the luxury of luxury.
Here’s the scene: it’s the mid-eighties, and I’m out to dinner with the family at 72 Market Street, where Gary and my mom were investors. We were regulars, and we knew just about everyone by name- from Steve the piano player to Julie the hostess, and of course, Leonard, the chef. The entire place was redundant muted shades of white with recessed lighting off-set by high ceilings and an infinitely dark floor. The entry was grand in that 80’s way, with a lot of slate stone and worn metal. There were oysters on the half shell (which I’m proud to say I enjoyed, even only being in elementary school), there were warm rolls with butter (though it being the 80’s, no one actually ate the butter), there was the first (and best) Caeser salad I ever had and there was ostensibly a lot of grilled chicken.
It was comfortable and it was luxurious at the same time, though I didn’t know how much it all cost at the time. We ate high-end often and I didn’t really know the difference. It was the 80’s. Everyone was flush, or seemed to be.
And no moment was this more true then when about halfway through entrees, Gary would ask for a bite of my food, and knowing that a so-called “Gary Bite” could easily consume a third of a serving at a time, I’d take a moment before reluctantly relinquishing my plate. “Come on,“ he’d say. “You can always order more.”
While yes, we could always order more, but no one ever did. It was the 80’s and while luxury was in, gastronomic indulgence was out, and no one would concede to a pat of butter, let alone a second plate.
Those times are long gone, in a lot of ways. Dietary restrictions were slowly replaced by financial ones, and even if 72 Market Street hadn’t closed, we wouldn’t be going much anymore.
Being on my own, it took a pretty long time to shake off the habits I’d grown up with, and detailing them here is nothing new. But while I discovered I could indulge in anything I wanted without the burden of guilt, being a college student and then a jr. copywriter, I couldn’t afford it. Caloric guilt was replaced by monetary guilt, and even though I was totally comfortable with ordering a second serving of whatever I wanted, my budget wasn’t.
But now, things are a little different. I’m a lot more responsible than I once was, which means, more than anything, I can be really irresponsible when I want to be.
A few weeks ago, Max and I were out at Alembic. We opted to keep things simple- an order of roasted peppers and just one pork belly slider, plus a salad. We thought we’d split the hangar steak entrée in the interest of underindulgence. But after a sazarac and a southern exposure, an old-fashioned and a pisco sour, we were well past the point of understated by the time the steak came. And two bites in, something happened. The taste was too good- perfectly cooked steak settled in a port chantrelle reduction, sweet balanced with savory and considering how much we were falling for the dish, not enough to go around.
Gary’s phrase rang in my ears, “You could always order more,” and finally, for the first time it was really true. And just as I suggested getting another round of steak, Max said, “I was just thinking the same thing. “ It felt insanely luxurious to off-handedly say to the waitress when she came back to check on us, “The hangar steak? Yeah, we want another one of those.”
And it was great. The second serving of steak was just as incredible as the first, and the pure indulgence of the whole thing made it taste even better. I can’t think of another time, another perfect storm where desire met possibility mixed with just the right co-conspirator. And the best thing about everything? There wasn’t a trace of guilt at the table
Posted by canolive at 2:18 PM