway map against the city street map on my iPhone, which, impressively, identifies metro stops. What I was attempting would be nothing short of magic if I could pull it off—the trains were on weekend schedules, some routes not running at all, and I needed to get from the South Side Seaport to Midtown in 20 minutes. It would be bold, but I didn’t want to miss the magic.

The Salon Perdu is a traveling venue that can be rented for burlesque and other fantastic special events, a circus-like tent with interior seating, lights, and a bar. Street markets and stages were being set up along the waterfront when I arrived, wind blowing off the gray water that eased into a gray sky. I felt like a trespasser, certain to run into the Siamese twins or trapeze performers at any moment. The venue was worth the trip, and the complimentary mimosas, once inside, only added to my excitement.

Matthew Holtzclaw, Charles Reynolds, Jami Ian Swiss, and Johnny Thompson came together on stage, and it was the most delectable of treats to see Adam Gopnik with “The Real Work” come to life before my very eyes. I felt like I only caught the surface part of the discussion, nothing that wasn’t covered in the piece or couldn’t be found on Wikipedia about Houdini or Vernon. I reveled in the two sleight of hand performances I could catch before it was time to do my own disappearing act.

And then I ran. And then I waited for the A train. And then I ran again. And at 12:09, I arrived at the Culinary Loft at 515 Broadway, perspiring heavily. Claudia Roden had just begun, and I had worked up quite an appetite. I was escorted to a table in the middle of the room, but an older woman at a front table made eye contact with me and pointed to two empty seats. I scuttled over, and she whispered, “I don’t drink—help yourself!”

I had not understood what the premise of the program was. I thought small tastes of foods and spices from Africa and the Middle East would be introduced to us. I thought wrong. It was not flavors but, in fact, techniques that Claudia had imported from her travels and would present to us in a four course wine paired lunch over two and a half hours. It was worth far more than the $80 we paid.

Our first course was a variation on gazpacho—served as a bread soup with hard boiled egg crumbles and cured pork. The tomatoes were as ripe and sweet as tomatoes are capable of being, and Claudia and the guest chefs of the day had nailed the garlic and salt ratios—noticeable but secondary. Wine is tricky to pair with such an acidic dish, but the buttery O Rei de Campoverde Albarino pulled off the balance.

As we ate the second dish, “Sephardi Savories,” Claudia talked about cooking with fat—historically, Christians used pork fat, Jews used olive oil, and Muslims used butter. During the Inquisition, Spanish soldiers could tell true ethnicity by the different aromas of fat cooking. Which particular fat I was enjoying in the Sepharian savories was left a mystery. Claudia referred to it as her flan but otherwise gave us no allusions to the ingredients of the light brown square before us (with crumbled goat cheese garnish), and I will buy her next cookbook if this recipe is in it! My guesses: egg, a poultry stock, and mushrooms. I noticed small seeds resembling those of peppers but could not taste for them specifically. That was all I got. I loved it.

As an international cookbook writer, Claudia deconstructs dishes and turns them into recipes that people will like and can make at home. She shared adages about cooking—follow them but double your favorite ingredient, a food is not just a food because it’s attached to how it is formed—and described her process of testing ingredient ratios from many recipes. This is practicality as much as it is perfectionism—when she travels through villages and meets the best local chefs (matriarchs and nuns, she reports of Spain) she is given ingredients but no amounts. With traditional regional dishes, “No one measures, you just add.”

Claudia has been traveling throughout northern Africa, Europe, and the Middle East for most of her life, asking, “What’s your favorite dish? Now tell me the recipe.” She told of when she was in her 20s, so about my age, and she met an older woman who challenged her about traveling alone. “Where is your husband, your son?” the woman demanded. Claudia reported that she had neither and politely responded by asking about the woman’s husband. “‘He’s dead!’ she said, with a big grin across her face.” And Claudia giggled, and we all giggled.

The imminent lamb course meant I switched over to the 2004 Matarredonda “Libranza” Toro, a $44 bottle with 94 points from Robert Parker. Claudia talked about the history of couscous, how it and foods in general have all but disappeared from regional cuisines when they become associated with the enemy or with the poor. When I asked further into food extinctions, I was given leeks as an example of a gentrified food that was saved from the lower class. And when foods disappear, regional cuisines become amalgams of others. Claudia said that in her childhood, Egypt smelled like mulukhiyya (or mallow leaves) and cumin. Today, it’s obscured by the influence of the Ottomans, Lebanese, Turks, and so on.

The lamb was shoulder meat, which I would eat again later in the day, served with extremely fine coarse couscous with dates and raisins. It was perfect in its simplicity. And for dessert, we were served orange flan with orange slices stewed in Malaga wine. Each bite had the essence and sweetness of five oranges. And I gladly washed it down with Spanish sherry.

I was surprised about much of what Claudia talked about—the counterintuitive origin of Spain’s “Grand Cuisine” in the monasteries, and the paradox of food abundance leading to extinction when its value drops and becomes a staple of the lower classes (and how corn strangely evades this).

And she surprised us all, much to our delight, when she said very sweetly, “The best food originated in Iran. Maybe we should tell that to Sarah Palin!”

