Got a beef with the dean? I did.

The dean's plate, before ...

Before I started this blog, I figured I better run the idea past NYU Law’s dean, Richard Revesz. Perhaps he wouldn’t think restaurant reviews fit well with the rest of what we do on the Law School website. But I’d barely gotten the explanation out of my mouth, when Ricky asked, “Do you and I get to go to lunch?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Okay, we’ll go to the Spotted Pig,” he declared, and then rhapsodized about their burger.

Since opening at the corner of West 11th and Washington Streets in 2004, the Spotted Pig has earned boatloads of buzz and a steady string of accolades, including regular one-star ratings from Michelin. That’s a reason to recommend it – and a reason not to. “A gastropub as gastromelee, the Spotted Pig may be Manhattan’s most uncomfortable, unforgiving trough,” Frank Bruni wrote in the Times in 2006. “It doesn’t take reservations. The wait for a table on a weekend night can be two hours long, and sometimes the only place to wait is the sidewalk.” Still, Bruni noted, “There’s an expert kitchen in the eye of this storm. … Skip brunch. Go for lunch if all possible — it’s the least mobbed meal.”

That’s what Ricky and I did when I was finally able to get onto his lunch calendar. (Somehow things like faculty hiring, fundraising, and various other deanly duties kept taking priority.)  We set forth from Van Hall early, aiming to beat the out-of-town tourists, who can pack the Spotted Pig even for a weekday lunch. I felt like a bit of a tourist myself, with Ricky as my guide, as we walked briskly through the West Village. “This place has great fries,” he said, striding past a location too quickly for me to note its name. Nodding toward Mary’s Fish Camp on Charles Street, he commented on the intellectual property litigation that has broken out in New York over lobster rolls.

In October, Ricky announced that he would step down as dean at the end of the current academic year. Anyone applying for the position had better be prepared to eat out a lot. Ricky said he couldn’t remember that last time he’d had a non-working lunch, and that breakfasts and dinners are frequently on-the-job occasions, too. As I would learn at the Spotted Pig, this has not turned him into one of those people who only grazes so he can keep up the pace.

I barely glanced at the menu, having decided to follow Ricky’s recommendation of the burger. That, I figured, deserved as much deference as would his cost-benefit analysis of an environmental regulation. After all, Ricky told me he ate beef twice a day while growing up in Argentina. But my deference should have gone further. Like Ricky, I ordered my burger topped with Roquefort cheese. But while he asked for his to be cooked medium rare, the waitress gave me one of those spiels that spooked me into medium, and that was a mistake, because it arrived closer to well done. Still, it was delicious – a reminder of how lacking in flavor most hamburgers served elsewhere are.

... and after.

The burgers each came with a giant mound of shoestring fries, which, Ricky pointed out, were studded with crispy slivers of garlic. He polished his off, and while I couldn’t quite do the same, once our plates were cleared, I was sure we were out of both room and time. Then I noticed Ricky casting his eye toward a table next to us, where some other diners had just been served a wedge of flourless chocolate cake so dark and dense, I think light bent around the plate it was sitting on.

We ordered a piece to share, and after I’d had a couple of bites, Ricky asked me, “Is it good, or just intense?” I paused and reflected. “It’s good and intense,” I replied. He had a bite. “Yes,” he agreed, “good and intense,” and we demolished the rest.

Someday, perhaps, someone will study the correlation between the calories the leader of an academic institution consumes and the funds he or she raises. Ricky’s record on both fronts is prodigious – during his deanship, he has brought more than $500 million into NYU Law’s coffers. But I did get some insight into how the calories get burned off:  When we got back to Van Hall, Ricky, who is extremely trim, did as he always does — he bypassed the elevator and took the stairs up to his fourth floor office.

Vegan challenge!

Good eating: No animals were harmed in the making of this black-eye pea and potato cake (with chipotle aioli).

Elizabeth Hallinan ’13 enjoys a juicy steak as much as the next person. Except, she refrains. Not because she necessarily thinks it’s wrong for people to eat animals. What Liz objects to is the way people treat animals that are raised for food. Thus, she also abstains from products extracted from the furred and feathered denizens of our nation’s agro-industrial complex. Good-bye butter, eggs, and cheese. You can imagine how excited I was when we made plans to meet for lunch.

Liz is chair of NYU Law’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF), and we first got in touch last fall in connection with a panel discussion on factory farming that she organized. It was co-sponsored by SALDF and the Environmental Law Society. After I sent her a link to an item I had just posted on this blog about horsemeat, she threw down the gourmet gauntlet: “I challenge you to write an entry about eating a vegan meal,” she wrote. “I am a die-hard foodie (not a health nut) and maybe I could find some food that would surprise you!”

It took us a while to settle on a venue. If we were going to do this, I figured, I wanted to give vegan fare a fair shot, which meant going somewhere that had drawn really good reviews. I also wanted the place to be reasonably near the law school and, to my surprise, the Village was not a mecca for top-rated vegan establishments. (I wanted it to be 100% vegan; not vegetarian with vegan options.) We ultimately selected Blossom, on 9th Avenue in Chelsea, arriving just as it opened at noon on a Friday, one of only three days during the week it serves lunch (Fri-Sun).

Liz ordered seitan scaloppini in a white wine, lemon, and caper sauce for her main course, while I tucked into rigatoni in porcini cream sauce for mine. We also shared black-eyed pea and potato cakes for an appetizer, and a lavender creme brulee for dessert. Much to my surprise, with the exception of dessert, I found the food to be very good. Nothing says vegan fare has to be able to pass as non-vegan in order to be a success, but had I been served my entrée in a regular Italian restaurant, I doubt I would have known the “cream” in my sauce came from cashews. And I might have taken Liz’s seitan (made from wheat gluten) for chicken. But this is where dessert tripped up. It’s probably hard to pull off a good lavender crème brulee even when you’re not constrained in your ingredients, but Blossom’s “creme” comes from soy and, unfortunately, I got a distinct soy aftertaste with each spoonful.

Earlier this year, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals sent me a news release stating: “This is a truly historic day for the law and for the animals. A federal court is considering for the first time ever whether the 13th Amendment applies to the five orca plaintiffs who are enslaved by SeaWorld. The definition of slavery does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on the race, gender, or ethnicity of the slave.” (I hear PETA thinks they may be able to count on Justice Roberts for a fifth vote.)

You won’t find Liz arguing that whales are protected by the U.S. Constitution – her commitment, she notes, is to animal welfare, not animal rights. So if you talk to her about the legal theories and tactics that she favors to advance protections for animals, you don’t emerge with a sense that this is a field dominated by a nutty, quixotic fringe. Rather, you realize that some very thoughtful, levelheaded, and caring people are pursuing what are often mainstream legal claims to try to end some undeniably awful practices. Last summer, through a PILC-funded summer internship, Liz worked for the (unfortunately named) Compassion Over Killing in Los Angeles; this summer, again with PILC funding, she is working for the Animal Legal Defense Fund in Cotati, Calif.

Should you want sit down over a vegan meal to discuss any of this with Liz yourself, a new and nearer option is now available – Café Blossom, a sister to the Chelsea operation, recently opened on Carmine Street, just a few blocks from the law school.

Call this trustee the Earl of Sandwich

Not Subway, but it'll have to do.

You might think Greg Racz ’98 would be a regular at the Russian Tea Room, given that it’s right next door to his office on West 57th Street. Plus, Racz was a Russian major at Dartmouth, and even did a stint at Leningrad State University. But Racz, it turns out, is not really a champagne and caviar kind of guy, and his Dostoevsky days are long behind him. A member of NYU Law’s board of trustees, and a principal and chief legal officer of the $1.3 billion hedge fund Hutchin Hill Capital, Racz says one of his favorite places to eat is Subway. It’s been that way since law school, when Racz and his girlfriend (now wife) lived in a – get this! – 375-square-foot, two-bedroom, seventh-floor walk-up on Thompson Street. Subway, he notes, was “easy, quick, cheap, and filling – all the virtues a law student would like.” A decade and a half later, he’s still a regular patron and has always ordered the same item — the Veggie Patty (though he’s not a vegetarian).

