Excuse Me While I Ramble On About Food For Several Paragraphs [ 2004-05-13, 12:07 a.m. ]

I had dinner on Tuesday night with Kent and our friends Em and Jones. Em and I had gone walking in Prospect Park and then met her husband back at their apartment, and the three of us headed to a nearby bar to wait for Kent. We were sipping cold Stellas on the back patio, where it smelled like cigarette smoke, lilacs and rain. It was a hot, humid night in that sticky-east coast-almost-raining-with-thick-air-and-flip-flops kind of way, which, if youíre familiar with it, you know is goddam perfect.

We were talking about restaurants and wine and more restaurants and more wine. And Iíve gotta say Ė I could talk about those things forever. I donít know if I would consider myself ďpassionateĒ about much in this world, but food and wine are among the few things that would fall into that category. And sitting outside on a hot night with a cold beer and great friends, talking about food and wine is - well, the most bestest thing ever. Jones said that he thought good food is one thing that can never be overrated, and Em and I agreed, abso-fucking-lutely. A great meal is As Good As It Gets. For our one-year anniversary, Kent and I had dinner at Daniel, which is a stunning, fancy-pants restaurant on the east side. It cost a fortune, but every cent seemed well worth it. We will remember that dinner forever, and the $26 (a glass!) glasses of champagne that started our evening were worth it, just like the bottle of lovely Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the desserts and the dress and shoes I bought to wear to dinner. Great food is never overrated, and itís as close to priceless as anything else Iím likely to encounter in my life.

Kent joined Em and Jones and me at the bar, and we walked down the block to Blue Ribbon for dinner. We walked in and were immediately led to a cushy booth in the back corner. And what happened next was one of those perfect, perfect things Ė we had great, great food, a lovely bottle of wine, we laughed and talked and ate and no one looked at their watches or mentioned having to get home or get up early or even talked about work. Em and I split a dessert and the boys had port and we left the perfect, perfect restaurant a little after 11 p.m. and Kent and I took a cab home and agreed that it was a perfect, perfect night.

And as much as it was about spending a great night with great friends, it was about great food in a great restaurant with people who appreciated how frigginí great it all was. Because good foodÖis so, so good.

Itís what keeps me from totally connecting with my in-laws; my parents are uber-foodies and Iíve managed to surround myself with similar types. In contrast, my in-laws had no idea what a salad spinner was when Kent and I opened wedding gifts in front of them. ďHmm. Must be some gourmet thing,Ē they shrugged.

My mother-in-law is extremely sweet and very, very loving, but she has one signature dish Ė ďChicken BettyĒ and yes, it involves a can of cream of mushroom soup. My parents had a restaurant when I was younger and have dinner parties several times a month. At this point, I am somewhere in between, but am definitely striving for the food-centric life my parents live.

Because food amazes me. Everyone eats. Yet that some people choose to eat Wonder Bread and Hot Pockets and Cheetos while others poach celery root in milk and serve it pureed with prosciutto-wrapped pork tenderloin is fascinating to me. I tend to get all fiery when talking about food, and the truth is that Iím appalled by how poorly most of America eats. I know processed food is cheap and easy, but it is so, so bad. So bad. And I am passionately a supporter of small organic farmers and I think itís important to pay more for organic products in order to support the small farms which produce quality food and are not subsidized by the government they way large farms are, and I think itís important to understand what food is Ė itís protein, fat, fiber, sugar Ė and how it sustains itself through the seasons on a farm. I think itís important to understand the uses of food and I think itís important to be as efficient as possible with the food we buy. I despise the fast food industry and I feel strongly about buying organic and I think anyone who says they donít like vegetables is wrong, and theyíve just only had overcooked mush in the past. Vegetables are amazing. Cheese is amazing. Food is amazing. On the short list of things which cannot be improved upon, I would definitely include avocados, mangos, tomatoes, and peaches right up there with the sound of a babyís giggle and the smell of coffee brewing on a rainy Sunday morning.

I mean it when I say food amazes me - itís chemistry and biology and physiology and gastronomy. Everyone eats, and I believe strongly in eating well. Not low-fat or low-carb or fat-free Ė all of which I believe to be total and utter bunk. I mean, eating well as in good, good food. Great cheese and bread and pastries and fresh produce and good coffee and beer and wine. I love it.

I work in a cookware store, and I love that I meet so many foodies at work. I have a friend who is a cheese monger, a friend who moved to Italy to study Gastronomy, friends who are pastry chefs and food stylists and caterers and chefs. I love that I can spend half and hour talking about knives with someone, browse cookbooks with another, commiserate with the customer who wants the five-, six-, and nine quart Le Crueset French ovens. I never get tired of it.

When I was in high school, I thought the hottest, sexiest guys around were water polo players. In college I had a thing for drummers and baseball catchers. And still water polo players. When I first moved to New York it was writers that got to me. But now? Itís the chefs. There is nothing hotter than a man who can wield a 10-inch knife, wax poetically about a tomato, and then present you with fresh pastries. Be still my heart. Despite total love and devotion to my husband, I am currently harboring a wicked crush on a certain tattooed chef whoís been frequenting my workplace. If I were a cheating woman, Iíd jump into bed with him and his Espresso-Butterscotch Cheesecake. Food is sexy.

So where am I going with all of this? Nowhere, really. But itís likely that at some point in my life, I will leave New York. Where I go is hard to say, but chances are, there wonít be as many great restaurants and produce stands and food stores as I have access to now. And by great restaurants, I mean the teeny BYOB bistro around the corner as much as the Korean restaurants on 32nd street, Grimaldiís as much as Daniel, Jacques Torresí chocolate shop as much as Uncle Louis Gís Italian Ice stand. New York is teeming with amazing food, for $1 or $100 or $1000. And more than anything else, I think thatís what Iíll miss when itís time to say goodbye to this city.

There is nothing in this world as satisfying as a good meal with good friends.

Oh, and lest anyone think me a snob, we had Dominoís pizza for dinner tonight.

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