I have eaten somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 meals on the road this year, in many different cities. Some meals were very good, and some meals made me wish I was allergic to everything in the world including lettuce so that I could live in a bubble and get fed from an IV rather than having to eat them again (I’m looking at YOU, Chicago airport TGIFriday’s “taco salad”.) Finally, last night, I had a meal that was so good that I feel I should shout it from rooftops:
If you go to Atlanta, eat at Social
I had the cucumber/mint/cranberry salad, an excellent glass of cotes du rhone, and the rabbit tagine with gingered rice. This tagine blew my mind – it was rich and salty and light and perfect. It had fresh green peas and carrots that were completely infused with the sauce. I literally thought about missing my flight the next day so that I could go back to the restaurant, try other meals, have the rabbit tagine again, marry the (very cute) cook/owner, have his babies, raise them to love nothing more than feeding their mother, and then retire fat and happy into the wilds of Georgia. I feel as though anything that makes me want to retreat into the woods to eat rabbit has some pretty strong mojo. Please go there if you’re ever remotely close.
…and here’s why:
-Both taxi drivers were originally from Ethiopia and recommended the same Ethiopian restaurant – that bodes well. Apparently there is a 45,000-person Ethiopian community in Atlanta, and a huge aquarium, and a restaurant that serves mostly buffalo (this has something to do with Ted Turner. Please feel free to decide for yourself what that ‘something’ might be…) Henceforth, I will imagine Ethiopia as a land of many fish and big heap bison.
-I had some of the best Mediterranean food that I’ve had ever, although I do have some doubts about the authenticity – there wasn’t goat soda on the menu anywhere. We had baba ganoush, a roasted eggplant dip that wasn’t baba ganoush, cabbage rolls, and a moussakka that was dynamite. The server was young and friendly, and had terrific suggestions. He also spoke German and ‘some Dutch’. Glargh, if a 20 year old Turkish kid in Atlanta can speak German, why can’t I?
-The lovely receptionist at the administrative office had worked there for 43 years, and told some great stories about what things were like at PP back in the day.
-So much shrimp. And so many grits.
-There is an exceptionally stylish hotel called the Glenn which has:
• A rooftop bar with its own special elevator, futuristic pink lighting, a good background d.j., and a great open-air lounge feel with a sparkly view of the city. When we walked in a friend said, ‘I’m Irish. I thought these bars only happened on TV.’ That killed me for some reason – the bar did look a little CSI-Miami, and in fact there WAS a Criminal Services Investigation conference in a neighboring hotel, and I guess I could have made that connection… if I was Irish.
• A server who was probably 18, and whose enthusiasm for the things on the menu almost overcame his awkwardness in describing them: he said that the mixed drinks were ‘really great’, that they were made Depression-style (um, so far so good, right?) and that Depression-style meant that most of them had egg whites in them for texture. He also said that they infused their own liquors in-house so that the liquor wouldn’t get overwhelmed with the other flavors. (Oh, you mean the egg-white flavors?) He did, to be fair, bring me a gin, elderberry, blackberry, lemon-meringue drink that was fantastic and which cured my cold overnight. (Which was a relief. It’s an either-or proposition, drinking Depression-style gin when you’re sick. Either you get better or you get much, much worse.)
• A restaurant with pretty decent salads, which is impressive given that they had on special a 3-piece fried chicken plate that came with succotash and biscuits. And the biscuits came with gravy, ya’ll.
#1 – Salmon. I got crazy paranoid about whether or not it smelled fishy because I coouldn’t smell it at all. Also, you just don’t eat it for the texture.
#2 – Olives. They make your mouth oily. This is super gross when you have to breathe through it.
#3 – Peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It’s impossible to take a bite small enough to swallow before you run out of oxygen, and if you open your mouth to breathe mid-chew the peanut butter makes your craw look like Jabba the Hut.
#4 – Lima beans, because as you’re eating them your co-worker will tell you a story about how she was a kid and didn’t want to eat them, so she shoved them up her nose. You will then have a ‘wait, is my nose clogged because I left a bean in there?’ moment that is best avoided.