I asked Racz to pick a restaurant for our lunch, but owing to his busy schedule, we ended up having sandwiches in a conference room in his office. I actually thought that was perfect – an unvarnished look at white-collar-professional reality. Cold cuts on a credenza are a far more frequent form of nourishment in the workaday world of lawyers and bankers than the multi-course tasting menu at Per Se or Le Bernadin. (Don’t let those summer associate programs fool you!) On any given day, you’ll find most of Hutchin Hill’s 80 employees eating at their desks. They each get a daily lunch allowance, and Hutchin has an account with Seamless (until recently known as SeamlessWeb), an online food ordering service that was founded by a couple of Racz’s NYU Law classmates. Every morning, a firm-wide e-mail goes out at Hutchin with a rotating list of four area restaurants that employees can order from that day. “You want to feed the troops,” Racz says. “It’s smart, and it’s the nice thing to do.” Sitting in the conference room, which overlooks a nondescript jumble of buildings, he and I each chose turkey on pumpernickel.

So how does one go from take-out-sandwich-eating NYU Law student to take-out-sandwich-eating hedge fund mogul? For Racz, the path was through Wachtell, Lipton. After clerking for the DC Circuit, he joined the firm as an associate. Then, in 2005, when pretty much everyone was starting hedge funds, Racz teamed up with a contact he’d made at Wachtell and did the same. He moved to Hutchin Hill in 2009. Even when he was in law school, Racz says, he thought about careers beyond traditional law practice. Then, as now, periodic dean’s roundtables featured NYU Law alumni  pursuing unconventional paths. “I went to every one,” Racz says. “It plants a lot of seeds and makes you open to the idea that there are other things out there that are worth trying.”

If you visit Hutchin, you won’t find Racz in front of an array of flat-screen monitors executing stock trades. He oversees all non-investment aspects of the firm’s business, things like human resources, marketing, and — yes, he’s still putting his J.D. to use — legal. While he delegates the responsibility to able assistants, his job does make him ultimately responsible for one of the most important decisions made at Hutchin every day: what to have for lunch.

Taj, on the down low

New Yorkers are accustomed to restaurant seating that leaves as much space between them and the next table as two chickens have at an industrial poultry farm. But what if you need to talk to someone confidentially? You are a secret agent, for example; or a stock tipper; or Irene Dorzback, assistant dean and head of the law school’s office of career services (OCS). For Dorzback, the answer is Indian Taj on Bleecker Street (between Sullivan and MacDougal). That’s because there are a number of booths at the restaurant that are fully enclosed on three sides, meaning anything you say can be just between you, your tablemate, and the chicken tikka masala.

Irene, swing dancing?

Not that going out for lunch is common for Dorzback, who I am sure puts in more work hours a year than even the highest-billing corporate law firm associate. More typically, she told me, as we strolled toward Taj one afternoon, at around 2:30 in the afternoon she’ll shout out to her OCS colleagues, “Does anyone have any chocolate?” Dorzback has been at NYU Law for 28 years, and, like a mom who never really stops being a parent even after her kids leave home, Dorzback is there for NYU Law hatchlings long after they’ve flown the nest. In December, for example, she began assisting a graduate who had stepped off the career track to raise a child, and now, more than 20 years after getting her law degree, wants to return to the workforce. Somehow Dorzback also finds time for actual parenthood, as the single mother of two adopted girls. And she’s an avid swing dancer.

Like many Indian restaurants, Taj offers a fixed-price lunchtime buffet. And, as is true with OCS, you can go back for more as often as you’d like. There was a time in my life when I ate in such volume that this arrangement might have been a bad economic proposition for Taj. But now that I’m off the Michael Phelps diet, I suspect Taj comes out well ahead on its $9.99 tab. It’s worth it, though: Taj offers a variety and quality of dishes that is significantly better than standard Indian buffet fare. The goat curry was one of my favorites, but I also dined there on a second occasion with a vegetarian, and she had plenty of good stuff to choose from — there were at least a dozen selections in gleaming silver-domed chafing dishes.

