Just as ridiculous was something I spotted about “NoZa,” someone’s idiotic coinage for the area above the anti-Eli’s. Not only have I never heard that term uttered out loud. But earth to hip blogs: You can get coffee up this way. We have dueling cappuccini right over on Amsterdam, and the cafe con leche at Malecon is exceptional. Actually, if it weren’t for Granddaisy, the real wasteland would be “SoFa.”
One last observation from what was obviously a long-overdue respite from the incessant online food BS I waste far too much time on at home. After tearing to the airport to get back, we had an unexpected half-hour to kill, and of course when the flight gets delayed, the delayed get wine. So we ducked into the new branch of the Anchor Bar in the Jet Blue area for some shiver shiraz and chardonnay. While gagging mine down, I was marveling at the city’s shrewdness in giving a local landmark prime real estate even though everyone knows the wings are better (and probably cheaper) just about anywhere else. Then I noticed the one sign attesting to the greatness of the snack invented at the original greasy/musty tavern — a “best of Buffalo” award from a magazine in 1999. Ten years ago. So now I read that the Road Sprats have a book coming out on American foods you must eat before they disappear (the foods, not the authors). And I guess it’s nice to know these wings have less in common with microraptors than with cockroaches. They ain’t going anywhere.
I actually felt bad for the high-profile food-blog overseer who was recently photographed apparently contemplating eating crap at an airport. The awful truth is that no one (except maybe Saint Alice) is immune to the siren song of garbage for either instant gratification or self-abasement. I would add “simple satisfaction,” but fast food never provides that, as I realized after giving it up on losing 20 pounds in the only upside of my little incident four years ago. Consider this depressing tale: I was walking toward the Greenmarket on 14th Street and thinking about how easy it has been to keep that weight off because I would never succumb to the Taco Bell on my route these days. After filling my Cuba bag with corn and milk and other weighty stuff, I set off in search of lunch, thinking of the tuna sandwich at The New French 1.24 Mapquest miles away, which would be the perfect stomach liner for a birthday party at 7 that night. I got as far as Seventh Avenue and knew it was beyond me, waited awhile for a bus, then panicked about time and headed toward the C train and a cobbled-together lunch at home. Unfortunately, between me and the 23d Street station the new Qdoba lurked. I figured if I was going to fall off the food wagon, I might as well do it big time, so I ordered vegetarian nachos and was rewarded with a pile of chips in what looked like a pie pan, drizzled with “3-cheese queso,” slopped with pinto beans and green sauce and topped off with “lite” sour cream. I can’t remember the last time I tasted anything that delivered so little of anything you expect from food, starting with flavor. It reminded me yet again why people eat fast crap: They keep stuffing it in and hoping at some point their taste buds will perceive something, anything. No wonder the guy at the high table closest to me was either sleeping or passed out. The saddest part was doing the numbers. Killer tuna on pizza bianca with kick-McDonald’s-ass fries at The New French: $9.50. Bleak shit on a disposable shingle: $7. My colon wants its processing time back.
For all my carping about fast food chains engulfing and devouring the world, I have to give them credit for design. If the goal is to move the sheep in and out at the speediest clip, they do it with minutes to spare. Contrast your average Taco Bell expedition with my last two experiences with home-grown wannabes, both of which must have been conceived by bastard bureaucrats from a liaison between the IRS and the post office. At ‘Wichcraft, there’s no overhead menu; only late in the game do you realize you need to pick up a menu in the front and puzzle over it before stepping into the order line, which is more an order clot of confused customers puzzling over menus. If you get your pricey sandwich to stay, you’re guaranteed the runner will make at least three laps around the room in search of your hungry face. The comment card on offer should have been the first indicator that this is not a chute but a maze; that device is the last refuge of flawed enterprises (sorta like sex: places that get it right never have to ask).
Pinch Pizza by the Inch, at least the one on Columbus, was even more of a Bermuda Triangle. Mensa should give credit just for finding the entrance. But the menu is like the agate on the back of your MasterCard bill. Not only do you have you decide what combination of the infinite variations you want. Then you have to do the math — two inches plus jalapenos times what? My head almost exploded, and I spent only a little more than a straight olive-and-pepperoni slice would have cost up the block. I have no idea how they can make it work with a runner, flags with order numbers, utensils required etc. But the staff was astonishingly pleasant. I would go postal in the first hour if I had to listen to two rooms full of squalling human larva while facing down a molasses-like stream of guidebook-carrying, Esperanto-speaking patrons studying the menu for longer than it takes to learn Latin. Plus the occasional childless New Yorker. Because special orders do upset us.
Landing at JFK felt, as Bob put it, like arriving in Mexico City. And that may be an insult to Mexico City. Not only were armed guardsmen patrolling out front, but the Delta terminal was dark, dirty, cramped and as welcoming as Guantanamo. I don’t know why I was surprised, yet again. Our last meal there before flying to Nice had been on stools in the Samuel Adams pub because I couldn’t face the Chili’s, and we paid $78 for two glasses of pissy wine each, a “turkey” club and a quesadilla. Our last meal in France was at the Nice airport, where we dropped less at Le Badiane, a bright upstairs restaurant more sleekly appointed than many in New York, with a view more of the Mediterranean than the runways (and certainly not of pigeons running around a food court). I had tomato clafoutis, Bob ate tuna tartare and we split a demi bottle of fine rose and basket of warm olive and rosemary breads. Of course, since we were full, Air France then mysteriously upgraded us to business class from Paris and I couldn’t work for all the interruptions of foie gras and Champagne. Maybe they just felt sorry for us, coming home to Delhi.