Saturday, April 24, 2010

Entering My Final Week

Friday I started lunch with a big fruit plate, and a bowl of oatmeal. I wanted a big breakfast because I was eating lunch with a friend and client and was unsure of the choices I had at this restaurant I've never been to. I assumed I would be relegated to a small salad so I loaded up at breakfast.

Took the train with my bosses up to Rye, NY where we met our clients at the Rye Grill. A big, popular place next to the train station and minutes from the corporate headquarters of MasterCard and Pepsi.

The first thing on the menu to jump out at me on this gorgeous Friday afternoon was the clam chowder. Part of my discipline is attributed to eating the same things, and going to the same restaurants so I am not tempted by food I used to love, like clam chowder! However, I asked the waiter about the 4 layer dip. Now, anytime you hear "4 layers" anything it has to be bad for you, but the description sounded intriguing. This dip was guacamole, black beans, corn, and tomato. I made doubly sure – no sour cream, no cheese, just those four ingredients. When I queried the waiter he asked if I had allergies, “No. I’m vegan.” Saying that in public does not sting as it used to for me, and there is nary a hint of embarrassment. The only thing not perfectly healthy was the tortilla chips, but I only had a few, and ate the rest of the dip with my fork. It was quite good, but the guacamole was rather bland.

My entrĂ©e was the salad which was fine, but it had balsamic vinaigrette and the lettuce was swimming in it. I forgot to order without dressing or dressing on the side. It is amazing; I used to always want my salad smothered in dressing, now it is virtually inedible. I also ordered the grilled asparagus which was very good – it actually tasted like it was grilled on a BBQ grill in someone’s backyard.

Thankfully, my usual discussion about the who, what, when, and why of my vegan quest was kept to a minimum.

16 years ago while contemplating where to take my date for dinner on my shoestring budget, my boss said, “You’ve got to take her to the Soup Man.” “Huh, the who?” I had just moved to New York City and was just learning about the hidden treasures of this great metropolis – stuff not found in tour books, nor known by anyone except for those in the know; secrets given to me by real New Yorkers. So, back in 1994 while working for Fox’s FX Network, and living in a small studio in Hell’s Kitchen I was informed that the greatest, cheapest meal I will find is just a few blocks away on 55th off of 8th Ave. It’s closed during the summer; there is always a huge line down the block during lunch. It was supposedly the best soup I’ll ever have, a tiny place where you order on the sidewalk, but, and, this is important I was told, you must order your soup, step to your left and have your money ready. Failure to do so and the chef will kick you out of line. Well, the soup was fantastic, but I made the mistake of asking the Soup Man to recommend one of two soups I whittled my decision down to out of about 8-10 on the chalk board. “All good! Order!” Sound familiar? Needless to say that when I saw the Seinfeld episode of the “Soup Nazi” a year or so later I was shocked that Hollywood had found this little New York secret of mine. Mine and probably 50,000 others. Well, now the Soup Man is world famous and has Soup Man outlets all over the city.
Last night I had some vegetable soup at the Soup Man on my block which consists of six metal vats of soup inside a Ranch 1 Chicken sandwich shop, so not only is the ambience gone, there is no Soup Man, just a women in a yellow Ranch Chicken shirt from Guatemala, who had no idea who the real Soup Man was. So, the new outlets all over the city have no character, no uniqueness, and though the vegetable soup was good, it was not that fantastic soup I remember back in ’94...then again, that vegetable soup could be the exact same recipe, but good memories tend to get great over time.

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