Tuesday, May 1, 2007

City Living

Alex and I often fantasize about moving into the city. Both of us grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, and are used to suburban living. We love our quiet, tree-lined street where we can open the windows at night and grill on our patio. We are so comfortable in our cozy little neighborhood that we rarely venture downtown. However, when we do make it into the city and see all the fabulous restaurants we are missing, we are filled with acute urban envy. I have this image of dining after work at a stylish restaurant across the street from our brownstone apartment. Alex is wearing a tie that has been loosened in a James Bondesque manner, and I am wearing a fashionable outfit with fabulous shoes. The restaurant owners know us, and present us with complementary glasses of champagne right as we are seated at a candle-lit table with crisp white linens. The food is spectacular - the type of cuisine we normally enjoy on special occasions. Except this is no special occasion: this is our everyday urban life.

I just returned home from a weekend in New York City, and my grass-is-always-greener syndrome is worse than ever. The weekend began with a party at the Harvard Club for Alex’s mother’s sixtieth birthday. While the food was delicious, my never-ending glass of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon is what really distinguished the evening. No matter how much I drank, invisible waiters kept refilling the glass. Alex’s mother always says that you won’t end up with too bad of a hangover if you only drink natural wines. I didn’t test her theory’s wisdom that evening, however. Instead, my parents and I went out to a bar after the party, where I drank a huge glass of sambuca. I think it was that final glass that left me with an epic hangover, the likes I haven’t experienced since a wedding last spring.

I really do regret that final glass of sambuca, because the next day the true dining really began. Alex and I met his parents for lunch at Mario Batali’s pizza restaurant, Otto. I was skeptical about the restaurant after a disappointing meal at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, which made me question the abilities of TV celebrity chefs. But, when the appetizer of artichokes marinated in lemon and mint came out, it was clear that this meal was going to be a great success.

For everyone else, that is.

I was still recovering from the sambuca, and couldn’t even bring myself to taste the artichoke, even though it looked amazing. The appetizer was followed by some pizza with a seriously thin crust - the likes of which I have never seen in America. I was able to force down a few slices, and felt anguished that I could not properly enjoy the meal.

If I lived in the city, of course, my failure to enjoy this meal wouldn’t have been so devastating. But not being able to enjoy a meal I know I will not soon be able to replicate filled me with the type of depression that would usually drive me to the bottle. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option at the time. The meal was not an entire loss. I rallied for a delicious tangerine sorbetto dessert. And, while I didn’t enjoy Otto to its fullest, the meal’s restorative powers prepared me for an amazing dinner at the Four Seasons, which will be the subject of tomorrow’s post.

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