Table for One?

I’m writing this from the airport in Lima, Peru, having been here for the last few days on assignment for Bon Appétit. I’m thinking again of the strange journey down here, and how it went from bad to wonderful (involving a nice enough wine) to ghastly.

Step one was a delay on the tarmac at the San Francisco airport, making my connection hopeless before we even left the ground. Step two was arriving in Miami to learn that I would have a six-hour layover before they stuck me on a red-eye that would cost me my first night in Lima. Determined to make the most of a bad situation, I walked out to the taxi lane and approached two handsome young Brazilian guys to ask where in Miami I should go for a walk—where I might find restaurants, and maybe even the beach.

“Join us,” said the more musclebound of the pair, and soon I was in the front seat of a cab while the two lovers—yes, they were lovers, and sweetly happy to see each other—caught up in the back seat. Half an hour later, I was footloose in South Beach. Having never been to Miami before, I loved the serendipity of the moment, strolling in the warm evening. After a long walk on the sand, with my jeans rolled up to let my feet get wet in the shallows, I found a gym and had a long workout and a shower, to stimulate my appetite.

Then I walked around the corner to a place called Grillfish. Now this part was not so impressive: If I’d had my wits about me, I would’ve checked in with the Chowhound Florida board for a dinner rec, like I’ve done successfully in other cities (Lisbon being a memorable example). But I didn’t have my wits about me.

Nevertheless, the place delivered what it promised and what I wanted—a nice piece of grilled fish—and when I saw a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the wine list, I ordered a glass on pure reflex. And while I ate my fish and drank a perfectly fine and bright wine, well-enough balanced and satisfying—the kind that makes you feel like some very basic, no-brainer wine knowledge has at least a little value, as in, when in doubt, get the Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand—I had a version of a moment I experience often these days. It’s that moment when I’m traveling alone, for work, far from my family and therefore a little lonely, and nevertheless finding a little bubble of peace and pleasure at a table for one, with a glass and a dish that bring me a small measure of joy.

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