Thursday, July 06, 2006

Expect Disappointment

I came across this morsel:

"As a general rule, men expect disappointment: they know they must not be impatient, that it will come sooner or later, that it will hold off long enough for them to proceed with their undertakings of the moment. The disabused man is different: for him, disappointment occurs at the same time as the deed; he has no need to await it, it is present. By freeing himself from succession, he has devoured the possible and rendered the future superfluous. 'I cannot meet you in your future,' he says to others. 'We do not have a single moment in common.' Because for him the whole of the future is already here. When we perceive the end in the beginning, we move faster than time. Illumination, then lightning disappointment, affords a certitude which transforms disillusion into deliverance."

- E.M. Cioran, from "The Trouble With Being Born"

This time in New York City, I ate at French Roast, Cafe Habana, Whole Foods (well, Whole Foods via some good home cooking), Gray's Papaya, Le Cirque (the highlight), Pegu Club (drank, though the Earl Grey infused gin and chartreuse martinis were meals in some ways of their own), Chicken & Rice (sort of), and Brother Jimmy's. I rode and ran in Central Park (it's hilly, yo), window-shopped in Soho (it sounds self-defining, but it wasn't), saw Lincoln Center for the first time, and just wandered around in a state of "what ifs?" It was a range of tastes and experiences. Though I had a great time, I predictably spent too much of that time preparing for the disappointment I would feel upon the impending and certain conclusion of my trip. The notion is, prepare for the worst, so when the worst comes, you will be prepared rather than surprised. Even as a child, I would mourn the end of Christmas, moping around in a state of non-clinical depression, until I realized that rather than go through that yearly depression, I may as well temper the excitement of the holiday so the 26th wouldn't be such an upsetting day for me. Though it seemed astute at the time, I'm realizing that this philosophy has served no purpose other than to spoil the potential enjoyment of the experience itself. For example, probably one of the best meals I will have in my lifetime, a unique experience at my friend's luminous restaurant, is a series of fuzzy details so incomplete and fleeting that the experience almost seems like a dream. Is this a way to live? Of course, if life is nothing but a series of disappointments, it may well be.

At this time, I'm trying to fight the predictable post-New York depression I enter into each time I return. The "why-do-I-live-in-this-respectable-yet-undeniably-mediocre city," "what am I doing with my life and what happened to all the high expectations I had for it and myself," "Even my parents lived in Manhattan!" - depression. Even a lovely, albeit strenuous, bike ride along my favorite lakefront route did little to lift my spirits. After all, that gorgeous view is one thing Chicago has that New York doesn't. I'm not sure why I am so fascinated by that city, but since I first drove along the New Jersey side with my brother and my mom and gazed at the neverending stretch that is Manhattan, I've been enamored. I think the fact that my mom began her hopeful life here in Manhattan draws me to it. In fact, it is likely the unattainability and mystery and potential of it that makes it so desirable. Surely if I were to move there, the expense, isolation, stress, hyper-competitiveness, garbage, and the soul-hardening, dualing forces of gritty survival and perpetual loneliness would make me long for Chicago.

And yet, I still want to go. I know, I know, I know. Instead of whining about it, why don't I do something about it? Okay, but I'm working on that right now (kind of) and I can't help but think it is too late and I am already washed out. 30 is too young an age to already feel regret, but I slip into the "why didn't I even apply to this or that school" regret from time to time, particularly when I return from a visit. On the other hand, arguably, if it was truly something I wanted, I would have found a way to get there by now, no? I do know that if I were to die tomorrow, I would go to my grave feeling profound regret at not even having tried, as well as a sense of failure at allowing my fears and insecurities to get the best of me. That seems to be reason enough to pursue this goal, even as a washed-out Midwesterner.

Now, for some pictures from my delightful meal at Le Cirque (there is a more complete description at this blog (hope Chris doesn't mind the link and that I am stealing his idea)). I'll only post my favorites of the tasting menu and, of course, the desserts. As for the restaurant itself, go to the website for accurate depictions of the room, though nothing can really compare to the experience of dining there. For example, the pictures do not accurately convey the feeling of hushed reverence you feel upon dining at a restaurant of this quality. Nor do they reflect the polished sheen of the glass drawings of the circus animals that line the back side of the room. There is a certain "emperor's new clothes" aspect to fine dining, but you cannot deny that dining at a legendary restaurant like this is a special experience.

Ravioli of lobster with wild mushrooms. That is lobster froth.

Mozambique langoustine with red curry, ginger, Kaffir lime sauce, legumes au bouillon. I kid you not, you could taste each of these ingredients with subtlety and the langoustines were tender and perfectly cooked. Please take note of the delightful plates and bowls, which I loved.

Colorado Rack of Lamb. Crispy lamb flank brushed with mustard, braised eggplant with lamb shoulder and vegetables, garlic confit. Oh. My. God. I am not a meat person, and I am definitely not a lamb person, but this was out of control in its deliciousness. I have to confess that the best part, IMHO, was the beautiful gift of crisped fat lounging on top of the lamb. God.

Pot au Feu. Coconut ice cream, mango and mint compote, lime "Mounds Bar," creamy passionfruit sorbet. Um. Hi. The waiter is pouring warm water on the dry ice on the inside of the copper pot, thus creating the cauldron effect. You could taste chunks of coconut and passionfruit in the ice cream and sorbet, the mint complemented the mango perfectly, and the crust on the Mounds Bar was out of control. Seriously.

Waffle Martini. Apricot candied martini glass filled with nougat ice cream, traditional French waffle. I do not like that this is the most popular dessert ordered at the restaurant, but we had no choice in the matter. But are you aware of the perfectly arranged "Le Cirque" chocolates and waffles resting on the glass and each other, and the actual candied apricot fragments (not fake sugar, mind you) lining the glass? I can't even talk about the nougat ice cream because I am so angry that I can't remember what it tastes like, other than sooooooo good.

Petits Fours. I was so stuffed at this point that I could not fully appreciate these delights. The chocolate, nutty thing in the middle was wrapped around ice cream, and the pistachio tart in the back, as well as the caramely, nutty thing in the foreground were some that I sampled. I say with pride that most of these, as well as parts of the above pieces of art were expertly crafted by my friend The Chef. I am kind of disappointed that we didn't get to sample some of the special things he had prepared for us because of a communication error, but I hope there will be future opportunities to taste. We did get a tour, some chocolates, and a rich bombolini.

Look at the flower arrangement, the perfect, rounded water glasses, and the glass drawings and mirrors behind us. I wish I had pictures of the entryway and the Bloomberg building, which provided a stunning impact.


Blogger Al's Auto Color said...

Stop allowing yourself to feel "washed up" and old, a failure, a chicken, and all that other crap. There are people out here that just won't let you beat up on yourself like that. You are an intelligent woman with a great deal to be proud of, and don't forget it.

3:39 PM CDT  

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