The Perfect Table, or How to Dine Out

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The perfect table.

I follow a few simple rules when dining out. First, only dine in places serving cuisine and dishes that I couldn’t make myself. Second, as my good friend puts it, if your meal is under three hours or courses, you’re doing it wrong. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be the perfect table.

When I worked in the restaurant industry, we referred to “the perfect table” as one that coursed out their meal and ordered a bottle of wine with every course. There are several variations on this theme, but generally the perfect table starts out with a round of cocktails before looking at the menu. Then, they share a bottle of wine with their appetizers. Following appetizers is the main course and another bottle of wine or two. Lastly, dessert arrives along with a round of after-dinner drinks.

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The Champagne and oyster course.

I love starting off the meal by sharing a half-bottle of champagne with my dining companion and a dozen oysters. If I’m dining Italian, then the meat and cheese board is a must. From here, depending on my appetite, I could go into a soup or salad course, or I might dive into the entrée. Whatever the choice, there will always be a new bottle of wine to pair with the meal– a substantial red if I’m eating a meatier fish, steak, or hearty pasta; white if it’s lobster or a lighter fish. I’m partial to an unoaked Chardonnay or an Albarino. Depending on the number of guests I’m dining with or how quickly we sip our wine, a second bottle will be ordered for the table.

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Pass the Courvoisier.

Finally, after several hours of libations and good cheer, time for what is perhaps my favorite part of the meal: the after-dinner drink. Nothing complements a delightful evening of food and friends quite like a snifter of Courvoisier. Some reach for the port, others a Brandy Alexander, but me—I love cognac.

With there being thousands of dining options in New York, I want my dining experience to be just that—an experience. I want the restaurant where I dine to grant me access to food and wine that might otherwise be out of my reach. If not, there’s no point in eating out. While I don’t dine in this manner every weekend, I do strive to be the “perfect table” at least once or twice a month. Of course, being the sensible New Yorker that I [almost] am, I always budget for such meals.

Get to The Next Tree

ImageLife is crazy. We all know this. I know I’m not the only person in the world who’s spread too thin, working two jobs to make ends meet, not striking the perfect work-life balance, lamenting that time passes too quickly. I haven’t even written a blog post since April! (Though, in my defense, I’m convinced time passes faster in New York City  than in the rest of the country and that New York is actually on another planet, in a different dimension, but that’s a whole different story.)

Anyway, amidst the craziness that is adult life, I find myself easily caught in the trap of thinking about all the things I haven’t done or wish I had time to do. I haven’t even made it to a baseball game this summer (one summer I went to 11), I haven’t been to a Broadway show in months, there’s a stack of New Yorkers on my kitchen table that are unread, I haven’t even put away my clean laundry! I don’t even want to think about the pile of dishes in the sink or the fact the recycling needed to go out last week. Not to mention since moving to New York over a year ago, I still haven’t found a local doctor to call my own or a budget that works! I can’t remember the last time I had a lazy Saturday where I laid in bed watching Netflix and eating chips and salsa. Vacation, what’s that?

When I’m feeling bogged down with too many tasks and not enough time, it’s easy to justify doing nothing. I don’t have the perfect, well-crafted idea for a blog post, so I’m just not going to write one. Ever.

I don’t have the perfect closet organizer to maximize the space of my closet and I really don’t even wear half my clothes any more but I’m too tired to separate out all of the clothes into bags to give away, so I’m just going to chuck all of my clothes into the corner of my closet, on top of my shoes instead of bothering to put them away neatly.

I used to get to the gym and train five days a week, sometimes with a personal trainer,  but I’m too tired to get up in the morning so I’m just going to go to the gym never.

I have dinner plans, but I’m so tired and have to work early in the morning, so i’m just going to go to bed as soon as I get home from work and not even eat at all.

This kind of thinking, while seemingly logical, gets me nowhere. And is nonsense. Life doesn’t need to be in such absolutes!

In situations like these, I’m reminded of the advice imparted by my old swim coach. He used to tell us the story of the marathon runner running his first marathon. Instead of thinking about all 26.2 miles ahead of him, he just focused on making it to the first tree in his line of vision. Once he arrived at the first tree, he looked to the next tree, then focused on getting to the next tree after that. And then the tree after that. Until finally, he made it through all 26.2 miles.

I don’t need to accomplish every major task in one sitting, I just need to do something that will get me to that next tree. I don’t need to write a masterpiece every time I sit to write a blog post, but I need to put something on my blog, especially if I’m going to call myself a blogger. Your next piece of writing doesn’t have to be the next Great American Novel, but you still need to be writing if consider yourself a writer.

