A One Night (Epicurean) Stand

“Are those mushrooms?”

“Roasted mushrooms topped with a fried egg, pancetta, and ricotta salata. They make their own cheese here. You must be from out of town,” the gentleman says with a quizzical look in his eyes. I don’t tell him I walked by the restaurant four times before finding the entrance.

I drop my satchel and climb onto the bar stool, still eyeing the ricotta salata, “I’m attending a business development seminar at Urban Zen.”

He leaned in a little closer, “Well, you can’t leave this restaurant without trying the mushrooms. It’s their signature dish. And then you must have the spaghetti. It’s not your typical spaghetti. They make the pasta on the premises. We come here two or three times a week and we order the very same thing: roasted mushrooms, followed by spaghetti with garlic, Parmesan cheese and chilies. And after that, the roasted chicken. It’s melt-in-your mouth magnificence.”

As I savor the last luscious strand of pasta on my plate, a line of olive oil glistening on my lips, his date says, “No wait, you have to try this chicken.” She slices a piece of succulent chicken and places it on my plate, the unmistakable look of foodie anticipation dancing in her eyes. She, too, is excited to feed me. There is no jealousy here. No worries that her date is making the moves on the lady to his left. You see, she’s a foodie, too. And foodies are willing to share their food, right off their plates. The more food rapture, the better.

“Oh.My.God, this is amazing,” I respond appreciatively, a look of sheer bliss illuminating my face. I take a bite. There is just a whisper of a crunch in the lightly roasted golden brown skin. A hint of rosemary reminds me of chickens roasting in my grandmother’s garlic-infused kitchen.

I am a foodie. I like to talk food, share food, reminisce about great meals, and savor every bite on my plate—preferably in the company of fellow foodies. When I’m not eating with friends, I’m sharing sumptuous meals with total strangers at secluded restaurants in the West Village or Adams Morgan, known only to the locals who guard their neighborhood restaurants like the jewels they are. Yes, I said strangers. Let me explain. Traveling solo gives you the opportunity to dine with the neighborhood folk.

No, they don’t share their secret eating spots; unless of course you happen to wander in, sit yourself up at the bar, order a very expensive glass of wine, and start swooning over the menu. Foodies sniff each other out. They share foodie pheromones. Pretty soon total strangers are eating off each other’s plates. This isn’t a romantic gesture, the kind of nibbling that you do when you’re sharing a meal with your beloved. This is more like a one night (epicurean) stand.

All food rules are barred when I dine with fellow foodies. The food orgy far outweighs any nutritional nonsense I could call up. Yes, in the company of fellow foodies, all that I’ve learned about healthy eating flies out the window in exchange for an illustrious hour of rapturous delight over breaking bread with individuals who have the same foodie sensibility.

And then there’s the ambiance: an orchestra of colors and textures on and around the plate. That could simply be the arrangement of the food. Is it tall food, ready to tumble gracefully when fork meets structure? Is it lying in a swirl of chocolate sauce or drizzled with beurre blanc? Does the meal call for a particular piece of music, perhaps? John Coltrane, Billy Holiday, or Edith Piaf? At home or in a restaurant, I listen for the music that accompanies the meal. Does it take me to another place and time? Will I be leaving the restaurant in a taxi? Or a streetcar. Does the music paint a picture of a tiny little restaurant on the Rue Pecquay in Paris? Or am I happy to plant myself in the present moment savoring a more contemporary cuisine?

Even when I’m dining at home, I play with the elements of taste the way a writer plays with words, trying them on for size and then replacing them with a more vivid vernacular. The fennel on my plate is fickle. One night it prefers to be drizzled with olive oil and the juice of an orange. The next night it calls for currants and lime. I make up these combinations and pretend I’ve unlocked the secret to the perfect marriage of savory and sweet. Yes, an accomplished chef will tell you this is the art of flavor balancing. To me, it’s just … playing in the kitchen.

I savor the cooking experience as much as the meal I’m about to enjoy.

Maybe more.




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20 Responses to A One Night (Epicurean) Stand

  1. Kathleen Prophet October 2, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    Ooooooooooo… I LOVE FOOD RAPTURE! And YOU have just created it! Your writing is absolutely delightFULL, Sue Ann! It awakens my every sense and makes me want to DANCE and play with food and life in delightFULL ways I have never before imagined! Wow. Thank you! I have been awakened to a whole new world!

    • Sue Ann Gleason October 2, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

      It’s the luscious legacy my dad (and my grandmother) left me, Kathleen. And oh how I would love to see all women DANCE and play with their food. Here’s to taking back our plates!

