Foodplace Revisited: Back to Sapporo & R.U.B.

One thing that should make you raise an eyebrow at my food reviews is that, unlike the critic for the Times (and most reputable papers), I only visit a place once before I do a write-up. This gives you a nice instant capture of a dining establishment at a specific moment in time in a specific moment in my life but it doesn’t in any way represent a fair comprehensive examination of a restaurant’s quality. For that you have the professionals. With me, you get what you pay for. And you pay nothing!

I went to Sapporo in midtown a few months ago and liked it. I went back because I was in the theater district (this is the night I saw The Glass Menagerie) and I was craving noodles. I looked in my Sietsema guide (the time before I used the Leff guide) and remembered Sapporo. There I went and I heeded Sietsema’s advice for summer months: “Come during the summer and get the piece de resistance: hiyashi chuka, a bowl of cold noodles in a slightly sweet broth, topped with ham, chicken, egg, fish cake, green onion, shredded ginger, cucumber, and corn.” Here it be!

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Isn’t that beautiful? I devoured it. It was cool and refreshing and had all these great flavors and textures: almost like a Japanese version of the chef’s salad. This gave Sapporo some serious mileage: the last time I said it paled next to Momofuku. This shakes things up a bit. Perhaps a Food War is in order?

The real place that benefited from a return was R.U.B. Last time I was there, I couldn’t believe how expensive it was for so little. Three people paid $70 for what amounted to just a few ribs each. This time I ordered the pulled pork sandwich:

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I sat at the bar and this really cool female bartender suggested I get it on a bun “because it doesn’t fall apart.” I ordered a lemonade too and all in all this lunch meal cost $13. Not cheap, but not $70. And the pulled pork was really delicious: they heaped it on (you can see in the pic, there’s a lot of pulled pork on that bun.) Now if I’m craving rib-like experience I have a happy option on 23rd street.

Wow—so you see, returning to a place more than once has its benefits. My credibility as a food critic has been raised. Who wants to subsidize a return to Per Se?

Oystery Goodness at Grand Central’s Oyster Bar (Plus: Sorbet at Ciao Bella)

My high school friend Dana works at a law firm near Grand Central Station. The other day we were chatting and we decided to lunch. “What’s good around Grand Central?” she asked.

I looked in my new Chowhound Guide to New York and in the Grand Central area it said nothing was particularly good to eat. But then I recalled an episode of one of those inane (but occassionally useful) Food Network shows where they tour around and I remember them singing the praises of the Grand Central Oyster Bar.

“The Grand Central Oyster Bar!” I said, excitedly.

“I don’t eat oysters,” replied Dana.

“I think they have chowder and other things,” I explained.

“Ok, let’s do it!”

So here’s Dana and I in front of the Grand Central Oyster Bar:

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The entranceway and the font reminded me, for some strange reason, of childhood trips to Disney World. Maybe it was the tiled room or the vaulted ceilings: I felt like I was eating in The Pirates of the Carribean or It’s A Small World. Doesn’t this look like something in the Magic Kingdom?

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However, while everything at Disney is mock-authentic the Grand Central Oyster Bar is the real deal. Let’s do some research.

**(pause while Adam does some research)**

According to my research, the Grand Central Oyster Bar opened in 1913. 1913! That’s old. It’s become, according to one website, “a foremost American landmark establishment” with its bustling 453-seat space. Dana and I took two of those seats and studied the menu.

The menu was a bit intimidating. Platters of raw oysters were wildly expensive, as were the fish entrees. So Dana and I decided to order Manhattan clam chowder (which I’d heard was very good there) and a fried oyster appetizer, despite Dana’s squeamishness.

The Manhattan clam chowder soon arrived:

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Don’t let your eyes deceive you. I know it LOOKS delicious, but this chowder was unpleasantly watery and bland. Dana and I both dumped oysterettes (you know, those little crackers) into our bowls to give it more texture, salt and flavor.

“What do you think of the chowder?” asked Dana.

“It’s a little boring,” I said.

“Yeah,” she agreed.

Then the fried oysters arrived with a side of tartar sauce:

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These were pretty delicious. The batter was cornmealy and dense and the oysters inside were barely detectable which pleased Dana. The tartar sauce helped.

After we paid the check, we made our way out—lots of tables had huge platters of raw oysters, so next time I go I’ll go with an avid oyster eater and get the true oyster bar experience–and made our way to the Grand Central Food Court.

The Grand Central Food Court is way cool—there’s a Pepe Rosso (same one from the Village?), a sushi bar (called Masa’s but probably no relation to the real Masa) and even a Jewish place called Mendy’s. We headed straight to Ciao Bella, famous for its sorbets and gelatos.

Though the gelatos all looked delicious, the hot weather put me in a sorbet kind of mood. So I ordered two different flavors—passionfruit and grapefruit. Dana ordered raspberry and something else. Here’s our sorbet cups, side by side:

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Mine was delicious but so tart my lips began to pucker uncontrollably. “You should’ve gotten something sweet to go with one of those, they’re both so tart!” said Dana.

I tried her raspberry and it was very good. Dana left to go back to work and I pursed my lips through the rest of my sorbet, exploring the Grand Central Market and making my way back towards the sun. It felt like emerging from a ride at Disney. Yo ho yo ho a gourmet’s life for me!

A Modern Meal at The Modern

Danny of A Year In Food contacted me recently and asked if we could go on a joint food-blogging expedition. I said “sure” and we agreed to sample the modern food in the bar room of The Modern.

We met out front, and while I waited I snapped this photo which I’m really proud of. Isn’t it cool?

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Upon entering, Danny (who made the reservation) gave his name and the host asked if he could take my coat. “No thanks,” I said nicely. My coat is like my purse: my pockets are stuffed with my camera and notepad, so I need it for the meal. The host gave me a look like, “Well, if that’s what you REALLY want.” And then a female host came (aka, a hostess), the male host said something to her and she saw my coat and said, “Sir, can I check your coat?” and I said, “No thanks” and there was another awkward pause. The male host said, “I already asked him,” and she said: “Oh, ok, it’s not big deal you can keep your coat.”

She led us to a table in the middle of a very modern-looking room. A very tall waiter came over with a drink menu and asked us what kind of water we wanted. We said tap and he exited.

Danny, who’d been there before, suggested I try the mango-passionfruit mojito. When the waiter returned I ordered that and Danny ordered a drink with champagne and rose petals. We proceeded to study our menus.

The menu at the Bar Room at The Modern is divided into three sections labelled, quite appropriately: 1, 2, 3. Each section is priced similar to the others and there’s nothing to indicate that the items in each menu are somehow related, such that menu 2 features a mushroom soup, menu 1 features a crab salad, menu 3 features scallops (though it is indicated that menu three involves mini-sized entrees.)

Danny and I decided to order different things and then share them. Our drinks arrived and my mojito was delicious, though not necessarily worthy of its $16 pricetag. We ordered our food and prepared to feast.

Bread was brought, and bread we et. Then the first course arrived. I had the foie gras torchon with muscat gelee & toasted country bread:

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Danny had the arctic char tartare (hey, that rhymes!) with daikon and trout caviar (not photographed by me, but photographed by Danny and soon to be featured on his site.)

My foie gras was nice* (*I realize it’s bad English to say that: no, my foie gras didn’t help an old lady across the street; but somehow it seems appropriate, sometimes, to describe food as “nice”), I really enjoyed the muscat gelee. Then, halfway through, we switched and I really enjoyed Danny’s char tartare. That had more flavors going on.

For Course 2 I had the Artichoke Soup with Lobster:

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Danny had the charred octopus with warm potato salad.

My soup was really watery at first and I was disappointed. Then it grew on me. Then I attempted to eat the garnishes on the side. I ate the lobster first and then I dug into the artichoke. Sometimes I earn my title “Amateur Gourmet” and sometimes I sink below it to “Moron Gourmet,” and here I fell into that latter category as I shoved artichoke leaves into my mouth in one heapful, thinking they’d be tender and I could chew them. I couldn’t. I had to spit them out. It was nasty.

Danny’s octopus was interesting but not my favorite. I liked the texture of it and I liked the way it was cooked, but I needed a contrasting flavor like a vinegar or a citrus component to give it some acid. But then again, I’m the putz who ate artichoke leaves.

For course #3 I had Braised Pork Cheeks with sauerkraut and ginger jus:

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As you can see the presentation’s really pretty, and the texture of the cheeks was pleasantly tender and light. Again, I could’ve used more flavor. That’s my big complaint about the MOMA: there were no great wallops of flavor.

Danny had the Grilled Quail with chive spaetzle and lentils and that had more flavor, but not a ton of meat. I kept thinking he’d ordered squab for some reason which became a running gag throughout the course. “How’s your squab?” “My what?” “I’m sorry, I mean your partridge.”

These guys next to us noticed we were taking pictures of our food (and it was pretty funny to have not one, but two people at a table for two photographing every dish) and they said, “We’re on eGullet too—we’re excited to see these pics posted.” They thought we were eGulleters so we let them sustain this belief. (Well, actually, I am an eGulleter–adrober on there, check out my old stuff: I was adrober before I was Amateur Gourmet.)

For dessert (and dessert’s my favorite part of any meal) I had beignets with maple ice cream, caramel and citrus mango marmelade:

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These were great–I loved the dipping sauces. Danny had blood orange carpaccio with pomegranate granite and lime and that was very refreshing too. (Pomegranate granite: that’s also fun to say. Wow, danny ate char tartare and pomegranate granite—no wonder he was an English major.)

All in all I’d say my MOMA meal was fun because of the company and the environment, but I wouldn’t encourage anyone to rush over there for a meal. At least not in the bar room. Maybe the restaurant proper has more impressive fare, but for the money these small plates of frequently not-so-flavorful food left me mostly disappointed. Then again those artichoke leaves were dynamite!

(Make sure to check out Danny’s site in a few days when he reviews our meal, maybe he’ll have a differing view. I think he may have liked it more than me!)

Yes, We Really Ate All This Food: Family Meals at Campagnola, Grimaldi’s, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, Bar Americain, Pastis, and a return to The River Cafe

I need a glass case in my apartment with a stomach pump inside and the words “BREAK IN CASE OF PARENTAL VISITATION” printed on the outside. After leaving the car that dropped me off last night after dinner at the River Cafe, I kissed my parents goodbye, made my way into my building, rode the elevator up and sprawled out on my couch and didn’t move for three hours. I was that winded. Eating is hard work!

Last you heard, my brother and I ate Little Italy on Wednesday night and Sarabeth’s for Thursday brunch. After that, I took him to the Central Park Zoo where we hadn’t been since we were kids. I loved it! It’s my new favorite zoo—it has the perfect amount of zoo to sate your desire to see animals. Just when you’re getting bored of sea lions and monkeys, it’s time to go.

But that’s not what you’re here to read about. You came for the food—fine then, let’s get to it.

