Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Clio, an obesity conference and prostitution

September 23

I was running late for my dinner at Clio last Friday, because I made a wrong turn walking on to Mass Av., heading away from Comm Av. instead of toward it.
Mass Av., Comm Av. That’s how Bostonians talk. Boston’s not as fast-paced a city as New York, but the drivers are meaner (when I was a student there, I was taught as a pedestrian never to show fear) and the people abbreviate more than anyone but technology geeks, financial analysts and Indians. They seem to be too busy rooting for the Sox and the Pats and hating New York to take the time to say Massachusetts Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue.
Anyway, having turned around and phoned Clio to say I would be late, I fell in behind a pack of cavorting young men — late teens, early 20s — who were bouncing off of each other and wondering aloud where they could find prostitutes.
“I bet that dude knows,” one of them said of me. I was in a sport coat and tie and walking kind of quickly, because I was late for dinner at Clio, and I probably looked like a businessman who, it being 9 p.m. and his work being done, was ready to spend the evening in the city's seedy underbelly, which Clio, by the way, is not.
The kids speculated that I would know where to go to knock on a wooden door where an eye-level slit would open and a Chinese woman and I would utter meaningful words that would allow me to enter into her palace of treasures.
They were less lyrical than that, but you get the idea.
“They’d break both my kneecaps if I told you,” I said.
“But you know!” one of them said with enthusiasm and almost wonder, as if finding a whore in an urban setting were challenging, as if prostitutes were not interested in finding horny youths and would therefore hide from them.
I gave them the most wise-yet-mercurial look I could muster, said something cryptic — I forget what, exactly, something about finding a door and knocking on it — and they bounced off into the night.
I kept walking down Mass Av., toward Comm Av., and knew I was getting close when I saw Ken Oringer strolling toward me. He’s Clio's executive chef, and I think he did a sort of half double-take as he passed me. He knows me well enough to recognize me in context (he greeted me by name and with a fraternal pat on the shoulder at the Rising Star Revue in New York last Tuesday), but he had no reason to know I was in Boston, so we both just kept walking.
I wasn’t trying to sneak into Clio unnoticed, but I did want to have dinner without a lot of fuss while still fulfilling what I saw as an occupational obligation to eat at Ken's flagship restaurant at least once in my life.
I was in town for the fifth conference of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, whose mission is to use the law (litigation and legislation, basically) to stem the tide of the obesity epidemic that is sweeping our nation.
I have an interesting role in the conference, because NRN’s readers, being mostly owners or executives of businesses large and small, don’t want to be regulated and certainly don’t want to be sued, and so, as a general rule, they dislike everything that the PHAI stands for.
I cover the conference on their behalf.
In years past, some people at the PHAI conference have disliked me. One once even asked me how I could live with myself as a contributor to the ill health of Americans. How rude.
I could have told her that I was a journalist, not an industry stooge, but instead I pointed out that, from restaurants' perspective, they were giving customers food they wanted at prices they wanted to pay.
That really pissed her off.
People were quite a bit friendlier this year — I’m not sure why — although on Friday night, before my dinner at Clio, during the conference's opening reception, nutritionist Marion Nestle, while being perfectly friendly, did ask, basically, how a nice guy like me could be writing for the mean corporate industry rag that I work for.
Oh well. You can’t please everyone. I didn’t reciprocate later in the conference, after her presentation, by asking how a respected scientist like her could cite data from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is no such thing but rather a front for animal rights activists that pushes quarter-truths and lies (like that dairy products cause osteoporosis) in order to promote a vegan agenda.
If you want to be vegan, that’s fine with me, but don’t lie to me about why I should be vegan.
Anyway, it turned out I was only six minutes late for my 9 p.m. reservation, my misturn having caused me less of a delay than I thought.
I was unconcerned that Ken Oringer had left the building, as I was sure that chef de cuisine Andrés Julian Grundy had everything will in hand, as indeed he did.

What I ate:
60° egg with jamon broth, coffee, black truffle vinaigrette and vadouvan spices (imagine an egg as a soup, in a good way)
It was paired with a Belgian ale called Kwak
Black licorice roasted Muscovy duck with fennel bulb, rutabaga and candied pomelo
2006 Orin Swift Zinfandel/Cabernet/Syrah “The Prisoner” (Napa)
Frozen capsule of white peach and condensed milk with hibiscus, rooibos ice cream and ginger crumble


Tracy H. said...

Isn't it ironic that the restaurant industry supports the Center for Consumer Freedom, which has a lie in its very name? Consumer freedom is about being given all the facts and then being able to make a decision.

Bret Thorn said...

Well, not ironic exactly, but I know what you mean. Both sides engage in distortions of the facts to push their agendas forward. It is extremely unfortunate.