It’s so much easier to justify inaction, especially when feeling overwhelmed by wanting to do more than time will allow, but you do have to do something that puts you in the direction you want to go in. Remember, as Lao- tzu says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Just get to the next tree!

10 Things Someone Can Expect To Learn In the First Year Living In NYC

20130208-023409.jpg On Tuesday, I celebrated one year of living in New York with my two dearest New York friends in the comfort of my Manhattan apartment. Moving to New York City was such a great decision that I decided to honor February 7th, the day I moved to New York, the same way as I do New Year’s. It just so happens that my one friend moved here on the same exact day, so this gives the day added meaning. I couldn’t imagine my New York life without these two friends, so it was only fitting that they came over for dinner. Seasoned New Yorker brought over his cheese biscuits and Fellow Newbie brought this amazing list written on loose leaf paper entitled, “What Someone Can Expect to Learn in the First Year Living in NYC.” Without further adieu, here are 10 things someone can expect to learn in first year living in New York, as told by Fellow Newbie:

train10. The most disgusting things in the whole word can be found on the trains of the NYC subway system.

9. It is inevitable that within your first NYC year you will scream, not yell, not talk loudly, but scream profanities such as “F*ck you!” and “You’re an a**hole!” to a taxi driver.

8. You will realize that hell actually does exist on Earth and it is located on 3rd Avenue between 76th and 77th streets.

7. It is a guarantee that on a day you are walking the city streets with a slight smile on your face, appreciating its greatness, feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride that you actually live here in the amazing city of New York, a semi-truck, cab, or local driver will honk their horn with such a loud prolonged persistence that you will contemplate murdering them.

Times Square6. By the end of your first year, if not by the end of your first month in NYC, the mere thought of having to go anywhere near Times Square makes you want to kill yourself.

5. You will learn that the appropriate and only acceptable attire for women of the Upper East Side is as follows: yoga pants, oversized sweatshirt and/or t-shirt that droops exposing shoulder, unbrushed bed head looking ponytail, aviator sunglasses, a stroller, a coffee, a nanny, and a fake, half-assed man-eating grin that screams, “I’m a rigid c***.”

4. It will become apparent that those women who trudge around the city in heels are nothing more than mere masochists. You will learn that flats are not only appropriate but less of a health hazard. Wearing heels, you are destined to fall on your ass if you hit the wrong pothole, step on a grate, or get shoved by a fellow passerby.

3. The phrase, “Ugh, I need a drink!” will be spoken daily, often before 11 am.

2. You will being to truly contemplate if you can be in a relationship with a gay man. The only men in the city are homosexual and you will inevitably find yourself lusting after one, mentally envisioning your life together regardless of your lack of desired gender.

1. The desire to shoulder check, shove, or hit people with your bag will become an ever-growing rage as people enter and exit the subway.

More importantly, in our first year, hopefully you have the luck to land a truly amazing friendship. One that can withstand the trials and tribulations of the city that will bring you up when you are down, that will laugh with you until you cry and one that will always remind you are not alone in this big city, that will walk or run through this adventure with you, never letting you feel defeated.

Hopefully you find a Sonja.

I Love It When You Retweet Me

“Will our tales of digital courtship capture the imaginations of our daughters? Will they be impressed when we tell them about that time the text message was misinterpreted, or how the cute boy re-tweeted our Vampire Weekend reference? Will they care?”–Charlotte Alter, “Guns, Ammo, Romance?” Published November 17th in the New York Times.

Romance in the digital age.

When I was small, I never imagined that my heart would palpitate at the sight of an instant message from my real life crush’s screenname, an unexpected text message from a beau, or a retweet. Sometimes it creeps me out how much of a thrill I get from connections in the digital world while ignoring what is lacking in the actual world. A retweet? That’s all I get? No handwritten letter? No surprise visit? No stroll down the lane? No reading sonnets aloud by the fire? No fortepiano duets? No froggy went a-courtin’? Sometimes, I think I was born in the wrong era.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any of this is any one particular person’s fault, it’s just a sign of our times. Things progress as they always do, but I’m just a little disappointed that my stories of romance will never rival the ones my grandma told. I can just picture the tales of romance I’ll recount to my grandchildren some day:

“Hey kids, you want to hear about romance? Let me show you my gchat history! You’ll read some very romantic exchanges in there!”
“Grandma, why is there a 30 minute time-lapse between responses?”
“Oh never you mind. Want to read some of my old text messages? See there was this boy and he texted me to ask me how my day was going and…”
“Let it rest, Grandma.”
“I think I have one love letter somewhere…”
“We’ll take your word for it.”