Campagnola

Our first stop on the Family Feasting Highway is one I feel funny telling you about. Let’s be honest here: we’re all human. As Tolstoy said, “all happy families are alike, all unhappy families are unhappy at dinner especially when the oldest son has a bad attitude because he didn’t get to pick the restaurant and the scene is a little too trendy and crowded and yuppy businessman for his tastes.”

The place, it just so happens, is Campagnola—located on the upper very east side: 1st Ave. and 74th St. What I just discovered, after Googling it, is that people love it. On Menupages the food gets 5 stars and people write effusive things like: “Words do not attempt to reveal how amazing this restaraunt is until you try it” and “This is the pinnacle of eating in NY, wonderful food, exceptional service and a great atmosphere.” Campagnola has its fans.

So maybe I came in with a chip on my shoulder and I was being bratty and not a very admirable gourmet, that I’ll concede. But I need to be honest: I’m not in love with Campagnola. I did love how it started—look at dad with this plate of free antipasto:

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That yellowish cheese you see is a huge chunk of Parmesan-Reggiano. I’ve never just bit into Parmesan before, but here I did and it was delicious—especially with a salami chaser. The olives were great as was the bread and olive oil and the white stuff, dried feta.

The table next to us had a huge party—about 15 people—as did the table behind us. The room was buzzing with energy: a youngish/oldish woman played the piano. Waiters bounced in and out of the room with sizzling platters of meat and trays of drinks. We ordered a bottle of wine for the table which was kept in an ice bucket table side. Every gesture was theatrical: big personalities, big plates, big laughs echoing around the room. Campagnola is definitely a scene.

It’s not my kind of scene, but you get that already. For my appetizer I had prosciutto with melon:

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It was fine. Melon’s not really in season, I guess, so it wasn’t particularly sweet. The prosciutto was tough, though flavorful. Dad and Michael were more enthusiastic about their Caesar salads: “it has great flavor,” said dad.

For my entree I had veal marsala:

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The sauce was fantastic, the veal was very good. I guess when you flatten veal and cook it the way veal is cooked for veal marsala, it’s always going to have a certain lumpy texture. I didn’t love that texture. Mom, dad, and Michael all had lobster fra diavalo and they were all happy.

For dessert, we sang happy birthday to dad (it’s dad’s birthday Tuesday—and as you’ll see, when my family celebrates a birthday it’s a weeklong celebration), paid the check and left. Mom and dad LOVED Campagnola; I merely liked it. So if this sounds like your cup of tea, I say go eat the tea bag!

We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it…

I had a great idea for Friday. Mom was eating lunch with her best friend from childhood, Robin, and I was left coordinating the day for dad, Michael and I. The great idea was to cross the Brooklyn bridge and eat lunch at Grimaldi’s. This was easy enough. Dad came to my apartment (where Michael was staying) and we took the N/R train down to City Hall, exited, walked around City Hall Park until we came to the bridge and began the crossing.

What a gorgeous day it was! Seriously: if my superpower were weather control, I couldn’t have made it any nicer. Here’s dad and Michael at the start of the bridge:

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And here they are at the other side–you can see Manhattan behind them:

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Crossing the bridge is a great experience, something every New Yorker should do. You get great views of New York, the Statute of Liberty, the cars passing beneath. Halfway across, you see plaques dedicated to Mrs. Roebling, the wife of the bridge’s designer–a pioneer in the world of suspension bridges (and beyond). And when you get to the end, it’s a simple walk on a path that winds around and splits in two: yield left, go down the stars, exit, turn left, make another left, go to Fulton Ave. (I think that’s it, go double check that) make a right and you’ll see Grimaldi’s green awning up ahead.

My Grimaldi’s pitch made me feel a bit like a used car salesman. I told dad and Michael it was the oldest pizza place in New York, that the coal oven inside is 100 years old. Here they are posing outside:

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Actually, though, once inside the menu revealed that this Grimaldi’s opened in 1990. Not quite so old! What is old is the methodology and ideas behind the pizza. It’s the pizza created by Patsy Grimaldi—that’s Patsy of Patsy’s fame—and this coal oven gets up to 800 degrees and makes a pizza frequently voted New York’s best. Here’s the coal oven that makes it:

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And here’s the pizza itself:

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Check out that crust! It’s such a perfect pizza. We had half mushrooms (dad) and half onions (Michael): I ate from both halves, making me the Great Pizza Unifier. I loved this pizza: a perfect ratio of crust, sauce, cheese and toppings. And that coal-charred crust is better than any crust I’ve ever had. 4 stars!

Of course, afterwards I walked Michael and dad over to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. I say “of course” as if I’ve done that before and truth be told, I haven’t. But all the Chowhound posts and eGullet posts I read say after eating pizza at Grimaldi’s, you go to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. So here it is—it’s in a lighthouse, right beneath the bridge (and right next to the River Cafe, where we returned to last night):

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The ice cream here is of course homemade (I keep saying “of course”! Stop doing that, Adam!) Take a look:

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Let’s see: that’s my butter pecan on the bottom, Michael’s chocolate chip at the top and dad’s coffee on the right. It’s certainly very fresh tasting: there’s a very high fat content. I don’t think it’s as strong as contender as the gelato at Cones in terms of freshness (that Cones stuff is hand-cranked) but it’s definitely very good and worth checking out.

Now for a funny story. At the back of the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is a pier where you can wait for a water taxi to take you back to Manhattan. Here’s dad and Michael waiting for it:

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We waited, in fact, for 15 minutes. Finally, just when we were about to give up (“Let’s just walk back across the bridge, it’ll be faster”) the water taxi arrived. There was a docking ritual and then a man came down the plank and said: “Anyone for the water taxi?”

“Where does it stop?” we asked and he pointed to a map nailed to a pole. “It stops at all the places on that map.”

Dad and I began reviewing the map.

“It stops on 34th street,” I said, “We could get out there.”

“It also stops at the South Street Seaport,” said dad, “we could go there.”

“Umm,” said Michael, “the boat’s pulling away.”

And sure enough, as we were talking the boat pulled away! We found this very funny. That’s our funny water taxi story.

The best meal of the weekend with a special celebrity guest…

On Friday night, we met my parents’ friends the Reingolds and their children (you met them before at Wolfgang’s) at Bobby Flay’s new restaurant, Bar Americain. Here we are at the table:

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Bar Americain is located on 52nd street between 6th and 7th. In Andrea Strong’s rave review last week, she described the “three-deep zinc bar” (complete with an exhibitionist couple); but on our night–a Friday night!–the place was surprisingly not crowded. “What’s going on, it’s a Friday night?” we wondered.

Maybe it’s because it just opened? I’m sure when Frank Bruni comes and gives it two stars (that’s my prediction, two stars) the scene will be buzzing. As it was, there was–we believe–Harry Smith from the CBS Early Show. This seems likely because Bobby Flay makes guest appearances on that show, so why shouldn’t Harry Smith be there?

For my cocktail (and I knew I had to have a cocktail, because Andrea Strong totally sold me on them) I had a dark and stormy:

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That’s: Gosling’s black seal rum, fresh lime juice, ginger and a sugared rim. It was a great drink: very strong but very flavorful and fun. Stephanie (Mrs. R) had a Gooseberry drink that was equally outrageous and enjoyable. We were the big cocktail drinkers of the night.

For my first course I (again!) took Ms. Strong’s advice and ordered the (let me consult the web so I get these dishes described correctly)–Crawfish & Dungeness Crab Griddle Cake with basil and red pepper relish:

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I’m not sure I shared Andrea’s sentiments exactly (she writes: “This “Griddle Cake” was unreal. I knew I wanted another one after one bite of the first.”) but I really enjoyed it. It was like a really dense, really fresh, really flavorful crabcake with big chunks of crab instead of everything ground up. And the presentation, as you can see, was lovely.

Mom–who still managed to diet at all these meals (she kept her portions small and her dressing on the side) gave me the rest of her appetizer—the raw bar tasting with crab-coconut, shrimp-tomatillo and lobster-avocado:

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Who wouldn’t want to gobble all that up? It’s got everything you could want: sweet, savory, crisp, bitter, spicy, fishy, salty, plus complex textures and fantastic presentation. Go Bobby Flay!

Or should I say “Come, Bobby Flay!” That is: Come to our table!

As I was sitting with my back to the kitchen, everyone facing me grew suddenly tense and whispered “Adam, shhh, look” and there was Bobby Flay! He came STRAIGHT to our table from the kitchen. What was going on!?

“Hello,” he said, standing behind my mom.

“Everything is delicious so far,” said my mom.

“Would you mind taking a picture?” I said.

“Sure,” he said, leaning down next to my mom. Here they are!

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“That’s my son,” said my mom, “He’s the Amateur Gourmet.”

Ugh! Aggressive Jewish mothers on attack!

“Oh yeah?” said Bobby, “What’s that?”

“It’s a web site, he writes about food,” explained my mom.

“No kidding,” he said, coming over and shaking my hand. “You write about food?”

“Yes I do,” I said nervously, recalling a time I wrote something not so nice about him, although I couldn’t remember exactly what it was.

“That’s great,” he said. There was an awkward pause.

“I’ve been watching Iron Chef America,” I said, “How’s that going?”

“Good good,” he said, “we just finished a bunch of tapings.” He turned back towards the kitchen. “Well, enjoy your meal,” he said and exited.

What was that! Why did Bobby Flay come straight to our table, linger, and leave? What was going on?!

That answer will come momentarily. But alas, our lamb has arrived:

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That’s Lamb Porterhouse Chops with green peas and mint, double baked sweet potatoes. Let me tell you right now: those sweet potatoes were outrageous. Buttery, sweet and rich and everything I could want in a side dish. I love sweet potatoes and these did sweet potatoes proud.

As for the lamb, it was also terrific. It’s a great study in the different cooking techniques of Flay and Batali (who went up against each other on an Iron Chef America recently; Flay winning, I believe); especially because I had lamb last time I went to Babbo. Between the two, I feel like Batali’s was more tender but that Flay’s was more flavorful. And Flay’s overall presentation–with the mint and the peas and the sweet potatoes–has a slight edge on Batali. HOWEVER, if I were to only eat one dish again for the rest of my life it might be Batali’s because even though Flay’s was more flavorful, the tenderness of Batali’s was extraordinary and in many ways heaven on a plate.

Finally, there was dessert. Another Happy Birthday song for dad:

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Happy Birthday Dad! And then some more desserts:

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That’s a pineapple carrot cake on the bottom and whiskey eclairs in the middle and deep dish chocolate cake with the candle in it. I have to say, I’m something of a dessert maven and I didn’t kvell over these desserts. The whiskey eclairs were the ones I most looked forward to (again, it’s Andrea’s fault!) but no one at the table seemed to love them. The big winner was the deep dish chocolate cake: mom and Stephanie guiltily scraped the bowl clean (though mom swears this was her only transgression in a weekend of Weight Watcheriffic eating).

And that was our meal. We all loved it: “That was a great meal!” said mom and Stephanie. Dad, though, doesn’t like unfamiliar food so this wasn’t his favorite meal; but dad aside, Bar Americain was a big winner. Two stars, I tell you, two stars!

But Adam, tell us about Bobby Flay…why did he come to your table?

Well yesterday (Saturday) I went with mom to the West Village and we were walking around and shopping. “That was strange,” I said, “How Bobby Flay came straight to our table, as if he knew one of us or something?”

“Well,” said mom, “I didn’t tell you this, but when we came in I asked the hostess if Bobby Flay was cooking tonight and she said yes. And I may have told her that someone VERY important was at our table and that he should come say hello. I guess it worked!”

Look out Mama Rose, Mama Gourmet’s in town! (“And if it wasn’t for me / then where would you be / Mister Amateur G?”)

God, Adam, this post is so long…are you really going to write about your other meals?

I’m getting a little burnt out myself. For lunch yesterday, before the big Flay revelation, mom and I went to Pasti’s in the meatpacking district. (Michael and dad snuck off to Katz’s deli, even though you can’t spell pastrami without Pastis (or at least Pasti).)

If I started this review complaining about the scene at Campagnola, it’s fitting to end it complaining about the scene at Pasti’s. What a circus! It’s like everything I hate about L.A. crammed into one little restaurant. Tables are teeming with celebrities and wannabe celebrities and those who want to sit near wannabe celebrities. We wanted a table outside, they said it would take 30 minutes, so we accepted a dingy table in the corner.

And the food? The food was great, in many ways exemplary. Like check out this French Onion soup which you can click to make larger:

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And check out this steak frites which you can also click to make larger:

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They were both terrific. The soup was robust and fruity, fun and flavorful; the steak was seasoned and cooked perfectly, the Bernaise sauce a wickedly sinful accompaniment. Mom had a seared tuna salad that was presented beautifully, though dressingless (as per mom’s request). [Sidenote: Last week mom grossed me out by sprinkling Splenda on her salad. So yesterday when she offered me a bite of her salad, which she’d dressed herself with just balsamic vinegar, I did so and said, “Mmm, it’s very good.” “See!” she said, “I tricked you! There was Splenda sprinkled on it!” “BLECH!”]

So anyway, in conclusion, Pastis has great food but the scene is tough, if unbearable, and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort or the money to eat there. Those are my thoughts.

Oh, and the River Cafe? My parents love this place and I can’t complain: the food is pretty great and the view is tremendous. (Read my review from last time!) This time I tried, for the first time in my life, steak tartare which had me at hello, with its quail egg broken on top and perfectly arrayed condiments like mustard, olives, capers, etc. For my entree I had the duck and it was very good.

As you can see by the length of this post and sheer volume of pictures and food, I must fast this week and spend 80 hours at the gym. No, just kidding, I’m not like that (like I had to tell you!) I already went with friends to the Burger Joint where I pigged out on burgers and fries and then afterwards we went to Cafe Europa and had Tarte Tatin. Does the eating ever end?! Perhaps I’ll break that glass case now…

Until next time,

A very important person.

The City of Brotherly Eating: Cornelia Street Cafe, Little Charlie’s Clam Bar, Ferrara, The New Sarabeth’s

After surprising my mom on Mother’s Day (see video!), I have returned to New York along with my co-conspirator and fraternal non-twin, brother Michael. He is staying at my apartment on the pull-out couch–complaining, already, of a torn sheet. Here is an account of our eating adventures thus far.

Yesterday, our plane landed around 2. Michael’s was one of the first suitcases off (mine was a carry-on) so we hopped in a cab and made our way to my apartment. We were starving. All I’d eaten was Rice Krispies. I was intent on taking Michael to Pearl Oyster Bar so he could have a $22 lobster roll. We dropped our bags off at my apartment, said hi to the kitty, and hopped on the subway down to West 4th. We ran as fast as we could to Cornelia Street. “Here it is!” I declared, excitedly. And then I saw the upside down chairs on the bar. I stepped inside and asked a distant barman if they were open: “We close at 2:30 and reopen at 6,” he said cooly.

Crushed, I assured Michael there were many other fine dining options on Cornelia Street. (He doubted me after I sprung Home on him last time.) “Why look,” I said, “There’s the Cornelia Street Cafe.”

Now’s a good time to mention just how beautiful the weather’s been today and yesterday. Honestly, these were two of the nicest days I’ve ever experienced. So the Cornelia Street Cafe was perfect: you could eat outside. I chose a table that straddled the inside and the outside. A waitress brought us menus. I told her we were starved, could we have some bread? “After you order, yes,” she replied. I suppose that’s their policy in case homeless people pretend they’re ordering food and just eat bread. Perhaps I shouldn’t have worn my garbage bag hat.

I ordered a delicious chicken baguette sandwich and Michael had the black sesame-crusted salmon. Here he is modeling the food:

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See the outside next to him? Indeed, it’s a lovely place to eat on a nice day. But also notice the iced tea. I had one, so did he. We asked for refills and they brought us two new glasses. That means they’re going to charge you. $2.50 each. I hate it when they do that: when I order iced tea, I expect that refills are free. That’s my only main bone to pick.

Moving on, then, we returned to my apartment where I did laundry and cleaned and made the place welcoming to my brotherly guest, and Michael watched TV and acquainted himself with the cat. Soon it came time for dinner.

“Well,” I began, “We could go to the Spotted Pig…they have this amazing dish, gnuddi…or we can go to Hearth…or try something new like Prune…”

“I’m sick of you picking everything,” Michael said, “Why can’t we go somewhere I want to go?”

A stunned silence.

“Fine then,” I responded, “Where do you want to go?”

“Little Italy!” he declared with conviction.

“Oh Michael,” I began in full snob-mode, “Nobody goes to Little Italy: it’s for tourists. The real Little Italy’s on Arthur Avenue. The Little Italy you’re thinking of is like Olive Garden Village.”

“That’s where I want to go,” he insisted.

So I went on Chowhound and typed in Little Italy. Sure enough my sentiments were echoed on their pages: the words “Olive Garden” and “tourists” showed up frequently.

“See,” I beamed, “I told you…”

“I don’t care, let’s just go there and walk around.”

Go somewhere and just walk around? Try to eat without a pre-determined dining destination? Never! So I investigated further and finally found a Little Italy post on Chowhound that suggested an actual good eating spot: Little Charlie’s Clam Bar.

Here’s the post. It says: “Consider Little Charlie’s Clam Bar at 19 Kenmare Street. This is NOT a tourist place and serves excellent Italian Seafood such as Calamari, Linguine with Clam Sauce (white, of course), Scungilli and many other excellent dishes.”

“Ok, Michael,” I said with delight, “To Little Italy we go.”

Finding Little Charlie’s wasn’t that hard. We just took the N/R down to Prince, walked down to Spring, walked over to the Bowery and walked down one block. It was on the right. Here’s Michael buzzing with Little Italy excitement: (we were actually North of Little Italy proper)

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Once inside, I immediately warmed up to the idea of this place. Red and white checked table cloths, two bustling waiters/hosts, and a clientele that looked discerning and definitely non-touristy. We were presented with bread and spicy tomato sauce. After dipping the bread in, my mouth caught on fire and I chugged some water. “Spicy!” I said. “It’s nothing,” bragged Michael.

“Ok,” I said, “Let’s have a contest. Let’s both eat a small spoonful and the first to take a drink afterwards loses.”

“You’re on,” he said, posing for a spoony picture.

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We took our spoons, our scoops, and slurps. Moments passed. My eyes began to tear; Michael cracked his knuckles. I tore at the table cloth, Michael whistled. After 13 seconds, I could bare it no longer and sucked down some water, bread and wine. (That’s Chianti we’re drinking, by the way.)

Now for the menu. I kept in mind the Chowhound post and stuck with seafood. Michael longed for Chicken Parmesan so he ordered that. The prices, I should say, were surprisingly high. So this isn’t a good place if you’re wearing your homeless hat.

We ordered a clam appetizer to start (after all, it’s a clam bar). Here’s our baked clams oreganato:

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The primary substance on that plate is cheese—paremesan cheese.* There’s also oil, garlic, and bread crumbs. The clams were small but incredibly fresh. We had three clams each then mopped up the rest with bread. A nice overture to our meal.

(*I now wonder if that is indeed Parmesan cheese because it occurred to me that Italians don’t mix fish and cheese. It felt like Paremsan cheese but maybe it was just really fine bread crumbs? Please forgive my ignorance.)

Then for the entrees. Have you ever seen one of my all-time-favorite movies, “Defending Your Life”? Remember that scene in the Judgment City Italian restaurant where the portions are huge and they force upon Albert Brooks nine pies? Take a look at this picture:

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In your wildest imagination, I don’t think you could conjure up more food heaped upon a plate. My linguine with white clam sauce photographed really well, didn’t it? Look how it’s studded with fresh clams and garlic and parsley and sauce. Michael’s, on the other hand, looks like a heap of tomato sauce, chicken, and cheese. Actually, it just looks like a plate of cheese.

“Good luck!” said the waiter, winking. Who could eat all this?!

I actually got pretty far with mine. It really was one of the best linguine with white clam sauces I ever had. The clams were SO fresh—I knew they were because they were all of different sizes and consistences. And not a grain of sand to be had which I was SO grateful for: that’s the worst thing ever, when you bite into a clam and there’s sand…it’s awful. But that didn’t happen.

Michael devoured his as best he could—he actually got pretty far too. When I went to wake him up this morning, I pulled the covers back only to find a huge pile of melted mozzarella. “Noooo!” I screamed as Italian opera music played.

Now, after imbibing a meal such as this, what’s the logical next step? Rush to the hospital for a stomach pump? Not us! No, we went for a dessert chaser at Ferrara’s.

Let me tell you about Ferrara’s. When I lived in New York four summers ago, my friend Dana and I went to the original Ferrara’s which was small and cute and had great coffee. Now it’s changed location and become like a flourescent light drawing in mothloads of tourists who goggle at the prepackaged Ferrara chocolates and biscottis. But we thought we’d give it a shot and, I have to say, despite the feel in there (it’s like EPCOT Italy) the desserts were pretty good. I had a ricotta cheesecake and Michael had a chocolate truffle cake: (you can click this picture and make it larger, if you want)

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I first learned of ricotta cheesecake from the Chez Panisse cookbook. I made a miniature version once in a coffee mug (remember that?), but I’ve never had the real deal. I’m actually not sure this WAS the real deal: it felt like it had a good deal of regular cream cheese in it too. (It was so smooth.) But I enjoyed it, and Michael enjoyed his cake. Maybe Ferrara’s hasn’t fallen too deep into the caverns of commercialism.

Finally, what better way to wake up after a night of heavy eating, than to a decadent breakfast at Sarabeth’s Kitchen? I realize I’ve reviewed Sarabeth’s before, but this time I’m reviewing a new location. They just opened up (and I mean just–they opened last week!) on Central Park South, right near where my parents stay. Here’s the new location and a lady looking at the menu:

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More importantly, here’s what I ate: a pumpkin waffle! (I may have had this last time, but I didn’t have my fancy camera then, so now you get to enjoy this zesty picture):

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Fun Waffle Fact 1: That’s not whipped cream, that’s sour cream!

Fun Waffle Fact 2: That’s not syrup, that’s honey!

Also: it’s studded with raisins and pumpkin seeds. Not your every day waffle!

I loved it. It’s sophisticated yet savory, smart yet silly, country yet western. Michael, dumbly, ordered LUNCH food, even though they’re known for their breakfast.

But actually, he liked his Caesar salad and club sandwich. A woman next to us had tomato soup and said it was the best tomato soup she ever had.

The ultimate glory moment brings our story full circle. Remember how they charged us for four iced teas at Cornelia Street Cafe? Well here Michael ordered a coffee to start ($2.50), changed his mind (after drinking the cup) and asked for an iced tea ($3), and then asked for a refill after which they brought him a new glass (presumably, 3 more $). He potentially drank $8.50 in beverages, yet when the check came they only charged him for the coffee! That’s my kind of restaurant.

Mom and dad are here now and we’ll be fine dining, as per usual, all over the city—though this time mom’s taken the upper hand–ignoring my highly informed where-to-eat input. Two places are new for us, one’s a repeat, plus lunches and food adventures to come. If anyone wants to lend me their stomach for the weekend, I’d be much obliged…mine’s about to hit red alert…

The Food’s Not Bad and There’s Plenty of It: English Is Italian

English Is Italian is the new restaurant from Todd English, the man behind Olives and Figs. The idea is an exciting one: you pay $40 and you’re brought lots and lots of food. First there’s antipasto—here’s Lauren (who’s in town visiting) expressing her excitement at all the food before her:

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In that picture alone, you can see risotto balls, cod cakes, a meat platter with prosciutto and HEAD CHEESE (more on that in a moment), smoked salmon, an egg with asparagus, little toasts and three spreads: chicken liver, spring onion and pea spread.

We sampled it all and liked some things more than others. I liked the chicken liver spread better than, say, the smoked salmon. Lauren liked the risotto ball better than the egg. As for the HEAD CHEESE, I had no idea what I was eating—I saw this gray matter with seeds on top of it. I scooped some up and it was fatty and thin and weird. I asked the waiter what it was: “Testa”(???) he said (the three ???s indicate I don’t remember what word he said, I’m sure you’ll know). “What’s that?” I asked and he explained that it’s head cheese.

“The skull of a pig is placed in a pot of boiling water, while it still has flesh on it…everything that floats to the top is skimmed off, pressed, and cheese is made from it.”

Now I’m not terribly grossed out by anything, but it did surprise me that at a place like this—where the clientele seemed to be Park Avenue conservative, they’d just plop head cheese on a platter and expect to get away with that explanation. My mom, for example, if she’d been there would have fallen out of her chair and had a seizure. Luckily, I took the news with great maturity and even ate a little more. The thing is: it didn’t taste particularly good.

The next course was a pasta course:

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There’s artichoke asparagus ravioli, linguini bolognese, macaroni and cheese, and asparagus risotto. Of these, the last was the worst: the rice wasn’t cooked properly. Otherwise, the macaroni and cheese was the best: the breadcrumbs on top gave it a great crunch.

But none of these were particularly great. At this point in the evening I said: “The food’s not particularly great.”

“But there’s lots of it,” countered Lauren.

Finally, there was our entree course. Here’s white fish and brisket:

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There was also a chicken dish that Lauren fell in love with. “This chicken is amazing,” she said. The chicken practically fell off the bone.

Ultimately, though, the meal was a bit disappointing. It’s a great concept—there’s lots and lots of food. But I’d rather have two amazing dishes at Babbo than 18 better-than-average ones here. And if I’m lying you can take my head, boil it and skim the fat for your supper…

Lunch at Cafe Edison with Uncle Jerry

My Uncle Jerry is a character. He lives in Santa Monica, California and performs frequently at community centers, singing jaunty versions of “If I Was a Rich Man” and “Put on A Happy Face.” His mother (my great-grandmother; Jerry is my grandfather’s brother) was a performer too: we have a VHS of her on The Gong Show singing “Kiss Me On A Monday” to Milton Berle and Soupy Sales. They kissed her instead of gonging her–so she must have done well.

Uncle Jerry made a visit this weekend to New York and we made “an appointment” to meet for lunch on Saturday. “Where should we meet?” he asked on the phone, and two ideas sprang immediately to mind: The 2nd Avenue Deli or…or…that place in Times Square that Neil Simon wrote a play about…what’s that place?

I Googled it with Uncle Jerry on the phone. “45 Seconds From Broadway” was the play and after a few clicks and searches I got my answer: The Hotel Edison.

“Ohhhh sure,” said Uncle Jerry, “I know that Hotel very well…it’s on 47th and Broadway…I stayed there when I came to New York. What a terrific idea. I’ll see you Saturday at 1 o’clock.”

Saturday rolled around and I hopped into a cab (I was running late) and said: “The Hotel Edison or bust!”

“Say wha?” responded the cabbie and I gave him directions.

Upon arrival I snapped this photo:

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It’s right across the street from “The Glass Menagerie”—the Cafe Edison is truly in the heart of Broadway.

I walked into the Cafe and didn’t see my Uncle Jerry. The inside has a great atmosphere: it feels like you’re walking into a museum display of an old time Broadway cafe.