-I really like cabbage rolls. I ordered them for dinner tonight and then I was too full for baklava.
-I just found 5 rather smart black shirts/dresses in my suitcase. Two of them were turtlenecks.
-I wear my huge noise-cancelling headphones to the gym like a big dork, and it doesn’t even make me flinch.
-I go to bed early so that I can get some work done before breakfast.
-I use under-eye cream and a special neck lotion.
-I’m 34, for chrissakes. I think I may have taken the turn from 20–>30 a little too fast and ended up missing my exit – now I’m lost somewhere in my 70s. The next time I say, ‘Oh I love _____, but it makes me so gassy’, feel free to remind me that jumping rope may be unkind to my decolletage now, but it will be impossible in another 50 years so I’d better hop to it.
I loved this painting the first time I saw it. The brushstrokes look quick but aren’t sloppy; the cat is perfectly cat-like, especially around the head.
Mondnacht by Horst Janssen
I loved it even more when I realized what the cat was dragging.
German dumplings with veal, sage and nutmeg stuffing (I’m totally making that up, but that’s what it tasted like,) with scallions and parm/reg shavings. Mushrooms on the side for color?!
The Hand of the Maker
In the in-flight magazine for Lufthansa airlines, there is a feature that details the work done to maintain some part of the aircraft: last month’s feature was on the coffee makers that each plane has 3+ of, and described how often they get serviced, how long the servicing takes, who does the servicing, and how much the coffee machines cost. That last bit was the sticking point, because the magazine said that they cost over ten thousand. Euro. WTF? Granted, their coffee is acres better than a lot of coffee I’ve made at home, but ten thousand Euro? I know it has to be the right size, and special care should be taken to make sure that it doesn’t explode what with the being in the air and all, but that’s a lot of scratch.
This week, I got a glimpse into why the stuff like that costs so much:
Tobias and I were getting out of the car, and I noticed a shiny object in the back seat. I asked what it was, and he explained that it was some kind of emergency suit to wear on the big ships that went out to fix/install the offshore wind turbines. Tobias is lots of things, but dignified is really the one constant. I immediately asked him to lug the suit up to the apartment, put it on, and let me take pictures. He acquiesced, with dignity.
The man emails for a living, with the occasional conference call, but might someday make a site visit to the ship, so he has been outfitted with the following:
• Size 43 black waterproof boots of the serious variety
• 2 pairs of black cargo pants, also of the serious variety
• 2 black T-shirts with the company name and his name printed on them
• 2 kind of awesome black hoodies, also personalized with his name
• 1 hard hat, not black, so significantly less cool than the other stuff
• 1 bad ass harness for repelling out of helicopters onto the boat
• 1 bright red floating hypothermia-reducing emergency suit for surprise swims in the North Sea, complete with a whistle, a light, a headpiece, a cool Velcro nametag, built-in booties and mittens, and a freaking built-in knife.
They took his measurements before ordering, and all of this stuff was exactly his size except for the boots (oh, he’ll thank me someday for making him try it all on, like when he’s trying to swim to safety in boots that aren’t one size too small.) It must have cost enough to feed a family for at least a couple of months (built in knife!), but I am in all likelihood the last person ever to wear it. What a waste:
This Man Can Kill You. With an Email.
Hypothermia Drill #14: Dining Room Chair Evacuation
Oh, the mysteries of the universe. I feel like I know a lot of stuff: The Swiss have not yet moved to the Euro and are still using their Francs, the vitamins in cantaloupe are best absorbed when it is eaten alone, Shakira has an IQ of 140, the list goes on. One thing that should be known to me is the process for making the delicious salty Peruvian corn snack that I ate last night with the brothers Maestas, who are the kind of beautiful people that make everything around them better but who agree that that particular treat stands on its own merits and would be exceptionally delicious even if they weren’t there. The corn snack is served as crunchy kernels that are airy enough to make you think that they’ve been freeze dried or almost popped; their shape is like a teardrop rather than a more traditional pyramid; they have a light sheen of flavorless oil, maybe to get the salt to adhere; they are perfect with beer and ceviche. The type of corn used to make them is different from field or sweet or popping corn, and the mechanism for drying/popping/frying them is different, too. I wish I knew how to make them so that I could
smuggle the ingredients into Germany to approximate their crispy, sunshiny saltiness using only local, non-invasive species as ingredients.
