Monday, April 14, 2008

Eating. marrow.

Most people I know look at me like I am a cannibal when I confess to a deep fondness for marrow bones; I only order them when dining with like-minded friends (of which I have, happily, a good number). Or when I am alone, as I am tonight. I was craving fish and chips, day-dreaming all day long of golden-battered fish and crisp chips and creamy tartar sauce. (If I were being honest I think of fish and chips as merely an excuse to eat tartar sauce, much the way I view cupcakes more as a vehicle for frosting than anything else). The consolation for being still at work at 5pm (having arrived around 6:30 am) is that once I leave I can go straight to dinner, and I walk very quickly towards Quinn's Pub, one of my neighborhood favorites. It is early for dinner, and there are few diners. I have an upstairs table, tucked away in the corner by the window.

Then a crushing blow is dealt - there is no fish and chips tonight. The fish delivered that day was unacceptable to the chef's exacting standards, which I suppose is always a good thing in a restaurant, but I am momentarily heartbroken. I really wanted fish and chips tonight. I turn instead to marrow bones, roasted and served with a red onion relish and toast, and the gnocchi with oxtail (which also comes with a crispy nugget of marrow, my favorite part), which my server assures me are two of the best things on the menu. (I usually order either the gnocchi or the cheeseburger, one of the best I've ever had, but I've never tried the marrow bones before). More diners begin to filter in; the music seems to fade a little as the voices rise.

Four marrow bones arrive before me, each towering bone capped with the onion relish. There is a little salad next to the bones, a spoonful of sea salt, and a stack of toast. I scoop bits of the marrow onto a piece of toast, adding a little relish and a sprinkle of salt. It is perfect, the rich fat of the marrow melting into the toast, with the contrast of the tart-sweet relish that adds a little bit of a crunch. I wish the toast were more toast-like; it is merely lightly grilled bread, but it is still incredibly good. Yellow dribbles of fat stain the napkin that lines the plate; crumbs scatter everywhere. I am making a mess, but fortunately, no one seems to be looking.

A small plate of gnocchi arrives, a handful of tender little dumplings in a creamy sauce, topped with braised oxtails that fall apart at a touch, crowned with a round of fried marrow. I like this crispy little nugget of marrow more than the marrow from the bones; it is just one, perfect, bite. I am full now, and happy; I tell my server that it was all wonderful, even though I really wanted fish and chips. It was a good way to start the week.

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