Saturday, September 02, 2006

Puppet Sex & Prunes

Yesterday I called my friend B. to make plans for the evening. I was very excited to go out, considering that I spent all of last weekend sequestered in my apartment, diligently pecking away at a 6,000-word assignment I have due in a couple weeks for the WSJ (and which I'm procrastinating on now by writing this post). Super un-fun, given the subject matter, with which I will not bore you.

But anyway, I was ready to go out, and actually *do* something -- none of this pints at the local pub thing. So B. picked up tickets for fantastic orchestra seats to go see Avenue Q.

Normally when I see Broadway shows, it's with visiting friends or family who without fail want to see things like "Phantom of the Opera" or "The Lion King." I never get to pick. Occasionally, I'm pleasantly surprised. I sort of dreaded going to see "Movin' Out" when two friends visited from South Dakota awhile back -- their choice. The music was decent, if predictable, but the show, choreographed by Twyla Tharp, turned out to be breathtaking because of the modern dance. But that was an exception. Usually, if I"m on Broadway, I'm groaning and wincing through a subpar performance of something like "Annie Get Your Gun," which I saw when Cheryl Ladd was singing the part of Annie. Ethyl Merman she ain't, but I guess as a fellow South Dakota native it was nice to see a hometown girl up there on stage. If only she wouldn't have been warbling so...

It's no secret that the Tony-award-winning Avenue Q is a slightly subversive show. It was a little less controversial or shocking than I thought it might be, given the reviews, but the naughty Sesame Street feel is totally lovable and while belly laughs were few, there was a steady undercurrent of chuckling. The puppet sex scene -- where naked human and a moster puppets go at it, graphically -- was pretty over the top. Don't bring anyone younger than 17 to the show unless you want your kids to sit through 5-minute songs about beating off to Internet porn. I'm no theatre critic so I'll leave it at that, but the clever writing and the inventive puppeteering are definitely reasons to catch the show. It was a nice break from the glitzy pomp and caramelized sugary-ness of normal Broadway productions -- but really, that's much of what Broadway is about. This felt like a hip, downtown Off Broadway show, but with better singing and choreography.

Anyway, afterward we needed something to eat. I had planned to do some research on this at home but I ran out of time as my hair appointment ran long -- had to get beautiful for fall, my favorite season. It was a cold, rainy, windy night and we wanted something cozy. B. hasn't lived here that long so his knowledge of restaurants is still a bit limited, so it was up to me to think of something. Freeman's Alley was the first thing that came to mind, with its hunting lodge feel and rustic food.

Normally I don't like eating at restaurants that have received as much word-of-mouth hype as Freeman's has. Everyone thinks they're the only ones in on the "secret," but by now every bridge and tunneler from Wayne to Westchester to Wantaugh has probably heard of this place, and appropriately, it's packed every time I go there. As we walked down the wet, dark alley toward the candlelit front doors, huddling under B.'s umbrella, I saw a big group of people smoking outside and knew we were in for a long wait.

But, for once, fate smiled on us -- or at least the host did. Despite the large groups of people milling about around the host stand and idling underneath the fang-bearing taxidermied wild hogs on the walls, when I asked him how long the wait for two would be, he said "Only a few moments now."

"I think he thinks you're pretty," B. said, conspirationally. "Why else would we be getting a table?"
"He probably thinks YOU'RE cute," I told B. "Besides, LOOK at all the beautiful women in this room!"
"I don't see any pretty girls," B. said.
"What about that brunette? The one by the wall?" I asked.
"Ugh. Her NOSE is too big. Look at that HONKER!" B. replied.

Seriously, though. Everyone in that place looked stunning. I don't know if it was the lighting or the night or what, but this definitely was NOT a B&T crowd (probably the holiday and the rain kept them away) and everyone was kind of...glowing. I kind of wished it would have been a party instead of a restaurant so I could have met some of these magically perfect people; it was literally like sliding into a pool of gorgeousness.

Soon it was time to order. I had told B. about my favorite offering at Freeman's: Devils on Horseback, which are prunes stuffed with Stilton and wrapped in fried bacon, served warm. Savory, salty, sweet and chewy, these things are amazing. B. was skeptical of the prunes but once he ate one, he announced that he was inclined to order about 19 more plates. They are that good. One can never have enough smelly Silton. One of my FAVORITE dishes anywhere in New York is the Stilton fritters served with cranberry relish at the Telephone Bar on 2nd Avenue -- it's a Christmas tradition every year for me to go there with friends after a Christmas Eve service. Keeping this in mind, we also ordered a cheese plate of Stilton with blackberries, fried almonds, and a lovely bread. I had a very nice glass of Riesling.

For the main course, I had a striped bass served with a summer salad of fresh lettuces and tiny baby snap peas. I'm not sure what they used to season this, but it was magically delicious. The fish was cooked perfectly with a bit of a crunchy char on the outside and moist and silky on the inside; the lettuces provided a nice bitter edge. Heavenly. B. had the whole grilled trout with lemon, thyme and garlic. He didn't like his very much. I tasted it and it was a little bit dry and underseasoned. Plus, it came a la carte so there were no sides to fall back on. I kind of wish he had had the steak, which I've had there before and found delicious.

For dessert, we had a bowl of grilled peaches with fresh whipped cream. ORDER THIS. I'm sure it's seasonal so get it while you can. It came with some kind of nutty liquer sitting inside the little "bowls" of the peaches, which were intensely sweet and just a bit stringy (in a good way). We were both amazed that something that simple could be that good.

Freeman's would be an amazing date restaurant, assuming you can show up and not wait an hour. It is super romantic without being frilly or over the top. It's warm and dark, but not in an overly suggestive way -- in fact, it feels vaguely sinister with all those dead taxidermied animals everywhere. It's not even that expensive (we spent about $90 on two glasses of wine, two apps, two mains and dessert, plus tip). The crowd is good looking and not overly loud. Of course, I was NOT on a date, but that's ok, because B. is one of my favorite dining companions. And to his credit, he did a valiant job as a "date stand-in," complimenting my new hair and saying it looked "Just like Madonna's!" I guess this is the highest compliment one can hope for from a long-time Madonna fan.

I just hope he meant Madonna hair circa "Hung Up," and not Madonna hair circa "Desperately Seeking Susan."

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahahaha! It's Madonna circa "Hung Up." Now how's that for *really* gay? :)

9:23 PM  

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