What did Dorzback tell me after we wedged ourselves into one of the booths? (Private, yes; roomy, no.) Of course I can’t divulge any specifics, but one of the topics was what Dorzback calls “career limiting behavior.” This is when a student does something so offensive or otherwise stupid that it may limit his ability to get a job, or, as has happened in some instances, jeopardizes a job offer already in hand. A statistically tiny number of students engage in such antics, but dealing with them takes up an outsize proportion of Dorzback’s time. In one instance, she got on a plane and flew halfway across the country to tell some law firm partners that a particular student’s complicity in an act of group idiocy was so low, and level of contrition so high, that they should not rescind his offer. This bit of personal diplomacy ended happily.

So did my meal at Taj. From what I’ve seen, most Americans approach desserts at an Indian restaurant with a mixture of puzzlement and trepidation. I find many of them pretty good, even though they can be extremely sweet. Rice pudding, that staple of Indian dessert menus, is rarely bad, and at Taj it is exceptionally good. Wash it down with some masala chai. Then get back to work!

Leaving Home

 

Skip this. Go straight for the apple pie.

Marco Torsello’s one-semester stint as a visiting professor at NYU Law began with a string of near misses and harrowing escapes. (My poetic license is on file with the university). First, came the earthquake that struck the East Coast on August 23. It forced the flight he, his wife, and infant daughter took here from Italy – where he teaches at the Universities of Bologna and Verona – to circle JFK until they made sure the runway hadn’t become a linear sinkhole.  Less than a week later, as Hurricane Irene bore down on New York, Torsello and his family hopped in a car and sped west to get out of harm’s way. By the time they stopped, they were nearly in Ohio. Then one night, Torsello worked past midnight in his Van Hall office. (I myself have found comparative contracts law as time-obliterating as Angry Birds.) When he walked out the main entrance and crossed the courtyard, he found the that iron gates leading to the street had been locked, so he had to clamber over the fence.

My sense is that things have calmed down considerably. Torsello did not seem the least bit jittery or poised for sudden flight when we sat down to lunch at Home, on Cornelia Street. It was one of those balmy November days — the kind that leave you luxuriating in the unexpected warmth, but fretting that it presages a climate change apocalypse — so we got a table in the small, but very pleasant, outdoor eating area at the back of the restaurant. Torsello, who  has spent time in the U.S. before and loves clam chowder, ordered a large bowl as his main course and pronounced it “very good.” I ordered a duck confit salad with grilled apple and “duck cracklins” and pronounced it “ehh.” The apple slices were displeasingly flaccid (Come on, you have to be able to use that word in more than one context!) and the cracklins (more commonly “cracklings”) were chewy rather than crisp, leaving me without that pleasing crunch and explosion of flavor when you shatter one between your teeth.

I asked Torsello what the biggest difference was between U.S. and Italian law schools, from the perspective of a faculty member. In Italy, Torsello said, professors are state employees earning government salaries – in other words, not that much. As a result, nearly all practice law, as well.  That means they spend relatively little time on campus, so there is little of the kind of scholarly interchange of the type that takes place at NYU Law, whether it be at conferences and colloquia, or at less formal gatherings. Less time to go out with food bloggers, too. If you do decide to eat at Home, by the way, budget lots of time – our service was maddeningly slow. The truly extraordinary apple pie we had for dessert almost made up for that. Definitely get it with whipped cream.

Torsello is due to head back to Italy tonight. I wonder if we’ll have a blizzard.

Serving others

Dosa: vegan. Pierce Suen '13: not.

Here’s what I did between college and law school: spent a year doing market research on pediculicides and kosher chickens. Here’s what Pierce Suen ’13 did: mentored high school students and taught enrichment courses in Chicago; spent two years serving in the Peace Corps in western China (where, among other things, he taught classes and served as an infant caretaker at an orphanage); worked on issues related to minority rights in China at the Tibetan Women’s Association in Dharamshala, India; and apprenticed as a sushi chef in Ohio. Now a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar, Pierce spent last summer at a public interest law center in Beijing, advocating on behalf of children and migrant workers, and is a current member of the Immigrant Rights Clinic.

