Since I'm so fond of food, people often ask me if I've been to top restaurants like Per Se or Le Bernardin. Since I don't yet have the means to drop $500 on a meal, the answer is unfortunately no, I haven't. I'm always a little ashamed to admit this, as if it means I'm failing at my job. (Though no one asks my tech friends if they've tried out a jet pack, or frown when actors haven't worked with Martin Scorsese.)
This wouldn't bother me too much except that some of my friends have actually eaten at the crème de la crème—restaurants I dream about. Faced with their gushing reports of ten course feasts, I'll casually respond, "Oh, that's good to hear, because French Laundry is on my radar." (That FL is on the very outer fringe while All Star Donuts is the beep in the middle is information I choose to keep to myself).
Then, because I can't help myself, I'll quietly ask, "But was it really that good?" It's unclear even to me whether or not I'm hoping that they'll confirm the resplendent awesomeness of the restaurant, like in high school when I'd ask friends who'd hooked up with the hottest guys, "So did he have like bacne, or what? I heard he chews off your lips."
I've recently decided that instead of trying to pass off my jealousy as indifference, I'm going to lie. With a little research on the glory that is the internet, I can pick and choose dishes to talk about. If people remark that I speak with the exact narrative poise of Frank Bruni or zip of Adam Platt, well, I'll take it as a compliment.
To really up the authenticity of my fibs, I'll even make some of dishes. (Did you hear that, Mom? I'd like the El Bulli cookbook for Christmas.) Like this granola, for instance. Some lucky friends have informed me that small jars of it are given to diners as they leave Eleven Madison Park. It's just the kind of insider detail that will help seal my fine dining persona.
Look, the truth is that this granola is freaking delicious. I think it's the best I've had. It's super salty, with just enough sweetness to make it over the top, I-had-to-put-it-in-a -ziplock-bag-and-hide-it-under-my-sink addictive. Seriously, I was about to eat the whole damn tray. It's texturally perfect: crunchy with just a smattering of chewy tart cherries. The combination of olive oil and maple syrup is genius, and I've started to wonder why all granola doesn't have pistachios in it.
I wish I could tell you that Eleven Madison Park is just a fancy circus for people who have too much money to appreciate Shake Shack, but if this granola is any indication, I'll be saving my pennies for a long time to come.
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About the author: Carrie Vasios is the Community Manager of Serious Eats and writes the Wake and Bake, Cookie Monster, and Serious Entertaining columns. She likes perusing her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar.