Tuesday, April 5, 2011

IEM Session #16.3

Inhuman Eating Machine official rules and guidelines

(continued from 16.2)

Eating Day: March 19, 2011, yet again

NEW AMSTERDAM COFFEE- University Avenue, Berkeley, 12:12pm- The Big Salad- $7.25

Photo by Tigerlily

After a trip to the ill-conceived Emeryville Target store to purchase batteries, Lily and I ventured to the heart of downtown Berkeley. If Tomate is quintessential old-time Berkeley and Actual is North Oakland personified, then New Amsterdam is a prime example of the sort of establishment so prevalent in the vicinity of UC Berkeley. Tomate was populated by older types with frizzy hair and wide-wale cordurorys who have undoubtedly done time as Cal faculty. New Amsterdam, however, has a grad-school vibe to it. Their key demographic surely consists of teaching assistants who are enrolled in programs that are sufficiently esoteric to make any future career aspirations futile. There is a lot of soccer paraphernalia strewn about the place and there is always some kind of soccer-related programming on the television behind the counter. There are murals on the inside walls that depict what I assume to be the Netherlands. Perhaps the owner is from Holland. Or maybe the soccer theme is naught by a ruse set forth to give the illusion of worldliness.

In case you had forgotten, the session took place on a cold, gray, rainy day- the stuff of Natalie Merchant songs. Salads are not a meal that engenders warmth, so I was even more sensitive to the act of pure barbarism delivered upon me by a steady stream of customers who came in and out of the New Amsterdam to place coffee orders. These 20-somethings repeatedly exhibited an utter lack of regard for human life, leaving the front door open several inches. This offense allowed excruciating blasts of storm to enter the room, making me even colder than I was before entering. Who does such a thing? Why not pull the door completely closed? These devils seemed to be perpetrating this deed intentionally. It was not difficult to merely pull the door a few more inches to its rightful resting place. Is this what "acting locally" is all about? This travesty forced me to become fixated on the frequently ajar door, leaping up to close the door myself, when necessary.

Luckily, I soon became aware of the two guys sitting in the front table and forgot about my imminent frostbite. I assume these fellows were both video game designers. By their tone, I gathered that they had just met and they were on a business luncheon. They seemed to be trying to one-up each other with their brilliance. In a single sentence, I heard one of the nerds utter the words, "coalesce," "crux," and "gestalt." He seemed astounded when his compatriot appeared to understand the words' definitions. If these future billionaires weren't enough, I was seated across from the least-convincing transsexual/transvestite in history. In his/her early fifties, this character was dressed in Riot Grrrl garb, circa 1992. With the high Doc Martens, torn fishnets, and Abe Vigoda-esque bags under his/her eyes, this tranny made Dame Edna look like Christina Aguilera.

I could have sworn that I had told the guy at the register that I wanted to eat my salad in the restaurant. Nonetheless, it arrived in a square cardboard box, similar to a Chinese food container, but without the whimsical Asian characters on the side. New Amsterdam's "Big Salad" comes stock with romaine, seasonal greens, cucumbers, and red onions. Then you get your choice of 3 additional items from a list of about 20 vegetables, legumes, cheeses, etc. Some kind of meat was also available, but that cost extra. I ordered artichoke hearts, avocado, and seasoned chickpeas on mine. I have discovered in my travels that you get far more roughage when you order a big salad to eat-in than you when you get the salad to go. If I was a cheating man, I could have saved myself some agony and ordered all of the salads to-go after New Amsterdam mistakenly gave me my salad in a box. But I do not cheat my readers! The salad was heavy on the romaine, with just a hint of the seasonal greens, but there was a good deal of cucumbers and the add-ins I had chosen. The avocado was at the perfect level or ripeness and the artichoke hearts were tender with a slightly vinegar-y zing. The seasoned chickpeas didn't really seem very seasoned, though, unless New Amsterdam's idea of "seasoning" means salt. I remembered to get the dressing on the side this time. It was a slightly sweet offering, which was surprising for a dressing that was supposed to be smoked paprika. The dressing wasn't bad by any means, but it tasted kind of store bought, even though it probably wasn't.

The salad here was definitely acceptable, but I was somewhat disappointed. On my sole previous visit, the salad here made a very positive impression on me. I am not certain what happened, so I can only blame the fact that they erroneously gave me the salad to-go. Perhaps they were trying to send me a message.

P.S. Restaurateurs, please stop putting lemon slices into pitchers of water. A fresh slice of lemon on the side of a glass is fine. But when lemon wedges sit for hours in a pitcher of water, the water does not taste of citrus. It just tastes bitter and dirty.

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