I’ll never forget the first time that I took Craig to The Burger Joint. “What is this place?” he asked, annoyed, as I led him into the Parker Meridien Hotel. “This is fancy, I don’t want anything fancy. I just want something fast.” He was reacting to the marble interior of the Parker Meridien lobby which is, indeed, fancy. It almost feels like you’re walking into a lavish bank. But just past the front desk, astride a large curtain, is a narrow passageway at the end of which is a sign.
Craig’s birthday has always been an excellent excuse to splurge at a high-end restaurant, the kind of place I couldn’t justify going to the rest of the year. Usually I pick a place that piques my curiosity, or a place I’ve been dying to try for a long time. Last year we visited Momofuku Ko, the year before–and it was quite a year–Per Se and, the year before that, Blue Hill.
This year, it finally occurred to me: all this time, I’d been choosing places I really wanted to go to without really factoring Craig into the equation. Sure, he loves food and loved all these meals, but would he have picked these places himself? Probably not (reading over my shoulder, he says: “I would’ve picked Blue Hill.”) Regardless, there’s one kind of food that Craig absolutely loves and that I just enjoy which, if this birthday was going to be about him, I would have to pursue: that food is sushi.
It’s rare to find a restaurant that strikes a perfect balance between sophisticated grandeur and homey comfort, but Marea is such a restaurant. It’s the newest restaurant from Chef Michael White, whose other restaurants–Convivio and Alto–are justifiably revered for their highbrow Italian food. I’ve been to Alto, and liked it ok, but there was something a little fussy about it. Not so, Marea. The food at Marea is robust and deeply flavorful, as comforting as any Italian food you’ve made at home, but far more accomplished and enjoyable.
I met my grandparents for dinner last night at the Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center. My grandparents are here in the city for the next week, and choosing a place to eat can be a bit tricky. Once I took my grandmother to The City Bakery for lunch, and when she saw the price tag–$13 a pound for the salad bar–she nearly fainted. But my grandmother does like salad bars, as does my grandfather–it affords them choices and control–and so a good option for them both is Whole Foods.
They’d been to this Whole Foods before. Last time they visited New York, they stayed in my Chelsea apartment (I used to live in Chelsea) and took the bus up there on a regular basis. So that’s why Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center was the perfect place to meet them, last night, for dinner.
It’s hard to write about Esca because Esca doesn’t seem real. The first time I ate there, it was for Chapter 8 of my book, the chapter where I met Ruth Reichl for lunch. I was so nervous that day, so focused on the person I was about to meet, that the restaurant didn’t feel like a real restaurant, it felt like a movie set, assembled for this scene in which I was about to participate.
Subsequently, I took Craig there for dinner after seeing a Broadway show. I tried to convince him it wouldn’t be expensive, that it wasn’t fancy, it was casual, that it was totally in our range. It was an absolute lie but we loved it and pretended that the check at the end was just a prop, much like the restaurant was just a movie set.
Now, if I say the word “Esca” after seeing a Broadway show it’s like saying a dirty word or casting a magic spell. A dirty word because spending that kind of money without occasion is obscene; a magic spell because once you say the word, it’s hard not to go there. I didn’t care, however, on a night two weeks ago after Craig and I saw the Broadway play, “Speed-The-Plow.” I uttered the word “Esca” and cosmic forces sent us hurtling down 9th Avenue to 42nd street, where Esca sat waiting for us, ready to indulge us once more.
It’s the last time I’ll mention it, promise! But check out the left side of my page now: you’ll see YOUR Flickr pictures staring back at you. Yes, I am prominently featuring The Amateur Gourmet Flickr Pool on the main page of the blog. Which means your dinner, your lunch, your breakfast, your snack can be featured for all the world to see with just a couple of clicks. So please: upload your food pictures to my pool. I want to see what you’re eating; I’m obsessed with you and everything you eat. Deal with it!
Oh, The 2nd Ave. Deli. Remember how much I loved it? I blogged about the original here, here, and here. It was my favorite New York Deli; more inviting than Katz’s, less touristy than Carnegie. And then it disappeared and became a Chase Manhattan Bank.
When the new one opened up on 3rd Ave. and 33rd Street I was dubious. To state the obvious: who wants to visit The 2nd Ave. Deli on 3rd Ave? Second of all, how can you transfer the magic of a New York institution to a completely different venue? That just doesn’t happen; you can’t relocate The Museum of Natural History, you can’t relocate The 2nd Ave. Deli. I stayed away.
If I had my druthers, Sally Struthers, I’d take my iPhone and throw it into a lake. It’s ruining my life.
I hate being so connected, I hate that my pocket vibrates any time someone comments on my facebook status; I hate that I update my facebook status while standing in line at the post office to say, “Standing in line at the post office.” Why do I need to do that? Why am I wasting so many brain cells? Die, iPhone, die! I’m buying a rotary phone and carrying that around.
Only: as a foodie (I know, I know, you hate that word) the iPhone is a bit of a godsend. Case in point: you go to the MoMA on a Friday night for free admission Fridays (did you know about that?), and upon leaving with Diana and Craig you don’t know where to go to dinner. You rack your brain and then you remember Frank Bruni reviewed a Chinese place in midtown recently. What was that place? Where is it? Enter iPhone.