No, I imagined my stories of romance would be more like my grandma’s. Tales of being escorted home from school by a handsome boy; letters from the WWII front; a man who demanded to paint her portrait, a portrait which hung in her house for 50 years; the man she met at a church fair who later became my grandpa.

While all of these things are all still possible, technology has taken away the urgency of face-to-face contact. As an obsessed avid iPhone user, I definitely enjoy a surprise text or tweet, but it doesn’t really make for a great story. I don’t quite know what the answer is, except that I want stories that could at least be in the same category as those tales of romance my grandma once told me.  In the meantime, I guess I’ll settle for a retweet.

Saturday Night Live is Hiring. Pick Me.

Saturday Night Live is hiring. Upon further investigation, I have found that I am qualified for none of their open positions, but I went ahead and wrote a cover letter in case something opens up. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for Saturday Night Live. (Best job ever?) Here’s what I came up with:

Dear Mr. Lorne Michaels:

I wish to be considered for the position of [insert position] for Saturday Night Live. My previous work experiences and my personality make me an excellent candidate for this position.

I have previously worked in live television, so I am no stranger to the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of live television. I delivered the news to the hard of hearing on air by projecting the day’s top stories at the top of my lungs. Following that, I translated the local headlines into opera songs and performed them on air. I also have on-air sales experience. I had a brief television stint selling Super Bass-o-matic ’76. Working as a [insert position] for Saturday Night Live is the next logical step in my career path, as I am not quite ready for prime time.

As your future [insert position], you will come to know my personality very quickly. A little bit about my personality–I recently quit smoking so now, I’m depressed, I gained weight, my face broke out, I’m nauseous, I’m constipated, my feet swelled, my gums are bleeding, my sinuses are clogged, I got heartburn, I’m cranky and I have gas. I come from France and yet I’ve always had a deep love for Pat Sajak. In my youth, I was very energetic, some might even say hyperactive–one time, my mom gave a Snickers bar and a can of coke and I towed the car home. When I’m not answering my front door for clever sharks, you’ll find me chopping broccoli or rocking out to the hits of Buckwheat. Because when Buckwheat sings, it is eternal. (And I hate to admit, I am always wookin pa nub in all the wrong places.)

I would make an excellent receptionist because I’m 50 years old and I like to kick! And stretch! And kick! Despite recent grapples with depression due to cessation of smoking, I maintain a positive outlook in the work place that will boost staff morale. For instance, if a co-worker named Rich is Xeroxing something, I’ll cheer him on: “It’s the Rich-meister, makin’ copies!” Aside from my previous work experience and my personality, you’ll also find that I’m a team player. In fact, to prove how I always take one for the team, I have enclosed a check for $3000 made out to the Beatles.

I look forward to discussing this position with you further. Goodnight and have a pleasant tomorrow. Buh bye.

Sincerely,

Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute

The First Annual Best of Milwaukee Web Awards 2011

I had no idea I was even nominated for two of the Shepherd Express’s Best of Milwaukee Web Awards until someone tweeted me to say they had voted for me in the category Best Personal Blog. Voted for me? When I mentioned this fact to another friend and fellow avid tweeter, she replied, “Yeah, you were also nominated for Favorite Twitterer.” The nominations came as a surprise, but who doesn’t like being nominated for your favorite local alternate news source‘s web awards?

Last night’s web awards were a good time. Aside from enjoying complimentary hamburgers, wings, and beer samples from Lakefront Brewery, it was fun to be around the friendly, creative Milwaukeeans who do great things on the web. Milwaukee has a great social media culture. I’ve only been blogging and tweeting for a short while, but through that, I have met so many interesting and innovative Milwaukeeans. Interacting with so many different people on Twitter has made the city of Milwaukee feel like a small town (which most of you non-natives probably think it is anyway).

The Best of Milwaukee Web Awards were all in good fun and if anything, I am inspired  become an even better blogger and tweeter. It was an honor just to be nominated. I ended up being the first runner-up in both the Best Personal Blog and Favorite Twitterer categories and my name was printed in the latest issue of the Shepherd Express. Not too shabby.

Hats off to M.A.A.R.S. Attack for winning the Best Personal Blog title (as well as Best Tumblr and Best Band with an Online Presence) and Burp Blog, for taking the title of Favorite Tweeter as well as Best Food Blog. Here’s to another year of tweeting and blogging!

5 Literary Characters I’d Like to Make My Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day! In the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to two things I love (besides the Green Bay Packers): books and attractive men. Inspired by a recent post on a literary blog I follow I read entitled, “Bangable Dudes in Literature” and my love of making wacky lists, here is a list of 5 literary characters I’d like to make my Valentine:

5) Hamlet
Hamlet is full of angst, emotionally conflicted, and depressed. Yes, these might be bad qualities for a long-term relationship, but they are excellent qualities for a passionate love affair. I always admired Hamlet’s drive to determine who murdered his father and I love the creative way he exposed his uncle. The play’s the thing. He loses points with me for the way he treated his lover, Ophelia, which is why I would never want more than one or two rendezvous with this lost soul. What he lacks in serious relationships, he gains back in his beautiful soliloquies. What a piece of work is man, indeed.

4) Nick Carraway
I’ve always been partial to Midwestern boys and Nick is just that–a Minnesotan boy out to explore the charms of New York City. I love his reflective nature and overall storytelling abilities in The Great Gatsby. Although he does not talk much about his love life, he did get a little fresh with Daisy Buchanan’s friend. It didn’t work out, however, which was fine because I think he was searching for something deeper. I can respect that.

3) Atticus Finch
A widower raising two children all by his lonesome! Makes me melt a little. Atticus, a hard-working lawyer, stands up for what is right and true even when it makes him the most unpopular man in town. Very admirable. He seeks to break down racial barriers in his small Alabama town while at the same time teaching his children good morals. Not an easy task for just one man. I admire a man who can take a stand and has strong convictions and at the same time can be a caring father. All that is missing from Atticus’s life is a woman to keep him warm at night. I can help with that.

2) Theodore “Laurie” Laurence III
I always had the inkling that Laurie was good-looking because the March girls were instantly drawn to him when he became their next door neighbor. Laurie becomes the brother the March girls never had and becomes particularly good friends with Jo, the tomboy. Laurie mistakes this friendship for love (who wouldn’t?) and eventually proposes to Jo. Jo, like an idiot, refuses this proposal and Laurie seeks solace in Europe. Who wouldn’t want to marry their lifelong friend, attractive, and did I mention wealthy next door neighbor? In Europe, Laurie crosses paths with Amy March and he consoles her while she mourns the death of her sister, Beth. Laurie eventually woos Amy which is understandable because he offers her a strong shoulder to cry on. Amy and Laurie marry because they love each other and Laurie wants to be a March for once and for all! I love Laurie’s determination and love of the March family. Nothing beats a true family man.

1) Gilbert Blythe
All Gilbert wants to do is love Anne of Green Gables, but she won’t have any of it! That does not stop Gilbert from making Anne spelled-with-an-e realize that she does, in fact, love Gilbert deep down. Persistence. I like that in a man. Gilbert will not take no for an answer. Fight for your woman! However, I don’t suggest trying to woo your woman by calling her “Carrots,” a nickname she despises. Anne is sensitive about her red hair and Gilbert calls attention to that on her very first day of school in a new town. I suppose I can let that one slide because after all, Anne and Gil were only about fourteen. Teenage boys don’t exactly have the smoothest moves.

Another great thing about Gilbert is that he loved Anne for her brains. She was the smartest girl in the school and the two of them often duked it out for the highest honors in the class.  There were plenty of other pretty and popular girls in Avonlea that liked him, but Gilbert only had eyes for Anne. I appreciate a man who likes a woman for her intellect.

I always admired Gilbert’s undying devotion to Anne. He did not let their silly quarrels ruin their relationship. One of my favorite moments is when he and Anne both become school teachers. She has been assigned to a school in a town far from her home in Green Gables, while Gilbert has been assigned to the local school.  Matthew recently died, leaving Marilla to be the only one to look after Green Gables and the farm land. Gilbert learns that Marilla might have to sell the land because she has no one to help her so he trades places with Anne so she can be close to home and help Marilla. The ultimate sacrifice for the woman he loves. Brings tears to my eyes.

All this talk of these attractive literary characters has made me late for my Valentine’s Day pub crawl! Happy Valentine’s Day, people. Whatever you decide to do today to celebrate your love of [insert object of affection], just remember: don’t write on your lover’s Facebook wall. Save your words of affection for your chocolate fondue date. Your friends thank you in advance.