Friday, February 12, 2010

Obsessions of a Mad Man

I might be losing my mind. Or, at the very least, I am getting recklessly disorganized. This is a really bad thing for me, because I'm somewhat absent-minded to begin with.

Today, I really really thought that I had to go to school for a symposium that my law journal was putting on. So, as I saunter in to school, imagine my surprise when I arrive at a different symposium, put on by a different journal. Oh no.

So now I've taken about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to the city for apparently no reason at all. For the first five minutes after realizing this, I was pretty peeved with myself. But then I thought, wait! I've stolen an afternoon in the city with nothing to do. Sweet! I decided to treat myself to a nice lunch and then do a little shopping.

Now, when I say shopping, I'm not talking about Madison Ave. here. No, I'm more interested in Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleecker St and Patisserie Claude on West 4th St. I wandered around with two aims, 1) I wanted to eat good food and 2) I wanted something to read.

When I first came to the conclusion that I would be attending law school in Greenwich Village, I was less than thrilled with the neighborhood. Those who have visited New York City before might be surprised to find out that I didn't want to spend all of my time in the Village, but that is precisely the point. So many of my experiences in the Village, before going to school there, involved being mobbed by tourists and the bridge and tunnel crowd. Never mind that I am now the bridge and tunnel crowd myself. I wasn't always. I was hip once. Dare I say a hipster! No, I didn't wear an ironic trucker hat but I sure did have a band in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and it doesn't get much more hipster than that.

But since spending nearly three years in the Village, I've come to find places to call home. Places that are neither overrun by NYU undergrads, nor stinking with the foul stench of tourists who think that Bob Dylan still plays at the Cafe Wha?. Not that I'm against tourists or tourism per se, in fact, sometimes I am a tourist (although not in New York). But they sort of have a way of destroying the thing the makes people want to come in the first place, don't they?

Anyway, today's meander through the Village in search of happiness and something to eat was a really nice escape from everything going on in my head. And I returned home with all sorts of goodies.

My first stop was Pearl Oyster Bar where I had a nice glass of wine and 6 raw oysters. These oysters were really good, although I can't say that I've gotten over my squeamishness from chewing a snotty shellfish. I'm trying though. I ate an oyster only once before, but it was more like taking a pill than enjoying a fine delicacy.

After reading Anthony Bourdain describe the taste of his first oyster, I've resolved to try again and to learn to love them. People think that if they don't like something that they are forever imprisoned from enjoying that thing, but they are so wrong. You can learn to like almost any food if you try it enough times. Case in point, I used to despise olives. So many people whose opinion I respected loved olives, however, so I resolved that I would learn to love them. First I started by eating olives soaked in vodka. I had already learned to love vodka. Soon, I was tasting good quality olives, and enjoying it. Now, my mouth waters at the prospect of a fine olive. I suspect that oysters will be no different. Smart people seem to enjoy them, and there must be something to it. So why shouldn't I learn to love them too? If nothing else, it is an admirable approach to life.

The Mrs. says we already like enough expensive things, and so we shouldn't be going out and looking for more costly habits, but I disagree. The world is a richer place the more things that are in it that I love. Let oysters be one of them!

Next I went to Patisserie Claude, a small French Bakery staffed by small Spanish people. Both are charming. I love the Napoleons, so I got two to share with my wife. They also make a little quiche that I have gotten twice now and have never intended to take home. I have them warm it up and I eat it immediately, walking down West 4th St. with the sort of satisfaction that is normally associated with getting one's back scratched.

After Claude, I went to Murray's cheese shop where I bought a triple creme soft cheese to spread over my homemade bread this evening, and a French Onion Melt sandwich, which is Gruyere and caramelized onions on whole wheat bread. I ate the sandwich on the PATH train back to NJ. This made me feel a little guilty, especially when I saw the pregnant woman sitting across from me look at my sandwich and sigh in quiet resignation. I would have gladly offered her some, but who was accept half a sandwich from a total stranger on the train? Sorry!

I then stopped in a book store and bought a book for me, Anthony Bourdain's The Nasty Bits, and a book for the little man, This is Texas.

Last, I stopped for some flowers outside of the PATH station. Turns out everyone gets presents today. We had homemade fettuccine, served with butter, sauteed garlic, some fresh chopped basil, and Parmesan cheese. My fettuccine needs work but I'm getting the hang of it. Delicious nonetheless,

Tomorrow should be even better! The Mrs. and I are going back to the city tomorrow to see Wicked. We got tickets for Christmas, babysitter included. What good fortune! Before the show, I made reservations at Les Halles for lunch, the bistro where Anthony Bourdain calls home. Ok, Ok, I might be obsessing on Anthony Bourdain a little bit. But the guy sure can write (which I try to do), and he travels a lot (which I'd like to do), and he is supposed to be a damn fine cook (which I try to be). So, it's hard not to sweat the guy a little.


  1. We went to Les Halles in Washington DC; inspired after reading Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook. It was a major disappointment. Honestly, I've had better frites at McDonalds. I'll be interested to hear of your experience.

    Speaking of eating foods you don't like, we fixed borscht as part of our Russian themed dinner this weekend. I'd had borscht once before, a good 30 years ago and hated it. And Friday night I confirmed I still hate it. I'll try again in another 30 years!

  2. Ha. I actually had a roommate who made a borscht-like dish all the time that was absolutely amazing. I have no idea what he did, but it was incredible.

    Les Halles in NYC was absolutely fantastic. I didn't have the frites. I got the Cassoulet and the Mrs. got the Pork Tenderloin. Both were exceptional. Some of the beans in the Cassoulet were undercooked, but all in all, it was really very very good.

    Great cookbook too.

    I'm so jealous of that half pig. I've been thinking about everyday. Can't wait for BBQ weather.