The modern dating scene is full of highs and lows and even more complicated thanks to technology at our fingertips. A scenario captured beautifully Sara Porro's humorous tale of modern love, where apps decide everything for us: from the restaurants we visit, to the people we visit them with.
Listen to a doomed love story, by Sara Porro.
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A Love Story Reviewed by Sara Porro
Read by Kirsten Bush
[Magic Barrel wine bar]
Terrible wine list. Prosecco should be in witness protection if it’s willing to help take them down
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man must want to decide where we’re going for a date (yes I am paraphrasing the great Jane Austen, patron saint of women on Tinder). Why does it have to be this way? Men are so easily intimidated - just see how they only buy yogurt if the packaging is all black. If I were a marketing manager at Danone, I’d cut to the chase and brand it “brogurt”.
So when I’m meeting someone new and we’re figuring out where to go for a drink, I cheerfully say “You pick!” and hope they’re going to get back with: “Why don’t you choose a place you fancy?” - even when it’s said in the condescending tone of parents who let their older children pick the second name for a sibling (that’s what happened with one of my friend’s child, who has “almond tree” on his ID, forever).
This was not the case though - He said do you like wine? I said of course, and we came here, a place he apparently considers a very nice wine bar, despite the fact that the menu was just a messy list of names - some were regions, some others were winemakers’, sometimes it was just the grape variety*. “No mention of vintages?” I said drily, and he looked at me with a blank stare. We ordered a bottle of very bad Prosecco (maybe they didn’t include the name on the list to protect its reputation?), which he drank at lightning speed, and he was soon very drunk. In that moment I came to realize that it’s probably for the best if I take away the “I drink like an Irishman” snippet from my Tinder profile - I thought it was fun but:
a) despite what us millennials seem to think, drinking too much is not a quirky personality trait
and b) men.
Authentic Chinese restaurant for the chopstick-savvy - get the soup dumplings!
The endless Tinder swiping is making us all so fickle. I used to draw the line at guys posing with the heavily sedated tigers of Phuket (SO MANY!), but over time what I consider a deal breaker is getting more and more idiosyncratic. This includes (but is not limited to): profile sans bio, bio that’s just a quote from an early-aughts sitcom, a link to a guy’s Instagram account with pictures of him and his wife (“Exactly, we’re in an open relationship, but she doesn’t know” is an actual thing that was said to me). Also, lesson learned: as much as I love a shirtless picture, a chiseled torso requires a lot of time and - as a general rule - that time is not spent on other interests.
During my last visit to [Jiangsu Delight], I suffered through my date eating with a knife and fork. Please learn how to operate chopsticks - if, in order to do so, you need to go to Thailand and finance the disgraceful Tiger Kingdom with their sorry big cats, so be it.
The homemade soup dumplings were delicious, as was the sautéed bok choy with ginger and garlic.
[Twisted Glass Bar]
Cheap drinks that aren’t made with moonshine brewed in some guy’s bidet are a public service
Fun place, very reasonably priced drinks - you wish there were more of the kind in this city. In addition to being emotionally draining, dating can also be incredibly expensive. Here’s how the bill should be dealt with on a first date:
Whoever has made the invitation should offer to pick it up
If there’s more than one round of drinks and one person has paid for the first, the other should reciprocate
As a general rule, it would be nice not to split the bill in two (which to me is what makes a date different from hanging out with a friend)
Dating can be such a stressful experience when you’re broke - to this day I live in fear of what happened to my friend Eva, who had a guy cancel a dinner date saying that he’d forgotten he had a leftover cotechino from Christmas in the fridge which was “nearing expiration date”. Guy was 100% serious and this was like last March?
[Mighty Root Tiki Bar]
I love tiki bars but I hate palm trees
I am very ready for gin to go out of style and for Piña coladas to have their moment. I like sweet drinks and this is 100% not because I am a woman but because everyone likes sweet drinks (men just won't say it because of fragile masculinity). Also, sweet people like sweet things - I swear this is not a factoid, there's a heap of research on this, and the opposite is also true: something mostly popularized by magazine headlines such as: “Do you like black coffee and gin & tonics? Then chances are you’re a psychopath!”.
All this to say that I love tiki bars and this one is particularly great: I had a perfect Mai Tai with Martinique and Jamaica rums, orange liqueur, homemade horchata and lime juice.
Personally I would ditch the very Caribbean ambiance, opting for a minimalist decor (scandi-inspired, with some white pineapples thrown in). Or maybe it's just that I don't care for palms? By the way - I was here on a date and the guy was really cute, so I was on my best behavior. I volunteered what seemed the least controversial thing one could possibly go with: my dislike for palms, which I believe I referred to as "the pigeons of the tree world (I might have added that they are flaky and it looks like they have some contagious skin condition). The guy made an offended face, and I doubled down: "Did I say something wrong? Is someone in your family a palm?" and apparently he has two very big palms tattooed on his chest which I imagine I won't be seeing anytime soon.
Pizza was delicious - but 9 euros for 4 extra anchovies? Let’s discuss
Pizza was really good, as it generally is here. Incidentally I was on a date and I thought that was also very good. Since this guy is a friend of a friend, I couldn’t resist asking my friend whether he had said anything about our night. Turns out he had comments on the bill? He said 9 euros for 4 extra anchovies is too much. But these are Cantabrian anchovies! I protested. (I know - living in a city that’s so expensive compared to the rest of the country has given me a high financial pain threshold). Anyway, didn’t he appreciate their massive size, the purity of taste, the absence of even the smallest thorns and the perfect balance of salt?
