Lunch with Jon Robin Baitz at Brooklyn Fish Camp

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Jon Robin Baitz is the Pulitzer-prize nominated playwright of such plays as “The Substance of Fire (which starred a young Sarah Jessica Parker), “The Film Society” (which starred a young Nathan Lane), “Three Hotels,” “A Fair Country,” and, most recently, “The Paris Letter.” You may know him better, though, as the creator of the hit ABC show, “Brothers and Sisters.” My grandmother watches that show religiously and, to her, Jon Robin Baitz is something of a god.

Which is why, a few weeks ago, I was a bit startled to see that a god subscribed to my blog. Well, actually, I wasn’t sure. You see the form above where you enter your e-mail address? To make that work, I use a program called Feedblitz. And every so often I visit Feedblitz to see who’s signed up: I’m often surprsied by the names I find–hey, didn’t I go to school with him? Didn’t he beat me up?–and I was doubly surprised to see the name Jon Robin Baitz right there as the most recently subscribed.

Here’s where I took a risk: I decided to e-mail this Jon Robin Baitz to see if he was the famous writer Jon Robin Baitz. Who knows, maybe there are thousands of Jon Robin Baitzes in this world, all from the same unoriginal parents? I wrote a simple message: “Are you the writer and did you just subscribe to my blog? If so, I’m incredibly flattered!” A few minutes later a response came: “I am the writer, yep, but more than that; I love your blog, so much, and your book, and I am a Brooklynite, and you are a tonic.”

To say that was I deeply flattered, that my ears were burning, would be a profound understatement. But I played it cool and wrote back calmly and he wrote back enthusiastically and soon we had a lunch date set. Remember when I polled you for a place to lunch in Chinatown? Well, that was the original plan but soon the plan changed and we wound up at a regular fixture for me, my across the street restaurant neighbor: Brooklyn Fish Camp.

I love Brooklyn Fish Camp. I eat there ALL. THE. TIME. The servers are friendly, the food is fantastic, but, most importantly, the environment is transportive: I really feel like I’m in Maine at a fish shack. It’s a mini-vacation in the middle of my day and I feel very lucky to live so close.

Robbie (that’s what his friends call him) came in and we recognized each other instantly–me from my blog, he from his many Charlie Rose interviews.

We were led to a table in the back, by a window, and soon we got to chatting. We had lots to chat about: Robbie’s a food lover and I’m a theater lover. So we talked about Frank Bruni, about favorite restaurants, favorite recipes; then we talked about current shows we like (“August: Osage County” is a given), my time at Tisch’s Dramatic Writing school, and his experiences going from theater to TV and back. We were so engrossed in conversation, we nearly forgot to order.

But order we did and Robbie steered me towards several dishes I don’t usual order. We started with this Greek salad; a lovely composition of tomato, onion and feta:

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Then it was steamers, something that my mother loves, and something that caught the attention of two older women sitting at the table next to us: “What are those?” they asked and when we said steamers they nodded their approval.

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Steamers are like a cross between clams and oysters; more substance than a clam, less ostentatious than an oyster. Served hot, you dunk them into salt water to get rid of the grit and then into butter to fatten them up. They’re superb.

Finally, we had the famous salt and pepper shrimp–a dish Amanda Hesser talks about in “Cooking For Mr. Latte”; something I remembered, because you’re supposed to eat the shell:

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These were a revelation: whole shrimp, shell on, deep fried so the shell becomes crispy and highly edible, coated in salt and pepper and served with tartar sauce. I loved it so much that guess what I made for dinner last night? Yup, salt and pepper shrimp, recipe to come for you next week.

When the lunch was over, we were having such a good time we continued on at Tea Lounge for iced Moroccan mint tea. Robbie was candid and open and let me ask him about anything, especially all the politics of working in TV. (For a great account of his falling out with ABC, read his compelling entry on The Huffington Post.)

Soon it was over but it was clear to both of us that we were natural friends, a fact reinforced by endless e-mail exchanges ever since–e-mails about pimientos de padron, sour cherry cobblers, and where to eat in Tribeca. Our second meeting will occur tomorrow night when I attempt to dazzle him with a home cooked meal (little does he know, I have zero time to get it together!) and he finally gets to meet Craig.

I know someone, though, who wishes she could be there.

“He’s coming to your house? The man who wrote ‘Brothers and Sisters’?” my grandmother asked on the phone the other day.

“Yes,” I said.

“Oh my God,” she said. “Well tell him I love his show. I think he’s wonderful.”

Having met him, I have to agree. It’s nice to have a new friend and I have my blog and Feedblitz to thank. Thank you Feedblitz, thank you blog. And now to start on tomorrow’s dinner….

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