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Long Overdue


Who knew there was a market for two California public library staff (the librarian in me must point out that one is by a librarian while the other is by a library assistant. This is a serious distinction to some, particularly in the public and academic spheres, because it’s the difference between a couple years of your life, tens of thousands of dollars and the resulting misunderstood master degree and underpaid, unappreciated job and just having an underpaid, unappreciated job) memoirs in four months? Or ever?

Quiet, Please: Dispatches From a Public Librarian
Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library

I must now put together my proposal for an enlightening creative nonfiction masterpiece from the perspective of someone who was born in California but hasn’t resided on the west coast for a decade and worked in a public library for nearly three years in the mid-‘90s and never intends to work with the public ever again.

It will be titled Overdue? Fine: Tardy Tales From a Long-Suferring Librarian Who Doesn't Work in a Library and will be utterly gripping. You won’t be able to put that shit down.

La Esquina Criolla

I would never claim to be an Argentine/Argentinean (either are acceptable—I can never decide which sounds better) food connoisseur but I do indulge in a mixed grill every now and then. And always in Queens.

However, La Esquina Criolla was new to me. I knew the name but I rarely get out to Corona. Neighboring Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, all the time, but I never go that extra bit east unless I’m going to Flushing.


I was joining an internet stranger and his friend for what I think is a semi-regular Friday night event. If I was old(er) I would say that I met them on the computer, nay, machine. That’s the thing about NYC, people who you correspond with every so often might actually live in your city, and quite possibly your neighborhood.

When I used to have print pen pals in Portland, which was considered a zine hotbed (along with Berkeley and Olympia) I rarely met up with anyone in person, and the few times I did it didn’t end too well. Freaks I didn’t know would find my phone number and call me from time to time, though. (Some of them were blind, manic, small town homosexuals into verbal slash fiction involving childstars…but that’s for another time.)

Nothing bad happened beyond a few tough pieces of beef. Food-related internet strangers are never killers; at most they might be weird or dorky (often the case with any obsession, culinary or not) and often they're completely normal. Actually, the worst food crazed stranger might be the hipster. I know they exist, I see their posts and comments. Not that these gents (and I’m thinking of men for some reason) and I cross paths. But I have some ideas about this hard to pin down and under exposed group. I suspect that they are involved with or attend “secret” supper clubs. They possibly  cultivate their own honey, make pickles or other artisanal products in a practice space or on a Bushwick rooftop. Hmm…I’d like to say something about Asian girlfriends but I don’t want to get a hater reputation. Can I say that they probably subscribe to Diner Journal and not offend anyone?


A meaty brown still life. Sure, you can stick with skirt steak or short ribs, but I like all the odd bits. Kidneys, sweetbreads, blood sausage and intestines (which always seem to be included despite not being listed on the menu) I can deal with. What I can’t handle are the regular pork sausages. Just like Jimmy Dean patties, they always give me a stomachache.


No olives, peanuts, and the like. When your freebie (at least I think this was on the house) is meat you know what you’re in for. I didn’t concern myself with distractions like empanadas. It's not always a good idea to delve into vegetables, pastas and salads at Argentine places anyway.


I did break my low-starch fast and shared a plate of yuca. I was pleased
that they were cut small for maximum surface crispiness. I do love this
root vegetable but only in this form–it's not as fun when it comes in a solid boiled
chunk like a wet potato.


Everything can be improved with chimichurri. I realize it’s not difficult to make (garlic, parsley, vinegar and olive oil) but I picked up a bottled version last year and it just wasn’t the same.


Combo #4 is solid: skirt steak, short rib and sausage.


The lord was my shepherd even in the bathroom. I don't know that framed bible photos in the lavatory are exactly an Argentinean trademark.

Later that night, I discovered that intestines are a great low carb snack. I mean, once you get over the trauma of nibbling on a digestive tract. More so than kidneys which are super concentrated and organy, sweetbreads, which are kind of fluffy and sometimes bitter. Intestines are satisfyingly chewy, crispy if charred right, and just a little fatty. I’ve never gotten into popcorn (though I do like caramel corn), it’s just salty and boring,  but a little carton of innards would be the perfect accompaniment to a movie.