Also, why didn’t he say anything about our date?
[Hidden Squirrel Roadhouse]
Idyllic farm restaurant. Wouldn’t look out of place in a old Disney movie (the ones that end with a wedding)
Everything was just perfect. Flowers? Blooming. Roast chicken? Made with love. Cat? Sleeping curled up in a ball in a puddle of sun at our feet. If birds had come to help me take off my jacket I would not have been surprised. All of a sudden I thought: “I would love to get married here” but I didn’t say it out loud - because who can you ever tell something like this? If you tell someone you’ve just recently started seeing, then it sounds “crazy” (I know, sexist!), while if you tell someone you have been dating for some time but you have never discussed marriage beforehand it sounds passive-aggressive.
A female friend then? It wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test - you know the one: a work of fiction should feature at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man, and I’d feel like I’d have to add “I’m not saying I want to be married” (I actually would very much like to get married at some point).
All of this to say they make their own extra virgin olive oil at the property and it’s delicious.
[The Ivory Carrot]
Is tartelette the new “sponge”? (remember that? Everything was sponge before everything was cake)
It’s very rare for me to stop and think about how much money I spend in restaurants - I usually frame it as “the only luxury I afford myself”. And it is not until you date someone who’s not into fine dining that you start seeing how this sort of voluptuary expense can look downright absurd to someone who doesn’t share the same interest. Take for instance our very nice lunch here: when we got the bill - which I thought was very reasonable - my boyfriend was mildly shocked and looked at me in a way that made me think about Bobby, the chubby character in The Sopranos who is part of the Mob but also a gentle soul and is obsessed with toy trains (he dies ingloriously after being shot to death inside a toy store). I had a feeling my boyfriend was looking at me with the same combination of sadness and contempt I felt looking at Bobby die.
Other than that - very good meal, friendly service. But why so many tartelettes? One with a lichens purée as an amuse bouche, a dessert with chocolate and cucumber and a third with fermented mango among the petit-fours.
[Memoria di Roma]
Don’t tamper with Carbonara
Skimming through the other reviews, it’s quite clear only tourists come here. Some places in Italy are so Americanized that they should have extraterritorial status, like an embassy: you walk in there and your pizza is already cut and your bolognese has spaghetti in it. They’re easy to spot from a distance: there’s always a note on the website’s landing page about dress code, something like “please don’t wear flip-flops and short shorts at our restaurant” and you can sort of imagine them adding under their breath “you fucking slob”.
Anyway, the night I went there with my boyfriend we were seated next to this very American couple who looked like they had walked in there right after being crowned prom queen & king and - I kid you not - the guy proposed while we were eating this “destructured” Carbonara.
He did the whole thing: got down on one knee and took out the ring, she yelled “yes!” while sobbing and everyone applauded, us included. I told my boyfriend that it was quite sweet, and he replied “Do you know that carbonara is a dish invented by GIs in Italy during WWII with the rations they had for breakfast?” but actually nobody really knows.
[The Moonlit Oak - Lakeside restaurant]
Wonderful service, really went the extra mile. Food looked good!
It’s so nice when you call a restaurant for a booking, tell them it’s a special occasion and they really rise up to it. This place is well-known for its beautiful views over the lake and when I told them I needed everything to be perfect they gave us the best table. Sure, my boyfriend still ended up breaking up with me and I left all my food untouched but they really tried - I even managed to muster some appreciation for the fact that they’d send the live band to play a slow, acoustic version of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” at our table with violins.
Sushi was great and most definitely did not give me food poisoning
I came here to set the record straight - this place did not give me food poisoning. I admit I’ve told that to multiple people so in case the rumor is still around, well, it’s just not true. What actually happened was that I went out again for the first time after a while, I drank a few glasses of Champagne (a grand cru from a small biodynamic producer, who apparently has a massive Tibetan bell in his cellar and that’s why his wines are so zen) and then a few rounds of sake (good quality sake should not be drunk in shots like Jagermeister! It is on par with great wines. Don’t be like me). And just a few years ago this would not have bothered me at all - I would have slept on it and woke up refreshed the next day. Present me was violently sick, didn’t show up at work and wrongly blamed my dinner, for which I am sorry.
Every piece of sushi was very good, but the unagi and the toro really stood out!
[Hopped Jester Emporium]
The best place in town for beer lovers (also: single ladies, check it out)
Great selection of beers for the educated drinker - leaning more towards sour than hoppy styles.
But why do all craft beer places look like the bar equivalent of those apartments where a single man lives with only a mattress on a floor, a camping chair and a Playstation? And why are 90% of the customers male? Which I guess is good because the queue for the women's restroom is much shorter than the men’s.
On a side note, I don't understand why single ladies sign up for tango lessons "to meet new people" and then dance among themselves rather than coming to a place like this?
Business idea: lonely hearts night combining craft beer and crochet (or ashtanga yoga or Marie Kondo tutorials).
On second thought, maybe this place doesn’t need any refining touches - one of the reasons why bars are so great is that they’re a safe space for misfits and weirdos and there’s no judgement. Take last night: after my second Fou’Foune (a blend of lambics aged 18 to 20 months and of Bergeron apricots, by legendary Belgian brewery Cantillon) I shouted: “Hey guys! I’m single again!”, to no reaction - but a game was on, a team had just scored, and a guy was celebrating by dry humping the beer fridge.