Barley Swine

Do you care for any vodka with that?

Orange juice — I had asked the flight attendant for some orange juice. But despite the convincing case Kendrick Lamar made in my earbuds, I felt inclined not to drank. I was at cruising altitude, trekking 1,800 miles in order to feed myself.  And now I was thinking, about expectations and about managing them.

I saw the booze as a specious salve for the jittery nerves engendered by a delayed, overbooked flight. But for my neighbor — embittered towards American Airlines and pawing the arm rest like a caged tiger — alcohol was exactly the tranquilizer he needed. In fact, it was precisely what he expected. “Finally, some service around here,” he grumbled with a half-convincing smile. (For several more minutes, he continued to paw.) Continue reading

Posted in United States | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

La Vie

People don’t talk anymore. We text. We email. We double-tap to like. We make Facebook a transitive verb.

What a pleasure, then, to sink into the passenger side of this all-black Mercedes SUV and have a conversation with Thomas Bühner. This is not, I should point out, an interview. He’s the chef of Michelin three-starred La Vie and I’m just some guy he has invited to eat there. He’s fifty years old and I’m not yet thirty. He drives.

I pretend I’m just excited and grateful to be here, but I shift about in my seat, anxiously. My legs stop shaking but my teeth start chattering when I open the door. We’ve arrived at the kitchen garden in Bad Essen, today a 4,000 m² grid of snow, ice and twigs. This is nature’s graveyard shift — winter in the upper latitudes of Germany. Continue reading

Posted in Germany | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In De Wulf

There’s no such thing as trying to eat. One eats or one doesn’t. And half-hearted promises are as loathsome as air kisses and limp handshakes. So when I told a guy named Kobe that I would come to a town called Dranouter, I meant it. Now I’m In De Wulf.

This place is in de middle of nowhere, so we’ll stay the night in the guest rooms upstairs. But this afternoon, ambassadors from France, Spain, China and the US convene in the lounge — a UN of restaurant junkies. Friends old and new have just eaten lunch, while my buddy Jose and I await dinner. 3,600 miles from my house, I am at home. Continue reading

Posted in Benelux | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments