Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New York Food Coma, part two

It is only on day four of a recent detox spell that I am finally able to sit down and write this, after having a week of such reckless excess that it actually felt at times more like a dream than reality. All I know is that the morning after the final night, I awoke to find my bedroom floor littered with empty wine bottles and $100 bills scattered everywhere (not rolled up). Further examination of the crime scene reveals that 30% of the bottles are quality, and about 70% cheap and clearly purchased late night. I guess this explains how I had held on to so much cash, but it didn’t shed any light as to why it was all over the floor….

It all started with the weekend of the second New York Trip.

I caught wind while working at Miyake the previous Tuesday of an excursion to the city happening that coming Sunday. Masa was driving down to finalize a few things for the new ramen bar, Pai Men Miyake, and Tina, who dates my co-worker Will, was beginning her move to New York to attend Parsons School for Design. I figured I would hitch a ride down, hang out with them for a bit, and then check into a ridiculous hotel room and go my own way. In the morning we’d all come back together and go straight to work that night.

On the evening before the trip I had been out celebrating my final shift at the Old Port Sea Grill. After several drinks in the back office, I allow one of my female co-workers to apply eyeliner to my face. After a few more beverages we head across the street to Ri-Ra, where one of the bartenders asks me if I’ve “just been on stage?”

“No, just wearing eyeliner,” I reply causally and order a glass of “white wine, whatever’s good!”

I can only imagine what I must have looked like, sitting in a cheesy Irish-themed bar while wearing makeup and drinking white wine, and I’m thankful that I was at least with a group of friends. I begin to black out as I’m fed a few shots of Rumple Minz to chase my wine, and as last call mercifully approaches, I’m given a ride home. Of course on the way, I insist on stopping at Cumberland Farms so I can purchase another bottle of wine, a frozen cheeseburger, a large bottle of water, and a Star Magazine. The beauty of purchasing trashy magazines when you’re this drunk is that you get to enjoy them twice, due to being unable to remember them the first time through.

6:00 a.m. comes very quickly and painfully after 3 hours of sleep, and as I go to the bathroom to get ready I notice that I am, in fact, wearing makeup. It doesn’t really come all of the way off in the shower, which I then realize isn’t actually that bad because it makes me look more awake and less brutally hungover.

Masa picks me up and we make it to the city in about five hours, which is great. I have trouble sleeping in cars, which isn’t so great. Just when I start to get my second wind we pull into one of the service stations in Massachusetts, where I am re-nauseated when I notice that the gift shop sells Banana Cream Flavored Muscle Milk. Just the thought of how horrible this must be upsets me, and just the fact that this product even exists makes me uncomfortable and queasy. I start thinking about the things I would say If I saw someone I know enjoying one of these wretched concoctions, and then what would their breath be like? God, it just sounds so fucking gross…

When we arrive in the city the first thing we do is help Tina move into her new apartment, and even though it takes all of twenty minutes I’m in no condition to be carrying things up and down stairs. The fact that I’m wildly out of shape combined with anxiety from my hangover is causing my heart to pound out of my chest at this point, and I think I may throw up.

I keep it together and soon we are on our way to lunch, at a Ramen place called Minca. We decide to walk and I think the fresh air helps get me ready for the day I had planned, which was shaping up to be quite the endurance match. As we enter Minca, one of the cooks recognizes Masa (he worked there many years ago) and yells out “Miyake!”

The initial sip of Rolling Rock is a rugged one, but soon I’m back in the rhythm of things and ready to eat. The first course is a sesame and daikon radish salad, which is simple and refreshing, and then handmade shrimp gyoza.

As beer number two arrives, so does the Ramen. On our first trip down, Masa didn’t bring us here on purpose because he said that once you have a bowl of this, there’s no room for anything else. As I take my first bite I can see why – the broth is so rich with pork that you feel like you just took a bite of a rib. The slices of pork belly and soy sauce egg complete the equation, making it more of an “evening ramen,” as in “don’t plan on getting anything constructive done after finishing.”

On our way out we are given a tour of the basement, which houses two gigantic walk-in coolers. While we’re down there, Masa tries to explain to his friend where Maine is, but he might as well have been talking about Lichtenstein or the planet Melmac (wow – an Alf reference?) because this guy truly had no idea, nor did he care.

We have a few more stops before we go our separate ways for the evening, and en route to the next watering hole we stumble upon Sakaya, a small boutique that only sells sake. Though I have been researching and drinking sake for awhile now, places like this continue to remind me how little I know. The owner was very helpful, and I pick out a bottle of Kokuryu “Black Dragon” Junmai Ginjo from the Fukui Prefecture to accompany the six bottles of wine that I had already brought down to stock my hotel room.

We then enjoy a Yebisu beer and a carafe of sake to wash down a few pieces of Tamago (Japanese style omelette) at Soba-ya in the East Village. I will admit right now that my knowledge of NYC geography is poor, so don’t get too riled up if I fuck up when describing where I’ve been. I’m still pretty damn full from the ramen at this point, so I have some tea to aid digestion and we head out to shop for Ramen bowls and other noodle bar accessories at Korin.

Korin, in addition to many other things, has the most amazing selection of Japanese knives I’ve ever seen. The walls are lined with them, with many fetching price tags of up to $7000 each. This makes me wonder at what point does one consider him/herself so proficient that they would feel worthy of utilizing such a blade?

After I was done drooling over knives, Masa takes me to my hotel and we all part ways for the evening. I decide to go over the top and get a one-bedroom suite on the 21st floor of the Eventi Hotel in Chelsea. It’s a gorgeous room, with a separate lounge area and a king size bed overlooking the city. The bathroom is pretty much three rooms, one for the Jacuzzi and shower, one with mirrors and sinks, and one for the toilet.

I had a few friends coming by late night so I get to work chilling bottles and ordering up different stemware from the hotel restaurant (yes, I’m THAT asshole), and just settling in. I originally had the intention to take a nap, but I decided utilizing the Jacuzzi and then hanging out in the leopard print robes (another Kimpton hotel feature that I love) while drinking wine would be a reasonable substitute.

As late afternoon sets in I roll out to meet my friends, Lacey and Kate, at Terroir wine bar in the East Village. Lets just say this is my kind of place, with a wine list that only sells Riesling by the glass in the summer, and pictures of women’s body parts with the word “Riesling” tattooed on them on display everywhere. Lacey, a sommelier for one of Mario Batali’s new ventures, knows her shit and knew I’d love it here, with the wines lists presented in old-school binders with phrases like “bubble gum wine is better than your fake oak juice” scrawled all over them. I order a bottle of 2009 Donnhoff Kabinett from their extensive Riesling selection, and after a few glasses I begin to wish I could visit this bar every day.

I had made dinner plans with Andrew Knowlton, the restaurant editor for Bon Appetit, at Prime Meats in Brooklyn. The owners, Frank Falconelli and Frank Castronovo, had been to Maine recently to do a book signing at Rabelais and we’d had a few drinks after, so I was curious to see what their whole operation was about.

After getting stuck in ridiculous traffic, which I guess is the norm, I finally arrived to meet Andrew and his wife Christina, the director of operations for the Frankie’s restaurants, with their daughter, Julep. Though not usually a fan of children, I have to admit that I enjoyed Julep’s company at dinner, and was honestly a little excited when she warmed up to me enough to begin giving me high fives (although not every time I requested, I guess she didn’t want me to feel spoiled).

We start out with an assortment of salads, the hands-down favorite of mine being the smoked trout, which is uncharacteristic of my usual tastes. It was so delicate and flavorful, which made me want to take some home and make a patty melt with it, in my typical fashion of extracting any kind of subtlety out of a dish. Then again we were drinking Syrah, Crozes Hermitage from Domaine des Entrefeaux, with it so I guess doing things the right way had already gone out the window.

Marrow bones were cut lengthwise to maximize the amount of roasted deliciousness to spread on toasted bread with salt and gremolata, a much better pairing with the wine. It’s the kind of flavor that you just want to linger in your mouth forever, salty and rich.

It had gotten dark at this point, and because I’m totally ghetto and don’t have a flash on my iPhone camera, I don’t have much documentation of the rest of the dinner. I did take a few pictures with one of the server’s phones that had a flash, but according to Andrew they “sucked” though he blamed “the syrah and not my abilities.” This doesn’t surprise me, as I was getting pretty fucked up and was only taking pictures because I knew I’d be pissed at myself if I didn’t.

For the main course we shared a mammoth Cote de Bouef, sliced and served with a chimichurri-style sauce. The quality of the meat was outstanding, dry aged to the point where, as Andrew pointed out, it had an amazing minerality to it. I had to agree, even though I was beginning to burst at the seams and couldn’t quite finish.

After dinner, Christina takes Julep home and we retire to the bar, which is standing only. I think this is cool, because not having chairs keeps things moving and discourages camping out. I can immediately tell that Damon, the bartender, knows exactly what he’s doing and I let him make me a tequila cocktail of his choice, which turned out to be a delicious concoction of Milagro tequila and loganberries. We go next door to check out the neighboring restaurant, Frankies, and Damon joins us for a moment to discuss, among other things, people who leave anonymous comments online.

While at Frankie’s, we order a cheese plate which I believe were selections from Saxelby Cheesemongers, accompanied by figs that almost tasted like peaches, and an amazing compote made from grapes that they grow in their backyard. I remember the front of the house staff at both restaurants being extremely enthusiastic about what they were doing, to the point where it was contagious. The dining experience is concluded with a couple shots of Nonino Amaro, a digestif that reminded me a little of Fernet Branca (although my memory could have been failing at that point).

Now it was time to tear through all that wine in my hotel room, and there to help me were my friends Sean and Lola. A few hours go by, and we decimate all the Champagne, red wine, and sake. At this point I am miraculously hungry again, so we head out to Mad for Chicken in Midtown for late night eats.

The entrance is fairly unassuming, but inside it’s almost a little clubby – but like I said at this point my memory is falling apart. One thing I’ll never forget, however, is how fucking great the chicken wings were. I almost want to describe them as having a “fried candy shell” and paired up with a bottle of Soju I just couldn’t stop eating them. I will admit that when the server came back and told me they were out of the Champagne I had foolishly ordered along with the Soju, I was a little relieved. The evening concludes with a few more drinks at the hotel, and then I can no longer stand.

All in all, a great night…

What wasn’t so great was the next morning, but at least it was nice to wake up with the view of the Manhattan Skyline from my bed. I stand in the shower room for about 40 minutes and think about how I’d like to live in a luxury hotel at some point. The ride home is just as brutal as I thought it would be, as is the work shift that follows, but I didn’t regret a thing. The week proceeds to be a blur and finally ends up right where this post led off.

I’m sure it won’t be the last time.


  1. your hair cut looks good :) The rest I'll just avoid commenting on because I'll just come off as jealous and petty.

  2. There should be tags for sexy knives and Melmac...

  3. I worry about you, then I read some more and stop worrying and start getting jealous. Then I worry/jealous some more; then think, 'hmm, he's actually a good photographer. I'm hungry.' Must go see if there's anything Joe-worthy to eat in the kitchen for breakfast...

  4. Well, Joe, after this week I'll be living in Brooklyn with a backyard and patio - along with my love of wine and food. If you and Eric can ever get it together to come down at the same time we could have an epic time. And I love Korin. I bought my first carbon steel Japanese knife there after staging at Blue Hill in the city and seeing the fish cook slice fish skin w/o it even moving. I knew I had to have a knife that sharp. BUT, it isn't one of the crazy, crazy ones. I still love it, though.

  5. Dammit, Joe. Every time I read one of your posts, I am instantly both ravenous and revved up for a bender. I want to live your life even if that means I'll be dead in two weeks. Marry me.

  6. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/28/nyregion/28metjournal.html?ref=todayspaper

    Check out this link. Could dumpster diving be the theme of the next Deathmatch?