I ambled through Chinatown and Little Italy, so full as to be unable to enjoy looking at food, and decided I should go to MoMA. I’m glad I did—the installation videos are always my favorite, and Deeparture was the hit for me—a continuous loop of a video of a wolf and a deer. I can’t describe art like I can describe food, so I will borrow from Minneapolis’ Walker Center curator’s notes:

The artist shot the animals in 16mm film with a seemingly unforgiving eye, structuring a series of taut close-ups from various angles into a seamlessly looping video. Confounding expectations, the “natural” predator-prey relationship does not play itself out here. Instead, both animals keep their distance from each other and appear in turn tense, confused, exhausted, and dejected, even oblivious. As viewers are gradually roped into emotional engagement with the ultimately unreadable animals, they’re led to wonder if these nonhuman players serve as a blank screen upon which human emotions and psychological attachments are projected.

Simply put, it is stressful to watch, and I didn’t realize it was a loop until the third round.

I rode the subway back to the Village to wander until I was hungry enough for Blue Hill. I wanted to get a light drink, but everywhere I passed was too full or too empty or dark or light until I rounded the corner of Bleecker and happened across the Village Bistro’s patio seating. They served beer and wine only—and I was also handed a list of cocktails made with sake. “A bloody mary?” I asked. My server, spritely and pretty, persuaded me to try it after much reluctance on my part, and I blurted, “I like horseradish!” when she was halfway inside. After so much progress with the tomato earlier, this was risky.

It was the best bloody that I can recall, and the experience was made better by my server and the bartender, who chatted with me for most of the time I was drinking it. “I heard you like it,” he said when he came out. “I added stout. That’s the secret ingredient. Did you notice the horseradish?”

I had.

Any welcome would be a letdown after that, and so I give the benefit of a doubt to the hostess at Blue Hill, who was flustered either by my indecision between the bar and the dining room or the fact that I was barely able to keep the Sunday New York Times in my grasp against my chest as she checked the reservation book. I was determined to eat there—I’d read or heard about it from multiple sources before and during the trip, from Gourmet to slow foodies like Kimberly.

I decided to sit at the bar and try to relax. I ordered the sweet corn ravioli appetizer, with local greens, basil, and grape tomato. As soon as the order was in, bread and amuse-bouches flew at me at all at once, giving me precious little opportunity to savor each. Three kinds of cauliflower, cheddar cauliflower (orange), green cauliflower, and purple cauliflower, arrived raw on spikes, tasting mildly of vinegar. A miniature tomato and ricotta cheese sandwich on cornbread came with condiments of fresh churned butter, lardo with paprika, and arugula salt. Another arrived with no explanation at all. And when the ravioli arrived shortly thereafter, the five or six matchbox-size squares of pasta were hardly cushioned. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan wrote that after a day of manual labor at Polyface Farm, he said he would pay anything a farmer asked for a real meal produced by a self-sustaining organic farm, and I kept this in mind. I knew I was going for the experience, but I’d hoped it would at least last more than a few minutes.

The bartender must have perceived my disappointment and encouraged me to stay as long as I wanted and needed to complete the NYT magazine crossword. It kept me from leaving, and I was glad. After a half hour, I decided to order an entrée, but for each option, the meat stood out to me the accompaniment didn’t or vice versa, and I didn’t want another unfulfilling dish. He talked me through the menu, and I decided on baby lamb shoulder and creamy farro. I couldn’t tell what role tomato would have from the description, but it was the only reason I hesitated. I haven’t been eating tomatoes recently, but I made great progress with the gazpacho and the bloody–perhaps I should press on.

Farro is the Italian word for emmer wheat, and it is a wonder to me that I don’t see it more here. It is substantial, with a pleasant texture and weight, and it is healthy. Zucchini and pancetta were incorporated to the soft grains and all were coated generously with tomato sauce, sweet and mild with black pepper accents, and spread out across a large dinner plate with the lamb placed gingerly on top at the plate’s center. The shoulder cut is not a lean one, and it must be cooked through. Unlike the pulled lamb shoulder at lunch, the meat was removed from the bone intact, and separated easily along the marbleized lines when I cut into it. It paired beautifully with Ommegang Rare Vos, a local Belgian style beer. A scoop of corn ice cream was an appropriate way to end the meal.

I called my mom excitedly after the meal. “The tomato has been redeemed!”

Salon Perdu.

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Claudia’s menu.

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Claudia to the left, New Yorker European Correspondent Jane Kramer to the right.

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Lamb and couscous.

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Hell yes! but no I didn’t go to this museum.

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I went to MoMA instead.

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Great haircut!

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This should be my official M.O.

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See the guys laying down?

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There were two things I had to do before I left. was to eat Resto’s gourmet grilled cheese sandwich, which was awarded “best” by New York Magazine. It is, in an attempt at the right order, from bottom to top:
– A slice of bread
– Thin coat of mayonnaise
– Slice of Vermont cheddar
– Slice of Vermont gruyere
– Two slices of bacon
– Bechamel with chopped pork belly (there it is again!)
– A slice of bread
– With a side salad
– And a Leffe Blond draft

And the last thing I had to do? Oh, you had to be there.

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Post office.

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Train.

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