La Esquina Criolla * 94-67 Corona Ave., Corona, NY

Back on the Chain Gang

Who knew that it was even possible to blow $300 a pop on Boston Market? Or that you could pay for fast food with checks.  I guess you do what you have to for rotisserie chicken and chipotle meatloaf.

I kind of prefer the sheer idiocy of the Indiana woman who scored $57 worth of Applebee’s food after finding worms in her salad…then left her purse behind with a container of worms. At least it wasn’t a human finger.

Even though I didn’t think it wasn’t true, I was kind of scared by the inexplicable ‘80s urban legend that Wendy’s put worms in their burgers. (To this day, I still believe that Rod Stewart had gallons of antelope semen pumped from his stomach, so these myths are persuasive.) The second I heard chain restaurant and worms in conjunction with the above story, I automatically assumed it was about Wendy’s.

Wendy’s seems to have a lot of trouble. Just off the top of my head I can think of two shooting incidents involving the chain, one recent, one not.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

1/2 I’m about to embark on a woeful tale, so anyone with an aversion to unpleasantness (you know that I have a fascination with barfing, but I fully realize that not everyone shares my interest) should skip ahead to my original stellar Blue Hill experience from 2006.

I thought it was strange last week when James mentioned on a Thursday night that he’d made reservations at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. There wasn’t any occasion for it. That’s the kind of place you’d go to for, say, Valentine’s Day not a weirdo spot like Crave on 42nd. Not that I’m knocking the spontaneity. As it turned out, he had been influenced by a promotional email from the restaurant. I always delete stuff like that, but obviously it works on people, which is great when I benefit.

The problem was that I was still very sick with the virulent cold that I’d had since President’s Day. I didn’t start feeling normal until three days ago, over two weeks after I first became ill. (One thing I learned is that it only takes fourteen days of not plucking for my eyebrows to turn completely Frida Kahlo. Oh, and after being given an EKG and then nearly admitted to the hospital because my heart rate was so out of control, that I’m not allowed to take cold medicine ever again).

But I was determined to go anyway and have one nice meal because I’d been stressing so much over this whole messed up blood sugar business. That was my first mistake. If you have even the inkling that you’re not feeling up to par, just reschedule your reservation.

My second mistake was taking half a dose of cold medicine even though I was warned against it. Actually, I’m not sure if that was the mistake or not. I think it might’ve been self-prescribing antibiotics I picked up in Mexico last year. All I know is that everything stewing around in my stomach started inducing serious sweats and nausea by the time we popped out of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel into Manhattan. And we still had an hour to go.

Always the planner, I’d targeted a Trader Joe’s a few miles from Blue Hill to pick up some items like Greek yogurt and overly fibrous bread. I’ll do anything to avoid shopping in NYC. First, I ran into a neighboring CVS to grab some Tums in hopes of heading off intestinal distress, but it was too late for that. Next thing I knew I was puking up my guts (and animal ones too) in the Trader Joe’s bathroom.

Ok, the mistake might’ve been leftover Sichuan tongue and tripe in chile oil for breakfast (it seemed like a good low carb solution at the time). I will say that the numbing burn of these cold Chinese appetizers is more pleasant going down than coming up.

At this point we should’ve evaluated the situation and headed home but we were only a few miles from the restaurant. Instead, I nibbled on a piece of brown hyper grainy bread and hoped that the worst was over now that I’d gotten all the crap out of my system.

It is strange that both of our visits to the Westchester Blue Hill have been during the dead of bone-chilling, snowy winter. I really need to pay a visit when it’s all corn and tomatoes instead of root vegetables and cabbage. Honestly, I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other towards seasonal food, but I am a bit curious to try Park Avenue Winter after it morphs into Park Avenue Spring at the end of this month.