Initially, I thought Pierce had served in the military. He had stopped by my office to talk about an upcoming event, and he responded to many of my questions with a crisp “yes sir” or “no sir.” But it wasn’t basic training that had instilled this in him, he told me, it was high-school football. He grew up in Akron, Ohio, and his coach was a former Marine from the South who demanded military-style respect. Football was huge for Pierce. “All I wanted to do was play ball,” he said. Like his coach, Pierce was a transplant to Ohio: He was born in Taiwan, and his parents immigrated to the U.S. when he was very young.

I asked Pierce what his favorite food had been during his stint in the Peace Corps. “Unequivocally, without question,” he told me in an e-mail, “it was lamian — 拉面 — basically hand rolled and pulled noodles, very athletic in production. Generally it is served in a beef or mutton bone broth, with a couple hunks of meat, some fresh scallions, and hot sauce. … It’s cheap, delicious, and solid solid fare.” He’s not kidding about “athletic in production” – check out this video. One of the most unusual foods he ate during the period, he said, was pig brains in a hot pot. I’ll spare you those visuals.

I joined Pierce at one of his favorite NYU-area lunch spots — the dosa cart just outside the law school on West 4th Street. Of course I’d seen and heard about NY Dosas, as it’s called, and plenty has been written about it, but the long lines that form at its side each day have always deterred me. Pierce, however, gave me a tip: You can call ahead with your order — 917-710-2092. Apparently this is not a closely guarded secret. Thiru Kumar, NY Dosa’s owner and chef, told me that law students routinely text him their orders from class, so they’ll be ready as soon as class lets out. And employers say law graduates these days lack grounding in real-world skills.

Pierce and I each got a dosa (a crepe made from chick pea and lentil flour) filled with seasoned potatoes. They come with two sides, a small portion of spicy lentil soup that Thiru said is really meant to be a dipping sauce, and some coconut chutney. The weather was cool, but sunny, so we took our food to Washington Square Park. Shortly after we sat down on a bench to eat, a scraggly man, clearly down on his luck, approached us, his arm extended. He didn’t want money. In his hand he clutched a stale role, and he asked for something to give it a bit of flavor. Pierce took his container of lentil soup and poured some onto the bread.

A meal preempted by a law that wasn’t

Was da Vinci drawing dinner?

One morning last week, I was chatting with Julia, a colleague who works in the Law School’s Communication’s office. We were talking about Berlin, since I had just come back from a trip there.  “I ate zebra in Berlin,” Julia said. I knew I should have branched out from the currywurst, but her remark reminded me of a conversation I had about restaurants with Professor Franco Ferrari last spring. “Do you know anywhere in New York that serves horse meat?” he had asked me. He wasn’t joking. Now, spurred by visions of zebra au poivre, I realized that nearly six months had gone by and I still hadn’t answered his question. Shortly after talking to Julia, I ran into Ferrari in Van Hall. No, he reported, he had yet to find a place in the city that would serve him Secretariat. Clearly, though, he was still on the hunt. “It’s very popular in Verona,” he told me (Ferrari is on leave from the University of Verona Law School.) “It’s very healthy — very red, so it has lots of iron.”

Back at my office, I put the question to Google (soon I’ll just ask Siri). The results weren’t promising. There were various references to it being illegal to sell horse meat for human consumption in the U.S. — though some confusion on that point — plus some griping about why pets are allowed to eat it, but people can’t. I didn’t have time to delve any deeper because, believe it or not, I have other things to do for my job, so the issue again appeared headed for the “remember to follow up” folder of my brain, which means forget.

Fast forward to about 6:00 pm. I walk onto the West 4th Street subway platform, and there’s Professor Catherine Sharkey waiting for an uptown train and reading a court opinion. Earlier that day I had attended the Milbank Tweed Forum on tort reform, which Sharkey moderated. “I’m reading a case about horse slaughterhouses,” she said, when I walked up to say hello. This was getting weird, but there it was: Cavel International, Inc. v. Madigan, 500 F.3d 551 (CA7 2007). The first sentence of the opinion, by Judge Richard Posner, reads: “Horse meat was until recently an accepted part of the American diet — the Harvard Faculty Club served horse-meat steaks until the 1970s.” Sharkey wasn’t reading it because she was hungry for horse meat, though. One of her areas of expertise is preemption, and the question in this case was basically whether the last slaughterhouse in the U.S. that sold horse meat for human consumption could be put out of business by a recent amendment to the Illinois Horse Meat Act that outlawed exactly that activity. Did the federal Meat Inspection Act preclude Illinois from passing such legislation? Nope, said Posner. And with that, Cavel’s DeKalb, Illinois slaughterhouse was out of business.

Sorry, Franco.

PS – If you have an appetite for further information on at least part what is discussed above, you might want to attend the faculty moot court on the afternoon of Oct. 28. Sharkey and Professor Roderick Hills will moot the upcoming Supreme Court review of National Meat v. Brown, questioning federal preemption of a California law calling for humane treatment of nonambulatory animals at slaughterhouses.

Market Table: A word or two

Surf and turf (pick surf).

I put carpaccio in the dictionary,” my lunch companion said.

Beef carpaccio was an appetizer on the menu.

“Uh huh,” I replied. I was focusing on the main courses.

No, really, she insisted, “I had the C’s.”

And then I remembered: She — Dianne Rosky – had briefly worked for Merriam-Webster between college and law school. I had met Rosky only recently — for the last two summers she has taught the two-week crash course in U.S. law that incoming foreign LL.M.’s take in August, before the start of the fall semester. But that has been just the latest stop along her fairly unconventional career path. After helping usher words that were coming into usage in 1990 into the dictionary (credit her with corn-fed and corn-pone, too), she headed off to Harvard Law, then spent six years as a litigator at two of New York’s top law firms, with a federal clerkship in between.

The thing is, Rosky never lost her love of words; nor was she willing to jettison the law. So she’s combined them. After teaching in NYU Law’s Lawyering Program for three years, she founded Rosky Legal Education LLC in 2004, which provides writing and communications training to attorneys. I have no idea what made Rosky think lawyers could use help with their writing, but her services are in high demand. Law firms, in-house legal departments, and even individual lawyers paying from their own pockets have enlisted her service to teach them how to polish their prose. Real life example: In Rosky’s hands, “No independent analysis was undertaken with respect to the validity or enforceability of the asserted patents by the undersigned” became “We did not independently analyze the asserted patents’ validity or enforceability.” (For evidence of how exercised judges can get over bad writing, check out Rosky’s blog to see what the Fifth Circuit said in a ruling in July.)

But back to our lunch. Rosky and I were at Market Table (Carmine Street at the corner of Bedford), and when our focus turned to the task at hand — eating — she did something that still has me annoyed: She ordered better than I did. It serves me right, I suppose, for choosing the burger, when the offerings included much more imaginative fare – sautéed skate with wax beans, lentils, cucumber and minted crème fraîche, for example; or potato gnocchi with sopressata, fava beans, basil and ricotta salata. (Given the restaurant’s name and general vibe, I actually expected to find far more produce-based dishes on the menu. In fact, there are relatively few options for vegetarians.)

Rosky ordered scallops, and they were delicious (she shares nicely). Getting the scallops themselves right is of course essential, and these were wonderfully sweet, seared to perfection but not overcooked. Really, though, when you order scallops, it’s as much about what’s going on all around them, right? Imagining Lady Gaga without her costumes, props, and special effects is a good analogy, I think. Rosky’s scallops sat on a purée of butternut squash so shockingly yellow that I momentarily thought it was French’s mustard squirted straight from the bottle. (I’m going to guess it contained turmeric, which is what French’s says colors its product). Not only was the purée subtly flavorful in a way that enhanced, but did not outshine, the scallops (like a good back-up singer), but it also had a silky viscosity that was a perfect textural counterpoint to other elements of the dish.

