I Died and Went to Mesa

By Ama Debrah

About mid-way through each semester, effectively numbed by dining hall meals and thousands of cup noodles, I have all but forgotten the happiness of a truly satisfying meal. I fall victim to what I like to call foodcholia, (food + melancholia; it’s clever, I know), and I am in need of a flavor epiphany.

The cure for foodcholia

At this point, it is almost imperative that I indulge in real food before completely losing my zest for life. Thankfully, this semester, I was rescued from my foodcholia by Bobby Flay’s restaurant, Mesa Grill.

We’ve all heard of Bobby Flay, who has had numerous shows on Food Network, the Cooking Channel, and NBC. Mesa Grill is Flay’s first restaurant, and after opening in 1991, New York Magazine named it the Best Restaurant of 1992. Since I am currently completely broke from late-night Chipotle and Five Guys runs, I thought that eating at Mesa Grill would always remain a bittersweet food fantasy—always desired but never actualized. After being informed by my boss that she would be taking me to Mesa Grill to celebrate the beginning of the holidays, however, it seemed as if my wildest fantasies were finally coming true.

After fasting for the majority of the day, the moment of reckoning finally came as I entered the double doors of Mesa Grill at 15th and 5th avenue. The décor of the restaurant reflected Flay’s southwestern cooking with warm red and yellow columns as well as black and white photographs. We were seated at a window table that allowed us to take in the beautiful, though rather chilly, Friday afternoon and watching the fashionistas of Union Square. Just as I was ready to jump out of my seat in anticipation, we were given the menus for what was to be a heavenly three-course meal.

“It was evident that the dishes were created with a lot of passion and love of food–not just to impress the elite 1% of the American population by including a lot of expensive and rare ingredients.
It was just pure, good food.”

Mr. Bobby Flay himself

After being partially dumbfounded by the amount of delicious flavors condensed on one menu, I chose the shrimp and roasted garlic corn tamale for my appetizer at the recommendation of our waitress. The corn tamale was neatly packed into a dried cornhusk, with a succulent garlic sauce lightly drizzled over the shrimp. I could have been completely satisfied with the tamale, but the bar was set even higher after taking the first bite of my entrée, a hot smoked salmon club sandwich with bacon, avocado, tomato, arugula, chipotle aioli, and southwestern fries. I consider myself a connoisseur of club sandwiches, and this sandwich definitely made my top three. However, I wouldn’t recommend this entrée in any situation where you are trying to impress your lunch-partners, because regardless of how daintily you try to eat it, the sandwich will end up smeared all over your face and dribbling on your skirt. As a grand finale, I had the chocolate and espresso tart with roasted banana chips and homemade banana ice cream.

As cliché as it sounds, the best part of the food at Mesa Grill wasn’t the bold seasonings or Flay’s signature southwestern flavors, but it was that the food had heart. It was evident that the dishes were created with a lot of passion and love of food and not just to impress the elite 1% of the American population by including a lot of expensive and rare ingredients. It was just pure, good food. By the end of the meal, my boss and I informed our waitress that we were actually going to become permanent residents of Mesa Grill—the price didn’t matter. Even though I didn’t get to see Bobby Flay, I will be forever indebted to him for bringing me out of the terrors of foodcholia.

Ama Debrah is a sophomore at Barnard and Food Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing. She is the world expert on foodcholia.

Images courtesy of NYMag.com and Food Network

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