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BITE February 26, 2014

Hemingway's Way. Masa Worship. Neapolitan First. All Is Vanity. Telepan Delivers.  


Dear Friends and Family,

       I don't think I could name a favorite novel now. (That's what comes with letting email, dinner and the New York Times come before reading books.) But I remember that in my freshman year at the University Michigan, my favorite "Tender Is the Night," had just given way to Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier." But I didn't identify with F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ford Madox Ford. I identified with Hemingway. When I arrived in Paris at 17, I found Les Deux Maggots and sat at a table with my notebook open, sipping Pernod, waiting for majestic sentences to line up on the page. It was always Hemingway. When I had sex, I always waited to see if the earth would move. Once in a while, it did.  


       Many years later, when I escaped to St. Barth's to finish my novel, I had a bad back, shades of my idol. I put my portable typewriter on the bookshelf and stood to type. Just like Papa. Even today, when restaurant reviewing seems to require tasting cocktails, I let my friends order the terrifyingly creative ones. I order a classic Negroni and think of Hemingway in "Across the River and Into the Trees." 

      Maybe that's why I was amused but not surprised to learn that Hemingway was a hoarder. According to a front page report in the February 10 Times, a trove of documents collected and preserved at his farm outside Havana has just been digitized by the Kennedy Library. It includes dairies, letters, lists, telegrams, insurance policies, bank statements passports, tickets to bullfights, a brochure from a swimming pool filter, a page of his son's homework and seemingly every Christmas card Hemingway ever received. "Was he a pack rat? Absolutely, absolutely," Susan Wrynn, the curator of the Hemingway Collection, is quoted. "We can only be grateful."

      As it turns out, my novel "Blue Skies, No Candy" will never be mentioned in the same sentence with "For Whom the Bell Tolls." As a hoarder myself, I can only hope the Gottlieb Library at Boston University where my papers are being archived is just a little amused by my latest shipment of menus, American Express chits, Valentines, reviews of "Insatiable" in triplicate, expired eyeglass prescriptions, hand-written recipes from Jean Troisgros's class at the Mondavi winery and nightly post-its written by my PA telling me where I'm going for dinner and who will be there.  
      This Hemingway news makes a congenital clutterer feel almost heroic.



 Our colors today are a hopeful green and light blue celebrating last weekend's first hint of spring, even though the polar freeze is back.

Masa Worship
      Tonight's seduction at Masa arrives with little preamble. It's a majestic blast, gleaming black caviar on a hill of fatty Bluefin toro. The two small rectangles of toast alongside are so perfectly cut -- little brown Band-Aids -- they could be made of porcelain. The mingle of sweet and salt and fat is powerful as I lick it slowly from the small black wooden spoon.

       The toro-caviar sundae has already chased the weird sea taste of the chewy hamaguri clam that launched this evening's tasting in a puddle of sake  broth with mitsuba greens. I need another toast. Isn't that obvious? I dare not ask. I take turns with the spoon, a dab of pink, a dab of black, toro then caviar, then toro and caviar. Then it is gone. It almost lasted forever.

      There is a silence, dazed recovery, and then the  sharp wake-up clarity of pale pink triggerfish curls with grated daikon in a ponzu sauce with citrus tang and a tangle of powerful sprouts.

      My globe-circling Daddy Warbucks dropped back to sea level this month and invited me to Masa. Yes, I guess that was what I was waiting for: an invitation. It's my first time back to this clean-sanded wooden counter since the night Masa opened in the Time Warner complex in 2004 and I was the guest of the architect  Richard Bloch. The prix fixe was $300 then. Now it's $450 before tax, tip or drink. But the 1% are richer than ever. And the nation's number of billionaires has multiplied since then too. No need to worry about Masa. The hostess consults her list and asks us to turn off our phones.

      My host is about to invest $1,600 or so (I'm guessing) for this evening of anticipated sensual  enlightenment at Masa's ten-seat bar. (I won't ask how much. He is too elegant to say.) I am on edge -- should I say, discombobulated? Shouldn't Masayoshi Takayama be here? Click here to read more.

