Mister Cutlets is somewhat of a role model for me . . . maybe even a father figure. We are both food writers. We are both lovers of meat puns (his book is called "Meat Me In Manhattan" and my last post was about a place with the motto "Let's Meat At Sahara.") We've both appointed ourselves absurd nicknames. And we both find it appropriate, even though neither of us are super heroes as far as I can tell, to take on theme songs ("With the bacon and the lamb chops and the scrapple and the ham hocks, Mister Cutlets spend some time with me" written by Life In A Blender West versus "Pickles! Salami! Dumplings! Pastrami! Take a look, grab a bite, put it in your tummy!" written by Jack Dolgen of Sam Champion before, mind you, he ever heard that phenomenal Mister Cutlets theme song.)
So I take very seriously what Mister Cutlets writes. And a couple of weeks back, when blogging on Grub Street about the new Saveur 100, he declared that he was "shocked - shocked - to discover that just two entries cited the New York food scene." These two entries, Mister Cutlets' headline claimed, are "The 2% of the Saveur 100 That Matters." One was about a Brookyn spot I'd never heard of. The other was about me.
Being 50% of the 2% of the Saveur 100 that mattered to Mister Cutlets was quite an honor for me. I was surprised to find that Mister Cutlets himself wrote one of the blurbs in the Saveur 100, and it was about a New Orleans oyster loaf, a good 1300 miles south and west of New York. Still, I felt like Michael Corleone must have when he shot McClusky and The Turk . . . kinda.
So I thought I'd better go taste the other half of the 2% that matters. Had I not, it would have been like never meeting my half brother. I was drawn to it by something greater than just my fat belly. I was following my heart across the East River.
Saveur describes it as a Dominican juice drink called Morir Sonando (To Die Dreaming) at Reben Lucheonette in Williamsburg. Fresh-squeezed orange juice, milk, sugar, and vanilla syrup are all shaken with ice. The folks behind the counter seemed almost as proud as me when I showed them the magazine.
Even though I'd taken a thousand fares to Williamsburg and no one ever recommended Reben, I had a good feeling I was about to experience something great. I was right. The drink was absolutely delicious. And the guys behind the counter were as friendly as could be. I knew I'd found a new stop to take people on eating tours.
The Morir Sonando was refreshing and sweet. The flavor was so pleasing it made my shoulders slump and my eye lids droop shut when it hit my lips. I could clearly see why they call it To Die Dreaming.
The countermen didn't speak much English, and my Spanish is spotty at best, but I did understand them saying "Top 100 in Brooklyn" as they looked at the magazine. I told them, "No, no solomente Brooklyn." "Oh, todos de Nueva York?" one of them said excitedly. "Todo el mondo," I corrected him.
Now they were thrilled. The counter man who seemed most interested in the whole thing informed me the drink was exactly as it had been for 45 years. Only the price had changed, and he showed me the original price hidden behind a construction paper cut out.
When I told them that I too was featured in the magazine, and that according to Mister Cutlets, we were the only ones that mattered, they got even more excited. And everyone crowded around to read my blurb with a genuine enthusiasm that struck me as almost childlike in its sincerity.
I left Reben Luncheonette with a slight sense of euphoria as a result of the Morir Sonando. I also felt a sense of brotherhood with my new friends behind the counter. And hopefully, I made Mister Cutlets proud.
229 Hevemeyer Street, Brooklyn