When Fatemeh of Gastronomie e-mailed me on Monday night and informed me that she was taking the red eye in for business and wanted to take me to lunch the next day at Pastis, how could I say no? Well, I did say no: not to the lunch, but to Pastis. I had a class at 1 pm that I couldn’t miss and there’d be no way I could get from the meatpacking district to NYU unless we started lunch at 11. Fatemeh was accommodating: she offered to meet somewhere closer to NYU. I suggested Balthazar because it’s owned by the same people as Pastis and we could meet for breakfast with plenty of time for me to get to my class. She gave the virtual nod and we planned to meet there at 10:30, Tuesday morning.
My feelings about Balthazar are very mixed. At its worst, I feel like it’s a trendy, snobby French “it spot” that treats the guests with disdain serving hit-or-miss food for outrageous prices. At its best, I think it’s New York’s most authentic French bistro, and if you catch it at the right moment you can find yourself transported across the Atlantic. Depends when you go, why you go and who you go with. Going for breakfast with Fatemeh, it turns out, is the best possible configuration.
I arrived before her and secured us a table near the door. When she walked in, I recognized her from her site picture (though she looks much younger in real life). I waved her down and she joined me in the booth. She was a bit tired from her red eye flight (she practically came straight from the airport). But we quickly got to talking, filling each other in on our respective careers (she sells things, I write things), and our respective cities (hers: San Francisco; mine: The Big Apple.)
When it came time to ordering, I logically suggested that we each get eggy savory dishes (instead of the waffles) so we could justify an order of bread. The bread basket at Balthazar is unmissable and Fatemeh inevitably agreed when they brought it out:
“Wow,” she said.
“I know,” I said.
“God,” she said. “I have a meeting this afternoon, if I eat all these carbs I’ll fall asleep.”
“Shh,” I said, “No you won’t. Just eat them they’re delish.”
We democratically cut the caramelized pecan roll in two; we tore at the almond raisin foccaccia-like bread (which was amazing) and tore at the brioche, which you can see in that picture: it looks like a hat the Queen might wear in Alice in Wonderland.
As we waited for our breakfast entrees, Fatemeh and I continued to dish–we did food blogger gossip (most of it centering around San Francisco), I told her about my family, she told me about her family–and then our food arrived. I had the eggs benecict, which was perfect and sinful in every way:
Fatemeh had the quiche which she raved over.
“You have to try it,” she insisted. “Usually quiche is really firm, but this is so moist.”
Indeed it was. And we could guiltlessly return to the bread basket whenever wanted because our entrees were so carbless. (Well, except the crust of Fatemeh’s quiche.)
Meanwhile, the waiter refilled our coffee mugs and our water glasses and we continued to chat. Fatemeh and I clicked really well: it’s amazing how foodbloggers can connect so easily (the same is true of all the other foodbloggers I’ve met thus far). I think the secret is a shared passion: there’s plenty to talk about when you love food.
As for Balthazar, I’m pretty sure Fatemeh would agree, it’s wonderful at breakfast. Not crowded, not noisy, and bright with the morning sunlight, the food is terrific and the prices are way reasonable for such a trendy, hard-to-get-into-at-night sort of place. I hear Judith Miller breakfasts there, why shouldn’t you? The prices are not so different, I bet, than 90% of other sit-down breakfast places in the city. In fact–and this will blow your mind–the omelet I had this morning at the Waverly Diner was only a few dollars less than the eggs benedict at Balthazar. Is your mind blown? I hope it is.
Anyway, I’m glad Fatemeh e-mailed me at the last minute, I had a great time. I hope I get to visit her and all the other San Francisco food bloggers on their native turf someday. We can have eggs benedict at the Zuni Cafe and Judy Rogers can yell at me for not salting my chicken long enough. Then I’ll jump off the Golden Gate bridge and everyone will blog about it. Such is the life of a food blogger!