Tonight I had dinner at Aldea on 17th street here in Manhattan. Mom is in town and she and I went to dinner with David and her old college roommate Laura, as well as Laura's husband Larry and Larry's sister Joan. We had a truly fabulous meal, which lasted well into the eleven o'clock hour. Wine, scallops, black truffles, octopus a la plancha, bacalao croquettes and so on and so on.... ending with a lovely we-closed-down-the-restaurant chat with the absolutely dreamy chef, Georges Mendes. Oh, and he's extremely talented/qualified too.
However, the crowning moment of the evening happened as we walked toward the Q train down 17th. We passed a group of 3 people standing around talking.... I did a double take. There, before my eyes was;
Yes, Jeffery Steingarten. Out walking his dog! With a very necessary push from David I went up and rudely interrupted the conversation (well, only sort of rude, it seemed like they were finishing up anyway) and just said " I just wanted to say that I LOVE your books and your writing. You have been a big inspiration for me, and because of you, and a very few other writers like you I am getting a masters in Food Studies right now at NYU." So began the BEST 20 MINUTES OF MY LIFE!!!!!!!!! I have been in awe of him for YEARS- his rigor, his natural and authoritative style. At once self-depreciating, and disarmingly honest, Jeffery Steingarten is one of if not THE very best living food writer.
And there we stood, talking about Delmonicos, about the lunch menu at the Harvard Club in the 1930's and how bland and horrible it was, about contemporary food culture, Marion Nestle, the Cooking Channel-- and by gosh, he seemed like he was honestly enjoying himself! Just talking to someone with such an encyclopedic knowledge and such a true love and true devotion to food; to food history, to cooking, to taste. I am inspired.
This was one of those nights. I didn't have to worry about catching the Q train after that-- I absolutely flew home.
Oh, and by the way, that couple I interrupted that were talking to Jeffrey first, and who had been sitting right next to us all night at Aldea? It was just good old Wylie Dufresne and his new bride.