Recent Meals at Adour & Prune

IMG_1.JPG

Brillat Savarin famously said, “Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”

As much as I’d like to believe that most people go through their lives believing this, my hunch is that most people don’t think it’s a character-defining moment when they sprinkle Splenda into their coffee. Instead, I think many people subscribe to a different notion. Their adage might go something like this: “Tell me WHERE you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.”

Continue Reading

Valentine’s Day Dinner at Insieme

IMG_1.JPG

Fancy dinners are funny things: you think you have to plan for them, make reservations, get dressed up, when in fact the idea of a “fancy dinner” is just a construct; the truth is, a talented chef with a nice restaurant wants nothing more than for you to pop in at the spur of the moment and that’s precisely what Craig and I did last night after seeing a fascinating new musical called Passing Strange at the Belasco. I remembered that Marco Canora, the chef at Hearth whom I met at the Taste of New York event earlier this year, opened a new place across from Mamma Mia called Insieme and after the show I said: “Heck, it’s Valentine’s Day, let’s have a nice dinner.”

So we popped into Insieme and Craig was intimidated at first because people were dressy in suits and such and we were wearing jeans and he was unshaven, but we quickly got over that, especially later when Marco came out to say hi. He’s a wonderful guy–not pretentious, but super knowledgeable and his food reflects that. We loved the little bites they sent out first–a radish with anchovy-flavored olive oil, baccala on a potato–but the best, by far, was the pasta course. Craig, who’s not keen on hyperbole, declared this dish one of the best things he’s ever eaten in his life:

IMG_2.JPG

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but that’s a pear risotto with blue cheese and hazelnuts. Marco told us it had pear cider in it, as well as actual pears, but what made it great, according to Craig, was the contrast of the sweet pear and the savory blue cheese. I took a bite and I had to concur, it was fantastic, though I was pretty in love with my chestnut fettuchini with venison ragu and pomegranate.

So, in conclusion, if you have some spare change in your pocket and you’re near a nice restaurant but you’re scared to go because you’re not dressy enough or you think you need to make a reservation, just pop in. The food business is a rough business, and chefs–like all artists–need your patronage. Plus, if it’s Valentine’s Day, you’re supposed to go to a nice meal anyway. I’m glad we had ours at Insieme.

Anthos

IMG_1.JPG

We leave Seattle for a moment to talk about Anthos, where I ate with my parents a few weeks ago. I wasn’t going to write about it–not because I didn’t like it, but because the room was so dark and my pictures didn’t come out so great and I wanted to do the food justice–but then I just discovered this post on The Food Network blog where one of the editors spotted me there eating! Isn’t that strange? Now I know how Lindsay Lohan feels–except she’s rarely caught eating. Since the editor anticipated my post about it, I’ve decided to do a quick one.

The food at Anthos is adventurous and exciting. I remember, in particular, this absolutely bizarre first course I had: a long thin egg noodle topped with (you won’t believe this) sauteed snails and rabbit. Seriously. It’s called Hilopita and it’s described on the menu as: “Egg noodle, braised rabbit, snails, black truffle, manouri cheese.” Strangely enough, it all comes together the way that celebrity faces come together on Conan O’Brian’s “If They Mated.” (Anyone want to attempt an image of a half-rabbit half-snail?)

The rest of the food was pretty dynamite too, but Frank Bruni has a point about the room: it’s a depressing space. I didn’t want to say it, but there you have it. Near the front, natural light comes in through the windows but as you go further and further back you feel like you’re in a very very upscale airport diner. The fact that the kitchen is right near most of the tables makes the evening stressful; and the fact that the bathroom is right there too makes it even worse. But the food conquers all. We actually met the chef, Michael Psilakis, because our waiter detected that we were really enthusiastic about what we ate. Chef Psilakis, like most deeply talented, artistic chefs, is a really down-to-earth guy with no pretense about him. Remarkably, he’s entirely self-taught. We talked about that and about the difficulties of running a restaurant (his last place, Dona, closed after a new building owner forced him out–you can read about that here). After a story like that, you just want to root for Chef Psilakis. Luckily, he has the city’s most powerful critic on his side. (For proof, read Bruni’s Anthos review.) And now he has me on his side too. I may not be a formal food critic, but I was spotted by The Food Network. And that counts for something, right?

