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for those of us who know us best, forgetting our anniversary is something we do very very well — and has resulted in us celebrating our October wedding each year in December.
this year we celebrated at Les Halles (for the second time in three years) and Bemelmans Bar, which was named in honor of Ludwig Bemelmans the creator of the classic Madeline children’s books who hand painted the scenes that cover the whole interior.
unfortunately, that was in the days before foursquare, so we have no earthly idea where i actually proposed. it was on one of the trails, at the top of a small hill, with a tree that was growing horizontal from the elements. but turns out there are a lot of trees in central park (who knew?!?) and some of them are even growing horizontally on the top of hills.
oh, well. figuring out where it happened gives us a reason to keep coming back.
so we took another shot at it tonight, with dinner at Central Michel Richard followed by drinks and bad college football. and we both stayed up until at least 11:15pm.
i’ve read several of his books (including his best known, Kitchen Confidential), his travel channel show “no reservations” is the only food show that i watch with any regularity, and we’ve just gotten hooked on his new show, “the layover”.
not sure exactly where the allure has come from, but he’s my kind of chef — his food is relatively simple fare, and he is a chef from a time before Martha Stewart and Williams Sonoma conspired to ruin the public’s notion of the equipment required to cook and consume food “properly.”
and he doesn’t say the word “bam!” after adding each ingredient.
so, it was with GREAT trepidation that i booked a table for two at his Park Avenue eatery, Brasserie Les Halles. i was scared to death that it would suck, that it would be as charming as a Las Vegas themed mega-restaurant, and that i would be outed as a fan-boy to boot.
i had no reason for the fear or the loathing — the food was outstanding, down to the smallest touches.
we had to push the bread to the opposite side of the table, so we wouldn’t ruin dinner. the mussels had a sauce (Portuguese) that quickly caused us to break out the bread again in reckless disregard for the swelling of our stomachs. we had so many “okay, this is the last frite and i mean it” that we lost count.
and all that was before dinner arrived.
i had a plate of pork big enough to make a man weep — smoked pork loin, veal sausage, frankfurter, smoked bacon, boiled potatoes and sauerkraut. i don’t even like pork loin, and it was easily the best thing i’ve eaten in 10 years.
it was legitimately outstanding, regardless of the reality television flashbacks.
don’t get me wrong, we had our bits of celebrity worship — we were waited on by veteran waiter tim, we saw the back of long-time owner Philippe Lajaunie’s head, and executive chef Carlos Llaguno was behind the glass when we peaked through the kitchen window.
the best bit was the restaurant itself was as unassuming as any you’ll find. if it seats 120 people, it’s not by much. decor doesn’t look like its been updated in 50 years. the floor was stuffed mostly by locals, or at least tourists who knew how to blend in. when we asked for a quiet table to celebrate our anniversary, we got (easily) the best table in the restaurant.
and, the whole thing — two glasses of wine, one double sized appetizer, two entrees, two deserts, two coffees — was $120. i’ve paid twice as much in D.C., for half the meal.
my existence as an anthony bourdain fan-boy continues on, unabated. a simple, dirty pleasure in a complex world of food and reality television.
and i feel great.