I’m not even going to bother to google the subject of their preparation, because I can’t remember the name for them and I’m not willing to wade through the inevitable third grade research papers that ‘Peru + corn’ will bring me: those Inca could be brutal, man, and I don’t want to know more about the slavery and the gold-hoarding than I do already. Ooooh, I just realized that it’s not the torture chambers they built into Machu Pichu that’s getting me salty, I’m mad at the Inca for basically inventing the potato. Everything comes full circle, doesn’t it? Fucking potatoes.
Wait. Potatoes have certainly been imported to Germany from the New World, why not a new type of delicious corn? So maybe I accidentally spill some seeds, and maybe those seeds spring forth from the ground, and maybe those seedlings reach toward the sun with the fervor of Incan gold-lust, and maybe a potato plant dies quietly in the resultant shade. Maybe cows will eat the stalks and leaves and leftovers of this delicious new corn, and the methane their farts produce will change the ozone above Germany. Then the sun will always shine there, and more corn will grow and it will make more sun and I will be so happy.
You know how it’s fun to say mean things to a dog, but in a sweet voice, and see them thump their tail and look at you lovingly, even though you just told them, ‘Your breath smells like farts, yes it does, yes it does you little finky shit-eater’? Well, the same is roughly true if you get deep enough into the French countryside that people’s English is good but not exceptional. To wit:
Atonishly Chic Older Woman who owns the restaurant: “Avez-vous fini de manger? Souhaitez-vous soin d’un dessert?” meaning, are you finished? Some dessert?
Me: “Simply not possible without a shovel and a stomach tamper.” (Nodding) meaning, oh god yes, but I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit it.
Astonishingly Chic Oder Woman: “Eh…eh…mousse au chocolat?”
Me: “Oui, et un espresso, s’il vous plaît.” meaning, I would be glad to eat your heaviest dessert, but I will cut it with some coffee.
Chic Woman: something like, “Oui. Very good.” meaning, ‘Please tell your compatriots that white sneakers are unforgivable’ or similar…
-I had lunch at a French restaurant (Brasserie Lipp, if you’re caring,) and my bœuf tartare came with its own little box of sea salt with its own tiny spoon. The person next to me had a tartare-style tuna sashimi, and his came with a different kind of special salt. Like with bottled fizzy water, there’s probably a negligible taste difference, but ooh it makes you feel so fancy!
-Finally, I know why anyone ever serves mignionette: it’s for very salty oysters. It cuts the salt dramatically, leaving delicious briny flavors without the thirstiness.
-The town is beautiful, with a lake in the center and a fountain in the lake.
-There’s no valet parking anywhere, even though the town is totally geared towards the wealthy. I love this – it’s so different from, say, L.A.
-There are lots of older, European men here on business who have fantastic suits and shoes. One man had a sober, light grey suit with a fairly plain purpley plaid tie (oh, yeah, purple plaid ties are getting plainer and plainer these days,) and somewhat suave hair and glasses but nothing too fancy. When he got up from his chair, I saw the inside of his jacket, which was a shockingly rich dark pink. Just lovely.
-The most notable thing, though, is the skin quality here – it looks as though people spent their first forty years in a quiet, dark place to minimize pores and freckling, then came out into the sun, got a great gold-pink-bronze glowing tan, and have spent the remainder of the time finding the perfect shirt color to bring out the exceptional tone and color of their necks. I don’t know what kind of shaving cream men use here, but it is magic.
-And, last but not least, when I came into the airport lounge (where I am now writing this, thanks to the magic of SwissAir and the Star Alliance,) at the lounge check-in counter there were After Eight mints. Heaven!