As the kids say…

OMG

It was 9:15pm and I was somewhere on the NJ Turnpike when I realized that I hadn’t paid for my dinner back in Manhattan. I pulled up my Motorola Q and managed to fire off a short call before the battery died.

“I just had dinner at your restaurant and forgot to pay. Can I give you credit card?”

“We were wondering what happened to you. Sure.”

I gave her my credit card number and phone number before the battery ran out and tried to figure out how I managed to get out of there without paying…

My day started at 5:45 am EST in Toronto. After a quick shower and an even quicker pack job, my colleague and I grabbed a cab to the airport. By 8:30 am I was at 29,000 ft on my way to La Guardia while Chris headed to Bristol, CT. While on the flight, I started to wonder whether getting a rental car in NY was really that great of an idea. I knew that my meeting tomorrow was way down in Princeton where cabs aren’t too familiar, but did I really want to drive into Manhattan and find parking?

Upon landing I opened up the Q and went to Amtrak.com. Amazingly enough, they have a mobile website. I browsed through the available train schedules and realized the latest train to Princeton Junction was at 3:00 pm. Too early as I had a meeting until 4pm. After confirming this with a very angry to be alive amtrak CSR, I hopped on the Avis bus to the car.

Luckily, I had ordered GPS as it was early and I had not had much caffeine yet. Two missed turns and 45 minutes later I was searching for parking. $29/day. Not bad. I was expecting closer to $50. I made my first meeting on time (11:00am) and managed to get out at 12:15. I wandered up Broadway where I stumbled on the new UNIGLO store. I’m a good husband, so I went straight to the girls section and looked for something for Kelly. There was a cute argyle, but nothing special. To be honest, it looked a lot like The Gap. I was in the store less than 7 minutes.

With little time for lunch, I hopped in a cab with a baguette and muched all the way to Madison Ave & 54th St. Traffic was a nightmare and after 45 minutes in the cab, I made it to my meeting 15 minutes late. 10 minutes of waiting in the lobby and I walk into the meeting room where at least 10 people (read customers) are all waiting for me, now 25 minutes late. Flustered and stuttering my way through incoherent “sorry for being late, traffic was a nightmare, why are there fire trucks next door, nice to meet you, what’s your name (immediately forget name), I have an agenda, oh I need internet access, where is the projector, etc” I’m up and running. Everyone comments that I shouldn’t worry about being late and thanks for coming all the way to NY for this one meeting.

I still feel like an idiot.

But we’re off and running and get 3/4 of the way through the meeting and everything is looking good when some guy arrives to the meeting and mentions that maybe everything we’ve been thinking about doing is all wrong.

Aye. Who invited this guy?

I don’t like him already. I’m tired. My job here is NOT to explain to your company how maybe you should work out your business policies BEFORE implementing them. I’m the implementor. Or rather, I explain how to implement. You get to do the work.

At 4pm I leave exhausted with my stomach eating away it itself and the bit of french breadiness inside. I’m hungry, but it’s too early for dinner. I deserve a nice dinner, damnit, and I’m not wasting it on some vendor hotdog.

Well, maybe just a little hotdog snack…

To hold me over…

It all makes sense at the time.

I buy a hotdog for $3 and of course I get no receipt so I’M paying for this dog, not the company. I eat half and tell myself that it really is just a snack. in fact, it’s really just a small late lunch. This is a healthy move!

I catch a cab towards downtime and manage to get the driver to drop my off at Broadway and Houston before he bails off the island. I walk further (south?) towards soho. I find a ghetto coffeeshop and go inside. I grab a cup of coffee and manage to work for about 2.5 hours before heading out for dinner. I’ve mentioned before my interest in going to wd~50 and being by myself this time, I was not going to let the opportunity slip away.

If you remember from last time, I had made reservations, but bailed on them when another co-worker told me that getting a cab in downtown would be incredibly difficult on a rainy day. I knew not to believe this but he wore me down.

So, I walked it (east?) to Clinton and Rivington, passing The Hotel On Rivington, where I’m staying next week, on the way. It looks very nice AND it’s cheaper than all of the midtown hotels everyone else in the company stays at. We all win. hooray, etc.

