For the past three years, I’ve been going to the upscale grocery store Dean & DeLuca three to five times a week for a small iced mocha with skim milk and a corn muffin. I first became aware of the store by watching the TV show Felicity when I lived in California. Dean & DeLuca was their version of The Peach Pit—a place where the gang all held jobs and hung out—and I was always under the impression that it was no different from a Starbucks.
Shortly after moving to NYC, however, I realized just how different Dean and DeLuca was when I visited their now-defunct store in the East Village. Instead of seeing frizzy-haired NYU students talking about boys over a latte, I witnessed 80-year-old ladies in Prada paying an outrageous price for a gourmet salad while listening to elegant classical music wafting through the speakers. Um, what happened to Feist? This was not the Dean and DeLuca I had envisioned from watching Felicity. This was some bizarro land for rich people to congregate and graze $5.00 muffins. I had never seen anything like it and, needless to say, I was in awe.
Throughout the next year and a half, the East Village location became my shelter from the NYC storm. Not only did its large size remind me of the coffee shops in California, it was also a great place to study because, unlike college students, rich WASPs don’t yell. I also developed a nickname for the store, which I use to this day: Dean & Delusion. It’s just so fucking appropriate because the patrons of Dean and DeLuca are, in fact, delusional. They wear an outfit that’s worth $10,000 to get their morning coffee and pay $15.00 for a jar of tomato sauce that retails for $8.00 at a local bodega. When they enter the store, they’re no longer in America. They’re in a bourgeois fantasy land that’s populated by the equally deluded and wealthy and where it’s okay to pay well above market value. Just walking out of there with a grocery bag says so much about where you come from. And isn’t that always the point of expensive places like Dean and DeLuca, Equinox Gym and Barneys—to show that you can afford to be there? Yes, you could go to a cheaper grocery store or work out at the YMCA but you don’t want to. Furthermore, you don’t have to.
Once the East Village location closed, I had to go to the one in Soho, which is essentially just a grocery store that serves coffee. In fact, they don’t even have chairs to sit in. They want people in and out. The store is beautiful though. High ceilings, granite countertops, beautiful displays of food. But their actual inventory leaves something to be desired. Once when I found myself in a pinch, I stopped in to inquire about salad dressing, which they quickly informed me they don’t carry. A grocery store that doesn’t sell salad dressing? Obsessed/I hate you.
Like The Ace Hotel, the people who go to Dean & DeLuca are almost too good to be true. There are a lot of Europeans and rich old ladies; I’m pretty sure EVERYONE is starving. I’m convinced people go to Dean and Delusion on their lunch break to prove they don’t eat. “Have you been to Dean & DeLuca? They have the best food or so I’ve heard. I would never!” Besides being hungry (for food and attention), everyone has more money than God. People waltz into the store like it’s a runway, looking like they just came straight off of a plane from somewhere more fabulous. They’re like weird aliens in expensive clothes and Dean & Delusion is their natural habitat. If they step outside for too long, their skin starts to burn and the panic sets in. “Must get to somewhere chic ASAP. Getting too real…”
When I’m at Dean & Delusion, I’ve never felt so blessed to be an outsider. Observing the lives of people who spend $15.00 on potato salad is a very fun activity and sometimes you even feel envious of their lifestyle. But then as you’re about to leave and you overhear someone discussing their super stressful vacation to St. Barts, you realize you’re just happy to have something to blog about.