I had the good sense to not indulge in the tasting menu, a.k.a. the farmer’s feast, as we did last time. The other way to dine is a la carte, two dishes plus dessert for $65 or three for $78. Portions are modest and nothing is grouped by appetizer or mains so anything goes. I wondered if it would raise eyebrows if you were piggish and ordered three meats: venison, pork and veal. Not that I would. I was completely sensible and asked for soup, vegetables and pork. We both ordered the Berskhire pork, breaking the unwritten rule of never getting the same thing.

Deciding on a blood orange margarita while perusing the menu was insanity and just goes to show how unwilling I am to let go of habits. It was the ginger part of the cocktail that caught my attention. Soothing, refreshing and good for nausea. But I blocked out the tequila part. Two sips of this and I knew I was in trouble. I quickly moved on to water and ginger ale but the damage had already been done. My stomach started going wild again.

Fried food certainly didn’t help. Amuses seemed to come out willy nilly. Tables received varying items. The couple next to us had mini beet burgers, which we had last time so I would’ve been ok without them. Not long after our neighbors polished off their snack, a second set of beet burgers clearly meant for our table went to them again. Didn’t they think it was strange to be served the same starter twice?

After a bit of time passed we were brought battered proscuitto-wrapped salsify. Normally, I would’ve loved this but the saltiness and frittery nature overwhelmed me into queasiness.

Then, I became appalled by the couple who’d already eaten two amuses, including ours, pointing at our table and asking their waiter for what we had. And this is the type of place that’s wildly accommodating (the older couple that eventually replaced these two bland thirtysomethings were extremely demanding and fussy—no fruit in anything, which caused a problem when a beet salad with goat cheese had dried fruit mixed into the cheese--but appeared to be regulars and knew all the waiters by name) so it wasn’t a huge issue. But I mean, seriously. Their bad manners and the fact that the female half was a total skelator despite her apparent love of amuse bouches made me even more nauseous.

Cauliflower soup seemed bland and inoffensive and it was…until I got to the oyster and I knew I’d be leaving the table soon. No matter how many spoonfuls of the liquid I sipped, it didn’t seem to budge. Kind of a loaves and fishes experience. It’s not like the serving sizes were enormous but I couldn’t plow through the creamy broth.

The “roots and fruits” are the type of thing I normally wouldn’t order because they appeared abnormally healthy. The gluttonous part of me was like, “I don’t want to eat a plate of pretty produce” but the part of me with an upset stomach and newly determined to eat less crap thought it was brilliant.

But I couldn’t take a bite before I had to make a production getting up from the table (we had a freestanding corner booth, luxurious by NYC standards but it was so squishy and tucked in it was hard to get out without moving the table) to run to the downstairs bathroom. Blood orange margarita, cauliflower soup and gallons of indeterminate liquid came up in three separate wall-splattering sessions.

I kind of wanted to go home but didn’t know how to handle such a maneuver at a high end restaurant when you’ve already ordered multiple courses. To the shock of people I’ve verbally recounted this sad tale to, I went back to the table and proceeded to eat my mélange of spinach, cabbage, grapes, pears, walnuts, chestnuts and fennel. It was good, ok? And I was starving. Ah, but I returned to a silver dome warming my food. I’d never encountered the elegant device until Gramercy Tavern, and here it was twice in two weeks. I told you 2008 was going to be good.

The main event wasn’t to be. When the sight and smell of farm raised pork served three ways makes me gag, you know something’s seriously wrong. I took one bite of the perfectly pink-centered loin and a nibble of the crispy skin and I’d reached my limit. I sat and watched James eat his while trying not to breathe too deeply or the porcine scent would induce a repeat performance in the bathroom.

When our concerned waiter came to clear plates including my barely touched one he asked “Can we make something else for you?” Now, that’s service. I thought of the recent Diner's Journal discussion about taking home leftovers from upscale restaurants. I never do it, primarily because the portions don’t usually require a doggy bag. I do it all the time and midrange and lower establishments, though. But this was an unusual circumstance and there was no way I was tossing a full plate of food. They whisked it away and said it would be waiting at the front desk when I left. Ah, also very classy. Not foil swan classy, but you know.

