Friday, August 15, 2014


We were sitting at a table next to an open window in a tiny French restaurant in the West Village. It was a Friday night in August some time in the mid-eighties. Not the dog day kind of August evening but a refreshing version of mid-summer. The sun was just starting to fade. Three green bottles of Chardonnay were turned upside down in the wine bucket standing to the side of the table catching the light of the setting sun.
"What do you think Paris looks like tonight?" Rick was swirling the last bit of our fourth bottle of Chardonnay.
JoHannah, who had been toying with the last few Haricot Vert on her plate, did a slow slide of her eyes from her French beans to the voice that she thought had mentioned Paris.
"Yea, I was just thinking how great it would be to get something spontaneous, something besides ordering another bottle."
"I dare you."
"What, to do something spontaneous?"
It was my turn, "Yea, something beyond ordering a fifth bottle of wine."
"Okay y'all let's go."
Before the buzz could wear off the three of us were on the last plane leaving La Guardia that night. It wasn't Paris. We could only get as far as Chicago. Without the aid of sobriety Chicago seemed way far enough. We spent the weekend doing the Midwest including a trip up I90 to Madison and a Wisconsin dinner of steak and potatoes with my family. It was New York to Wisconsin.
Many many years later the little French restaurant at the corner of Waverly and Christopher has gone in the reverse direction via a group called Little Wisco, a collection of six restaurants scattered throughout the West Village all the inspiration of Gabe Stulman, a University of Wisconsin graduate. These culinary jewels are the new links in our chain of restaurant hopping through the city that doesn't lack jewelry. We've now completed tastings at two of Gabe's six Wisconsin inspired restaurants. Joseph Leonard has taken over the space of our French spontaneity from many years ago.
We went for Sunday brunch. The restaurant was packed with what one might have been mistaken for a clientele made of Wisconsin graduate students recovering from a Badger football blowout. The only seats available for us were at a counter looking into the kitchen.
This was a bonus. Our chef stood on the other side of the counter. He was the final hands that touched the food before it was picked up by the wait staff and delivered to a waiting customer. This meant we got to see more than our own order and we also benefited from his ongoing commentary.
In addition to our meals, where I had a warm mushroom and panzanella salad with a pair of poached eggs, torn bread and a drizzling of sherry broth and gruyere
and Rick had a fried chicken sandwich with mayo, tangy Tabasco, honey, and bread and butter cucumbers all topped with a side of Wisconsin cheddar grits, we got to see a lot more.
There was a trio of biscuits smothered in Thai gravy, pork sausages, red curry and coconut milk
A plate of saucisson a l'ail; pork and garlic sausages, fried eggs, hash browns, crème fraiche and arugula slide across the counter and wafted its aromatic fragrance across our noses.
Rick made me go to the bathroom hidden behind door 149. He wouldn't tell me why. He only said I had to go. Over the toilet was typed a manifesto titled, "Why Write????" It was worth the trip even if I didn't have to pee.
The second restaurant we hit was right across the street from Joseph Leonard. We walked in for a late lunch on a weekday.
Not so crowded. Jeffrey's Grocery has a similar ambiance to Joseph Leonard.
Despite their enticement of  "It is a beautiful day for breakfast and booze" we both started out with a pair of non-alcoholic cocktails they had predominately placed on their permanent menu.
Rick chose the Island Moon DJ, a mix of pineapple, honey, lime and coconut while I grabbed a Loosey Goosey a shaken combination of pomegranate, orange, ginger beer and jack ruby grenadine.
The restaurant swims in a nautical theme and features a menu developed mainly from the sea.
The raw bar is their strength with oysters high on the menu.
I opted for a crab grilled cheese with pimento cheese and fries topped with fried green tomatoes.
Rick grabbed the daily salad special of mixed greens, shaved almonds and Wisconsin tart cherries, a slab of sourdough toast smeared with chevre on the side.
Both of their restaurants possessed the kind of atmosphere conducive to a leisurely lunch or a repeat five bottle wine dinner with a trip to Paris for dessert.
We still have four more restaurants in the Stulman stable of eateries we are destined to try: Montmartre, Chez Sardine, Perla and Fedora. We'll let you know how that all works out.

Why do I spend so much time at this broken down typewriter? Isn't it just a big waste of time? I could be watching television or get into a game of cards or some other recreation. And what is so great about writing? There is an answer and I will try to tell about why in the following paragraphs.
Something happens to the inner side of me when I sit down to type. I just get completely lost in what I am doing. It is just like I have entered a different world. My imagination is at it's highest peak. I am kind of floating in a sea of thought. I am lost in thought, please don't disturb. I want to be alone.
The spoken word is very volatile. It disappears into the atmosphere and does not stay with us. It is gone until spoken again. It only has instant impact. Words are usually soon forgotten.
A written message is different, it does not disappear and can not be altered unless rewritten. Interpretations by others might differ, but the wording remains the same.
Some times I have an instant desire to say something, but when I do say it it doesn't come out right. What I say and what I mean are often different. I am not a good speaker. But, let me at this old typewriter biding my time, I think I do a much better job of expressing my true feelings. Some thing just builds up inside of me and my one finger just keeps on telling what I am thinking. I think that I do a better job when this old machine and I are to-gether. We get along. I just love to type. Ideas come easier when I do. I wish I had found this out earlier in my life.

Roland Bartels
504 Oak Pk Dr.
Shawano, Wis. 54166

Framed on the wall in the bathroom at Joseph Leonard
Waverly Place, West Village, New York City

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