24 August 2006

Red Meat, Red Wine

I like the Palm restaurant on Third Avenue. It has history and charm and the feel of a former speakeasy. Food's good, too.

Recently I had occasion to visit the chain's branch on 50th Street in the heart of the theatre district. It's not old, but pretends to be, with caricatures and cartoons scrawled all over the wall. And I must say that, without the history, the old Palm charm flew out the window.

In theory, steak houses appeal to me. They reach back to different way of American dining, when meals lasted hours and hours and the meat was carved at your table; when Diamond Jim Brady spent ridiculous amounts of money to ship over a chef from Europe because he made a certain dish just right. New York is full of these places: Peter Luger, Smith and Wollensky, Keens, Sparks, Homestead, etc. The set-up is basically the same: dark wood; white or checkered tablecloths; ridiculous prices; inedibly large portions; and wine lists full of red, red, red.

So much for theory. In practice, I must admit, steak houses have begun to give me the creeps. First of all, I know I'm surrounded by fat cat businessmen with expense accounts who voted for Bush and follow sports. There there's the size of the steaks, chops, lobsters, potatos, etc. Must they be so enormous? Are they serving a race of Henry VIIIs? America has an obesity problem, guys, you know.

And where's it all coming from? The equivalent of a whole cow comes out of the kitchen every 15 minutes. As the plates go by, I start to think of vast herds feeding in swaths of Brazil that used to be rain forest, aiming their carbon dioxide burps right at the cracking ozone. I think is oceans depleted of lobster, clams, oysters and tuna. All while we bury our heads in the trough like Boss Tweed.

Also, lately, with my increased interest in wine, I have another, lesser gripe. Are there wine lists any more boring than the ones found in steak house? Hey! Buddies! There are other kinds of wine beside California Cabernet Sauvignon.

No comments: