Recently, I went with my wife, daughter and son-in-law to a restaurant called NoMad. It is called that not because it is constantly traveling around to different locations, but because it is in the NoMad Hotel. Why the NoMad Hotel is called the NoMad Hotel is anybody’s guess; with the odd capitalization, you’d think it was NOrth of MADison Avenue in Manhattan, but it’s actually on Broadway and 28th Street, which is west of Madison.
Perhaps the owners thought that WeMad might sound like a a declaration of their mental state.
Where was I? Oh, right–the NoMad restaurant. It’s got a supposedly famous chef, Daniel Humm. I’d never heard of him, but then, I’m really only aware of three famous chefs: Lagasse, Flay and Boyardee.
NoMad is referred to as “destination dining.” That’s a weird expression, don’t you think? After all, you can’t eat at any restaurant until you get there. I guess they mean that dining at this place is supposed to be your whole evening out. They don’t expect you to, for instance, go to a movie afterward. That’s because you can’t afford to.
NoMad had been highly touted by our son-in-law Alex, which probably meant it had great YELP reviews. Alex won’t even go to a gas station that doesn’t have great YELP reviews. Besides, he and my daughter Casey had been there before and raved about it…so much so that my wife Barbara had given them a NoMad gift card for Christmas, a present made comical in a Gift of the Magi* sort of way by the fact that Alex got us a gift card to NoMad, and the one he got us had a higher value.
So we planned a day when we could all go to NoMad together to use our gift cards. The week before, Casey called to find out if there was a dress code, even though she and Alex had been there before. The dress code, she was told, was “trendy.” This did not bode well for me. I have no clue what the current trends in men’s fashions are, other than I am fairly certain they do not include anything that is in my closet.
It took us about an hour and a half to drive to NoMad, including a detour to drop our puppy off at Barb’s sister’s house. I am of the considered opinion that no restaurant is good enough to warrant a 90-minute drive. The only way I would think that a restaurant was worth an hour and a half drive would be if the nearest restaurant was an hour and a half away. And it would have to be a really special occasion.
Alex had been in the city all day and was meeting us at NoMad, so Casey, Barb and I waited for him in the bar. I looked at the cocktail menu and knew I was in trouble because the majority of the drinks had ingredients I had never heard of, like Cocchi Americano, Kirshwasser, Velvet Falernum, Suze and Orgeat. Do trendy people know what those are? I looked up Cocchi Americano and discovered it “is a variety of Americano.” That was helpful. Otherwise I would have thought it was an American variety of Cocchi.
Faced with such a selection of new and exotic drinks, Barb and Casey ordered white wine. I leaned on my falernum and waited for Alex to arrive.
At the table, we allowed Casey and Alex to order for all of us, since they’d been here before and because that way I could blame them for stuff I hated. The menu is trendily generic. For appetizers we got “EGG,” and “SNOW PEA,” and “RADISHES” and “FOIE GRAS.” The “EGG” came in a bowl and looked like someone had broken open an egg and sprinkled quinoa on it. It looked that way because that is what it was. The RADISHES looked like radishes dipped in white chocolate (it was really butter, but no less disgusting), and the SNOW PEAs were shaved. The FOIE GRAS was okay, I guess, if you like capitalized foie gras..
For the main course, we got “PRAWNS,” SUCKLING PIG” and “CHICKEN.” Now, I don’t know about you, but when I see the words “suckling pig,” I think of an entire pig with an apple in its mouth and girls in hula skirts. What arrived at our table was a slab of meat-like substance about the size of an iPhone. And not even the iPhone 6–the smaller, older iPhone. There’s a photo of this dish at right. Can you spot the pig?
The “CHICKEN” is the dish NoMad is known for. It’s for two people and cost $82. First they brought it out (photo below), all cooked and brown and with one hand tied behind its back, its claw sticking up, as if its last act was trying to strangle the chef. It was wearing the grass skirt they took off the hula dancers that were supposed to come with the suckling pig. After this presentation, they took the chicken away for about 20 minutes, during which time they could have done just about anything to it, and probably did. When it came back it was transformed into two chicken halves and a small ramekin filled with what appeared to be warm chicken salad. The waiter explained that the ramekin contained the dark meat. The white meat was a sort of chicken Wellington. I’ll admit it was delicious, but this wasn’t exactly an oven-stuffer roaster we were talking about, and we had to split it four ways.
By now, you’ve probably gotten the idea that I’m not into this kind of “foo foo food.” Even Barbara, who is much more tolerant of silly, overpriced cuisine, thought it was a bit over the top. Casey and Alex simply shrugged in dismay at having to endure the non-trendy attitudes of the old folks.
And now I will tell you that everything in this post so far is just a preamble to what happened the very next night.
The four of us assembled for a cozy, home-cooked dinner of matzoh ball soup and sandwiches, and the topic of conversation turned to the announcement that Kraft was changing the recipe for its macaroni and cheese to remove dyes and artificial preservatives.
Yes, that’s right. The same person who loves it when a suckling pig is sent to one of those automobile squashing places and condensed into a small Spam patty was worried that she would no longer be able to have powdered cheese clumps in her mac and cheese.
I was more concerned about the fact that Kraft will now be coloring the stuff with paprika, annatto and turmeric. I’m not worried about why they feel the need to color the mac and cheese in the first place; I just have no idea what annatto is.
See you soon.
*This is a rare (for me) literary reference to the O. Henry short story wherein (IRONIC ENDING SPOILER ALERT) the husband sells his prized watch to buy a comb for his wife’s beautiful hair, and she sells her hair to buy a fob for his watch. It actually isn’t at all reminiscent of what happened with our gift cards, except that it involves an unusual exchange of gifts at Christmas and doesn’t end well.