You’d think that if I couldn’t handle my entrée that would be it, but I did order a dessert. Despite the rumblings in my gut, I was feeling sentimental about treats since I had just a few days prior I had been informed that I need to severely limit if not eliminate sugar from my diet. There was no way I was going to pass on this course. Even the freaky African-American nurse with an unfortunate birthmark over her forehead and right eye (it’s hard to act serious and like you’re listening while trying  not to stare) who kept hammering how white foods were bad like it was a twisted  racial lesson rather than a dietary one said, “If you’re going to eat a sweet, you’d better make sure it’s amazing.” I hear ya.

Well, the desserts really were worth it. Often pastry gets short changed when the savory ingredients are the focus, but these were really nice. James ordered the rich one I would’ve picked if I had more digestive stability. His banana fritters made me want to hurl but I was so enamored by the concept of peanut butter ice cream topped with cracklings that I had to sample a small bite. There was also a little dish of honey for dipping.

I ordered Bosc pears poached in something brown sugary and sitting atop a flaky sable cookie with a side of five spice ice cream. I still can’t figure out why I loathe fruit but prefer fruity desserts over chocolate.

I didn’t touch the chocolate truffles.

My leftover pork made a dainty lunch the following day. The fromage blanc spaetzle remained springy, but there was no way to preserve the original correctly cooked rendition. I tried crisping up the skin it the oven and microwaved the rest as briefly as possible but it still dried out a little. Even so, it was certainly better than what I’d normally eat mid-day. (3/1/08)

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Browned Out


If for some strange reason anyone was curious about brown rice sushi, I’ll save you the trouble. It sucks. I should be avoiding rice in general, sushi rice specifically (it’s sugared, which not everyone seems to know) but I wanted something fishy and Japanese for lunch yesterday. I would’ve been fine with sashimi. Sometimes I prefer sashimi but that seems like something that should be ordered fresh and I only had time for take out not for a sit down meal.

I couldn’t bring myself to take a photo. But as you can see from the borrowed pic (misguidedly titled The Perfect Meal) it looks like poop. (I would much prefer blue sushi.) There were bits of eel and avocado inside, I could see them with my eyes but the heavy, oatmealy rice dominated every bite. Never again.

Oh, and I have to review a restaurant this weekend that serves sushi (as well as Mexican, Cajun and bbq–wtf is right) and I’m not sure what I’ll do. Honestly, I don’t think a few pieces of sushi are going to lead to diabetic foot rot and blindness but I’m trying to be conscientious.

I had no idea that basmati is less glycemic (I hate delving into the world of low glycemic blogs because I think there's a lot of quackery, and fervent regimen followers scare me) than other white rices and almost on par with brown rice. I realize that’s no help for sushi, but from now on if the urge for rice strikes I’ll stick with basmati or the not-terribly-offensive brown jasmine I picked up at Trader Joe’s.

Athens Tavern

I hate to admit that there’s a food I don’t like because I prefer to believe I’m open minded. But I have to say that I’m not crazy about rabbit. There, I said it.

It’s definitely not something I grew up with, but then neither are most meats beyond chicken, ham and ground beef. When I ordered rabbit two birthdays ago at Cookshop the taste weirded me out. I thought it was a fluke, though. Yet the same thing happened again with this creative Greek preparation employing cinnamon and bergamot. The sea of orange is mashed sweet potatoes.


I don’t have issues with offal or venison or heck, even horse. Game is fine but there’s something about rabbit that’s tangy and sharp, hitting my palate high and towards my throat almost like vomit. Literally like I threw up in my mouth a little. It’s definitely doesn’t taste like chicken.

Athens Tavern is interesting in that it doesn’t fall into either predominate NYC Greek category: Manhattan haute Hellenic and dully traditional fare in Astoria. Athens Tavern sits in said Queens neighborhood but it’s far more ambitious than grilled octopus and spanakopita.


