Through and through, I am a creature of habit. My planner is the most important purchase of the year and I thrive off my Sunday night organization session where I outline my upcoming week in multi-colored pens. I have certain habits for grocery shopping and laundry and when I like to study foreign languages.
These routines, much like running and writing, keep me grounded and focused. But at some point, routines can become too much. It isn’t until you’ve stepped outside of yourself for a day or a week that you notice how much you’ve missed. You know that feeling of taking a long weekend trip? Suddenly, Saturday seems to last forever as you forget about buying bananas and bread and focus on enjoying wherever you are.
All this is to say that while I appreciate some of the structures I’ve given my life, I can’t help but wonder what’s just outside the box. The new idea for Sunday blog posts is to write about one experience I had in the previous week that was out of routine, that wasn’t predictable, that made me think a little differently about myself and the world I live in.
Challenge 4: Fine Dining
Two summers ago, I moved in with a slew of random roommates I had never met. One of these roommates went to the Culinary Institute of America and works at Jean-Georges, one of the fanciest restaurants in the city. Two summers ago, I was surviving off dollar pizza and a prayer. A fancy meal out was Chipotle. Still, my roommates and I would lounge around the family room talking about work and food and the future. I told him that I would visit his restaurant eventually – for lunch of course.
Almost two years later and I found myself reserving my Sunday afternoon for lunch at Jean-Georges with my roommate (yes, sometimes random roommates do turn into friends that you stay with from apartment to apartment)!
Upon entering the building, our jackets were taken to coat check and we were led to our table. Our server, a friend of my roommate who I had gone to karaoke with just the week before, approached us for drink orders.
Everything felt a higher level of fancy. My water came in a wine glass. Each movement was calculated and precise. There is a certain level of hospitality you see in these fine dining institutes that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
Courses were brought out at the same time and removed simultaneously in an act known as synchronized service, my roommate explained. Despite my notoriously slow eating, the servers would wait until I was finished so they could remove both my roommate and I’s dishes at the same time.
The meal begins with an amuse bouche (not pictured), three small bites designed to “open your palate.” My roommate tried to explain the importance of “opening your palate” and tell me more about amuse bouche, but all I heard was “cleanse your palate” which reminded me of sampling all the Christmas cookies at the holiday party and take a swig of water in between the peanut butter blossom and the shortbread stamped cookie. He told me it is nothing like that.
In the nearly two and a half hours we were there, course after course was placed in front of us with the most divine flavors and explanations. By the time we retrieved our jackets and waddled to the subway station, I was beyond stuffed – in a good way.
The quality of food was absolutely unparalleled. I won’t pretend to be a food critic or know how to speak to the pairing of this sauce with the natural roast of that vegetable, but I can recognize when things are good – and needless to say, this meal blew me out of the water.
From presentation to service to quality to taste, Jean-Georges was the perfect place for my first fine dining experience and for anyone looking for a special night out, it has my full endorsement.
On the way home from lunch that Sunday, my roommate and I stopped at Michael’s Craft Store. There was a long line that was weaving into the store and I quickly pin pointed the issue to the couple in front of us who hadn’t followed the snake like rope around that would have made the line fit within the normal checkout line space. Normally, I would have shrugged. Not my problem. But that day, I wondered what would happen if I used my voice. Three parts awkward and two parts polite, I asked them if we could start the loop around. Disgruntled for a moment, before realizing that my suggestion made sense, we quickly rearranged the line and cleared the back area of the store. Nothing profound. Nothing wild. But it did make me think about how trying new things can make you a little bolder – even in the smallest things like how you line up at a craft store on a busy Sunday afternoon.
(Lunch was my way of celebrating living in NYC for 2 years).