Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Dinner Friday evening was a perfectly enjoyable affair, courtesy of Eli (hizzownself) and his bride Toni, who treated both Elissons to a fine Fishy Meal at the Legal Sea Foods outpost at Roosevelt Field.

The Other Elisson and I had spent the day roaming about the Island - Long Island, that is - checking out old, familiar neighborhoods and academic haunts. One of the highlights of the day was a visit to the Fairway Market in Plainview, a place that looks like the bastard child of a three-way between Zabar’s, Dean and DeLuca, and the local Safeway. There also seems to be a little Stew Leonard’s thrown in as well.

I had been hearing about Fairway for years, mostly from Toni, who is a huge fan of the store’s organic produce and meats, but I’m not sure the advance reviews really prepared me for what I saw: nothing less than a gourmet supermarket jacked up on steroids.

Of course, the first place I headed to, out of a sense of Professional Obligation, was the cheese aisle, and this one was majorly impressive. Only my reluctance to befoul The Other Elisson’s fridge kept me from purchasing a wedge of Stinking Bishop.

The meat department featured an array of serious beefy protein, including two-inch thick prime porterhouses... and a dry-aging cold-box in which a platoon of mold-encrusted primal rib sections were arrayed. I forced myself to move on, narrowly avoiding slipping in the puddle of drool that had collected at my feet.

There was a kosher foods section that was as extensive as any I had ever seen, and baked goods of all kinds... but it was the smoked fish counter that really got my attention, with a variety exceeded only by Zabar’s. Nova, Irish smoked salmon, Scottish smoked salmon, gravlax, sable, you name it - it was all there, all lovingly sliced by hand to your order. And order I did, with the fish slicer graciously offering samples of the various glistening, salty treats.

But now it was dinnertime, and as Eli and the Other Elisson attacked their desserts, Eli regaled us with a True Story, the kind that could only happen in New York.

A number of years ago, he and my mother had gone with a group of friends to Ratner’s, the famed dairy restaurant located on Second Avenue on New York’s Lower East Side. Everyone was seated; the orders were taken; the dishes were all brought to the table. All, that is, except one: Eli’s.

As he waited for his food to show up, Eli noticed an elderly gentleman at an adjacent table, a sort of gentleman familiar to anyone who spends a lot of time in places like Ratner’s. This fellow had made a meal of the free pickles and sour tomatoes, bowls of which were set out at every table as an appetizer... and he had enjoyed several of Ratner’s famous onion rolls as well. It was anybody’s guess whether he would actually ever get around to ordering a meal at this point, especially since he had fallen asleep after his lusty noshing.

Meanwhile, everyone at Eli’s table - except Eli - had finished dining. As soon as everyone’s plates had been licked clean, the waiter showed up, napkin ceremoniously draped over forearm, with Eli’s meal in hand.

“Take it away,” Eli said acidly. “I don’t want it, now that everyone else is done eating. We’re just going to go home, and I’ll eat there.”

Whereupon the waiter immediately turned, walked over to the table where sat the elderly gentleman, still sleeping away. The waiter smacked the old fellow on the head to wake him up and dropped Eli’s plate in front of him.

“Here’s your dinner,” he announced, and walked off.

Only in New York.

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