Wrap it Up
Last week, we had a special dinner at Del Posto with some friends who were visiting from Brazil. We started at The Lot on Tap, Tom Colicchio's new outdoor bar that's at the bottom of the new part of the High Line, right next to Rainbow City, a fun art installation that's open until July 5.
I think I'll always feel funny taking photos of my food when I'm out to eat, especially in fancy restaurants. At El Bulli, I made an exception since that was truly the meal of a lifetime, but at Del Posto, a place that's slightly stuffy (I could do without the piano player, for example), it just didn't feel right to snap pictures. So, a shot of Rainbow City, taken from the High Line with my (new!) iPhone, en route to dinner is all I've got.
I went to Del Posto when it first opened a few years ago for a work dinner and wasn't wowed. Now I completely understand why it was recently awarded 4 stars from The New York Times, the first Italian restaurant to get such a high honor in 36 years. It had been awhile since we'd seen our friends and they're expecting their first child in September, so we decided to go all out and order the 7-course tasting menu. It was incredible and each course was impressive and creative, but the sheep's milk ricotta nudi di ouvo, two wobbly balls of pasta filled with egg yolks, really stood out, both for flavor and presentation (they were served on top of shaved raw asparagus and looked like eggs in a nest), and the basil gelato that came with dessert was unbelievable. We had three types of fritters, including one with bacalao that rivaled the ones I've had in Brazil, lard butter and homemade foccacia, 100 layer lasagna, spiced ostrich, crudo with burrata and homegrown herbs, and so much more. Each course was finished off with a different type of olive oil and since I can't remember all the details, here's the full menu.
As you can imagine, about halfway through our meal, I was full. This led me to tell our friends about the time Daniel and I went to Per Se with my Mom and Daniel's Dad and had a heated discussion over doggy bags. Daniel's Dad is from Brazil and he and his wife live in Portugal, two countries where doggy bags are frowned upon, if not unheard of. Long story short, they were appalled when we asked to wrap up some of our food.
I know, I know, it's a cultural thing, but cultural divides aside, I just don't get it. Aren't there people starving in this world? Why is it better to throw expensive, high-quality food away than to take it home and turn it into awesome sandwiches which, I might add, is what we did with our Per Se leftovers the next day. Wouldn't a chef prefer to see his food come back into the kitchen and get wrapped up, a sign that their patrons loved it, but just couldn't take another bite because normal human beings are not built to eat multiple courses in one sitting? Or, would they rather see the food they worked so hard on get thrown in the garbage?
So, there I was at Del Posto with a plate of veal braciole in front of me and I could only take a bite or two. When our waiter came to check on us, he noticed that I hadn't finished my food. I explained that I was completely stuffed, and I'll admit I said it kind of dramatically since I was hoping he could take a hint. The fabulous Federico immediately whisked my food away and promptly returned to let me know it was safe and sound in coat check. (Oh, and you better believe I had no problem polishing off our next course—roasted nectarine with a grilled lemon cake and that intense, but refreshing basil gelato. There was no way I could wrap that up.)
When it came time to claim my leftovers, the guy in coat check looked at my ticket and asked, kind of gruffly, "Is this food?" At first I was embarrassed until I saw him reach into A MINI REFRIGERATOR to retrieve my doggy bag. And there it was. Proof that I'm not the only person in New York City who asks for them.
It was such a nice sight to see.
I'm curious to hear what others think about doggy bags. Would you take home food from a fancy restaurant?
85 10th Avenue (16th Street)