We were given three dips from the appetizer menu gratis. No complaints there. From left to right: mavromatika, a black-eyed pea salad, melitzanosalata, garlicky eggplant mash served with barley rusks, taramosalata, a carp roe puree that I seriously couldn’t stop eating. I don’t understand how fish eggs, lemon juice and olive oil can be so good.


Kypriakes pittes gemistes me pikantiko kotopoulo is a mouthful. All you need to know that all those words equal curried chicken salad in crispy pitas. Kind of strange, actually. The English description made mention of pie, so I was hoping for something more flaky and pastry-like.

James ordered a whole grilled fish, possibly a porgy, but the photo was even blurrier than the ones I’ve included here.


We didn’t order dessert but were brought two anyway and glasses of Muscat. I wasn’t sure if this was hospitality or special treatment. Not that I do anything to warrant freebies. You might think that furtively scribbling notes or taking photos in a restaurant would draw attention, but it rarely does. I think New Yorkers are blasé.


Pineapple phyllo and rose flavored chocolate mousse were both very alluring but unnecessary since we’d already eaten our fill. Ok, since I let my rabbit hesitancy out of the bag, allow me another admission that will make me seem like a pickier eater than I am. I absolutely gag at the thought of eating flowers, and even flavors like violet, rose and orange blossom give me trouble.

In high school I occasionally smoked Jezebel cigarettes perfumed with rose and gardenia. I thought they were the coolest because they were pink and magenta with gold tips and matched my hair color. But they were so sweetly foul they’d induce instant nausea. This is how I feel about flowery desserts.

That is not how I feel about Athens Tavern, however, just rose water. Read my positive review on

Very strange…the day I finally got around to posting this (I wait until my listings get published, which can lag anywhere from a few weeks to many months from when I actually ate the meal) a bit shows up on Grub Street that the restaurant might be history. Well, I just typed all this nonsense so there’s no deleting it now.

Athens Tavern * 23-01 31st St., Astoria, NY

The Sweet Life

Mom_3Do you know what happens when you dredge up memories of an unwelcome diabetic birthday dessert from more than a decade ago? God gives you diabetes. Seriously.

Considering the alarmingly crappy genes, particularly on my father’s side of the family (in college, my aunt Belia’s foot rotted from diabetes and rather than have it amputated, it festered and she died. The story is funny to me, both ha ha and strange, because it seems so unreal and antiquated for the late 20th century), I just assumed that the disease would eventually catch up with me. I kind of thought I’d at least make it to my forties, though.

What irks me most is that diabetes is viewed as an affliction for fat, stupid people, primarily minorities with the exception of Wilford Brimley. All the literature I was given was illustrated with smiling blacks and Latinos and a list of foods you can still eat at McDonald’s and Wendy’s.

I certainly don’t think I’m special but I don’t need to be told about walking (I’ve been working out 3-4 times a week since the early ‘00s), I haven’t touched a Big Gulp since I was in grade school and I eat Whoppers like never. Of course I do like pork belly, curries, cocktails and dulce de leche and sit in front of a computer all day like total diabetes bait. I just get frustrated because while I have slowly chunked up over the years, I’m not Biggest Loser, gastric bypass obese and the people I see on TV don’t even have high blood pressure or diabetes. What gives?

No longer being able to eat (much) sugar and starch does not fit into my pro-rat year. Not one bit. At least I'm not being made to take any medicine or deal with needles yet. I pretty much need to lose the twenty pounds I've been trying to get rid of for an eternity and see if that does anything. I almost cried when I saw my favorite seasonal treat, green Hostess Sno Balls at CVS last week and had to ignore the beauties, and it bummed me out not to be able to partake in cornball bagel Friday at work.

There’s no way in hell I’m going to start eating boneless, skinless chicken breasts and steamed broccoli seasoned with Mrs. Dash. And I’ll keel over before allowing Splenda into my life. Who knows, though. I always though brown rice was for assholes, and this weekend I was the asshole who asked for brown rice with my Sichuan food and only ate a quarter cup.

