This is an illustration of Bill Clinton's FaceBILL

309 Lenox Avenue
MARCH 19, 2013





It's not the frito pie with lamb and ricotta or the braised asparagus with champagne vinagrette that raise eyebrows at Bill, the small invititations-only supper club in Harlem. No, it is the strange presence of former President William Jefferson Clinton, who arrives at every table with a hug and a smile.

Bill - - the supper club, not the former president - - has no sign - - and its hours are a mystery to anyone who has not been invited by Clinton himself. The location is no mystery at all, it's near his New York Office, but beyond that I can say no more.

Bill is an impressive accomplishment. The former president handles all the cooking himself and never invites more than four people at a time.

"I thought about a restaurant," he says, after clapping me on the back, "but after looking at all the rules and regulations I couldn't imagine having time to keep all the departments and commissions happy - - and still run a good place to eat. Too many hard working chefs out there have to refrigerate baked goods," he says, with that trademark pause for additional ire. "Excuse me, I get a little worked about this, but let me repeat myself - - too many hard working chefs have to refrigerate baked goods in plastic, according to the department of health. Have you ever had a cookie baked by the department of health?" I shake my head.

"No?" he asks. "Then I have to wonder if they would really know how to bake anything, good or otherwise. Let me ask you something else - - have you ever had a good chocolate chip cookie from a restaurant or bakery in New York City?"

I look around at the other diners to see if anyone else will chime in, but it's only myself and a very small woman in a large red overcoat, filling out a crossword puzzle at one of the tables.

I suggest that Jacques Torres, the chocolatier has some fairly good chocolate chip cookies, and Bill waves his hand. "Those aren't cookies, those are serving plates for chocolate." "Momofuku Milk Bar," I proffer. "All right, maybe, fair enough," he says, bowing his head, face threatening to redden but still cheerful. "But David Chang can't be everywhere, despite what he might like you to think."

Before I can suggest that the Hudson Clearwater Grille has some good cookies around lunchtime, he holds up his hand and says, "Listen, stop using your mouth for words for just a minute and try your taste buds on this."

The chocolate chip cookie he produces from the inside pocket of his black leather jacket is so good, I don't even mind the slight scent of cowhide. "I was saving that for myself," he says, "But I'm still trying to lose a bit of the old extra Bill. Now, if I were you, I might want a cup of coffee with that. There's an AeroPress in the kitchen with some freshly ground Stumptown espresso. I'll be right back."

I smiled, waiting for him to return, but five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes passed, and I realized that there was not even sound coming from the kitchen. He was gone. Former President William Jefferson Clinton goes into the kitchen of his private supper club, and then disappears.

I had the urge to investigate the kitchen for the open window, the secret door, or look for the collapsed body on the ground. If I had been alone, I might have done all these things. But the small woman, in the red overcoat was still there, filling out her crossword puzzle. She has a large brass pin of a dragonfly on her lapel, and after a moment I realize, she's Madeleine Albright. And she has a cup of coffee.

I get up to ask her what happened to former two-term president William Jefferson Clinton, but when I walk over, I realize that she's not really filling out the crossword puzzle at all, she's written me a message:


I wander outside, where I can see a man in an expensive overcoat, studying the building facade with a pair of binoculars. He doesn't seem to see me. "He's scrambled up the side of the building," he murmurs to the thick-shouldered man standing next to him, "We'll never catch him. Not today, anyway".

Of course it's the health department. Somehow, I get the feeling that they don't want to exchange cookie recipes.

The email address that notified me about Bill is now inactive, and its location is now a Game Stop. But I have saved a small piece of the chocolate cookie that I ate that day in my freezer. It is wrapped up in a napkin and now probably tastes more like the frozen peas that I keep in there (mostly to ice my neck after hovering over my iPad for long hours), but it is evidence to the fact that at some point, just a few days ago, I was eating cookies fresh from the jacket of William Jefferson Clinton.


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