British food culture intrigues me. It’s a center-of-the-universe kind of thing; Americans think our food celebrities (everyone from Anne Burrell to Guy Fieri) are universally famous, whereas, across the pond, there exists a whole other universe of equally prominent food figures that most Americans have never heard of. We have Mark Bittman, they have Nigel Slater. We have Rachael Ray, they have Nigella Lawson (though we had her here for a bit with “The Taste”). We have Paula Deen, they have Two Fat Ladies. You get the idea.
It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes you’re at a restaurant, waiting for your food, and you see a dish appear on the pass. You think to yourself: “Ooooh, that looks so good, maybe I should’ve ordered that?” You stare it for a few more beats and begin chastising yourself for ordering the thing you ordered instead of that other dish. “What was I thinking? That looks so much better! Mine’s going to suck.”
That’s exactly what happened to me the other day when I had lunch at Prune, only there was a twist ending: when the waiter picked up the plate to bring it to the lucky person who ordered it, I quickly discovered that the lucky person who ordered it was me.
My Twitter followers were shocked–no, outraged!–when I announced last week that I’d never been to Kalustyan’s, the international foods store on Lexington Ave. in Murray Hill. Food52’s MerrillStubb’s Tweeted: “NO! (Can’t believe it.)” Savour Tweeted: “You haven’t been to Kalustyan’s? May be the #1 thing I miss most about NYC. That and Bemelman’s Bar.” JosePiano Tweeted: “WHAT?!?!?!? And it was even included on your Scavenger Hunt!”
Clearly, I’d ruffled a few feathers with my pronouncement. It was fortunate, then, that a few days later I found myself in that neighborhood and had a chance to remedy the situation.