“Traditionally, chefs trained in New York and then stayed, with the goal of running big kitchens or opening their own places…. No more…. ‘I just can’t believe how well you can eat anywhere,’ said Mitchell Davis, the executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation. ‘It’s really amazing.‘” — The New York Times, July 28, 2014.
Have you ever seen forks — and spoons — next to plates, and even menus, with choices, all of them edible, all of them prepared in a kitchen, all of them made with actual ingredients? Well, that’s how it is at FOOD, the brand-new restaurant opened just last week by a New York chef, here, in the middle of nowhere, where we usually just gnaw on our limbs and nod and smile. No longer, at least not if you have a few beads to spend and a couple of hours before the bugs get you. And, I’m telling you, FOOD is truly a revelation.
The doors open — and they do open, each and every time you pull them — and there are chairs. Enough for everyone! And they’re clean! Imported directly from New York. You can leave your own chairs at home, because you won’t need them. Not at FOOD, because apparently in New York, restaurants have their own seating. And it’s pretty amazing that they let you sit there for the entire meal, even if it takes a whole hour. They don’t even charge extra. Yet. So we have chairs too — not only with seats, but backs and legs.
Before you’ve even had a chance to milk your cow, there’s already butter. In a dish! With a knife! Accompanied by an entire basket of what appears to be freshly-baked bread. Don’t try to eat the basket — that’s a tip from me, learned through experience — but the rolls are definitely worth placing into your mouth, biting, chewing, and swallowing. It sounds like a lot of work, but that’s how they do it in New York — and it’s how you’ll be doing it all night, if you know how to best enjoy FOOD.
The rolls and butter are only the beginning. That’s right — there is more to come. A man — or even sometimes a woman, although where they found these women is a mystery — will come to your table bearing a leather folio filled with magical words. Most of them are words you will have never seen before — branzino, bottarga, vegetables, just to name three — but they will all turn out to be entirely ingestible, without any of the usual reactions when we crawl around on the ground and put things in our mouths. That’s right — it is almost guaranteed that no one in your dining party will be poisoned by FOOD. I know, I know–it all sounds too good to be true. But apparently in New York, no one eats mysterious things they find on the road, or drinks the liquid that drips from cars.
You tell the man — or woman, because in New York, people are allowed to speak to the women — which culinary delight you desire, and it will appear in front of you, in less time than it would normally take you to hunt in the woods for a muskrat or a ferret, let alone remove their fur. Animals will have had their faces removed, and plants will have been turned into, well, I don’t even know what I was eating. But there were no mouthfuls of bark, I tell you. No mouthfuls of bark. I don’t know how they do it.
One plate will follow the last, and each plate will be a different size. How many people must be in the back carving plates? No matter how much I begged, they would not let me see the plate-carving room. “There is no such place,” they insisted, trying to maintain the illusion that plates can just appear, in boxes, sent by a higher power. I don’t think they will be able to keep this trick up for long, so I recommend you check out these plates before they’re all gone. The craftsmanship is quite consistent and it took a lot of effort to break them with my teeth. (This behavior is apparently frowned upon in New York, as one of the men with the foot coverings asked me kindly to stop.)
It doesn’t ever seem to end, as if FOOD has a way to store things for the future, perhaps packing them in snow to preserve them. I was offered a small menu labeled “Dessert,” and of course I initially thought the typesetter had inserted an extra “s” and they were allowing me a post-meal wandering through the desert in order to more fully appreciate the blessing of a stomach full of such adventure and delight. But the typesetter had done no wrong, and instead of sand, they were enticing me with sweet ambrosia. At home, of course, we end each meal with a sacrifice of the most-recently born. But here they refused my generous offering and instead gave me a piece of molten chocolate cake.
It was not actually molten, for that would have been a disaster to the entire community, especially given how well we survived what legends tell us was the last volcanic eruption back in the days of the stone-people. But it was, in a word, edible. And that’s what you get at FOOD. Edible things, cooked and served, by people from New York.