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Drawing inspiration from the New Nordic Food Manifesto, the Great Northern Food Hall sells the best eats at Grand Central Terminal, and among the best in town for the price. | GREATNORTHERNFOOD.COM

BY DONNA MINKOWITZ | What was in the bowl slid down my throat. It entered my mouth feeling exactly as though I was being fucked. I’m not making this up: this was a rare occasion on which it was hard to tell which set of lips something was entering. Moist, small bits of lobster, butternut squash, slightly funky herbs, and a mysterious and unctuous “porridge” passed my mouth’s entrance, and I felt guttural sounds coming involuntarily out of the back of my throat.

I was in Grand Central Terminal, where I must admit I’d never before experienced either real or simulated fucking. (Unlike, I’m quite sure, some of you.) But Claus Meyer, a cofounder of Copenhagen’s Noma, allegedly the world’s best restaurant, has just opened a not-that-expensive food hall within New York’s best commuter hub. His executive chef, Edwyn Ferrari, can apparently make phantom joys appear in my vagina just by whipping up a grain bowl.

The lobster, butternut squash, apple, fennel, and parsley version got its frankly sexual taste and smell from lobster broth and from a dick-like sea-urchin tang that arose, oddly but wonderfully, from its phosphorescent-green “apple and fennel salsa.” When you read the long porridge menu at the Great Northern Food Hall, you may fear that these bowls will take you back to the nursery, or to baby food. Not to worry. The lobster-barley risotto number may, however, recall those adult moments that can make you feel, beautifully and frighteningly, like an infant: “I want, I need, I need it now, FEED ME!”

MORSELS: A vaginal review of Grand Central’s affordable, sexy new food hall

Such stark, elemental, and intense feelings at Grand Central are nothing new. Like many, I have felt excited panic at the flood of commuters and alternating wonder and horror at the architecture, catacombs, shivering people sleeping on newspapers, and oscillation between abject dirt and riches since I began going to the terminal back in 1975, when I was 11 and got off the subway there to go to school nearby. The terminal was one of the few places in the city where you could find any homeless people then. (An elderly man with a lot of books and notebooks and pens around him was the first un-housed person I had ever seen, lying right where a Hudson News sits now. Rents were low and jobs incredibly easy to find back then, and it’s hard to remember how sad I felt, how disturbing and novel it was, the first time I saw him shivering there, and soon afterward, two adult women washing their bodies and their clothes out in the bathroom sink.)

There are approximately seven times as many homeless people in the city now, of course (in a population whose size has stayed roughly the same). But perversely, as the number of homeless has mushroomed (to 62,000 this year, the highest ever in the city’s history), Grand Central has become less and less hospitable to them, consistently remaking itself in the image of an ever-wealthier clientele as Manhattan has aspired to fill more and more of its spaces with the one-percent only. The marbled waiting room, open to all, was shut in 1989 in what most considered a pointed maneuver to evict the people who used to sleep on its pew-like benches; it was replaced by a much smaller “Ticket Holders’ Waiting Area” in the “Station Master’s Office,” a tiny seating area to which the public was emphatically not invited.

My informants say that a bit of gay male cruising still goes on in the downstairs bathroom, though it’s nothing like the way it was in decades past. But the food in the terminal has never been worth what vendors charged for it, even though overpriced, tasty food has been available for years at the fancy Grand Central Market (some slices of seared tuna in a plastic tub from Pescatore, or a tiny parcel of prosciutto from one of the other stands).

Here’s the shocker: the Great Northern Food Hall serves not only the best eats sold in the terminal since I’ve been passing through, but some of the best food available for the price ($3 – $14) anywhere in the city. There are five stalls, serving everything from delicate breads to exquisite salads, and all of the grain, vegetables, meat, and eggs come from small, local farms that use no antibiotics and minimal chemical pesticides. All this superbly sourced food is prepared with art, and a great deal of it is prepared with genius.

