Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Land, Ho's.

So, of course the plants were dead when we got home - having picked the only ten day span all summer when it didn't rain.  It's either an omen or a metaphor, but we were too tired to figure out which.  Besides, we had four episodes of Big Brother to catch up on and spoiled milk to discard.

The first day at work after a vacation is always something of an exercise in futility.  There's too much email, too many disconnected workstreams, and the day is mostly spent revisiting the recent past to catch up to the present.  I generally find I reach one of two conclusions after being away: either nothing gets done properly in my absence, or I'm completely disposable.

Today I'm so tired I can live with either.

I also made it back to the gym today, ambitiously scheduling an 8am session with my personal trainer.  Going from vacation (even with a few workouts) to work and the gym is a bit like going from prison to Catholic School: complete culture shock.  And I don't know that any amount of exercise is going to help my body convert 10 days of stir-fry and vodka into anything other than an upsetting experience.

The gym behind me, and half a day's work done, I venture out to Fairway to restock our shelves.

If you've never been to a Fairway supermarket in Manhattan, I need to explain this to you.  There are people who look forward to going to Fairway in the same manner which children anticipate a visit to McDonald's.  These people include shut-ins, masochists, the criminally insane, and my mother.

The only good time to shop at Fairway is 6am, or 8pm on a Saturday.  Otherwise, you venture into a frothing, rabid crowd that - during the day - includes stroller nannies (black and Hispanic women raising white children while dad rapes the American economy from his Wall Street job and mom does pilates at Equinox), moms who can't afford nannies coming with their children after the pilates class, and people over the age of 90 buying bananas and yogurt and balancing a basket on their walkers.

This crowd does not bring out my best side.

Even worse is your 6-8pm crowd, the after work crowd, and Fairway should really install a wet bar because you can't shop at this time without a drink.  Besides, most of the crowd you're shopping with could use one to lighten up.  I once saw two women nearly come to blows over the last box of Devil's Food Snackwells.  (Those cookies are gross.  They've replaced all the fat with sugar and the cookies have the consistency and texture of weatherstripping.  During my first year of law school, I once ate a whole box before my legal writing seminar and was so torqued up I could have picked up radio free Europe in my teeth.)

I only chose Fairway because we live a block away, and the prices are better than Citarella ($29.98 for a small chicken) and Pioneer market (which looks like a Russian prison camp, but without the whimsy.)  If you want a better shopping experience in New York, I recommend WestSide Market or Fresh Direct.  I ordered from Fresh Direct before we left the country, in order to get the food we needed for the tv shoot (spec pilot - reel to be posted here soon.)  The produce was remarkably fresh, the service was prompt, the prices were great and the variety was impressive.  If we could have waited until tomorrow I'd have ordered from there again, but we can't make it another 18 hours on half a box of Nilla Wafers and an old orange.

Having navigated the deli counter without committing felony homicide, I purchase a week's worth of groceries.  This week's featured dinner will be Just in Thyme Chicken (one package boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 2 Tsp. Olive Oil, Oregano, Thyme, Dry Mustard, 1/2 medium onion, 2 cloves garlic.  Saute in a large skillet.  Serve with tarragon peas and 3 bottles of cheap red wine from Greece.  Serves 2.)

By the end of the day, the bills are paid, the first day of work is behind me, and the house has enough food to feed the Brady family or one Jew and his boyfriend (we're eaters, what can I say?)   So - naturally - after nearly alienating half of the AARP during my reckless tour of Fairway, I get invited to a business dinner by a former colleague.  Neil's given him and his family some free passes to DisneyWorld for their upcoming trip, so he's invited, too.  Choosing to ignore the now unnecessary angst I just caused myself, I accept.

We dine at Isabella's, on Columbus Avenue and 77th St, consistently one of the best American restaurants on the Upper West Side.  The food is always delicious, they make great drinks, and it's staffed with students and aspiring actors, so there's plenty of eye candy.

Steve, my former co-worker, ordered the Caprese Salad - prepared with fresh, ripe tomatoes, bufala mozzarella, and just the right amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, avoiding the trap that befalls most restaurant salads: Death by Drowning.  It's followed by a very well-prepared wild striped bass, perfectly cooked and excellently seasoned.  Not heavy at all, the flavors of grilling combine with the salt and herbs to provide a late summer flavor that complements the weather as we sit outside.

Neil began with a warm goat cheese salad, with beets and greens, that's competent but a little too wintry for this time of year.  The goat cheese has been breaded and fried, giving the impression of a high-end cheese-stick off a Bennigan's menu.  His entree, however, is fantastic - a Florida Grouper with Asparagus Ravioli and a tomato poached in olive oil.  The mediterranean flavors recall our trip, and he's happy as a peach eating that fish.

I throw caution to the wind and order both specials: the yellow split pea soup, which is creamy and hearty, but has too much pancetta, weighing the dish down unnecessarily.  Half the amount of bacon would have been perfect.  I follow it with a sirloin served a top broccoli rabe, grilled cipollini onion, and a burgundy reduction.  The meat is perfectly cooked and recalls the best of summer barbecuing and full-bodied red wines.

More soon - we're going for drinks with the boys this week, so there'll be plenty to dish.

The LAST WORD - DO THIS, New York:

Shop at FreshDirect, and save murdering old ladies and children for the subway.
Eat at Isabella's.  Sit outside.  Drink the ginger cosmopolitan.  Slurp.

Don't Do This:

Avoid Fairway like the Swine Flu.
Don't kill old women or children.  I'm just kidding.  Morons who block the doors on the subway are
fair game though.

1 comment:

  1. Last time I ate at Isabella's we got a parking spot 4 feet from the front door. My cousin was so happy I thought he was going to burst.