Friday, August 24, 2007

Jane and Ali's excellent dining adventures part 2

In our last episode Jane and I flew out to NYC to eat fabulously (and freely! hell yeah!) with our fearless leader, National Restaurants Editor for Citysearch (at the time) Brian Miller. You'll just have to read Episode 1 to get the whole scoop...I'm too lazy to recap all of it.

So, day two begins. Being a good friend, Courtney (who I was staying with) appeased my sorry tourist ass and said, "OK, fine, we'll go to Carnegie Deli." Actually, lets all just admit that, at least when the food is decent to good (and the food at CD is good) it's sometimes kind of fun to have an excuse to go to your city's cheesiest places. Sometimes.

So we went. We ordered towering 10" high sandwiches filled with pastrami (and Courtney was a model, so you can see she's really sacrificing here) and ate way more salty meat than you'd need to eat in a month. Then she took me to H&M. Good friend, right?

Obviously, someone in their right mind wouldn't eat like this on the same day she is supposed to do a tasting menu at Jean-Georges. But a girl only gets to eat for free in NYC so often (or until she gets a job doing it, which, at the time would've been way too much of a dream to even think about), so she's gotta maximize.

The only problem with maximizing with salty meat is that your borrowed Prada shoes will not fit later that day. I've honestly never seen anything so unattractive in my life: Puffy tops-of-feet bulging over the shoes like fat-lady cleavage spilling over a too-tight strapless dress. God. Yuck.

But hell, this isn't stopping me. We meet at Jean-Georges and, after last night at Daniel, I'm feeling a little less intimidated by the big-time restaurants. We're seated in JG's sleek, earth-tone dining room--quite a contrast to the lusty, colorful dining room at Daniel.

Again, we're told that the chef himself would be cooking for us. Holy cow, here we go again. The three of us--Brian, Jane, me--were served a different dish per course, and this went on for hours. My favorite moment, though, was when Brian was served thin slices of raw scallops on slices of banana with a little wasabi between. This was exactly what I was looking for in my NY dining experience: something different! Something daring and bizarre. If you can't get that in NYC, where can you, right? Certainly not in Seattle at the time.

But the best part was Brian's reaction. "Oh yuck." And then he shoved the plate aside. Here I was studying how the dish worked--the banana being the softest thing on the plate, whereas the scallop would usually play that role. And the way wasabi hits you with heat and then disappears, versus how chilis fade slowly.

In the midst of my reverent oohing and aahing, Brian's "been there, done that" attitude was funny. And, well, honest. At the time it was a little shocking to me, but now I know it's just what happens when you eat in NYC every night. You get used to the antics and, just maybe, a little bored with them.

The meal was more interesting and required a little more thinking than Daniel did. Daniel was full-figured, lingerie-clad, busty. Jean-Georges was long legged, wearing expensive but understated shoes. JG used concentrated flavors--it was my first run-in with the word "nage," a concentrated essence of a vegetable or fish (often lobter)--and Daniel uses concentrated fats.

Clearly it's not that simple, but the two approaches were distinct and, having the meals just one day apart, the differences in approach were much more noticeable.

Next time: Hob-nobbing with the rich old ladies and suits at Le Cirque.

Jean Georges in New York


Jane said...

I always use that wasabi banana scallop example when I am trying to describe weird combinations that actually work. It was actually really good. And this is coming from someone who didn't "get" WD-50. I like my food to taste good, thank you very much.

But Ali, you forgot the funniest part of the evening! It was when the cheese guy stopped by our table (this is after about 15 courses) and Bryan says to us, "If you order a cheese plate, I'll kill you!"

By this point we had degenerated into schoolgirl mode, started giggling uncontrollably and ordered a ton of cheese! I remember you had a crush on whoever that cheese guy was -- even though he barely knew what he was talking about. I mean, really, who cares what the guy says when he's standing behind a cart of fine imported and artisan cheeses!

Ali Scheff said...

I totally remember that now. He was all "you cannot order both cheese AND dessert" and we just started being total laughing asses.

And yes, I was trying to save face on the 2nd cheese guy seduction in as many days. Thanks Jane. I remember everything from the aged goat to the stinky cow cheese was "floral" and "has a hint of raspberries" and I just sat there eating it up.