What The Next Great Meal Is All About

Welcome to The Next Great Meal– a forum for those who appreciate food, dining and may be looking for where to have that next great meal. There are a number of reasons I have decided to write about food, and for those of you who know me this requires no explanation. But for those of you who have no idea who I am or what I may know about food, let me give you a brief introduction before I dive into my running stream of restaurant consciousness.

My passion for food and restaurants started at a young age and is probably a result of my proximity to New York City. I have lived in the New York City area for most of my life, and it is an epicenter of high food culture. Each neighborhood has an abundance of cafes, restaurants, diners, food trucks, etc. to choose from, and making a choice can seem daunting at times. But choosing a restaurant should not feel like a complicated task. The vast amount of availability should only excite you and make you realize that you can really have whatever your heart desires in this city. I know that is the case for me, and I always welcome the challenge of tackling the seemingly endless supply of gastronomic goodness.

I think most would agree that a really great meal entails more than eating “good food.” That really great meal has as much to do with the overall experience restaurant ambience, the occasion, the people you are with, location, service and the stories that get told after – as it does with how you feel about the food served. I can remember even the smallest things that have made my dining experiences more memorable. Like the waiter at ABC Kitchen who always remembered me when I came in. Even if he wasn’t assigned to my table he would greet me and have one of those tasty flat breads sent out as a complimentary appetizer. Too bad he has left the restaurant. Or going up to Red Rooster in Harlem for brunch when the whole room is full of life and soothing sounds of live jazz serenade you through a meal of Biscuits and Gravy.

Whether you consciously think of all of these things or not, I am certain that you get nostalgic when thinking of some of your greatest (or even the worst) dining experiences. Speaking of the worst (I am going to digress for a quick sec). … There was one time when I was quite a bit younger and my family went to eat lunch at an unnamed establishment in East Hampton, New York (the place still exists). Still a child, I ordered my favorite at the time – deep-fried chicken fingers. When I took my first bite into what looked like hot, juicy, fried goodness I tapped my mom on the shoulder and said, “Mom, this chicken isn’t cooked right.” And not only was it not cooked right, it wasn’t cooked at all. Funny how that memory sticks. Maybe that’s why Mom stopped eating poultry altogether. … Any comment there?

As a result of my visible desire for food adventure, I am frequently asked by friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances where I would recommend going to eat. I always have fun with this, and take care in determining just what exactly people are looking for. It’s never good when you recommend a place and the person comes back to you saying, “wow, that really sucked.” I avoid this as much as possible, but nobody’s perfect.

I am not quite sure when I became the “source” for these sorts of things, but after countless “restaurant consultations” I decided, with a bit of encouragement, that it would be even more effective if I wrote about my own restaurant discoveries. So for those of you who have been coming to me for years, and you know who you are, this will be a running series of everything restaurant and food-related. So I hope you’re hungry!

So as the title suggests, these entries will be vignettes about dining experiences in New York, around the country and wherever in the world I may be. Yes, in a sense, each one will be an overall review of the restaurant, but my main goal is really to convey a sense of occasion. What can each of these places provide for you? I hope to be able to answer that simple question. As this is meant to be an open forum, I welcome (and strongly encourage) comments, feedback and, of course, your own restaurant recommendations and/or cautionary tales.

Bon Appétit!