  2. Marion October 4, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Hi Sue Ann!

    Naturally, I absolutely adore your writing! Food rapture and food bliss are the only way to go. The only time I “violate” those priniples is when I’m sick and have to focus on nutrients and nourishment. For me food rapture can come from biting into delicious berries or eating a spicy bowl of curried broccoli soup. And food bliss is that sweet tranquil feeling I get from having a piece of really dark chocolate after dinner. My mind just empties….


  3. Cris:Gladly January 27, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    Yes… food RAPTURE!!! THIS is what I’m discovering. I am loving the sensual act of preparing each new recipe I try. I’m savoring the indulgence of taking an hour to prepare a meal FOR MY SELF … and I have the swagger of a seductress when I think about how helpless a man would be if I slid a plate of this new deliciousness I’ve prepared in front him on a candle-lit table and then smiled with serene confidence in my creation, batting my eyelashes at him. I now understand how cooking can be used as a means of seduction. All in good time. For now, I’m quite content with seducing and pleasing my Self!

    … food RAPTURE.

    • Sue Ann Gleason February 2, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

      Yes, Cris! This is an important piece of my journey around food. For many years I only prepared beautiful food for OTHERS. ONe of my life lessons was learning that I could pleasure myself with exquisite meals. What a gift that realization was! Food rapture, indeed.

  4. Victoria February 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    I LOVE how you put words together… you send me into rapture in anticipation of sharing a meal with you… or someone who enjoys savoring the meal as much as you do. I so enjoyed feeding my friends a couple of weeks ago because they were enraptured by the meal I prepared for them and are STILL talking about it when I see them. One of the men wrote me a thank you note and asked where he could purchase Japanese sweet potatoes. I think I need to send his wife to your web site and see if she can be convinced to sign up for your next round of Inner Circle since she is not wild about cooking at all!

    I’m enjoying being inspired to try new things and experiment with flavor balancing. I’m still waiting for the JOY of cooking to return! Thanks so much for sharing your enthusiasm and beautiful words. xxxooo

    • Sue Ann Gleason February 2, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

      I love that, Victoria. I see the joy of cooking returning and splashing itself all over your world. My fondest memories of you are around platters of plenty, exquisitely displayed. I’m so glad you’re cooking again for people who appreciate your culinary genius!

  5. Leanne Chesser June 6, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Oh my gosh! What a beautifully written post! The way that you drew in all my senses was mind blowing! I’m a vegetarian but my mouth was even watering at the meat dishes :). I love how you’re so passionate about this and that you’re living it full-out. I enjoyed how you described foodies and the culture . . . LOVE the foodie pheromones comment! Thanks, too, for the salsa recipe. I love lime and cilantro. I’ll be trying this.

    • Sue Ann Gleason June 6, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

      Love that, Leanne. My diet is primarily plant-based but a few years ago I made the decision to get out of my head and really listen to my body when it comes to my food choices. Sometimes my choices are driven by my ancestry. Sometimes by the company I’m keeping. As a food lover and a food writer I’ve discovered that pleasure around the eating experience is as important as the nutritive value of the meal. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Cathy Sykora June 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    I go back and forth whether food should be just for energy and to make your body work only…instead of entertainment. You definitely make a good case for both! Thanks for a fun blog!

    • Sue Ann Gleason June 6, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      Thank you, Cathy. As a nourishment counselor who has witnessed so much angst around food it is my pleasure (and my mission) to leave a luscious legacy and to invite ALL women to join me in that endeavor. I’m glad you stopped by.

  7. Denise June 6, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    These are the types of meals I dream of … simple and perfect. Does it get any better? Thanks for sharing.

    • Sue Ann Gleason June 6, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

      Me too, Denise. And no, it doesn’t get much better than this!

  8. Emma June 6, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    Love this post! Sensual and funny… you have me salivating!

    • Sue Ann Gleason June 6, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

      Thank you, Emma. Perhaps you’ll have a one night epicurean stand one day!

  9. Candice June 7, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    What a fabulous piece of writing Sue Ann! You had me in fits of laughter and then wiping the drool off my mouth from the incredible descriptions of your experiences with food. YUMMO! You have quite a talent there. Love every inch of this article. x

    • Sue Ann Gleason June 7, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

      Ha, ha, love that, Candice. That’s exactly what I would hope to evoke—laughter and the sensory delight in drooling over my epicurean one night stand.

  10. Michelle May 1, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    You had me at ricotta salata. *swoon*

    • Sue Ann Gleason May 8, 2014 at 8:01 am #

      I know, right? LOL


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