The other day I had a Lady-Who-Lunches Lunch. I tried Andrew Carmellini’s new-ish French restaurant, Lafayette, on the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones. It was so relaxing. I actually got a little bit stressed out that I might miss something important because I felt so at ease. (Totally a Me Problem and not a Lafayette Problem…) I sat at the bar with Luke Barr’s Provence, 1970, which I am totally loving*, and I treated myself to the kind of thing I would never make for myself at home: a Niçoise salad.
Wouldja look at that! It was a perfect composed salad: radishes, a roasted yellow pepper, tomatoes, blanched green beans (that were perfectly crunchy), anchovies (which I loveeeeee, as previously discussed), boiled potatoes, black olives, shaved fennel, capers, and a hard-boiled egg topped with buttery seared tuna. I think I actually appreciated the salad more because I knew how much effort — and how many dishes — went into making it. And I didn’t have to do anything but sit at the bar and read my book! Being a fancy lunching-lady is the best.
I learned something interesting from Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating (besides how to truly, madly, deeply crave a frisee salad) — she pointed out that in France, they call a salad eaten for lunch is a “composed salad.” In America, we call it a
harried rushed breakdown tossed salad. It’s too true. Usually, I work through lunch, hunched over my computer, scarfing delicious leftovers and not taking nearly enough time to appreciate how good they are.
But this French lunch of mine was perfectly composed. I sat with a book at the bar, the bartender was a doll (though he bragged about eating my fantastic salad every day for his shift meal … lucky jerk), and the salad was superb. I highly recommend Lafayette as a lunch spot. It’s everything you’ve read — huge and sparkling, with the sheen of bougie unhappiness that I first recognized in John Cheever stories. I surveyed my fellow diners and they all seemed a little … plastic. The women were beautiful, and not the types who would ever have chipped nails. The men had perfectly managed scruff that implied advertising jobs and not whiffs of homelessness. And the staff were like an army of beauty, which would have been much more bothersome if they weren’t all welcoming and perfectly nice, and if my lunch hadn’t been so dang good. I can’t speak for their dinner service, but I highly recommend a composed lunch at Lafayette.
380 Lafayette Street (corner of Great Jones)
*No, I still haven’t made it past the prologue even though I love what I’ve read … did I mention that I started a blog recently?