Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lunch in Ithaca New York: Losing My Moosewood Virginity

Back a dozen years or so, me and Dolly-girl, first separately, and then together, if you get my drift, set our brake in a little town in what people from The Big Apple call 'upstate'; and what people in what people in The Big Apple call 'upstate' call 'upstate'; and what people in the real 'upstate' call 'The Southern Tier'; and what people in Ithaca call 'The Beautiful Finger Lakes Region'. Ithaca has got a rep for a lot of things and parking is one of them. Friends have a sticker on their car says 'Ithaca is Garages' instead of 'Ithaca is Gorges' which is one of those cute bumper sticker that is supposed to be a "play on words" is what I think Dolly-girl calls it. Check out the rules on the back of the parking ticket from one of the garages. Anyhoo, we lived there, separately and together, for a couple ten spots, or as Honest Abe woulda called it, a score. But in Ithaca, a score was what happened at State and Plain after dark...

The two of us had hopped a clipper to go back for Dolly-girl's parents three-score (how's that Abe?) celebration of setting their brake together. As long as we were back in that part of the world, we decided to mosey on up to Ithaca where Anna-Maria is setting her brake since she give Our Nation's Capital the cold shoulder. We decided to tie on the feedbag at a local Institution--Moosewood Restaurant. Yes, THE Moosewood Restaurant of some substantial fame, the girls tell me. In all those years, I'd never been there--a Moosewood Virgin, but then I did live in Newfield, albeit north of Route 13, for many years.

The place was buzzing on a Monday at just past when the noon whistle blows the second time. I guess people like to go there late or it takes a long time to chew all those leaves. Missy at the front door took a name and told us to cool our heels for a while while he checked out the back room. "'Bout 10 minutes--take a load off..." Dolly-girl said, "I'll just do a little shopping here, Jack--I could use some new Moosewood items." She used to go there back before I was keeping her company, and maybe after too, with some of her girlfriends.

Missy popped up from behind the counter, sort of called our name--I figured he was stubbin' his toe on the whole D'Mestiere thing as there sure wasn't going to be a decent veal in this place--and led us to a spot that suited me. I could keep an eye on the street while Anna-Maria covered the inside scene. Missy brought the whaddya-wants and disappeared. For quite a while. He was back, hemmin' and hawin' about whaddya-drinkins. "Three Bull Runs, or what ever you call the run of the tap here." "OK." Talkative. Nothing much colorful about Missy. He came back in a while, three glasses and an order pad. He looked expectantly. "I'll have the cowfeed, throw whatever Cookie mixes on it, and add the filet of curd on the side." He looked at me like he couldn't understand. Dolly-girl roller her eyes and translated, "Medium salad, house dressing, Tofu Kan." That got an up and down. She continued, "I'll have the side salad and the fish cake." "Hold everything, right there. I thought this place was the number one leaf muncher spot on the planet," I said. "What gives?" "It's not all leaves, Jack. Fish are close, you know, some vegetarians eat fish..." "Yeah, chicken too," and I rolled my peepers. Missy looked at Anna-Maria quizzically. "Hash u a greenie and stick in my pocket." She's my daughter. Dolly-girl told him the avocado in a pita sandwich. He nodded and walked away. I don't think he said a word. Meanwhile, I noticed that Mike had something strange going on. There was rice in there. Dolly-girl explained that Ithaca isn't exactly the driest place in the world, especially in the summer, and a little rice in there kept things dry. "I know that, Dolly-girl, but look at that one." "It's brown rice, Jack, organic brown rice." I needed a wave today. She would've gotten some shots...

Missy came back in a while with some food. My salad, Dolly-girl's side salad, and nothing for Anna-Maria. No talk, just put plates down. Dolly-girl munched her leaves while I waited since a trip through the garden was going to be it for me. Time passed...slowly. Another Missy stopped by and topped off the water. Our original Missy stopped by, noticed that I hadn't eaten my salad and asked if everything was OK. "Just waiting for them to get their lunches there." Another quizzical look. Then a different Missy brought Dolly-girl's fish cake. Still no greenie in the pocket. Must take a long time to cook that. Finally it showed up and we all tied on the feed bags, which were, in my case, OK, pretty standard salad, although Cookie stirred up a good dressing, I'll say that. Could'a pinned a rose on the salad though. Dolly-girl and Anna-Maria gave the up and down to theirs.

Missy came back eventually and asked if anyone had a sweet tooth. Anna-Maria and Dolly-girl consulted a "decision support system" that Anna-Maria had on her blower and decided the vegan chocolate cake would be worth the calories. I rolled my blue boys under a missing wave, but the gateaux did look like it deserved eating.

Dolly-girl picked up the tab and headed for the shopping area. I guess she tipped Missy, although I would have tipped him, "You could talk to customers, you know." That got me a shot through two waves...

We headed out and down the street to a place a little more up my alley. Jack's take? I didn't miss a thing in that score of not going to the Icon. If you're in Ithaca, stop at Moosewood, buy the cookbook, and head for the Ale House. You can make the food at home, but you can't make a Racer 5...of course, neither could they, but they had it on tap.

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