Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Take Me Out

Hey Epicurette readers! Thank you for your patience. Yesterday morning as I went to post the blog, Blogger freaked out and gave me an error message, and then I realized I should have taken all of those "auto save failed" more seriously. Three hours of work was lost. I screamed a lot of profanity, and I mean A LOT. Please forgive the lateness of this blog, and I promise to remember to copy and paste my work into another program if I am not positive it has been saved. Now without further ado...

There are two stereotypes about women in New York and their relationship to food. One is the gourmet freak, strolling through greenmarkets, hitting up restaurant supply stores for the best knives, scouring Gourmet Garage for a great cut of meat (or making her fiance do it since he works closer.) The other is the Take Out queen, intimately invested in her stock of delivery and carry out menus. This city caters as much to one as the other. New York is a place where every time of food you can think of is available pretty much any time of day, so for many the question is "why cook?" Also a distinct lack of storage space makes the oven look awfully tempting as a shoe rack, though the risk of accidentally broiling your Jimmy Choos is a risk factor. While I am usually of the Kitchen Queen category I have always enjoyed time spent some time dabbling as a Carry Out Coquette.

Being a fairly broke non-profit employee with a waiter/artist fiance, cooking is usually the cheaper alternative, especially when we are two for dinner. About once a week though Will has an improv acting class and I live like a single girl. On some nights this means finding a restaurant that has some type of counter service where I can read a book while enjoying dinner (Rai Rai Ken ramen is great for this) or cooking something Will doesn't like (I made a killer shrimp scampi last week). Other nights, like one Wednesday night a few weeks ago, it meant picking up some take out and slumping into the futon with the season of Sex in the City my best friend Stef left the previous weekend. Having cooked an elaborate dinner in Stef's honor, I hadn't actually done any of the dishes from it yet so there was little to cook with or eat off of anyway. When I indulge in real estate fantasies, it usually involves a dishwasher.

While New York may be a Mecca for fantastic Take Out, it is certainly not exclusive to the urban diet. Stef is practically the poster girl for it, especially last year when she worked on the Obama campaign as a field organizer in Pennsylvania. Her days ran 16 hours and a call for Take Out was a standard way of sustaining through the day. I opened her refrigerator once during this period and was greeted by naught but white styrofoam containers. When I questioned the health benefits of all this, she pointed out that it was better then frozen pizza, especially since she had a tendency to fall asleep with the oven on. Touche. Barack Obama: Turning our young men and women everywhere into paranoid malnourished narcoleptics. Yes we can.

That night it was raining, as it had been for most of June. Rather then venturing far outside my normal flight patterns I simply called the Japanese place downstairs from my office, ducked between the rain showers drizzling off of the scaffolding, and picked up an order of Crunchy Spicy Crunchy Tuna Rolls and Gyoza, which on comfort food level is nearly Japanese Mac and Cheese. I have a french class in the East Village so I've been known to pick up and order of shoestring french fries with truffle salt and pesto mayo at Whole Foods and pick at it while I study. Similar to my college cram session fare, but definitely a level up. Other nights I have delved into the amazing Indian food cooked up at Jackson Diner. It really starts to feel like the city is one big buffet catering to your every whim, and in an unairconditioned apartment, turning on the stove between June and August seems like unnecessary suffering.

Finally there's the age old answer of pizza. This is Take Out better eaten if your not home alone because facing an entire pizza by yourself can create a level of low self esteem I am just not ready to face. New York is very competitive about its pies, and the best I've found in Queens is Rizzo's in Astoria. They don't deliver to my hood so one rainy night I sent Will to pick it up. Turns out this place is pretty far from the subway and he got drenched finding this special pizza place that I had heard about and decided I wanted. He loves me and I use that to fulfill my carry out needs. If Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand ships, I am the face that launched a lone man toward handmade sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. As he waited for the pizza to be done one of the guys that works there looked at him and asked if he'd ever tried their pizza before. When Will responded in the negative the gentleman declared incredulously (and in a thick Brooklyn accent) that his first taste could not be "out of the box!" And so Will scored a free slice of pie and munched happily as they finished our pizza. Sometimes Take Out comes with a surprise Dine In. The pizza is amazing here, a fantastic crisp crust with a chunky tomato sauce where you really can taste the seasoning and the garlic. It's worth the walk, though Will might debate me on that point when it's pouring.

The fact is that while cooking your own meal is an enormously satisfying experience, the luxury of Take Out food is a pleasure any girl in NY can enjoy. When presented with some of the best chefs and menus in NY, sometimes it's best to put down the pots and pans, kick off your shoes, and turn on the DVD player. Pass the Egg Rolls please.

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