I’ve Got Friends in High Places…Well one, her name is Molly and she works at The Union Square Cafe

It’s difficult to gauge my success here on the world wide web in the context of the world at large. Yes, many people read my food blog but how many people in the world know what a food blog is? I rest my case.

But my friends are eager supporters of what I do. Take my lovely and talented friend Molly: she’s been working at The Union Square Cafe all summer and she keeps wanting me to come in as “The Amateur Gourmet.” “If you come in when I’m working,” she’ll say, “I can get you V.I.P. treatment.”

Me a V.I.P.? A man who dips a wine glass in Nutella, fills it with red wine and calls it dessert? There must be some kind of mistake! But when my parents surprised me with the news they were coming this weekend (despite my eager protests of “don’t come! I have work! I just started school!”) I took Molly up on her offer and she made a reservation for us on Friday night.

Here she is with my parents:

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Isn’t she cute? And just like she said she would she told The Union Square Cafe that I was a V.I.P. “I told them you were The Amateur Gourmet, that you have a food blog and it took off.” I flushed a bit but my mom ate it up. Our reservation was at 9 and we were seated a few minutes late but that’s ok, as any V.I.P. knows you don’t want to be seated right away. That’s an insult.

Our V.I.P. status entitled us to courses beyond the ones we ordered. Mostly this was due to Molly who started off by bringing us a basket of garlic potato chips. Dad and I snacked greedily. (I forgot to snap a picture of it.)

“Any celebrities here tonight?” we asked Molly. She went to find out and reported that Alanis Morisette was in a little earlier. I took the news that we missed her like a jagged little pill. (ZING!)

Then another free course: a miso/corn soup.

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Those two flavors–miso and corn–worked really well together. And it was the perfect size and presentation.

Next up, yet ANOTHER free course. (See now you know how the other half lives. Who knew there were so many free courses to be had?) This was a heirloom tomato salad with some kind of cheese and basil:

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This course showcased the relationship between The Union Square Cafe and the farmer’s market right next door. And though these are all ingredients the average consumer/chef can assemble easily at home, there was still a bit of magic on the plate. Plus it was free! Did I mention that?

But alas, here’s an appetizer ordered from the menu. Yellowfin tuna tartare with horseradish-mustard vinaigrette, Vidalia onions & avocado salad:

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This is a great summer dish. Light, refreshing, and yet flavorful and punchy with the horseradish.

On Molly’s recommendation, mom tried a pasta dish because chef Michael Romano is famous for his pasta. Mom had the “Stringhetti con Astice e Fave” which is “housemade bowtie pasta with lobster, fava beans, basil and pecorino.”

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Naturally she loved it. What’s not to love? I picked at it and she fought my fork away.

For the entrees, Molly was enthusiastic in her praise for the lamb. “They’re the best lamb chops I’ve ever had,” she told us. “And they’re also our most popular dish.”

So mom ordered the lamb chops and I ordered the second most popular dish: the lemon pepper duck with rhubarb-cherry chutney, farro & swiss chard:

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Duck, as longtime readers may have noticed, is a favorite dish of mine because it has the sweet, the savory, the salty and the crisp. I like all those things.

And here’s mom’s lamb:

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“Mmm,” she said, pleasure written on her face.

Enacting the Mother Child Meal Sharing Statute of 1973, mom and I switched halfway through. And both of us ignored dad and his boring salmon. (In his defense, he wasn’t feeling well and wanted something simple.)

For dessert, dad found his match with a cookies and cream baked alaska (he loves cookies and cream ice cream and he loves baked alaska); mom fell in love with a banana tart with macadamias. And as if that weren’t enough, Molly brought us out a chocolate bread pudding. Check it:

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Don’t you wish you knew Molly too? But now I think she may have been trying to kill us because on the way out she gave us a box of cookies. And those cookies have been sitting in my kitchen and I’ve been snacking on them non-stop since Friday night. They’re cookie-riffic. And they’re giving me a muffin-top, defined by William Safire as a fold of fat encircling the top of your jeans.

Regardless, it pays to have friends in high places. Now I just need a friend who owns a gym.

Thanks Molly for a great night!

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