Food is a passion for me. I’ve taken week long vacation to attend a crash course in French Cooking from Le Cordon Bleu. I can mise en place with the best of them. And I can recreate restaurant dishes, minus the fancy garnishment.
New York restaurants are something I’m very familiar with. From street food, to fine dining at my first French restaurant, to a morning cream cheese and lox bagel for breakfast at a random NY diner, I’ve been blessed to have enjoyed the variety that is the New York City food scene.
Moving to the Midwest decades ago, I developed the inevitable pains for a decent bagel or a foldable splice of pizza that was worth folding. Over time, you find those secretish Midwest diners or pizza joints that somehow imported the ingredients and know-how to make the real thing. Or you forget over time what the real thing tastes like and convince yourself that Domino’s makes the best Brooklyn style pie.
A few years ago I discovered a voyeur’s window to the New York restaurant. A simple column of five to six meaty paragraphs—with accompanying photograph—focused on a solitary restaurant, whose solitary requirement for inclusion is a New York City zip code and interesting food.
“Table for Two” has been my weekly fix from The New Yorker magazine. Even when I’m drowning in months of unread issues and feel like I need to triage and toss the oldest ones, I still take the time to read Table for Two before tossing an issue into the recycling bin.
From fine dining establishments that I will never be able to afford to eat at, to hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants, I get a glimpse into the magical world of food told by a galloping gourmet writer. Even the disappointment reviews are intriguing for they describe what could’ve been if the kitchen was up to the task, causing me to ponder whether I could recreate the dish at a level that would meet expectations. I never attempt the challenge on the stove mind you, but it’s an enjoyable mental exercise after reading a bad review.
After the coronavirus invaded New York City, I knew the column might go on indefinite hiatus. It certainly was expected.
But instead, they started to cover the takeout experience at formerly full service restaurants. It was a front row seat to the pivots made by great restaurants. A fine dining establishment passed on serving their menu for fear it would not travel well to diners’s homes, and so they created a rustic homecooking menu for takeout. Another restaurant opens on Saturday mornings to provide customers with restaurant ingredients that were ordered online. There are now stories of the restauranteurs, and it’s much more focused on the owners than would normally be found in the column. There’s still talk of food, but it’s a much more personal conversation with the creators of amazing food.
It couldn’t last
I turned open the pages of the first issue for June. And the Table for Two column was literally on what was in the reviewer’s freezer. It was multiple takeout places mentioned in the span of five paragraphs. And the accompanying photo was of a freezer.
It would’ve been better if they had skipped the column for a week, or even a month, in order to create a column worthy of expectations. I know my heart would hurt less.