Author: Luisa Perkins
•4:14 PM
Friends of ours from the City recently moved about ten minutes away. (This is joyous thing.) One of them emailed me last week; she and her husband wanted to eat out that night, and she was soliciting input on local restaurants.

Instead of tossing off a few ideas in reply, I spent a half hour writing detailed and strongly opinionated reviews--complete with rapturous anecdotes on specific dishes or snide comments on the abilities (or lack thereof) of the chefs--on every restaurant within a fifteen-mile radius.

(Granted, we live in a tiny town surrounded by national and state parks, but it was still a pretty long list. You can't have this many Manhattan ex-pats living in close proximity without a few decent food joints.)

I cc-ed Patrick on the list, knowing he would have passionate comments of his own to add. And he did--but afterward he emailed me this simple message: "We're freaks."

We are both freaks about food. It's a darn good thing we have each other, because we understand one another. Oh, I know all of you have foods that you like or you don't like. I suspect, though, that you are not as far down the food-obsession continuum as we are. We aren't just disappointed by mediocre or downright bad food; we get mad. We don't just savor delicious things; we are transported, practically Meg-Ryan-in-When-Harry-Met-Sally-style.

I love to go back and read my journal of our first trip to Paris. It reads something like, "We walked past the Eiffel Tower, then ate at the most exquisite café. The flaky, buttery, oranais pastry was filled with ethereal vanilla cream and topped with mouth-watering apricots that tasted like they were just picked. The hot chocolate was thick and dark--it didn't pack quite the punch of Café Angelina's, but its warm creaminess was still heavenly, like drinking straight ganache...."

See what I mean? This was not an isolated incident, either. Over and over, I mention in passing iconic, world-famous monuments while getting to the important stuff: blow-by-blow descriptions of every single meal we consumed. (I do wax rhapsodic about specific artworks and the birthplace of Marcel Proust, however. I'm not a total barbarian.)

Our addiction was enabled for many years by the fact that we lived in Manhattan, which is pretty much Mecca for restaurant goers. We never could bear to repeat-visit places (take-out was another story) because there was alway something new to try. A few exquisite exceptions: Picholine, Bouley, and the late and very lamented March. But those are once-a-year-type (for our budget) places, anyhow.

But we're not snobs. Give me a plate of really good biscuits and gravy, or a bowl of granola and milk, and I'm a happy girl. Patrick enjoys such low-brow delicacies as Kraft Singles and Entenmann's chocolate chip cookies on occasion. We're not snobs, but we are very picky. We want whatever we're eating to be the very best it can be. Otherwise, why bother?

I was surprised and thrilled to receive an award this week. The stylish and bionically witty Deb Barshafsky of the great food blog Bitegeist named me the 2007 Fan of the Year. The next day, my prize arrived in the mail: a lovely Israeli goat cheese in its own little insulated case! Delish, Deb; a thousand thanks! I'll try to wear the crown with dignity.

Last night Patrick and I ate at Grifone, which is near his office in the City. It is truly a hidden gem: quiet, elegant, with real waiters (not actors marking time) who know their business. I started with a Cold Seafood Salad that was to die for. I've never had squid so tender and non-chewy; the plump shrimp were also perfection, all tossed with crisp celery, a little butter lettuce, and the perfect vinaigrette. Then I had the Tagliatelle with Ragu Sauce (NOT the stuff in the bottle). The pasta was homemade, with that unmistakable, velvety texture and superb sauce-holding capability. The sauce tasted like pure-Italian-Grandma-love. Someone had simmered it for hours; the meat almost melted in my mouth (which is now watering at the memory).

P had some lovely mussels and a beautiful Osso Bucco; his chocolate cake, though, was the star of his line-up. I've never had such a good chocolate cake in a restaurant. My dessert was also stellar: a simple Pear Tart. We floated off to Grand Central for the train ride home, a little dreamy in the wake of a perfect meal.

Food-obsessed? Absolutely. But neither of us is seeking treatment for this particular malady anytime soon.
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On 11/1/08 , Kateastrophe said...

Darling, you are making me very hungry and even more sad that I don't live near you.

On 11/1/08 , Jenna said...

I love this about the two of you. It is sometimes intimidating about you, but more often amusing. I learn more things about food from you than I do the Food Network. And I'm not kidding. And I will vouch for the fact that you're not a food snob. Your oatmeal is plain goodness!

On 11/1/08 , Stephanie Humphreys said...

Wow, I wish I appreciated food like that. Great post.

On 11/1/08 , Who Am I? said...

I served my mission in Italy, I know the difference between "ragu" and Ragu' (and the latter makes me gag). You make me want to visit the City-of course, that's been a dream of mine for years.


On 11/1/08 , Kimberly said...

Thank heaven it's almost dinner time. Really. I want to cultivate that sort of addiction, to only want to eat what truly delights me!

On 11/1/08 , Annette Lyon said...

Due to a 12-year-old's basketball game, I still haven't had dinner, darn it. My mouth is watering something terrible!

On 11/1/08 , Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Well, yet another thing we share. Although I must say, I wonder about Patrick, if you live in upstate NY and he prefers Entenmann's to Freihofer's! ;-)

Some time we could compare Paris journals, lol.

Lovely post.

On 12/1/08 , deb said...

ah, luisa, you make this food writer very proud.....

nice post. and glad you liked the cheese.

On 12/1/08 , Millie said...

Wow, is all I can say. :)

On 12/1/08 , Anonymous said...

I'm not that fussy about food. I like good food, but not that fussy. We don't frequent fancy restaurants, we look for restaurants that aren't going to cost us three arms and a leg to feed the family of 6. Dawn is a pretty good cook. Not fancy restaurant good, but just darn good.

When I was reading this post I kept thinking that you were like the food critic in Rattatoulle :-)

On 13/1/08 , Anonymous said...

I had the same thought as Sirdar about you being a fancy food critic like in that movie. I must say you have a way with explaining you food experience. I am also going to read the excerpt from you Paris trip to the kids as an example of a descriptive paragraph.

On 15/1/08 , Magpie said...

i wouldn't seek treatment either.


On 15/1/08 , Adriana Velez said...

I love it -- magnificent obsession indeed! And I've done the same thing, sending a friend an absurdly detailed restaurant/food shop survey when she moved to the neighborhood.

But New York City loves obsessive types.

On 17/1/08 , thefoodsnob said...

I'm sorry, is there something WRONG with obsessing about food? ;)

(Thanks for your nice comment!)