Saturday, December 16, 2006


So on the same day that Frank Bruni blogs about solo diners in the NY Times Dining section, I coincidentally treated myself to (what I would consider) a high-end lunch at Pastis. Even though I don't usually dine out alone, I was in the neighborhood, and I was really jonesing for a great burger and fries. Seriously: Pastis does a great burger and fries!

Except that, you know, it's PASTIS. Not really one of those restaurants that you'd think about eating at solo. For one thing, it's a Total Scene, which, for me, can be intimidating. Why? Because I'm not a model, and I'm not rich, and not being either or both is a disadvantage when you're entering a Total Scene. But yesterday I was having one of those high-self-esteem days which made not being an Amazon Princess (almost) irrelevant.

Though Pastis was packed, I was seated immediately (solo dining advantage #1). I got a little booth/table and faced out to the restaurant. Though I didn't have a book on me, fortunately Pastis has a fully-loaded rack of newspapers. Their Times was a day-old, so I chose a current NY Observer, something I NEVER READ. It seemed an appropriate choice considering the ambience: lots of Euro-Trash (is that an offensive term?), many heads of expensive blonde highlights, and dudes in Italian loafers. Those People read the Observer, right? Wait: Those People are IN the Observer. Awesome.

Without much menu perusal I ordered a cheddar cheeseburger medium, said "tap water's just fine," and, because the waiter offered, said "yes" to the breadbasket (solo dining mistake #1). My burger came medium rare, but I didn't complain, instead interpreting its bloody juiciness as the kitchen's favor to me. Believe me: it WAS a favor, because the meat was fresh and super-juicy with just the right amount of fat. The cheddar was just-right, oozing off the sides of the burger, and there were bright green romaine leaves, perfect tomato slices (in December! Wow, Pastis, impressive!), and fragrant rounds of sliced purple onion stacked high on the almost-brioche bun. This burger sounds pretty awesome, right?! It was.

I tried to eat it delicately but then put that idea in the "fuck it" bin because delicious juicy greasy treats should not be consumed self-consciously. They should be consumed with gusto and lip-smacking and accidental moans of "mmmm...nummy-num-num-yum!" I say this because I did this and the three women in their early-thirties dining next to me noticed. But I felt no shame! Maybe a little. Actually: none! The burger was too good, and besides that how could I feel ashamed in front of three women who had all ordered salads and then paid their modest check with three different credit cards?! Here's a tip: LIVE A LITTLE!

Okay: so I made quick work of the burger and it was sublime. But let's not forget the fries! Pastis makes AMAZING fries -- perfectly cooked (well-done but never burnt or oily), and lightly seasoned with fresh herbs. The best part: HUGE, HEAPING PORTION. I love when people are generous with things they are good at. It's just The Way To Be. The Other Way To Be is to be a Plate-Cleaner, which I was. I think my waiter was impressed with me; I'm sure most women who eat there don't order what I ordered, then proceed to finish the entire thing, and then keep it in their bellies without any kind of induced vomiting. Yes: I am saying I'm Special.

After the success of this meal, I don't understand why I don't dine out alone more often. It's nice to eat at my own pace, and people-watch, and choose the place without worry over someone else's enjoyment. I'm not saying I'll be taking myself to Peter Luger's for a solo steak dinner anytime soon.
But: I'm not not saying it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

2006: BEST OF

People are always pairing food with wine, so why not pair food with music?

Here is a rundown of my Top 10 Meals of 2006, paired with my Top 10 Singles of 2006. I don't think these meals should necessarily be eaten with their corresponding singles as the soundtrack, but in some cases, they definitely should. Oh! I didn't put these in chronological order, just in case you're wondering.

#10 - Steak Dinner At Home / Beirut "Postcards From Italy"

We were all (mostly) together, mom and dad cooked, and the food tasted better than anything. This song makes me nostalgic for things that are (mostly) still here.

#9 - Italian Passover Dinner At James Beard House With Matt / Jolie Holland "Mexican Blue"

My friend loves food. My friend loves me. This meal could have been cold beans from a can and it would still make the list for how much it meant to me. I listened to "Mexican Blue" A LOT this year. When Holland sings "I love your songs, I love your sounds/Everything's so much better when you're around" I just lose it.

#8 - Grand Schizuan After Shooting The Pilot / Guillemots "Made Up Love Song 43"

The best day. I was so happy for my friends, and I was so happy for myself, and I celebrated by eating extra-spicy fresh-killed chicken and ma po tofu at one of my favorite restaurants. The best things come from nowhere; it's true.

#7 - Buddakan With Sue / Swan Lake "All Fires"

The dinner was exceptional. I even tried frog legs for the first time (delicious). Then I went home and made a phone call and got my heart broken. I'm over the heartbreak now, but I can't get over this song.

#6 - Birthday Dinner With S and D / Peter Bjorn and John "Defects On My Affection"

My brother and his girlfriend fixed an incredible spread for me and my two best friends the night of my birthday party. Meats, cheeses, pate, crudite, champagne, and a gorgeous chocolate-marbled cheesecake. I went to my party feeling amazing, and the night just got better from there. I laugh more often now, I cry more often now, I am more me.

#5 - Dinner With B When She Told Me She Was Pregnant / M. Ward "Poison Cup" and Dr. Dog "I've Just Got To Tell You"

I was so suprised and happy. I love her, and I love her husband, and now, I love their baby. That's a lot of love, I know. These are two of the most romantic songs I heard all year.

#4 - Dinner With L After Big Meeting / Clipse "Roll With The Winners"

She's known me since fifth grade. She has always rooted for me in my silly career. We ate Chinese food in her new apartment looking over the Hudson River while her infant son slept in the next room. It felt like we both had made it. This song starts with an "Ow!" and a "Yes!" and it makes me feel like a winner.

#3 - 4th of July Barbecue / Destroyer "Rubies" and The Knife "Hearbeats"

My family is complicated, but we really know how to eat together. I was so stuffed my belly was comically distended...which did not stop me from going back into the city and meeting a friend for post-holiday nookie. Doing gluttonous, crazy shit like that pretty much sums up my year, as do both of these songs.

#2 - Dinner With K In Den Haag / Joanna Newsom "Emily"

We bought cheese and bread and wine and chocolate at the Albert Heijn. You cooked mushrooms. We sat and ate and talked. Then we didn't talk again for nine months. This song is a genius, but difficult. It's you.

#1 - Pops In The Kitchen At Three In The Morning / Annuals "Bleary Eyed"

My favorite meal of the year. My favorite song of 2006. They go together.