It’s 2:30 on a rainy Friday, and YUD has accomplished the following:
1) Conducted an interview that she will write up for money.
2) Enjoyed, with a certain horror, part of an episode of Beverly Hills 90210, the older years, in which Kelly saves an abandoned baby and then becomes suddenly, violently homophobic when two gay men adopt it, mostly just because she wanted the baby, and then Brandon gets all up in their faces about how it would make a great story for “the paper,” and the gay couple hightails it out of there something fast because they’ve found themselves surrounded by a bunch of cuckoo crazies. (Eventually, if memory serves, Kelly comes to the realization that you don’t have to be hetero to make a good parent, but I had to leave before watching that part. And, frankly, Kel, the damage had been done.)
3) Called a cab driver an ass. He deserved it. He was on duty and stopped to find out where I was going. I put my umbrella away, preparing for cab entry, and then he let it rain on me for several minutes while deciding if he knew where Beaver Street (no jokes, please) was and if he wanted to take me there. He finally decided no, and “Ass” just came out. I don’t think he heard me, though, because then he apologized.
4) Ordered the famous Lobster Newberg (formerly Wenberg) from Delmonico’s.
A history here:
Lobster Newberg was originally named after Ben Wenberg, a wealthy sea captain engaged in the fruit trade between Cuba and New York. When on shore, he customarily ate at Delmonico’s Restaurant. One day in 1876, home from a cruise, he entered the cafe and announced that he had brought back a new way to cook lobster (where he originally got the idea for this new dish has never been discovered). Calling for a chafing dish, he demonstrated his discovery by cooking the dish at the table and invited Charles Delmonico to taste it. Delmonico said, “Delicious,” and forthwith entered the dish on the restaurant menu, naming it in honor of its creator Lobster a la Wenberg. The dish quickly became popular and much in demand, especially by the after-theatre clientele.
Many months after, Ben Wenberg and Charles Delmonico fought or argued over an as-yet-undiscovered and probably trivial matter. The upshot was that Charles banished Wenberg from Delmonico’s and ordered Lobster a la Wenberg struck from the menu. That did not stop patrons from asking for the dish. By typographical slight-of-hand, Delmonico changed the spelling from “Wenberg” to “Newberg,” and Lobster Newberg was born. This dish has also been called Lobster Delmonico.
Delmonico’s, by the way, is one of the most established of New York City establishments. I was invited there by someone lovely who not only picked up the tab (Lobster Newberg is $49 for those of you who are fiscally concerned; by far not the most expensive thing on the menu) but also told me some fascinating stories that I may or may not share, depending on how nice you are.
As proof that this person is not merely a figment of my highly active unemployed imagination, I will confide in you that Julia Child preferred my lunch companion’s mother’s recipe for a certain Italian dish to her own and touted it to her friends, and also, Mr. Kraft used to dope Mr. Friendship’s horse to get a head start delivering cheese back in the day. All’s fair in love and business, my friends.
I’d never dined at Delmonico’s before, despite it having been around since 1837, and it was a most enjoyable experience, from the elegant old-world styling—cherry wood, burnished leather, and enormous table-side pepper grinders—to my own imaginings of nearly 200 years of business conducted in dark, library-esque corners, or perhaps over martinis and Baked Alaska, and later cigars.
Times of course have changed. Today the dining room housed probably a total of 10 or maybe 12 diners. Which made me wonder. Certainly there are fewer of us who can afford $49 Lobster Newberg or $90 steaks nowadays. And those who can spend the money may feel a little funny about doing so, given all the talk of excessive compensation and brown-bagging your Hermès purchases and whatnot. Yet … such venerable establishments should continue to exist, no? If not for the food, then for the history, the stories, the sense of a continuing, evolving culture and links between the past, present, and future?
Plus, that lobster was damn good. I dare say Julia herself would appreciate this recipe:
Cook six lobsters each weighing about two pounds in boiling salted water for twenty-five minutes. Twelve pounds of live lobster when cooked yields from two to two and a half pounds of meat with three to four ounces of coral. When cold detach the bodies from the tails and cut the latter into slices, put them into a sautoir, each piece lying flat, and add hot clarified butter; season with salt and fry lightly on both sides without coloring; moisten to their height with good raw cream; reduce quickly to half; and then add two or three spoonfuls of Madeira wine; boil the liquid once more only, then remove and thicken with a thickening of egg yolks and raw cream. Cook without boiling, incorporating a little cayenne and butter; then arrange the pieces in a vegetable dish and pour the sauce over.
5) Returned home to the news that, after 26 years, Reading Rainbow is no longer. In homage to another old-school establishment, allow me to say: I heart you, LeVar Burton. What’s your skin care regimen? Also, how is this not a theme song for the unemployed?