Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Warning: Lard Sticks to the Chin (as well as the thighs)

Last night I went on a date.

Let's call the man in question Ted, since 1) that's his name and 2) I don't have to give him an alias, since I am not about to reveal that he has an unrelenting case of human papillomavirus (which he doesn't) or that he dragged me into a dark alley on the way home and tried to have his way with me (which he didn't).

Ted has somewhat restored my faith in the ability of a New York male to plan an honest to goodness date. In the past few years it seems that the average New York slacker's idea of a date has devolved from the ubiquitous "dinner and a movie" to something more like "buying a six-pack of Bud tall boys and hoping that watching Friends reruns on TBS makes me want to take my pants off." And I didn't even have to comb the offensive I-banker bars of the Upper East Side to find him!

I mentioned at some point in my interaction with Ted that I had never been to an event at Madison Square Garden and would really like to go to SOMETHING, ANYTHING (since it's pathetic that a seven-year New York resident has yet to do this).

Before I could say "The Knicks are the worst team in the NBA," he had tickets in hand for us to attend the last home game. Score one point for Ted. Even though the Knicks blow, I was excited about the night, my first trip to MSG, and to having some fun with Ted. Ted came straight from work. While he hates his current job, and I deeply empathize with that sentiment, one nice thing about said job is that they force him to wear suits. So, Ted looked especially sharp. That's TWO points for Ted!

The game was fun, though to be honest, I probably got a bigger kick out of the scantily clad KNICKS CITY DANCERS and the kids' contests during breaks at the quarter, where 11-year-old girls tried to outslut each other with every thrust of the undeveloped hip while belting out off-pitch Britney Spears ripoffs.

Afterward, Ted said he was hungry and suggested we head downtown for a bite to eat. The Spotted Pig was considered (which would make TWO places I've always wanted to go, but haven't, in a night), but Ted had a hankering for pizza. So -- OTTO!

I've always wanted to go to Otto as well. Each week I eagerly await the NYTimes Dining In/Dining Out section on Wednesdays, and I spend altogether too much time, er, devouring various New York City food blogs and dreaming about things like fried hominy or blistered green peppers or the latest food fad of the moment when I really should be thinking about work. I am a foodie in spirit, if not in practice (luckily for my thighs).

Three years ago, William Grimes reviewed Batali's Otto in the New York Times, and I have never forgotten his mention of Otto's lardo pizza, which he led off the article with. Later on, he raves of the pizza: "The lardo version is simply covered with paper-thin strips of glistening, heavenly pork fat (which has less cholesterol than butter and fewer calories than olive oil), and scattered with pungent rosemary."

When William Grimes speaks, I listen. After all, I grew up eating Pizza Hut deep-dish and tater tot casserole, so my palate could probably use at least some vicarious refining.

So Ted and I were walking through Washington Square Park on our way to Otto and I exclaimed, with probably a bit too much gusto, "I'm so excited we're going to Otto, I finally get to try the lard pizza!"

"Um. Did you just say LARD PIZZA???" Ted said, a look of fear in his eyes.

Yes. I was about to order what New York Magazine had named the "number one most fattening dish," in the city, in front of a date who was nice enough to offer me a dinner of something other than pork rinds and cheap beer. I know as a "New York woman" I'm supposed to survive on a diet of lettuce, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! spray and Ex-Lax with a heaping side dish of air, so maybe I was tipping my gluttonous hand by revealing what I planned to order.

I guess this would be a test of whether he actually liked me or not.

Anyway, the lardo pizza was ordered, as well as another (sorry, I was so focused on my upcoming lard that I can't remember what was on his) as well as a dish of spaghetti carbonara.

I'm going to take a quick break here to note that either we're not great orderers, or that Otto -- while a decent restaurant for its price range, and one that I enjoyed very much -- has probably let the quality of its dishes slide just a bit since Grimes first raved about it three years ago. It was a lovely place and had a great vibe (at least when not packed to the rafters). The service was good, and I loved the little carafes they poured at our table for our wine. I'd definitely eat there again, and I'd love to explore the menu more. The food, while tasty, was far from transcendent, however. In fact, I'd venture to say that the spaghetti carbonara was undercooked and even a tiny bit bland. And you won't find a person who likes bacon more than this girl.

But back to that pork fat. The lardo pizza arrived, looking pretty much like it had in the picture I had seen of it in NY Magazine -- a white pie with a clear, fruit rollup-like slice of fat on each piece.

I took a bite. The taste and the texture were very distinctive (in fact, I can still 'taste' it today when I think about it), but the thing that surprised me most about the lardo was that you couldn't easily bite it into pieces as you worked your way through each slice.

Which meant that, as I took the first hearty chomp of my first slice, the entire piece of fat slid off the pie and flopped square onto my chin. Lard is also, apparently, not something you want to try to suck into your mouth, off your chin, whole. It just doesn't work.

In my embarassment, I can't really remember how I managed to get a large slab of lard off of my chin and into my mouth, but I managed somehow -- and worked through the rest of the pie as well.

Ted wins a third point for taking me to Otto, a restaurant I've always wanted to try -- and a bonus star for not dying of embarassment that he was sitting across the table from a girl with a strip of "glistening, heavenly" lard stuck to her chin.


Blogger Mike said...

Moving in on my turf, are we? Ha.

I gotta say, though - MAD respect for ordering carbonara and lardo pizza on a first date. Very impressive.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Ted Lover said...

if this is the same guy who took you to ping pong, he is quite a catch. let me know if it doesn't work out with him, i want him for myself!

5:11 PM  
Blogger Had To Move said...

FUNNY -- I never said anything about pingpong on this blog. But yes. Same guy. However, there's only so much PingPong Ted to go around, so I'm afraid I'll have to keep him to myself for awhile.

5:29 PM  

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