What Happens When You Eat at Jean Georges, Per Se, Bouley, Eleven Madison Park & WD-50 All in the Same Night?
It all started on a Thursday evening in January at a nondescript restaurant located along London's Wapping Wall called "BBQ Shack" where the London contingency of the OA discussion forum was having a get together. Mrs. P and I were in London for a long weekend and we had planned to stop by the restaurant in order to say hello to everyone. Under normal circumstances we would have attended the dinner proper, but food wasn't really on my mind as four hours earlier I had finished a rather large lunch while sitting at the kitchen table at Comme Chez Soi in Brussells. But truth be told, the prospect of eating American-style barbecue in London didn't sound all that appealing to begin with and I was secretly happy that I had an excuse to skip the eating portion of the evening. So our plan was to arrive in mid-meal, stay for about an hour, and then take a taxi back to the West End for a late dinner. Just as we were getting ready to leave, one of our group pulled me aside in order to have a short chat with me. It was Jay Rayner, the restaurant critic for The Observer newspaper, and he started telling me about a new book he was writing. I couldn't quite work out what the book was about, but I did manage to pick up on the fact that he wanted to come to New York and spend a day following me around while I was eating. "Would I agree" he asked? It didn't take me long to say yes. After all, I am a food blogger, and what better ratification of one's culinary abilities could there be than to have your dining adventures memorialized by an author and the Henry Holt publishing company. Still, I was a bit uncertain why following me around to watch me eat would make an interesting story. Jay said he would be in touch and Mrs. P and I jumped into a taxi headed for the West End where we enjoyed a late (and very light) dinner at Noura.
The next time I saw Jay was at London's Tayyabs restaurant in April. A mutual friend of ours had passed away and we were both there to attend a charity dinner in his honor. At the end of the evening Jay told me he had set aside the last week in May for his trip to New York, and that he would be in touch so we could determine exactly which day we would spend together. I asked him if he had anything in mind and he said, "No the point is for you to decide and for me to follow you around in pursuit of the perfect meal." The "perfect meal" I said to myself. Now what exactly would that be? My mind raced through the list of top New York restaurants and while you could eat really well at many of them, I didn't think any one particular could serve a perfect meal from beginning to end.
Our next correspondence was around May 15th, and we decided that our little adventure would take place on Wednesday May 30th. Well even though the date was set, I still quite hadn't worked out where we were going to eat. But with the date quickly approaching I went into overdrive. At first I asked Jay if he wanted to do a crawl. A few months earlier I had taken Sergio Hermann, chef of the Michelin 3 star restaurant Oud Sluis in Holland, on a dining crawl and it was a huge success. Jay responded that a crawl would be fun, but it was totally up to me. Then I had a strange idea. Instead of a crawl of casual restaurants like the one I did with Sergio, what if I organized a crawl of the City's top restaurants and we had a dinner comprised of one or two dishes at each restaurant? I told Jay of my idea, and he responded by kicking the ball back to me and telling me that it was totally up to me. But just as I finished reading his message, I was notified that another message had arrived in my inbox. I opened the link and it seems Jay had a change of heart. "I've thought it over and I think that's a great idea. Let's do that."