Monday, August 30, 2010

Laying Down with Lambs

While perusing my Facebook wall with various photos posted I was struck by one of about 8 women tri-athletes. It was posted by a friend and I inquired about the group - a team of women competitors - and was introduced to one of them. The purpose behind this was to expand my social circle with the extremely physically fit. Do I want to do a Sprint Triathlon (0.45 mi. swim, 13.2 mi bike ride, 3.1 mi run)? Yes, I think that is a manageable, even with my poor knees. It is a small, but not insignificant challenge.

So, any thoughts of this new tri-athlete friend being a pathway towards hanging out with healthier people were quickly dashed when I realized she was Australian, and could drink with the best of them. But, it was terrific meeting someone so passionate about fitness.

Now, most all of my meals are plant based, and I'll have fish a couple of times a week. However, I must write about a particular meat meal. The Aussie and I went to a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurant called Taboon on 10th Avenue and 52nd in Hell's Kitchen. The restaurant looks like a county home with antique-white tables, chairs and walls, but with a giant "taboon" or clay oven front and center.

Like most NYC restaurants, regardless of nationality, the staff is a hodge-podge of immigrants that rival the U.N. Our waitress was Ukrainian and was probably the most friendly waitress I have ever had -- the Aussie said, "I thought she was going to sit in your lap!" The place had a great vibe, we ordered the Zucchini Cake to start -- feta, parmesan, scallions, fresh mint, parsley, dill, Greek yogurt and fresh lime. I had my eye on  the Vegetarian Grill which was grilled fennel with goat cheese, served over homemade chickpea potato gnocchi, grilled zucchini, tomato, asparagus, oyster mushrooms, and parmesan cheese and chives. Much more cheese than I normal would eat, but I felt less guilty since I was feeling healthier through osmosis sitting so close to a tri-athlete. I was about to order... 

She had the Heraime halibut, taboon baked in a ragout of roasted pepper, tomato, cilantro, mild Moroccan spices, artichokes and hot paprika oil. Before I ordered, as an aside I said, have jokingly, "How's the lamb?" The sweet, diminutive, Ukrainian's eyes widened and with passion like she was on the front lines of the Orange Revolution, she said, "The Lamb Kebabs are the best you will ever have!" Her conviction won me over, and for maybe the 7th time since I ended my vegan quest in May I had red meat.

The portion was not overly large, but by the last kebab I felt I was eating just too much meat, and if not for those starving kids in China I would have left the last half piece of mouth-size kebab on my plate. However, I must admit, it was by far the greatest piece of lamb I ever ate, period, and all told, one of the best (non-vegan) meals I ever had! The lamb was just melting in your mouth, and like with other meats I can love it, but have no desire to eat it more than once a month. However, I strongly recommend Taboon,  an amazing restaurant with delicious dishes - it was spectacular from the décor to the service to the food and even the Mediterranean bread was out of this world!

We rounded out the uniquely New York evening with a night-cap at the famed Elaine's chatting with a couple of old, grizzled, and properly sauced reporters for the Daily News, and NY Times, plus a retired NYPD detective. This was old school, authentic NYC with all the celebrity pictures on the wall, and Elaine herself (sadly she is now morbidly obese) holding court at her same table front and center.

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