The star of those other elements was the pear mostarda garnish that sat atop the scallops. No, neither I (food fan) nor Rosky (word woman) knew what heck mostarda was (fruit preserved in a mustard-spiked syrup, it turns out), but we did know this: it was fabulous. And when you maneuvered a combination of purée, scallop, and mostarda onto your fork, the reward was a little journey to paradise. I have to say, as she ate her meal, Rosky seemed to be in the clutches of an opiate-induced euphoria. “This is one of the most perfect dishes I’ve had,” she exulted. “I like everything in it.”  Her rhapsody extended beyond the plate, too, as she pointed out the tin on the bar, various other fixtures, and the big windows that run along two walls, thanks to the corner location. ”There is a crazy amount of light going on here!” she said. So there was. I poked at my merely adequate burger, then helped myself to another bite from her plate.


About that parking ticket …

Tasty enough, but a bit skimpy on the shrimp.

I thought I’d pass on a bit of legal advice I got the other day at lunch with Annalisa Mirón ’04. Let’s say you illegally parked your car on federal property, or maybe let your poodle follow you into a post office, and you got a ticket. Your impulse might be to just pay the amount owed and be done with it. DON’T! Or at least don’t without exploring the matter a bit. If you just send in a check Mirón told me, you are actually pleading guilty to a federal misdemeanor, and there are some potential consequences to that which you might want to avoid: You might have to disclose it to an employer, for example; it could affect your ability to get a job with the federal government; and you’ll likely have to list it on a bar application. Mirón should know. She spent five years as a public defender at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, and now co-teaches NYU Law’s Federal Defender Clinic, in which students represent indigent misdemeanor defendants in federal court. She is also the executive director of the Law School’s Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights, which provides two full-tuition scholarships annually to students dedicated to promoting justice in the Latino community.

Mirón’s father is from Guatemala and her mom’s family is from Italy, so naturally she suggested that we go out for Brazilian food. We went to Berimbau (Carmine, between Bedford and Bleeker), which is an older building that has been nicely refurbished, with hardwood floors and long wall of exposed brick. I ordered one of the lunch specials, which consisted of sautéed vegetables, rice, and shrimp. Four shrimp, to be precise, and not particularly large ones. Overall, my meal was fine — nothing to get too excited about, and I think my ten bucks ought to have bought me a few more crustaceans. Mirón ordered a warm spinach salad with goat cheese, bacon, and cashews, and pronounced it “pretty good.” I have three comments about her selection. First, for a restaurant that says it serves “authentic Brazilian cuisine,” what is this dish doing on the menu? Second, what is it about goats and this blog? This is the third consecutive posting in which they’ve come up. And finally, it’s kind of hard to imagine how people ever came to eat cashews, given the following: “The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the more well known allergenic oil urushiol [found in] poison ivy. Properly roasting cashews destroys the toxin, but it must be done outdoors as the smoke (not unlike that from burning poison ivy) contains urushiol droplets which can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, reactions by irritating the lungs.” Yes, I admit, even though I tell my kids it’s not authoritative, Wikipedia is my source for this. What, is that some kind of federal misdemeanor, or something?

Oh, and I promised Mirón this plug: The Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute will host its first national symposium at the Law School on November 10 on the topic of state and local immigration legislation. I noticed this on the program description: “Lunch will be served.”

For hungry minds

Samuel von Pufendorf: "What's for lunch?"

It was back when he was a visiting professor at NYU Law that Pufendorf famously said, “I can’t think on an empty stomach; can we talk about officio hominis et civis over lunch?” At his favorite schnitzel joint, he then took pot shots at Hobbes, aired his views on limiting ecclesiastical power, and raved about rollerblading along the West Side Highway. Fast forward to today, and it is still over meals that the these kinds of conversations most often occur – free-flowing blends of the professional and the personal that promote not just scholarship, but friendship, as well. Now there are literally hundreds of restaurants in easy walking distance of Vanderbilt Hall, and the school is home to what has to be one of the largest concentrations of legal scholars – faculty and students — in the country. Food Court is about the intersection of these two worlds and the chemistry that combination frequently produces. People, ideas, restaurant recommendations; lunch, laches, dinner, due process, juice bars, jus ad belum — they’re all on the table.

