When you stick hundreds of New Yorkers into a space the size of an amphitheatre, filled with over 80 of the five borough’s top restaurants, alcoholic beverages, and desserts, and tell them it’s “all-you-can-eat and drink,” what happens?
She threw the hat on the bed. We all know what that means, right? Someone or some “thing” is going to die. Maybe it will be me. Maybe it will be her. Maybe it’s us? Who knows. Within hours of me finding her hat on the bed, we broke up, which means that the “thing” that died was us. Who am I kidding: it’s me that’s dying.
She is my temptress, my mistress, my lover. She is food. She is alive, she is wanting, she is waiting. If only I could heed her call. If only she could comfort me in this time of need, but she can’t. Nothing can fill the emptiness.
What do you do after a breakup? You take somebody new out to dinner. Or better yet, you take a retread (someone tried and tested) out to dinner. After all, who has the mojo to meet somebody new when your heart is pounding through your ears and the little man in your stomach is kick-boxing and doing backflips. I need to forget. I need to satiate myself with the company of someone beautiful and try somehow to eat some food. And what about my new gig–my food olumn at BlackBook? How the hell am I supposed to write about food if I can’t eat?
First I pick the restaurant, and then I pick the girl. And where better to take her than to Rye in Williamsburg. It’s classy, understated, and has some ridiculously good food. Now that I know where I’m eating I just have to find the girl. Oh yes, it’ll be Sarah. Sarah is a down-girl–a girl that is up for anything. This is what I need. I need Sarah to writhe on top of me, slap me in the face and tell me, “Stop being such a pussy!” I make the call–she accepts. About an hour before the date, I get a call back. It’s Sarah. She says, “I heard you broke up with your girlfriend and you’re looking for a romp.” I said, “I don’t really know what a romp is, but if it involves ripping your clothes off and doing all sorts of dirty things to you until your head spins, then yes.” Oh, honesty. I’m always getting into trouble with that honesty. I’m not a moralist, so why can’t I just say what she wants to hear, so we’ll both have a good time? Because I can’t. Lying, manipulating or tricking a girl into sex is the way of the weak. It shows no backbone. If you want to do something risque, just be up front about it and it will eventually happen. If you want to have no-strings-attached sexual encounters, cool. Just don’t piss in the cheerios and kill anyone’s buzz. So where does this leave me? Alone on a Saturday night. Why did I break up with Celia? Was she a hot-mess? Was I scared? Did I dump her before she had the chance to dump me? This is awful.
There’s no such thing as a bad decision—there are only slews of bad decisions. One bad decision needs another, until you have a snowball of bad decisions, which becomes an avalanche. And this is where I am now, buried under an avalanche of bad decisions.
So where does a person eat when he has no appetite? You go home to Mama. But what do you do when your mother lives overseas and you need some TLC, and not just any surrogate will do? You go to Tanoreen. Let me explain how to make a good decision about food. This might be the only thing I’m good at right now. If you’re in a bad place and you need something to lift up your spirits, comfort food might be the first thing that comes to mind. But this would be wrong. The last thing anybody needs is a bunch of fried pig’s balls and a bowl of mac and cheese. And maybe some of you Yogis out there are thinking Indian curry. “It’s spiritual; it’ll bring you back into your body and make you mindful.” Wrong again. What you need is some soul. Not soul food, but something with a pulse. What you need is food with heart and soul. and it’s at Tanoreen.
Tanoreen will get you high. Tanoreen will take you to another place. It’ll make you other than who you are. It will start with a giggle. Then you’ll chuckle to yourself and you won’t know why. But it’s the spices. It’s the amazing and top secret Tanoreen spices that will make you lose yourself—if only for a hot second. What you do after that to take the edge off is up to you. And remember, what you do in these critical moments will determine the type of person you are, and what type of person you’ll become. I’m on my way to Tanoreen. I’m on my way home to Mama.
● Pasha (Upper West Side) – Though its name often gets it confused with Ibiza import Pacha, the only similarity the spots share is that they’re both perpetually packed. Bargain prices, friendly service, and a quaint atmosphere make the wait for a table bearable. ● Tanoreen (Bay Ridge) – Though Astoria gets most of the attention when it comes to Middle Eastern food outside of Manhattan, this Brooklyn restaurant’s hodgepodge of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean eats puts Bay Ridge on the map. ● Le Souk (East Village) – Sure, the crowd’s a little on the boisterous B&T side, and you’ll come out reeking of hookah smoke. But if you’re looking for some ladies to fill out your harem, this is the spot.
● Ilili (Flatiron) – Swank setting, thumping house beats, and a $35 dinner menu that includes two appetizers, entrée, and dessert. ● Halal Chicken & Gyro (Midtown West): Buying food out of a truck, car, or cart is always a smidgen sketch, but the ever-popular Halal Chicken and Gyro cart on 53rd and 6th takes food-cart rice and chicken to a new level – not only won’t you get sick from it, you’ll want it even when you don’t have those low-standard, late-night drunken munchies. ● Ali Baba’s Terrace (Midtown East) – When the weather hits 75, there’s no better rooftop to enjoy Middle Eastern fare. ● Sahara’s Turkish Cuisine (Murray Hill) – Sahara’s takes a healthful approach to Middle Eastern food — all meat and fish are char-grilled without butter, salads are topped with lemon juice and olive oil, traditional cold appetizers like yaprak sarma (stuffed grape leaves) are purchased fresh and cured in-house, and their “rice” is actually a blend of bulgur wheat, minced vegetables, and dill. ● Turkish Kitchen (Kips Bay) – Arguably the most well-known Middle Eastern joint in the city, best enjoyed during weekend brunch hours when you can chow down on unlimited gyros, chargrilled ground lamb patties, chicken kebabs, filet mignon, bulgur pilaf, and more. ● Kebab Café (Astoria) – The chef/owner of this Tony Bourdain-approved spot will get even the most unadventurous to eat (and enjoy) cow’s feet and lamb’s brain. Yes, you can still get your hummus and baba ganouj. ● L’ybane (Midtown East) – Go for the “Imperial Assortment” — essentially a chef’s tasting. About $40 buys you 14 dishes, including chickpea fritters, meat-stuffed pita, hummus, tzatziki, moussaka with eggplant and cheese, and two-day-marinated meat skewers.