Monday, November 22, 2010

Bone Marrow, Chicago

Dear Mouse,

**Lack of beautiful Chicago photos in this post brought to you by Apple Computers: Planned Obsolescence. Rated G, for AnGry. (as in, my brand new iphone died with all photos in it before I could post. Ahem. )**
photo courtesy of

So it's 5AM Monday morning and Vitamin A is earning Good Guy points driving me to O'Hare Airport. We are listening to an REM compilation and talking about "Fall on Me", the first song of theirs I ever heard (age 10, Amy S.'s room, Highland Park NJ, cassette tape player). I tell him I have a vivid memory of my exact mental image while listening: that I was holding in my hands a ripe melon - coarse, scratchy, and brown outside - and prying it open to look at the fruit - rich, coral, miraculous- inside. I remember that is what I thought. Why a melon? I have no idea, especially since it was probably a cantaloupe and I've never liked them. But that's what came to mind, and it's probably my earliest food/art mental collusion.

A says "You should tell the band that. They would probably love to hear it."I fleetingly imagine doing so. (Ring, Ring. Hello? Michael? This is The Boo. Well, you dont know me, but, your song reminds me of a melon.)

Rewind to Saturday night. Date night dinner at Longman & Eagle. Scooping bone marrow and onion jam onto a toast point, Vitamin A asks me, "So do you really like to read books...about food?"

Pause to imagine a photograph here. Blustery exterior, dimly lit and gray-brown vivaciously noisy interior. Dark wood bar, friendly crowd in various jeans and sweaters. It's all very Chicago. Menu titled "EAT". Zoom in on cocktail menu titled "DRINK" and the phrase "Extensive Libations Program".

Yes, let's rewind further. Longman & Eagle, named for the adjoining street and a nearby statue of an eagle, is attracting a lot of Chicago foodie interest with its adventurous menu and casual dare I say hipster vibe. A friend of A tells me, breathlessly, that the restaurant recently earned its first Michelin star. Not too shabby.

I bypassed the "Blood and Sand" (involving scotch and 'flamed orange oil') and the "Harvest Sidecar"(applejack, pear liquor, cointreau, nutmeg) in favor of a "Hot Apple Cider" which is exactly that, if you add generous amounts of rum and applejack brandy. I watched Vitamin A peruse a list of beers with names like "Three Floyds Robert the Bruce" or "Half Acre Daisy Cutter"; I think he ended up with "Goose Island Night Stalker", but I can't swear to it.

Anyway the point is that the whole reason we are eating bone marrow (I moved on to wine at that point) is because of a book about food, which is how the subject comes up. I am so sure I remember some articulate rhapsodizing about bone marrow on toast in Ruth Reichl's memoir "Tender at the Bone" that I knew we'd have to order it. Even before I texted you, Mouse, (A: "Are you really going to text your sister about this?") for support.

It arrives - this really should not be surprising- in a bone, a thick short bone right there on your plate. It comes with warm toast, a pot of tangy red onion jam, and an overflowing spoonful of sea salt. I really, really like all of these things. So far so good. I scoop some of the - yep, that's really marrow isn't it? - creamy, translucent substance out with my knife, spread it onto the toast, dress it up, and bite in.

Vitamin A is talking about Shakespeare's Henry V, which I am about to assistant direct with a cast of 5th-7th graders (true). I reflect on how interesting it is to talk with people who a) LOVE books and literature, b) love food, c) are well-educated and well-spoken about both... yet do not necessarily see how these things could be connected. While for me, as I've said many's the time, Food and Art 'live' in the very same place. Sure, I say, I read books about food. Because they're not just about food. But food can be a language all its own, a powerful way to put the reader "there". No? I can't imagine a better description of my 'Fall on Me' experience than that imaginary melon.

But it takes all kinds. Vitamin A's response to food-in-literature is the same as my response to raisins in my baked goods and your response, at age 5?, to the freckle you found on your arm: Nooooooooo! Get it oooooofffff!

We also ate veal (because why stop at one aggressive meat) with some really stellar creamy grits, a beautiful salad with sliced apples and a melted cow's milk cheese called "Barely Buzzed" (there was pork in the dressing!!), and a main course of Maple-Braised Pork Shank (this also contained pork), which we both agreed was kind of disappointing; like they just poured maple syrup over it. But all in all a delicious meal, if a bit too sweet.

We stopped just short of the dessert menu, because I was full, A is not a dessert guy, and because the menu features - get this - gruyere donuts (!) with parmesan (!!) and "whipped citrus goat cheese" (!!!). Longman, please.

And the Item Itself? Well ... honestly: there was love, but I'm not sure if it was the marrow or its accessories. And there was the gelatinous-ness, which usually spells trouble for me. I've often said I despair of being a "real gourmet" because there are so many classics (think bleu cheese, or foie gras), that I just can't get into. And also ... it was bone marrow. I kind of couldn't get past that. So I'm not sure I'd go back. But it was exciting and new and if nothing else certainly an endorsement of Ruth Reichl's ability to turn a phrase. Perhaps sometimes the reading is better than the eating.

If, of course it was Ruth at all. I searched for that Reichl passage in order to write this post, and I just couldn't find it. If anyone has it, send along. I offer you this instead.

Well I could keep it above...
but then it wouldn't be sky anymore...
so if I send it to you, you've gotta promise to keep it whole...

Love and cantaloupe,
(and Happy Thanksgiving!!)

The Boo

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

...if I ever get to Chicago...steppenwolf and bone marrow
my mother use to save me the bones so i could mine the marrow - the secret place in the lamb chop - is that marrow? - the sweet stuff in the little rough space - just a brief pleasure