White album. (Or how to find new meaning in a chicken sandwich.)

More than meets the eye.

Can you think of anything more dull than chicken breast? How about chicken breast on white bread? How about two white guys eating chicken breast on white bread? That mash-up recently occurred at the Cornelia Street Café, and the experience was more satisfying than one might initially imagine. The occasion was a lunch I had with Professor Ryan Bubb. He suggested both the venue, which he says is his default lunch location, and the grilled chicken sandwich, which he says is what he always orders there. I ordered it, as well. How exciting – the unvarying meets the bland, right? Au contraire.

Let me start with the food. I confess: The “white bread” was actually a baguette – and a good one, at that – so already the sandwich had moved into a higher culinary order. But what was inside was also very good, and had an unexpected enhancement. The chicken, surprisingly tender, was topped with warm goat cheese and crispy leeks (yes, I know, white, white, and more white). The combination was really tasty. Filling, too. What’s more, the side salad was fresh and lightly dressed – a nice departure from the partially composted, drowned-in-dressing greens I have encountered elsewhere. The price for this ample and well-prepared meal was a very reasonable $11.00.

Now about us white guys; well, one of them, anyway. Bubb, it turned out, was a lot like my sandwich: well prepared, but also offering something unexpected and intriguing. He joined the NYU Law faculty last fall, fresh off a stint as a senior researcher for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Prior to that he had been graduate fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and a policy analyst with the federal government’s little known, but extremely influential (just ask Dean Revesz), Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Oh, and while teaching at the Law School last year (corporations), Bubb, who got his Master’s in economics and J.D. from Yale in 2005, defended his doctoral thesis at Harvard, picking up a Ph.D. in Political Economy.

All very impressive, but it had led me to peg him as a certain type — a company man, so to speak, who was all about the organization and regulation of big business enterprises, particularly financial institutions. That, it turns out, is only partially correct. As we munched away on our sandwiches, Bubb told me about a paper he was preparing to present. The topic: The role of the state in the formation of property rights in West Africa. See what I mean?! It was like the goat cheese and crispy leeks on top of my chicken breast. Bubb has ventured far from the halls of academe and the corridors of government power, all the way to the border between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Part of his research required him to assess the suitability of various areas for cocoa production. (And you thought I’d lost sight of this being a food blog). I’d like to say his resulting report is easily … digestible … but it contains stuff like this:

What does that tell us about the price of farmland in Africa? I have no idea. Take Bubb out to lunch and ask.

Impressive, but can they make a skim mochaccino?

The Times made it official in March 2010: New York City had finally joined the ranks of serious coffee towns, after years of playing second fiddle to java Meccas Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. I’m not much of a coffee drinker myself, but I was glad to learn that if I wanted to take a visitor out for a cup, we could now match anything they’d find on the West Coast. Then Professor Erin Murphy told me about her Fourth of July weekend, and I realized we already have to play catch-up.  Murphy joined NYU Law last fall after teaching at Berkeley for five years, and when she’s not rekindling my sense of coffee inferiority, she spends her time delving into some pretty cool areas of criminal law, involving such things as DNA evidence and location-tracking technology. (She talks about her focus on a brief video that can be found on this page of the Law School’s website.)

Erin Murphy, right. Goat, gone.

This summer, Murphy and her husband returned to the Bay Area and, over July Fourth, they joined some friends at a vacation spot located on a working farm in Big Sur, along the California coast. Here’s how she started the morning: Taking a mug half filled with coffee, she walked outside and over to the place where the farm owners — who are also cheese makers — milk their goats. Placing her mug under a goat’s udder, she pulled. “Presto, on-the-scene goat cappuccino,” Murphy told me. “If you’re new at it like me,” she added, “you get kind of a trickle,” but those who knew what they were doing would “literally just fire the goat into the mug, and it was frothy and foamy, like a real cappuccino.” (The milk, of course, was already warm.)

I’m going to talk to someone at NYU’s Ag School to see if we can get a couple of goats in the Van Hall courtyard. Until that happens, though, advantage California.