by Ed Sikov
Here’s some advice: You need a restaurant manager as a close friend. Why? Because when you go to his restaurant, he’ll tell the chef to send out all sorts of delightful little plates of things and an extra dessert or two, none of which you will pay for. You have 10 lawyer friends; they’ll all charge you. Twenty doctors? Not one lousy discount. But one restaurant manager? Suddenly you’re Auntie Mame – “Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
Our Fire Island housemates, Ian and Frankie, are both (as Ian put it) “lifers in food service.” Ian’s the quiet one, Frankie the Big Flaming Mary. Dan and I had dinner last week at Frankie’s restaurant, Capryce. We ordered the pumpkin soup; out came peekytoe crab mini-tacos from the chef. Dan ordered the hanger steak, I the paella, but we also got a chef-sent plate of glazed duck, foie gras and Asian-spiced carrots.
Frankie kept coming over to our booth to chat. Capryce was jammed. Hoards jostled in the entryway, but Frankie found in us a rapt audience and casually handed the pesky crowd control problem to his panicking assistant. Frankie was busy telling us about a baroque wedding he and Ian had gone to in Brighton Beach. Once populated mainly by Jewish refugees from WWII, it’s now Moscow on the Atlantic. (Yes, the southern boundary of Brooklyn is the Atlantic Ocean: a real beach, with white sand and surfers. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a hot surfer dude carrying his board on the subway.)
The wedding was an over-the-top spectacle as only Russians think up. The reception began with a dramatic caviar bar; multicolored spotlights hit the different iced bowls of roe while sexy little Russian-American kittens crisscrossed the room with trays of Veuve Cliquot. For the main course, tuxedoed waiters paraded flaming meats around the room on swords before carving and serving them. For dessert there were sharlotkas and zapekankas galore, all a mere prelude to a vast, gaudy wedding cake that featured – Frankie wasn’t kidding and neither am I – a most realistic portrait in icing of Zac Efron. “High School Musical” was the 19-year-old bride’s favorite film of forever. (Note to self: when gay marriage is legal in N.Y. State, order cake with icing rendering of Janet Leigh being stabbed to death in the shower.)
“And the whole time… What?… I’ll be back.” Frankie flew off like a hyper parakeet. He returned minutes later. “Sister Rose Gertrude – that’s what I call Carl, the sous chef – set the kitchen on fire. He’s an ex-Marine. Anyway, there were bottles of frozen flavored vodka on each table, and the first table that finished one got some weird Russian prize. Everybody was snockered. Huh? Gotta go. Don’t order the shortcake – it’s poo-sniggles.”
For once, my mind wasn’t on dessert. I was contemplating frozen vodka. I work too hard mixing drinks, I concluded. Guests arrive, I’m making a three-course dinner, and suddenly I’m fielding cocktail orders and getting multiple shakers going. _What’s wrong with me?_ From now on we’ll have Absolut Peppar in the freezer, and if somebody wants a drink, I’ll say “We’re having La-Z-Boys.” “What’s that?” “It’s a classic Russian cocktail enjoyed by czars and Bolsheviki alike. There’s a bottle of flavored Absolut in the freezer. Help yourself. Budem zdorovy!”
Lenivbli Malioik, or The La-Z-Boy
Stick a bottle of flavored Absolut in the freezer. Serve.