By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
Second, and related to the previous point, it should be white. Or white-ish. Off-yellow, beige, and gray are fine too. But there shalt be nothing red nor green, nor, God forbid, purple; no crunchy vermillion beets nor perky carrots nor lightly steamed broccoli. Any vegetable that has retained its original color is out of bounds. French fries, meatloaf, ice cream, turkey pot pie ($16), onion rings, and corn bread slathered with soft butter are perfectly acceptable. These are on the menu at Deco also.
Third, it should be just vaguely warm or room temperature. This makes it easier to swallow in a hurry (immediate gratification is a big part of the program.) Ice cream is the only exception to this rule.
Fourth, it should be heavy and meant to be eaten in its entirety. There shalt be no Frenchified picking at your tiny portion of braised endive or petite sips from your half-glass of Chablis. You are encouraged to guiltlessly consume your "Presidential cut" of prime rib ($30), your roast turkey platter with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce ($22), and your meatloaf with garlic smashed potatoes as guiltlessly as if they had been delivered straight from the offices of Weight Watchers. This is neither the time nor the place to be counting carbs. In fact, although the turkey dinner at Deco is served without stuffing, you can call ahead and order some. It's highly recommended that you do this.
I've been back a few times since the night I sat weeping over my boat of Deco's macaroni and cheese. I was saddened, I was shocked, and it comforted me. Deco's dish is made with American and cheddar cheeses, the very combination beloved by mac 'n' cheez purists, with heavy-duty chewy ziti rather than elbows. Then topped with Gruyère and set briefly under the broiler to brown. Chic, fabulous nursery food. The white porcelain bowls of creamed spinach and mashed potatoes that come with everything are fat-laden and endlessly edible. As is the kernel-inflected corn bread. We also loved a pair of plump, gently fried crab cakes loaded with meat and served with wilted spinach in a light mustard sauce. A huge chopped salad ($11), which we split, was studded with bacon bits. And my fried chicken was a picnic. I know in my gut that Darrow doesn't tear himself up over his fried chicken, babying it along for three days of salt and milk baths like Peacock and Lewis. But Darrow's chicken is respectable crisp and ungreasy, the evenly browned skin nicely fused to the meat rather than falling off it, and mildly spicy. Personally, I'd kick the pepper up a notch, but that's just me.
And my heart was full of gratitude for Deco's unfussy key lime pie ($8), a courageous example of this custardy classic. It was just tart enough to get a pucker going and set on a buttery graham cracker crust, unadulterated with food coloring. It came with no weird toppings. (Hello? Meringue does not belong on key lime pie!) When will restaurant chefs learn not to try to fix a dessert that ain't, and never has been, broken?
For the record, that key lime pie fit all the comfort requirements. The eggs and sugar gave it the calories and the bad cholesterol. It was of a nondescript color, a creamy, yellowy beige with a brownish, paleish crust. It mushed easily into great, gently shimmying blobs on a spoon. And it had no identifiable temperature, either hot or cold, to speak of. The ghost of Edna Lewis sat next to me, smiling faintly as I ate. She was always a reticent sort, but you could tell she thought it was all just fine.