On Friday, September 21, I dined at David Burke Kitchen in Soho.
My friend Max was home for a visit. Originally from NYC, he now lives next door to my best friend Michael, in New Orleans. I’d visited Michael in March, and Max and I met for the first time. Max is late 30′s, Jewish, attractive in a boyish way. Formerly a stockbroker, he’s now divorced, single, incapable of commitment. He resists responsibilties: he bartends, barely owns furniture (so Michael says), doesn’t have pets, although he likes animals. As I admitted to him Friday, hours before he would kiss me, “The first time I saw you, Michael pulled up at his house and you were sitting outside, on your porch. I thought… Okay… This’ll be fun.”
He’d texted me before coming in. We made plans (when I still had a job) to link on Friday for dinner at 9:00PM. It occurred to me on Thursday that he might not have a plan. He’d texted me earlier in the day: 9:00 dinner tomorrow… And although I’d replied, Perfect. I sent a text hours later asking, Do you know where we’re going tomorrow? And immediately, he replied: David Burke Kitchen.
Our reservations were actually for 9:30, but he suggested we meet in the Treehouse Bar around 8:45ish. I wore my lace column dress and red patterned scarf with my signature red cowboy boots, hair all wild and curly.
The Treehouse Bar is a glass-enclosed perch inside the James Hotel on Grand Street. A furnished balcony overlooks the desolate street. Drinks are served in hard plastic stemware, and toast, for some reason, is offered. We spent some time making fun of the toaster. It seems insane that toasted slices of French bread, with heaps of cream cheese and honey, should be served as a bar snack.
Downstairs, the space, which is heart pine barn-roofed and denim banquettes, checked linens and woven leather back stools, is warmly lit and busy. We were seated in a booth closely beside others.
Max, so efficient, charming, said that he was in the mood for champagne. “Anything dry,” I said. “You knew that’s what I was drinking.” The server presented us an abbreviated wine list with our menus; it was a slashed “25% off summer sale” list that included only still reds and whites. Odd. We requested the full list, a leather bound three-ring with pages of bottles, I don’t know what. Max took it over from there.
From the sommelier, we asked for champagne, something dry. He presented us with a bottle of Moet. Max and I exchanged glances. “We could have done that ourselves,” I said, clinking glasses. Dry and delicious, never the less.
“Should we do cheese?” Max asked.
“Or dessert, instead?”
“It isn’t either or,” he said.
Start: Cheese Board, selection of three, served with honeycomb and different breads
Second: Pretzel Crab Cake, Tartar Sauce, Green beans, Red Pepper Marmalade
Third: Wedge, Spiced Pecans, Tomato Vinaigrette, Cranberries, Maytag Blue Cheese
Entree, Mine: Friday Fish (special: Skate over Pesto Spaghetti)
Entree, Max’s: Brick Chicken, Pickled Beet Salad, Green Beans, Milanese Egg
Dessert: Frozen PB&J Soffle, Peanut Butter Semifreddo, Warm Raspberry Compote, Deep Fried PB&Js
We shared our first three courses. I wish I could find the cheeses online; we enjoyed them. The crab cake, which was wrapped in a pretzel case, was strange and satisfying, but not spectacular. Max didn’t realize it was pretzel until I mentioned it, and at that point wanted mustard along with it (our server brought us skinny, pretzel sticks with melted mustard-wasbai oil as an introlude to our entrees). Wedge salad was unusual–usually, I’d expect those accompaniments with mixed greens, but I did enjoy the varied textures. My entree, though, was awesome. I’m glad I cheated and ate fish (as a vegetarian at David Burke Kitchen, you are reduced to sides). I wanted something put together, off of the menu. Max enjoyed his chicken, his egg.
But dessert: we’d wanted something else, something different. I made a mere mention of the soffle to him and our server, picking up on it, encouraged it, pushed it. She swore that it was the best thing she’d ever had there. So we ordered the soffle. Part of its presentation is that it’s cracked in the center and the back server pores warm raspberry compote all over it. The soffle was brick solid, unbreakable. The compote didn’t soften the tower of soffle, but was wincingly rich and the fried PB&Js (rolled with coconut? Wtf was that texture?) were disgusting. Max ordered an espresso and was disgusted by that, too.
I loved the ambiance. I would go back for brunch and order something predictable.
Afterwards, we went back up to the Treehouse Bar and had a couple of drinks. In the street, out in front of the restaurant, we stood (me on the curb, he on road) and discussed what we’d do after dinner. He kissed me. Cautiously at first, and then quite readily. “You didn’t kiss me in New Orleans,” I said. There’d been tension.
“It was appropriate then.” And he was right.
We held hands and wandered around Soho, finally taking a cab to Murray Hill. We had a beer and a shot at Cask, this little low-lit neighborhood place I like. Afterwards, in my apartment, I changed into pants and a tee shirt while he smoked pot, the lights off, window open. We slept beside each other in the bed but didn’t touch. I adore him. I think I’m sort of satisfied that our tension has been realized and acted upon, and relived, most of all, that it only amounted into a curious makeout session.
It was one of three dates I had scheduled in a four day stretch, and it didn’t start out as a date, but it sort of did. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I haven’t even written them all yet, but you still know who I’m after.