Damn this is getting long.

Arriving at wd~50 at around 6pm, opening time, I find it completely dead. For a second I think I am making a mistake, but only for a second. I hand off my bag and jacket to the girl in the cloest and sit down at the bar. A Level & soda later and with the menu, I’m feeling much better.

The menu at wd~50 is relatively short, just a handful of apps, mains, and desserts; maybe 20 total and all reasonably priced. The interesting thing about the menu are the creativity of the dishes. Malted Chestnut soup with salmon threads and celery root, Hangar tartare, pickled Asian pear, amaro, bernaise ice cream  . You get the idea. If you don’t, you can see it here. After speaking with the bartender, who assures me that everything is excellent (after first asking about food allergies), I settle on the Squid noodles, zucchini, grapefruit, sansho sour cream & the Duck breast, soy spaetzle, jicama, pickled ramp.

After being served an amuse bouche, that was delicious, but I can’t remember much about it other than it was fish-based, I was served the Squid noodles. They were fantastic. Long, slender threads of incredibly delicate and tender squid that matched perfectly with the similarly cut zuchini. On top of this little pile of noodles were shavings of dehydrated grapefruit which added this sour accent to any bites that contained them. On the side of the bowl was a 6″ long spread of sancho cream (explained to me as a Japanese white pepper sour cream) that looked like it had been placed with a brush. Mixing a bit of the cream with the noodles provided for an incredibly balanced bite.

I was at first, unimpressed with the duck dish. There were three slices of duck breast, fat on, with 3 slices of jicama, and 3 servings of the soy spatzle arranged: duck, jicama, spatlze, duck, jicama, spatlze, duck, jicama, spatlze; all about the same size. My thinking was “here’s another tiny dinner place where I’ll be hungry afterwards”, but after biting into the duck, all of my disappointment disappeard. The duck was DELICIOUS and NOT greasy, as I’ve come to expect when eating duck breast. And mixing the duck with the pickled ramp made it even better. I tried the soy spatzle and it was also delicious and a perfect match to the duck, which always makes one think of the Asian meals. The soy matches perfectly with the spatzle and provides it a light flavor with out taking away from the noddleness of the spatzle itself. I tasted the jicama. Hrm. Not much there, but I’m guessing it’s there as a palette cleansor. I came to enjoy it by the end of the meal.

Towards the end of the meal, an older, unassuming gentleman asked me how I liked the meal. I replied that it was delicious (have I used this word already?) as he walked away I added “This is the best duck breast I’ve ever had”, at which point he turned and said “If you like later, I’ll take you back into the kitchen to meet Wylie Dufrese (the head chef).” Years ago, a shy tim would’ve said no, but not anymore. I was all up for it.

After dinner I did try a dessert: the chocolate cream, which was a combination of creamy chocolate truffles with a raspberry accent. It was good, but nothing that I would probably buy again.

Upon finishing dessert, I struck up a conversation with a woman whom had arrived an hour early for a dinner with a client. We chatted for about an hour about life, work, and travel. It’s interesting how you can talk to a stranger about some of your most internal thoughts that would normally cause pause with your friends. When her client did arrive, I left the bar, picked up my coat and bag, and left.

Catching a cab back to my car, it was 45 minutes later before I realized I had never gotten a check or paid the bill.

It’s 11:45pm now and I’m in Princeton, or just outside of it. I have a meeting here tomorrow before continuing onto Philly and then DC on Friday. On Sunday, it’s back to NY and then to Knoxville, TN on Wednesday morning before returning to Seattle on Thursday morning only to catch a flight out of Seattle with K to Phoenix on Thursday night for a long weekend with the family. 

This is probably the most stops I’ve ever had on a business trip, but I’m happy to say that it’s going by pretty quickly. I only wish that I was spending more time with K during the holidays. They really are a fun time to be out and about with your loved one and it sort of sucks to be out here in the middle of nowhere NJ. In the meantime, I’ll keep eating to stay happy. Coming up, my favorite place in Philly…

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