Nighthawks at the diner of Emma’s Forty-Niner
There’s a rendezvous of strangers around the coffee urn tonight
All the gypsy hacks and the insomniacs
Now the paper’s been read
Now the waitress said:
“Eggs and sausage and a side of toast
Coffee and a roll, hash browns over easy
Chile in a bowl with burgers and fries, what kind of pie?”
Everyone remembers the strangest thing s/he has eaten (cuy, deep fried guinea pig in Peru—yes, with the head still on), the worst thing (burnt chocolate cake, 1984 and I still can’t get the taste out of my mouth) and the most indulgent thing (linguini with cuttlefish ink in that tiny spot in Venice). And isn’t it funny how despite the constant expansion of your culinary experiences, your favorite things to eat are transcendent (ice cream, hands down)? In preparing for this, our annual issue dedicated to dining on Long Island, you can imagine there was a lot of talking about great food—there was almost as much eating it, too. What is interesting, however, is the conversations tended to not be about specific dishes, but instead about places we love, people we love to dine with and, of course, the special moments that occurred during, or because of, those meals. You may not remember exactly what you prepared (or ate) at the greatest meals in your life, but you always remember who was there. It’s like time stops, just for you to enjoy the company of some special people. That’s the thing about food. It’s a tie that binds, like music or art. And it’s the central theme to this issue for a number of reasons.
Mario Batali, our cover profile, talks about his own special connection to food in his interview with our Aileen Jacobson this month. Unlike an haut chef, academically trained, it was the organic connection to food Mario’s family had that was formative in his development as a cook—the authentic classic, if you will—and what navigates him through the many ventures he puts his name to. It may also be the very thing that makes Mario so resonant with such a wide range of audience. This feeling, of people connecting through food, especially local food, is particularly echoing with us on Long Island. Our connection to agriculture is profound, although the future of our local farmers is a precarious one. Peter Bronski’s Eat Like a Locavore looks at some of the issues and how to help stem the tide.
The other thing that’s so remarkable about food (and makes it so much like art) is how subjective it is. Everyone’s an expert! But then, you take someone like our Dick Scholem, who actually is an expert and it’s easy to underestimate how difficult his job is. Poor Dick, he’s been reviewing Long Island’s restaurant culture for forty years, having to eat out four or more times per week, sampling multiple dishes at countless restaurants, exercising all day to stay trim as a bird… It’s why he was able to contribute so much to this issue we should have named him a guest editor. Dick lent us his insights on the champs of the restaurant business in Now Serving: Success and shared his favorite little spots in Dining Off the Beaten Path (a cameo in our International Dining segment) in addition to reviewing, as usual, two local restaurants (Sip City and Fork & Vine).
The other thing (or type of art) people get passionate about is wine. Enter Chris Miller, who steps in this month to offer some notes about the wine lists at some of LI’s favorite restaurants. Chris is another poor soul who spends his life sampling some pretty fine tastes; he is an Advanced Sommelier and we’ve been lucky to have him writing a column since issue number one. The yin to Chris’s yang is a look at the rise of the craft beer scene. Our Red Zone columnist and nightlife blogger, Niko Krommydas, gets up close and personal with this cultural phenomenon, brewing it, pairing it with food and even where to find it.
Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words, but in the case of this issue, Stephen Lang’s pictures are worth a thousand bites (sans guilt of breaking diets). Stephen graces our masthead monthly, shooting a variety of segments for us, including the accompaniment to Scholem’s food reviews. This month, Stephen traveled the length of the island (twice, I think) to capture our favorite eateries and places to drink. Bon appetit!
*Now the waitress sings…
PS. Mario, you still owe me that jar of cuttlefish ink. I did, after all, share my pirate joke with you.
*Eggs And Sausage (In A Cadillac With Susan Michelson), Tom Waits