If you found this blog by Googling my name or by following sundry noxious links (you know where), please note that all claims that I was fired from my job are 100% false, as are most of the other things written about me. I don't know the people who are libeling me, but it's clear they have some imaginary axe to grind and way too much time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

StephenB@Casa Mono

Here's what I knew about StephenB before last night: 58, divorced lawyer, polite to the point of cautiousness.

Here's what I now know about StephenB: 58, divorced since 2002 over something vaguely to do with cats, tax lawyer, still polite but no longer cautious.

The last part may be a problem. He has a list of places for us to try next: Picholine, Bellavitae, The Modern.

It's not that he wasn't a nice guy. He was. It's not that he was creepy. He wasn't. He was just...sad. By the time our foie gras hit the table, I already knew way more about his divorce than I cared to:

"I think she just got tired of things and never bothered to tell me. My wife and I were married for 23 years, I never thought I'd be here..." he pauses, trying to come up with a positive way to depict "here," "...hanging out."

Indeed, from the way he spoke, it sounded like the divorce was something he was bludgeoned with recently. Dazed. Despite it having been 7 years, this man was clearly deeply lost, and deeply lonely. It was slightly painful to hear him talk about the one other time he'd tried to find a dining companion on Craigslist. The girl - another young 'un - had said brunch in her ad, but suggested a dinner date instead. A meeting in which she ordered 4 appetizers, twice, and a $48 entree.

"I guess she assumed I'd pay for it."
"Did you?"
"I did, because I'm a nice guy."
"How much was it?"
"Over $200. And I don't know how long it takes to figure this out about me, but I'm a nice guy. If she hadn't been so greedy, she could've gotten six months worth of meals out of me. Instead, she blew it by being greedy. She scammed me."

I think we both knew that "nice" was a euphemism for "desperate," and I tried to ignore his statement that "this is so much better than going on a dinner date" and how he seemed to be just a little bit too interested in my romantic life. It'd be easy to say that part was creepy, but I really do think he was just searching for a way to connect, since his failed romantic life was what he was clearly fixated on.

It got me thinking about a lot of other things though, like why dating sites never ask the right questions, why we tend to think of a person's life being either waxing or waning with age rather than a straight line of possibility, and whether you can count on serendipity for something as important as growing with your lover rather than without.

That really is the nicest part of this project: thinking and talking about things that don't come up with my friends. When you know someone too well, you have your petty conversations and in-jokes and gossip. It's rare that someone questions who you are. It's nice to revisit that.

As for the food, I learned that StephenB and I have in common our preference for nibbling on many small plates. Casa Mono (of Mario Batali fame) is known for its relatively large portions for a tapas place, and our five dishes plus dessert was plenty. I let him take the lead, because he had offered to pay.

Duck egg with mojama

I really need to remember my camera more often, the cameraphone is not cutting it. This dish was way better than it looks - runny duck egg, salty tuna loin, savory potatoes.

Bone marrow with watermelon radishes

This will be the last time I order bone marrow at a tapas place. I love it too much and there's never enough to share with someone else. This particular rendition was yummy, but I thought the tomatoes are little bit too astringent as an accompanying side.

One thing I picked up about Stephen by the second plate was that he was very precise when it came to splitting things. Fifty-fifty right down the middle and portioned off onto our own plates. I wonder if he was like that with his wife, whom he admitted was almost his opposite - a photographer to his tax lawyer.

Foie gras with five onions (red, green, cipollini, and two others)

The foie gras with five onions was easily the best dish of the night. But then, it's always hard to trump foie. Stephen also went for the daily special - a chorizo dish that was way too salty.

Pretty, but this was the worst dish of the night.

I eyed the grapefruit sorbetto for dessert, but agreed to split the manchego with quince jelly instead.

Blah presentation, supermarket-quality cheese. Yawn.

At least I wasn't paying for it. Oh wait.

After his sob story about the other girl, I chickened out on letting him pay. Yes, even though he did the ordering (and that chorizo dish was not my idea). Yes, even though a 58-year-old lawyer, even a tax lawyer, makes far more than a 22-year-old Junior Analyst.

"I caught a mistake on my tax return today, so I am in much better shape than I thought. We could split it if you want."

What the fuck is wrong with me? Maybe I thought he'd try to stop me, which he didn't (he did say maybe he'd get the next one - lunch at The Modern). Will it happen? I don't particularly want it to, but I already feel bad about saying no - he seemed so genuinely, happily, surprised by how well this meeting went. I guess even in platonic dating there's leading 'em on and letting 'em down gently. I never thought I'd be in this position with a 58 year old. At least not before turning 50 myself.

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