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The Beginning of the Affair

By Lora Arduser · June 20th, 2007 · The Nosh Pit
It was an ungodly hour of the morning when I heard the pounding on my door. Bill Willy, a good friend with a stupid nickname, was fresh from another fight with his girlfriend. He was going to New York to visit his friend, he announced. Did I want to go? He was leaving in 5...4...3...2...

One phone call later I'd quit my day-old summer job selling shoes, we detoured to the bank to withdraw the $350 I had to my name and hit the road for my first trip to New York and the beginning of the affair.

She was gritty, edgy -- someone that would have a psychedelic, swirly tattoo on her chest and a hard stare. Not the kind of girl to take home to mother, but I didn't care. She was beautiful and alive with scents and tastes foreign to my corn-fed, Midwestern life.

She led me to an outdoor café, where I dipped French fries into mayonnaise in the night air, thick with an intoxicating muddle of sweat and dirt. It was risqué -- who'd ever heard of mayo and fries? Used to a steady college-student diet of pizza and draft Christian Moerlein, I was heady with my new love at first bite.

Wrapped tightly in a traveling love bubble of first times, I hesitated for just a moment as I stepped over the forms of sleeping men on the sidewalk of 37th Street as we went home to Bill's friend's walkup, complete with rent control and a crazy Puerto Rican neighbor, a boxer hit one too many times.

In the mornings, after the homeless men had disappeared into the city for the day, there was Café Bustelo. Bill and I watched his friend pour the thick, densely bitter brew from his caffetière. We sipped it from big, thick mugs over a plate of pastries from the Greek bakery I never found again.

By lunch we found refuge in another outdoor café for my first tortellini salad and Bloody Marys. It was hedonistic, but I was intoxicated with her self-indulgent ways long before the vodka hit my bloodstream.

For dinner we retired to another New Yorker's rooftop garden and knocked back containers of cool sake against a backdrop of the Chrysler building, lit up with the confidence of an American car company in its glory days, and licked our sticky fingers as we ate fresh, salty sushi rolls from the all-purpose carryout next door. As night turned into morning, we uncurled ourselves from lawn chairs talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up and where to go for breakfast.

Sometimes we're lucky. Sometimes food is about more than what's on the plate in front of you -- it's about time and place. And a truly great love affair.

As of June 23, Chez T in Mt. Lookout will no longer be open for business on a daily basis. Chef/owner Theresa Flaherty will focus on catering and special events. The café also will be available for private rentals and small group cooking classes. Information can be found at chezt.com. ...

Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of The Splendid Table on National Public Radio (broadcast locally on WVXU-FM 91.7), will be at Findlay Market July 21 for a brunch at 11 a.m. Seating is limited; tickets are $50. For tickets, call 513-621-2787 or visit cincinnatiarts.org.

CONTACT LORA ARDUSER: larduser@citybeat.com


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