Hitching Post … or Noma Mexico?

Photo credit: New York Times.

To begin at the very end, Pete Wells concludes his rumination about a pop-up restaurant where diners enjoy very special meals priced at $750 per person, including tax and gratuity.

 … They’ve chosen to pour their creativity into something that, because of its planned scarcity and relative expense, has to be seen as a luxury product. Luxury goods tend to float free of the everyday world and create their own cultural context, one of wealth and exclusivity. There are many ways to respond to that, but in this case, I don’t think a review written by me is one of them. I’d rather review a restaurant that has its roots in the ground.

In seemingly unrelated news, last week the Hitching Post Tavern caught fire. As of this writing, the bar’s future is uncertain, although one regular customer told me there’ll be a comeback for sure even if the specifics are uncertain.

More power to them.

It’s been almost eight years since I last patronized the Hitching Post, but I’m not being hypocritical in wishing them the best and hoping they return soon. Advocating for independent local businesses means all of them, not just the ones on one’s personal regular rotation.

Importantly, in terms of food and drink downtown, the Hitching Post has been a valuable component of the indie biz ecosystem — for what the tavern is, what it does, and who values it.

Or, as a Hitching Post customer wrote on Facebook (lightly paraphrasing), “Now where will we go for a drink? There are so few places left.”

Think about that.

Within a three block radius of Hitching Post, there are at least 15 establishments serving alcoholic beverages, with two (maybe three) on the way. A half-dozen others offer food, but no alcohol.

Rather, there are so few places downtown like the Hitching Post, which is to say — using old-school terminology — “popularly priced” neighborhood joints.

Of course, this isn’t to imply that the newer wave of restaurants has not been welcoming to one and all. They have been, but it long since has become clear that New Albany’s ongoing downtown revitalization has relied on an almost inevitably exclusionary socio-economic metric.

We’re making New Albany luxurious again.

I’d posit that Jeff Gahan’s public housing putsch has laid this latent seam raw, while at the same time having the salubrious effect of revealing the spiritual impoverishment of his cult of personality’s bizarre trickle-down prosperity gospel.

Because this: “Luxury goods tend to float free of the everyday world and create their own cultural context, one of wealth and exclusivity.”

In a nutshell, it’s the fundamental problem with the city subsidizing a “luxury” apartment complex like Breakwater, which strives to give its residents the sort of posh amenities calculated to keep them cocooned at home, safely segregated from the poor schmucks a few blocks away who’ll be gone as soon as Gahan can arrange the requisite cattle cars.

In the end, these observations are hardly novel. For thirteen years, NAC has been debating topics on a general theme of “proper balance”: urbanism, sustainability, revitalization, gentrification, and naturally not to exclude inebriation. It’s been a constant and wearying process of examining premises, over and over. I’d suggest that it can be no other way.

All I know at this precise moment in time is that it shouldn’t be a question of either Hitching Post or Noma Mexico, but if it is, my answer might not be the one you think.

Why I’m Not Reviewing Noma Mexico, by Pete Wells (NYT)

Under the rustling palms of Tulum, Mexico, the chef René Redzepi has been serving what Kevin Sintumuang, reporting for Esquire, called “the most enviable meal of the year.” Mr. Redzepi, who transplanted most of his staff to the Yucatán, while Noma, his restaurant in Copenhagen, prepares to move, said he wanted Noma Mexico to be “the meal of the decade.” For Jacob Richler, who wrote about the dinner for The Toronto Star, it was “the meal of a lifetime.”

And I’m going to miss it.

Not that I will be entirely in the dark about what other people have been eating when Noma Mexico, sometimes referred to as Noma Tulum, reaches the end of its seven-week run on Sunday. Despite having accommodations for just 7,000 people, all of whom claimed reservations within two hours last December, it may be the most exhaustively documented pop-up restaurant in history.