Tag Archives: restaurants

Chopbusters

In a bid to put a long working week behind us, The Special One and I have a regular Friday night date. We even take it in turns to pick a dinner venue, which is a little difficult for me on occasion given that my knowledge of New York restaurants extends from hot dogs at Papaya King, to “that place that we thought gave me food poisoning from the chicken, but then we realised it was probably the three bottles of Sancerre that I washed it down with”.

Last week’s venue of choice was Dennis Foy in Tribeca, a restaurant that I can (now) heartily recommend. Especially if you plump for the gnocchi with mushrooms and sage – I’m not a particular gnocchi fan (it always seems like a waste of a good spud to me), but these were almost enough to swear me off chips and gravy for life.

Of course, it wouldn’t be New York without a little bit of drama, and sure enough, half way through the main course, the head waiter flounced out of the restaurant with a flourish, quickly followed by another (clearly anxious) member of staff. You couldn’t help but hear the raised voices, no matter how deeply you buried yourself in your parsnip puree. Thankfully after a thorough talking-to, the flouncee returned with his smarm and uncanny over-familiarity firmly intact.

Content after a good meal, The Special One and I got up to leave. Well, she got up to leave, and I scurried off to the bathroom. I have to call it a bathroom these days, despite the fact that there’s no bath and not even a toothbrush in sight. Apparently I break Newton’s First Law of Politeness In Marriage when I refer to the ‘facilities’ as a toilet. Next she’ll be telling me that I should be calling the cat’s litter box a feline waste disposal unit.

By the time I returned to her side, she was talking to a man dressed in a white jacket. Presuming it was neither Simon Le Bon from the video for ‘Rio’ or indeed the local butcher, I rapidly (and correctly) surmised that it was Dennis Foy himself, checking on the happiness of his customers at the end of the evening. As well as helping himself to something refreshing from the bar, obviously.

Foy quickly settled into a standard pattern of behaviour for ‘Americans that are introduced to a Brit that they don’t know, by an American that they also don’t know’. It’s a small subset of the human race, I appreciate, but large enough that a pattern of behaviour can be established. And sure enough, within 2.35 seconds, Foy was doing what can only be described as ‘taking the piss out of the Englishman’.

To be fair to him, he was very funny and extremely charming. Although if I’ve heard once that my fellow countrymen would be singing ‘Deutschland Uber Alles’ at the FA Cup Final if it wasn’t for America, I’ve heard it a thousand times. What made it all worthwhile though was Foy’s laughing insistence that he was just ‘busting my chops’.

I love the phrase ‘busting my chops’, largely because it’s as American as an economic recession. If a Brit ever uttered the phrase, he’d be carted off to the loony bin, but for an American it somehow seems strangely quaint. Better than popping a proverbial cap in my metaphorical ass, at least.

As it was, I wasn’t even vaguely aware that I had chops, let alone that a chef of some distinction would consider busting them. But after five minutes of banter, my chops were well and truly busted, and I beat a hasty retreat muttering something about him using less orange-flavoured olive oil on his fish in future.

Next Friday we’re going to Taco Bell, I can tell you.

A perfect setting

Some things just go together perfectly. Where would Elton John be without Bernie Taupin, for instance? A hot sunny day is nowhere near as perfect without a cold beer, condensation running down the outside of the glass. And what would Sunday morning be without a good old-fashioned lie-in?

Once upon a time, I would have added the knife and fork to that list of indisputable partnerships, but in the United States it seems that nothing is sacred.

When I was brought up, I was told that when you’re eating, you hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand. Then you use your knife to cut things, skewer them with your fork and plunge said stainless steel device and its captured foodstuff into the merry recesses of your mouth. With ‘unprongable’ stuff such as peas, we’d use our knife to scoop them up onto the fork. Eating anything other than a burger or hotdog simply wasn’t possible without both a knife and fork.

America disagrees though. My experience of eating at restaurants through to family dinners with The Special One, The Eldest and The Youngest is that the fork is king, and the knife is merely something you use to plunge into the back of your most bitter enemy. To be fair, my family haven’t yet taken to doing that, but it’s only a matter of time if I continue to sit watching football on TV on sunny Saturday afternoons.

The fork is a multi-use device in this country. You use it to scoop food into your mouth, spear big chunks of meat or vegetables, and to cut larger pieces into more manageable sizes using the outer prong (or tine, as I believe they’re called). For all I know, people may use it as a toothpick, a screwdriver and a solution to world poverty, such is the American commitment to this champion of the cutlery world.

Sure, you might pick up a knife if you’re eating something that simply can’t be cut by a fork (a thick steak, for instance) but otherwise there’s only a need for one utensil at the dining table. Discounting fingers, that is.

Like a marriage guidance counsellor of the eating utensil world, I’m maintaining my one man crusade to keep the knife and fork together. Call me an old-fashioned Englishman if you like, but isn’t it just better to cut things with a device specifically designed for that purpose? Restaurants don’t charge for cutlery usage by number, so why not use the full range of facilities? Or is it just that lifting two implements seems too much like hard work?

It’s only a matter of time before I get thrown out of a diner for trying to teach a complete stranger how to eat properly, I can tell you.