My Lunch at the Condé Nast Cafeteria

IMG_1.JPG

Psssst… don’t tell anyone, but I’m about to sneak you into the Condé Nast cafeteria. That’s right. This is where Anna Wintour (you know, Meryl Streep’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada”) goes to eat, alongside the fine people from Gourmet, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and so on. People are fascinated with the place-they’re always writing about it on Gawker–and many people wonder (including myself, before last week) what kind of food do fashion models, feisty editors and literary luminaries eat together? Well now I have the answer. My friend Mr. X just started a job there and he invited me to join him for lunch as long as I didn’t take flash pictures or reveal his identity. So, get your heels on and “gird your loins”–it’s time to do the Condé nasty

Continue Reading

MoMA Mia! A Return To The Bar Room at the Modern [but first, we discuss Iranian cinema]

IMG_1.JPG

For my birthday, Craig pretended to get me a membership to MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art). We showed up the other night to see Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami’s documentary “Homework,” and when Craig opened the envelope that came from MoMA with our joint membership there was only card in it. With his name. None for me.

“So,” I said, “for my birthday you basically got yourself a membership to MoMA?”

“No!” said Craig. “There must be some mistake!”

But the membership office wasn’t open so we explained the situation to the woman at the movie desk and she was really nice and let me in for free even though my card hadn’t arrived yet.

Seeing this movie was already a loaded moment in our relationship. Craig thinks I’m impatient when it comes to slow-moving films or non-plotty films or non-funny films, specifically the movie “Safe” which he loves and which I found a bit tedious. (But I’ve never been a fan of Todd Haynes: a scandal-causing fact in Craig’s NYU film school group of friends. When I first revealed my dislike of Todd Haynes to Craig’s friend Mark, Craig flushed as if I just confessed to having a two-headed penis. (I don’t, by the way.)) Anyway, during one of our arguments Craig used Abbas Kiarostami as an example saying, “I think you would hate his films.”

So this was the test and I passed with flying colors. The movie is one of his least well-known: it’s simply a documentary of Iranian school children talking about homework. That’s it. I could see why Craig could think I’d be bored. But once you embrace the set-up–that the whole movie will just be kids talking about homework–you realize what Kiarostami is doing. He’s using these children to criticize his country, his government, the violent culture in which these children are being bred. The final moments introduce us to a boy who won’t stop crying he’s so broken by his family and school. It’s quietly devastating and I was glad I saw it.

“Ah,” I said, “so now that I’ve proven myself we should celebrate.”

“How?”

“Well look what’s right here,” I said as we exited, as if I didn’t know that Danny Meyer’s Modern restaurant was right next door. “Let’s eat at the bar room at the Modern!”

Continue Reading

Go To Turkey, See A Play, And Eat Pie

Finding a good, cheap place to eat near the theater district is a challenge I often undertake. Sure there’s 9th avenue, but there are more doozies than dazzlers there, I’m afraid. The one exception, of course, is Esca–a restaurant that plays an important part in my book–but a restaurant that can be prohibitively expensive. So where to eat when Mark, your theater critic friend and music blogger, takes you to see a play at Playwrights Horizons? Why Turkish Cuisine, of course:

IMG_1.JPG

This is one of the dazzlers on 9th ave. From the moment we walked in, I knew we were in good hands: the people eating there looked like they knew a secret, and the hostess was incredibly warm and welcoming. We sat at a table for two and began to study the menu.

Continue Reading

57 Thoughts About Nobu 57

1. Nobu is one of New York’s most recognizable restaurant names;

2. People associate Nobu with trendy sushi and Japanese food;

3. Nobu’s gotten so popular it’s constantly expanding;

4. A new Nobu opened up on 57th Street;

5. We went there, two weeks ago, when my parents were here;

6. This is what the door looks like:

IMG_1.JPG

7. I wonder where the man in front of me bought his shirt?

Continue Reading

Man vs. Beast at Keens Chophouse

IMG_1.JPG

Craig calls from work at 7 o’clock on Friday night and asks me what the plan is.

“How do you feel about mutton?” I ask.

There is a pause. “Mutton?” he replies.

“Yes,” I say. “How do you feel about eating mutton?”

Dating me requires patience, skill and tolerance for outlandish eating ideas. It took me a while to convince Craig that this idea wasn’t quite so outlandish. “Frank Bruni just wrote about the mutton at this place Keen’s Steakhouse a few months ago,” I explain.

“Who’s Frank Bruni?” he asks.

Some people can’t be helped. But alas, after much negotiating, I convince Craig to join me for a meaty mutton meal two blocks north of Macy’s: a ten block journey through the rain. This is our story.

Continue Reading