Before I ate there, I scoffed at New Nordic, currently the hottest trend in First World dining. I guess I was just looking at the wrong examples of it. Meyer co-authored the New Nordic Food Manifesto (yes, there is one), which is based on freshness, sustainability, “ethical production,” and seasonality, as well as the championing of Scandinavian products and traditions. For him, it’s not an empty promise. A kannelsnurr, a braided bun with cinnamon and cardamom, which I bought at 5 p.m., was the freshest and lightest pastry I’ve ever had in this city ($4.50). Its yeasty, buttery insides made me look around in shock: was I really in Grand Central? What is more, every single employee in the hall gets free medical insurance with dental and vision care, and paid vacation after one month (it goes up to 25 days after the first year).

Many of the other dishes are just as earthy and visceral as the lobster risotto ($12, and large enough for dinner). An open-face chopped liver sandwich ($7) spoke directly to the inside of the body. I was delighted that the roasted beet shavings and hay-like sunflower sprouts on top brought out the liver’s innards-taste instead of trying to tame it. The beet shavings, tasting a little manure-like but also slightly sweet, were cut and strewn to look like rose petals. All I could think was that the whole plate was an homage to the asshole.

All the open-face sandwiches ($7-$8 for one, $14 for two, $19 for three) are more substantial than they look. (Share two with a friend for lunch, or three for dinner. There is ample, pleasant seating available, and the porridge bar, where you can be served by waiters and order from the entire menu, is romantic enough for a date if you don’t mind finishing by the hall’s closing time of 9 p.m.) The one with a fudgy hard-boiled egg, wild Canadian shrimp, and a housemade ramp mayo was more assertively fishy-tasting than I like, but the lush, creamy yellow mayonnaise enveloping the egg was wonderful ($7). The pickled herring sandwich with radishes was satisfying but also aggressively fishy ($7): must be a Nordic thing.

Entering Grand Central at the main entrance on East 42nd Street, the Great Northern Hall is located in Vanderbilt Hall, the former passenger waiting room, to the left before reaching the main concourse. | GREATNORTHERNFOOD.COM

Entering Grand Central at the main entrance on East 42nd Street, the Great Northern Hall is located in Vanderbilt Hall, the former passenger waiting room, to the left before reaching the main concourse. | GREATNORTHERNFOOD.COM


The Great Northern Food Hall (greatnorthernfoods.com) is located in Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall (the former passenger waiting room), East 42nd Street near Vanderbilt Avenue. You can find it directly off the terminal’s main concourse, the huge open space where you buy your tickets and enter some of the tracks. (Tip: the entrance is between the two banks of human ticket sellers). The hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. through 9 p.m. (but through 10 p.m. at the pavilion called the “The Bar” in the back, not to be confused with the porridge bar); Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. through 8 p.m. Wine, beer, and cocktails are available at all the areas with waiter service. Tipping is not permitted or expected anywhere in the hall, and server salaries are high for the industry. Annoyingly, there are no bathrooms proper in the food hall; you’ll be directed to use the public restrooms downstairs, or if you’re a woman, you may choose to sneak into the ladies’ room in the “Ticket Holders’ Waiting Room” (no men’s room available there). Wheelchair access: the dining area is street-level, and the downstairs restrooms are accessible and available by elevator. No gender-neutral restrooms are available.

2 Responses to Pussy Grabs Back

  1. sam oglesby December 21, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    This article is vulgar and silly.In my opinion it is not worthy of Gay City News which is a high-quality publication featuring articles of depth, amusement and substance. The author's attempt at being edgy and clever when she says eating a dish was "as though I was being fucked" is a clunker that ends up merely being obscene and stupid. Her reference to gay male cruising in the downstairs bathroom, has nothing to do with an article that purports to be a review about food. It is the lead sentence in paragraph six and has absolutely nothing to do with the text that follows. It also caters to the basest of stereotypes about promiscuous gay male homosexuality. Minkowitz then proceeds to stray even further from the theme of the article when she pontificates about Grand Central being inhospitable to the homeless. Some years ago Grand Central undertook a much needed renovation and upgrade which was welcomed by the public and tourists. Minkowitz's misplaced political correctness falls flat.

    Reply
  2. buceta gostosa May 26, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Sensational, if you had not shared such information I would be lost! Can I give a suggestion as a reader of your blog, and ask you to publish more stuff like this? thank you! Att paul jhonson

    Reply

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