Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Darn Good Chow

We have a half hour until we leave for the theater. I head out to 53rd and 6th where The Halal Guys are on both corners. This is some of NY city's finest street food. Tin containers, plastic cups of sauce and plastic forks. Men with heavy accents who scoop and dish with as much confidence as a persnickety French waiter.

Unfortunately, I've arrived at a shift change and sweeping, scooping, cleaning, has stopped service and a short line has formed. I'm running out of time. I make a swift and painful decision. The halal food cart on the corner of 52nd and 6th isn't The Halal Guys, but I have to hope their falafel and rice is just as good. The service is so fast, I leave a tip and cross 6th Avenue at a sprint. I continue sprinting down 53rd to our hotel and tap my toes while waiting for the elevator. At ten minutes to go, with three forks, all three of us positioned, I pop out the silver top. The smell is pungent and mouth watering. We dig in without reserve, without chairs, or place settings, napkins or real cutlery. This is African animals hunched over prey without mindful eating, reserve, or manners. This is rush or go hungry. With a minute left, Mom slides the lid on and insists on coats and shoes.  How could she?

How amusing our dinner is compared to lunch.

A three star rating from Michelin means a restaurant has met the highest standards possible. It is a coveted designation beautifully explored in the film, The Hundred Foot Journey. Beautifully explored in person if one is lucky enough.

A description torn from the pages of the Michelin guide explains the three star honored description:

 Exceptional cuisine worth a special journey.
One always eats here extremely well, sometimes superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed using superlative ingredients.

There are only six such designated restaurants in New York City.

Come with me...

to a three star Michelin restaurant with a nine course tasting meal, but a restaurant that also offers a five and seven course option on a Friday afternoon.

We are seated at an elegant table overlooking Central Park. Our head waiter introduces the concept, the theory, the options. He places the menus delicately. He promises us the moon and leaves us to explore. I gasp when I see the menu has been printed with a Happy Birthday greeting for Mom.

We expect this experience to take up to three hours, and we are intent on enjoying all of it!!

We gently place our stiff linen napkins over our laps. The first course is a piece of mini-art. To insure we are all beginning and finishing at the same time, each course is brought by its own pair of waiters.

We take miniature bites. We chew slow. We make every morsel of taste a pleasure. We compare notes of possible spice. Mom raves over the fish; I swoon over the vegetable puree. We savor. We giggle. We feel like princesses. The attention is as lovely as the food.

The paradox of experience.

Each one as memorable as the other.

Garbanzo Bean Falafel 
Jingle bell peppers, gem lettuces, romesco, Moroccan olive oil
Bread and butter: bitter cocoa laminated brioche and Straus family creamery butter

Mascarpone-enriched broccoli agnolotti-Piedmont hazelnuts, sourdough mousseline, and sauce vin jaune

Tartelette of muscat grapes-aged comte