Last week I took a trip to hell. Twice. Really. The basement of the Municipal Services Building of the City of Philadelphia. The Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) is below the ground. How fitting. While I was sitting in a row of chairs all tied together in a way that if one person exhaled all the seats rocked, I was reading TV. The devil was kind enough to provide TVs as the average wait is 3 hours, but evil enough that they were showing Martha Stewart. There was no volume and I wasn't blessed with the talent of reading lips, so I was at the mercy of reading closed captioning.
Miss Martha was gushing about an amuse bouche she had at Jean Georges in Columbus Circle. It was simply sea urchin on buttered pumpernickel toast with a slice of jalopeno. The closed captioning clerk must not have been a foodie because the screen read "hala peen yoes". Maybe it seemed funny only because my day was going terribly, but I laughed out loud much to the dismay of others in my row of chairs who were being throttled by my laughter.
I have an aversion to sea urchin. At Picholine I had to produce a sea urchin pannacotta that I really didn't like. Also, the urchin flesh resembles duck tongues that I used to see in Asian markets that creep me out. If the ocean ever made cheese, that would describe the earthiness of sea urchin.
Restaurant Jean Georges holds a special place in my heart. I used to walk by it at 7am and see Jean Georges himself straining stocks and working in the kitchen. Here is a chef who was already making many millions of dollars. He also had plenty of people trusted with producing excellent food. None of this made him any better than anyone else. He was already there working when I was late to work. He made me want to be a better chef, or a more punctual one anyway.