Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Steak as Medicine

It has happened again. Working 60+ hours a week in a restaurant does a pretty good job of kicking you out of your home kitchen. When you're working FOH, your diet inevitably degrades to pan from the bread baskets, cappuccinos, and half-eaten chicken legs left on the plates of small stomached Financial District lady guests or fussy children. Delicious. Since starting at a new, downtown French bistro I've come home full of cheap carbs and caffeine and so dead tired that opening the refrigerator seems a painful task. And pointless, too, since little time is left for grocery shopping. I'm behind on my work shifts at the Co-op again, but I think I've lost 7 pounds.

Sometimes when you're a waitress you make a fat chunk of tip money that you can spend on semi-fancy to fancy dinners on the days you don't have to hustle the dining room. Especially in a city like New York and double especially if you're as charming and attractive a waitress as I am. Sometimes. Other times, like the past three months, you work 6 hours and walk out of your restaurant with $10 in your pocket. I haven't had a less lucrative job since I was 14 and wasn't paying $950 a month for rent.

Things get worse when your fellow staff members make you so sick to your stomach that yoLinku can hardly finish the 1 free dessert your restaurant has ever given you. Now, ask anyone I know: I'm as nice as nice gets. But when the person in "charge" of you, who gets paid more than you do, who's 2 years younger than you are and not college educated, and who spells "Quiche", "Keesh" and "Asparagus", "Espairigus" you've gotta be allowed to get a little in your face, no? Things are bad.

How do you solve these waitress woes? 48 oz Medium Rare Rib Eye for You & Your Honey. Bam. Sure - it wasn't really in my budget, but it was New Year's Eve and all and it had been since Italy that Jeff and I had shared a sexy meal. We had walked by Convivium Osteria on 5th and St. Mark's about 57 times and had made loads of promises about one day going in an ordering the restaurant's semi-famed steak and nothing else. We've been talking a lot recently about how other couples manage to go into a restaurant, order an entree a piece, and leave in an hour with money left in their pocket. Jeff and I take a different approach - get there at 6pm, have a few beers, cocktails, split some appetizers, 2 entrees, a bottle of wine in between, neither of us pass on dessert, I usually go for a Sauternes or the like, he's been deep into limoncello and of course espresso for him and American coffee for me. We leave at 11:30 or so, go home (in a $25 taxi, because getting on the Subway after a good meal ruins everything), get into bed, and spend a mandatory 1/2 hour decompressing and, because we are shaken with the guilt of having spent all the money we made in two weeks AND the money our moms gave us to help out with our gas bills, consoling each other.

But this time we had a plan:

On New Year's Eve, I was working at the restaurant from 7am-4:30 then hostessing at a Russian stranger's cocktail party in Chelsea from 9pm-2am. We were going to get to the restaurant at 5pm, order the steak and two glasses of champagne, eat, leave. We sat down, took a look at the menu, and agree promptly that we should go for the $26 seafood platter for two. Everything sounded so good!

Jeff and I had had a pretty knockout seafood platter at Gambero Rosso in Cinque Tere for my birthday in October and had concluded that anchovies were new on the list of things to love. We got anchovies this time, too, two ways! And juicy/sweet crabcakes, and red peppers stuffed with lobster and garlicky, for once NOT over cooked grilled prawns.

Two glasses of champagne, bah. After that we ordered a bottle of Barbera D'Alba (another newbie on the favorites list) and awaited our rib-eye with dripping fangs and forks in our hands...

HOLY MOLY this baby was massive! Easily bigger than my head. Our server started cutting into it and he thought (and we agreed) that it was still a little too red (believe me, I like my meat bloody as hell, but Jeff, bless his heart, has alerted me to the truth that cooking steak medium rare gives the fat more time to render and seep into the meat, resulting in way more intense flavor). But before the server put the baby back on the burner we had him slice of the end pieces that would have ended up on a one-way train to Mediumwellsville.

The steak was one of the best I've ever had. It was salt-pepper-garlic rubbed, basted in butter, and fragrant with rosemary. The cow that became our meal was grass-fed, so her meat had a beautiful, almost purple-ish color and a deep, woody, sweet-ish taste. Every bite tasted different and every bite tasted good. We got through the whole thing, gnawed on the bones, and still had room for dessert.

That night, between me, Jeff, and Rib-eye, juicy, bright-red, tasty love was in the air, and ready for a New Year of delicious eating.