Rafele: Neapolitan First

      The streets are deserted as we speed downtown. We hit the Village in no time. Rafele Ristorante is lit up like a theater marquee. It looks huge. But inside, it's long and narrow -- intimate almost, with a third of the space devoted to an open kitchen.

       "Well, of course, I am Italian," Raffaele Ronca, the good-looking young chef in his flashy red epauletted whites begins. "But like Sophia Loren said: First I am Neapolitan." My Neapolitan pal Francesco is already transported. We sit side by side at the tall table facing the kitchen: a charming stage set. The pizza chef never stops moving in front of the wood-burning oven, stage right -- slivering salumi and slicing pies for waiters to rush away. Behind an array of pomegranates, chestnuts and tulips, a team of chefs works silently.

      What would we eat? The two men chant a chorus on Naples, something between a De Sica movie and a travelogue, fantasizing a proper Neapolitan feast. That is, the chef suggests. Francesco cheers him on. Raffaele instructs the cooks. What did we eat?  What were my favorites? Click here to read more.


All Is Vanity

      I have 179,000 followers on Twitter. What does that mean? I'm not sure. They mostly don't do anything I ask them to do. They don't use my discount code to buy tickets to Citymeals-on-Wheels events. They don't download my steamy novels to keep themselves warm on snowy days. They don't rush to sweep up my precious vintage evening bags on Etsy. I can't know how many tried my winter Infidelity Bean Soup when I tweeted the link because I have no way of knowing if bean sales or infidelity rates soared.

      This conundrum made me curious. I've thought my Twitter appeal might be because I don't tweet only about where and what I eat but also about about love, sex and gender, politics, and my love-hate affair with the New York Times and Fairway.

      I decided to ask. I offered to send a signed copy of my memoir, "Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess," to the author of the best tweet each day last week about why she or he follows me. There are many shes, it seems. They like my hats. They like my advice. They like my style. I was astonished by the responses. It was like being wrapped in a giant hug.

      ErikawithaK won not just for her hash tag alliteration and sentiment but for her grace with the 140 stroke limitation: "I follow u b/c u r the world's 1st foodie n everyone else is jst chasing u playn catch up #FierceFoodieFabulosity."

      The OrganicFoodGuy moved me with: "following Gael bc she has fed our minds, souls, & spirits, and  most importantly: she feeds thru Citymeals! Truly a Gael Storm!" A follower named Jane got a book for: "I follow women of substance. Trailblazers. Icons. Authorities in their own field. Impactful. Innovative. You are all of the above."

      Abby melted me with: "Because you write like what women strive to be everyday: Creative, elegant, daring, sexy, articulate and completely honest."  At that point I was feeling like Sally Field at the Oscars. "They love me. They love me."

      I was getting embarrassed by the outpouring of adulation I had provoked, that I seemed to ask for. I was gobbling it up, I admit, and it was like eating too much Halloween candy.  

      "Enough already of this Vanity," I tweeted on  Thursday. And that was the end of the love letters. (The images here are from a card made by my niece Dana for my big birthday celebration. That was a love letter, too.)

      By the way, technophobes, you don't have to join Twitter to read Twitter. You just go to If you  peeked in right now, you'd read a 140 count confession that I often buy broken pretzels from the refreshment stand at Lincoln Classic Cinema. They're cheap of course, just $2.50. And there are no calories in broken pretzels. It's like what you eat standing up. The calories don't count.

Bill Telepan Delivers a Meal for Citymeals-on-Wheels Program Chefs Deliver

Click here to learn more about Citymeals-on-Wheels.


Click here to follow my twitterings. Click here to see my vintage evening bags on Etsy. 



Photographs of Masa's caviar tuna sundae, the tuna sinew with grated radish, and the marinated triggerfish, Raffaele's self-named pizza and the chestnut ravioli may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.