I’m still going to eat good food. This site will not turn into Goodies Never, but I don’t feel like there are any online role models for people who like to eat well, adventurously and happen to be diabetic. As far as I can tell there aren’t any. Vegans and the allergic have their place in the food blog world (as well as the inexplicable volume penned by lawyers, ex-lawyers and Asian girls) but it’s not like I want to read about their foibles. Diet talk is too uncomfortably close to Lifetime territory.

Gramercy Tavern

1/2  One of the things I was most struck by while my sister, Melissa, and her husband were visiting from England recently was how impressed they were with the quality of restaurant food. They kept marveling at how good everything was everywhere, and I mean everywhere.

I would never see the goodness in a breakfast at B Bar like they did, but then I probably wouldn’t eat breakfast (or any other meal) at B Bar. Is that because I’m jaded or because British food is truly that bad?

They seemed to think that our standards are higher, that here even mediocre restaurants serve decent food (I’m sure we could’ve proven them wrong) and recounted rampant U.K. kitchen nightmares involving frozen food, microwaves and general staleness.

I thought England was on an upswing, but it’s true that a lot of the trends seem focused on meat: nose to tail eating, raising your own livestock, butchering practically as hobby (they really seem to love killing animals on TV—I’m sure it’ll be all the rage here in 2009). Perhaps reviving old traditions is having less impact on vegetarian fare.

So, I hadn’t realized my houseguests would be so easily impressed, but I still sought out an appropriately high-end vegetarian-friendly restaurant for my sister’s birthday. Per Se wasn’t going to happen, and even with the favorable exchange rate I still think it would be a little rich for their blood (mine too, really, but I was keeping in mind that my sister is a recently unemployed social worker and her husband is a tree surgeon).  I considered Daniel and Bouley but I just didn’t think they would be enjoyable.

Stuffiness wouldn’t fly. My family is super casual–I’m fairly certain that my dad never owned a tie–but I wouldn’t say they’re yokels either. Beforehand, I described Gramercy Tavern to Melissa as, “the type of place you’re supposed to take your parents…but not our parents.”

Don't get me wrong. The Christmas before last I gave my mom and the stepdude a gift certificate to Park Kitchen, which didn't strike me as Olive Garden-y.  though I couldn’t say if  that was their speed or not. Despite spending nearly the first quarter of my life in Portland, I’m no longer familiar with the dining scene, which has changed dramatically since I left in the late ‘90s.

My favorite way to experience a nice meal is to warm up with a few drinks first. Maybe I’ll move on to an artisanal cocktail at the restaurant, then wine with dinner, in this case a bottle of 2005 Lucien Crochet Sancerre Le Chene, but I actually enjoy downing a few beers at a non-fancy venue earlier. I’m not talking about getting trashed, say, three pints over a two-hour period like we downed at No Idea. Maybe I’m a drunk because I rarely suffer ill effects, though the rest of the household seemed a bit rough around the edges the next day.

Gramercy Tavern was a complete success. Everyone was happy and that's rare. James and I were allowed our meat and seafood and the visitors had the vegetable tasting menu (it’s notable that this version was already vegetarian, the one I saw in the fall contained bacon and lobster).

The service was genuinely impressive, never stuffy but eerily attentive. It’s silly but I was most wowed when a new course came while Melissa was in the bathroom and a metal dome was employed. We were asked if wanted ours kept warm until she returned. Uh no, as if any of us are that considerate.

For the sake of space, I’m linking to photos of the vegetable courses. This is what was served:

Root Vegetable Terrine and Mustard Crème & Herb Salad
Carrot Soup with Spiced Cashews
Butternut Squash Risotto
Warm Salad of Winter Vegetables and Farro
Mushroom Ravioli with Wild Mushrooms and Aged Balsamic


Though I rarely drink them anymore, whiskey sours used to be my cocktail. This is a pear sour using Belle de Brillet, a pear cognac and Clear Creek Williams Pear Brandy. Oh, and lemon juice, of course.


An amuse of beet and what I believe was duck lardo. Lardo sounds classier than fat when describing food, but no much when talking about a person. Hey lardo.

Snow Crab, Radish and Lemon Vinaigrette

The vivid colors are mesmerizing. The sweetness of the crab meat contrasted nicely with the tart lemony smudges of dressing. I don’t recall ever eating sea beans before but through some sort of culinary osmosis I immediately recognized them.

Nantucket Bay Scallops, Lentils, Pickled Mushrooms and Salsify

I’m still don’t have a handle on salsify even though I’ve been served it more than a few times in recent history. The somewhat mushy texture was stiffened up by the pickling. I have no idea what stained it brown but I liked that it transformed into something Asian seeming that might be sold by the pound in a tub at the back of a store.

Smoked Trout, Sunchoke Purée and Pickled Cippolini Onions

Pickling again. The sweet and sour quality and crimson color made me think there were cranberries involved. Not so. In my mind I’m imagining a mustard flavor too—perhaps that was a component of the sunchoke puree.

Quail, Cinderella Squash and House-Cured Bacon

It was hard not to admire the world’s tiniest wing (and poached egg). Mini poultry is tough to manage with fork and knife, though. I ended up using my hands.

Rack of Veal, Wild Mushrooms, Asian Pears and Celery Root Purée

The portions were hardly enormous but I did start feeling full by this course (those three pints will catch up with you) and the richness of the meat kind of finished me. Any additional savories and I might’ve felt ill.


I almost forgot about this in-between course of mango sorbet, tapioca pearls and cilantro sauce. I guess you could say it was refreshing. 


Dessert was a choice of cheese plate (James’s option), a chocolate mishmash (both UK visitors’ pick) and an apple clafoutis, which I was swayed by. I love cheese but like I said, I couldn’t take any more savory. Chocolate kills me after a serious meal. An avowed fruit-hater, it’s usually the route I go for a sweet finish. It’s naked fruit that makes me listless and this tart with cinnamon ice cream was embellished just enough to be exciting. 


A cranberry-orange muffin for the next morning.

Gramercy Tavern * 42 E. 20th St., New York, NY


In a city that outsiders equate with amazing pizza, it’s a pain in the ass to actually acquire a worthy pie. I haven’t been to Di Fara in years because I’m impatient, Totonno’s is a trek, Lucali is three blocks from my apartment but it’s so impenetrable you’d think it was Waverly Inn.

I’m happy to have a neighborhood gem, something to keep my blahness of South Brooklyn food resentment in check. But they don’t make it easy to partake in the goodness.

Maybe this is what it’s like to live around the corner from Little Owl or Momofuku. At least with Momofuku you could pop out of your home late and hope for the best. The Lucali window--6pm-10pm--is distressingly short. Crowds raise my blood pressure. Just passing by Lucali and seeing  groups outside the door make me jittery.

To be honest, I don’t completely understand the seating procedure. There aren’t reservations but it seems like people call ahead and I swear they play favorites. We showed up at 6pm on the dot and the room was already filled and people were being quoted 45 minute waits. I kindly let James deal and stepped outside with my sister and her husband for the long haul.

I’m still not clear what transpired but minutes later we had the biggest table in the place, a rectangular six-seater. I had to have been total happenstance and lucky timing because there were groups ahead of us. In fact, a couple who were waiting outside when we arrived were still waiting outside when we left. I’ve had so many table waiting disasters that I’m not even going to question the how or why of we scored so effortlessly.

Ok…the pizza. It’s simple and it works. I don’t always appreciate minimal done well, but I get it with pizza. There’s nothing further from a deep dish, it’s not even the same species. I’ll never understand crackly, thin crust haters.

James and I ordered pepperoni and accidentally got the basil from my sister’s olive and basil. That was easily rectified.

The dim light (Lucali always looks closed from the outside because it’s so dark) is an anathema to good photos. But you get the gist. (3/2/08)

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