Tailgating with Peas and Prostitutes: Behind the Curtain at Union Square Cafe

By Nick Fauchald Posted May 24, 2007

With the occasional “Friends of the Union Square Cafe” newsletter, the ever-affable Danny Meyer gives us a peek inside his flagship restaurant. The Spring 2007 edition contains news about Meyer’s latest venture (and the first that’s more than a brisk stroll away from his apartment): Union Square Tokyo, on which Kate Krader reported last week from Japan. In the newsletter, USQ chef Michael Romano—who will stay in Tokyo for the restaurant’s opening stretch—offers a few entries from his diary. To summarize: Japanese line cooks are very fastidious (“Today I grabbed a pinch of sea salt to toss into a tomato sauce, and out of the corner of my eye saw a cook grab a similar pinch, put it on a scale, and record the amount in his notebook.”).

But the real treat comes at the end of the letter. Whenever USQ makes a menu change, the chefs write down a detailed description of the new dish, which gets passed around the front of the house. Since some ingredients are tricky to spell, they run it through the spell-check machine before printing it out. Sometimes, hilarity ensues. Meyers offers an example:

“Tagliarini with Peas and Prosciutto: Replacing the Stringhetti with Clams is this delicious dish, which hints of spring things to come. Housemade tagliarini (egg noodles cut more narrowly than fettuccine) are cooked to order and tossed with a luscious sauce made with prosciutto, onions, white wine, a small amount of garlic, cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The dish is garnished with fresh English peas (as the early spring variety is called), thin strips of prosciutto and more Parmigiano-Reggiano.”

Translates as:

“Tailgating with Peas and Prostitutes: Replacing the Serengeti with Clams is this delicious dish, which hints of spring things to come. Housemaids tailgating (egg noodles cut more narrowly than fettuccine) are cooked to order and tossed with a luscious sauce made with prostituted onions, white wine, a small amount of garlic, cream and Ptarmigans Regina. The dish is garnished with fresh English peas (as the early spring variety is called), thin strips of prostitutes and more Parisian Regions.”

In the next edition: Somebody gets fired for putting “Shaved Prostitute with Melons” on the menu.

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