Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Oligarch trash ...

... is the kind of remark that, however inconsequentially meant or softly spoken, encroaches so intrusively into those moments when one is collecting oneself, reading a menu, looking at the decor, could totally ruin the appreciation of a pre-lunch Manhattan. It's uncanny how remarks, galvanizing as they are, arrive precisely at the moment when one is either taking a sip or swallowing, presenting a body, as the mind wheels, with a quandary - to snort, gasp or expel liquid from all available orifices, ears included it seems. That I did none of these was a blessing as I too was gazing at the newly-arrived and just remarked-upon company at the table in front of us - a perfectly respectable, well-dress group quietly asking for another table.

However, there we sat, recovering from the remark and the drenching we'd had walking across Columbus Circle from the hotel to Jean Georges, and steaming in both senses of the word. A horizontal driving rain had beset the city that morning, clearing away the snow and keeping most sensible folks from the streets. Not us, thus. I had demanded a taxi and was smartly told to pull myself together for it was only a drop of rain and we could share an umbrella (only a Brit could characterize such a downpour as a drop of rain), we set off for the lunch we'd booked weeks before.

I must tell you that the experience of Jean Georges, the food, the staff, the decor, was a real treat. The food was superb: fois gras brulee accompanied by pineapple and meyer lemon jam, succeeded by slowly-cooked cod atop black beans aromatized with sake, cilantro and ginger. I cannot tell you what my other half ate as my brain and taste buds were totally occupied elsewhere. Apparently I offered to share but I have no memory of it. Perhaps the novelty of that has driven it from my mind. Instead of dessert I chose a Pedro Ximenez sherry, warmly black as old lacquer, viscous and oozing the essence of raisin. I've drunk this sherry before as an accompaniment to plum pudding - a combination hard to beat. The Celt had lemony things for dessert which brought on a bout of purring. Chocolates and quarter-sized macaroons came with the coffee and made-in-house marshmallows cut into perfect cubes at the table, accompanied the check, sweetening the deal.

My Christmas present, below, found in Barney's is a real addition to the library. Oddly enough, over the years I have not seen much of Messel's work and the book is proving to be an eye-opener. Of course, I've known of him, who he is related to and all that, but had been underwhelmed by what I had seen. That is changing as I go through this book. I'm not sure at this moment if I find his work effete or as camp as a row of tents. That is probably not my final judgement.

We found another book at a different store, this time a novel illustrated by Rex Whistler, and were very tempted until we saw the price. My other half checked on Amazon from his iPhone as we stood there in front of the book display and found many versions of the same at nearly one thirtieth the price.

Caveat emptor, indeed.


  1. I would have wanted a cab too, (and I'm a Brit)! The lunch sounds divine, so those climatic troubles were easily forgotten.

    What a handsome man Messel was in his youth.

  2. Lemony things for dessert usually make me purr too. Are oligarch trash the folks who sit behind you and talk through the whole movie?

    Happy New Year to all the Blues.

  3. God, I love amazon. Your meal made my mouth water (or your writing, anyways!).

  4. Oh, camp as a row of tents, definitely~ which is part of Oliver Messel's
    appeal nowadays.
    Now, about that book illustrated by Rex Whistler: title please?

  5. Architect Design - thank you. It really was very good and a complete contrast to the food we had at another much recommended restaurant - broccoli in cheese sauce with Cheetos (came to the table despite it not being ordered). Yup, you read it right! Cheetos!

    Terry - the ones you refer are just trash, there's nothing oligarchal about them.

    Columnist - you're right and he stayed handsome in a matinee idol sort of way. Matinee idol? Where did that come from?

    Mr. Worthington - it will probably be tomorrow, but I shall do so.

  6. Mr Worthington - I didn't read the cover properly only seeing the name Rex Whistler so did not see that the book is part of James Agate's autobiography - Kingdoms for Horses.

  7. Looks like I'll have to drop in soon to see the Messel book for myself! I didn't realize Barney's has an out of print bookshop.

  8. Peak of Chic - more an alcove with current and out of print books rather than a bookshop. Drop by whenever you wish.

  9. I have the Messel book and have enjoyed dipping into it over the years. I have always enjoyed reading bits and pieces of his rivalry with Beaton, which could get quite vicious at times. Ladies, please!

  10. I am sure the Oligarch Trash came by taxi. I loved this story and I like the look of the Oliver Messel book. But only if it has lots of pictures in it! Has it?