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After searching around the tables, I went down the hallway into the hotel lobby. I heard a voice saying: “I’ll definitely check out his web site…let me write that down…Amateur Gourmet, you say?”

It was the security guard: there was Uncle Jerry bragging about me (what are proud uncles for?) The security guard looked at me and said: “Ah, that must be him.”

Uncle Jerry gave me a big hello and then we walked inside to the Cafe. On the way he saw the owner of the hotel and shook his hand. “You have a wonderful establishment here,” he said. “I stayed here many times and everyone was very courteous and professional.” The owner nodded his head and gave Uncle Jerry a card.

We sat at a round table that had a card on it: “Minimum 4.50 person.”

“What’s that say?” asked Uncle Jerry. He thought that might mean minimum 4 people at the table but I told him it said $4.50 a person minimum.

“Ah,” he said, sitting down. “It’s so good to see you.” We began studying our menus.

“That owner of the hotel is a very well dressed man,” said Uncle Jerry. “I worked in men’s fashion for years and that man knows how to dress.” (Uncle Jerry, in his time, sold suits to Louis Armstrong and Mohammed Ali.)

When the watier came over, Uncle Jerry ordered the brisket and mushroom barley soup. I ordered an egg salad BLT and a Coke to drink.

Here’s Uncle Jerry when his soup arrived:

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I won’t tell you his age, but we have to admit he looks very good for his age, no? One of his secrets is blueberries. “I put blueberries in my salads,” he told me once on the phone.

As Uncle Jerry ate his soup, I reminded him that Neil Simon wrote a play based on this place: “45 Secons from Broadway.”

“You don’t say,” said Uncle Jerry. “You know I once sold a suit to Neil Simon’s brother: Danny Simon. There’s a funny story, you should write this down.”

(I didn’t write it down but I committed it to memory. Let’s hope!)

“You see my manager came down one day and said, ‘Jerry, Danny Simon–Neil Simon’s brother–is coming in and he’s a very finnicky man. Well he wasn’t kidding: he said, ‘I want the hem 1/4-inch exactly. And take up the leg another 1/8th of an inch.’ I’d never seen anything like it. He came back and nothing was right; he made me readjust the jacket, the collar, the pant leg.”

(Uncle Jerry was barely touching his soup.)

“Anyway, what I later found out is that Danny Simon had a roommate. He and his roommate were both divorcees: Danny was the neat one and his roommate was a slob. Well, Neil Simon came over, saw the situation, and wrote a play—The Odd Couple!”

“Ha!” I said, proud to be so connected to world-famous fictional character.

Soon my sandwich arrived:

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(I know, that pickle looks enormous.) I enjoyed how egg salad went with bacon: it gave it a kick of saltiness that egg salad sometimes needs.

Uncle Jerry and I continued talking until time rolled by and lunch was over; there was school work to be done and I had to do it. Did I mention that Uncle Jerry walked from 97th street (where his hotel was) to 47th street to meet me for lunch? Well, we took a cab to my apartment so he could see it and then he asked me to show him the subway. I took him to 23rd and 9th to put him on the 1, 9 and he said, “You know what? It’s so beautiful out—I’m going to walk.”

Walk from 23rd to 97th? Even I, the peak of health (haha, yeah right) couldn’t even fathom the notion. But Uncle Jerry did it. At least I think he did it. If you live in New York and you come upon an old man walking and singing “If I Were A Rich Man” please point him in the right direction. That’s my Uncle Jerry.

Family Feeding Frenzy: Katz’s, Lever House, D.B. Bistro Moderne, and a Return to Jean-Georges

Maybe it’s the Jew in me (“Let me out, you putz! It’s hot in here!”) but I feel guilty about the meals I’m about to share with you. Guilt–am I the only food blogger who feels guilty about eating good food? Maybe because it’s all so decadent. But I can shift the blame to my parents–as we already know, my parents are decadent eaters. I’m just the lucky bystander who tags along and eats what is given to me. All I crave are the simple things—a ripe tomato, a slice of cheese. It’s my parents who forced this upon me. What you are about to see happened totally against my will, I was dragged along, kicking and screaming…

Ok, you’re not falling for it. So my parents spoil me when they come to visit (at my urging), even more than I spoil myself. And in the spirit of spoiling myself before they came, I took Michael (my brother, you met him in the last post) to Katz’s deli on Thursday to experience New York’s best pastrami:

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Michael was dubious at first—as we got off the subway on Houston and passed 2nd avenue, he tried to divert us to the 2nd avenue deli. “I want a waitress!” he said, when I told him that Katz’s only had counter service. But I persisted and he came and sure enough Katz’s does have waitresses if you want (although our experience leads me to suggest that you just do the counter service, our waitress was pretty inept). Michael was completely converted by Katz’s pastrami. “Mmmm,” he said. He’s not someone who relents easily–he might have pretended, for example, to hate the pastrami to win the fight about 2nd Ave. Deli being better–but he did no such thing. He enjoyed his pastrami and agreed it was the best in New York.

We also shared potato latkes which, too, were excellent:

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And just to get the gluttony ball rolling, I took him afterwards to Doughnut Plant (it’s not a far walk away) to experience New York’s best (and most interesting) doughnuts. He had the Vahlrona chocolate doughnut on the right, I had the orange on the left:

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Naturally, they were terrific. The coffee was pretty good too.

Now then: my parents arrived. Here they are with Michael in an artistic shot at Fresco:

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I didn’t document our Fresco meal for three reasons: (1) I’ve done it before; (2) the meal wasn’t very good (it was fine, not great), and (3) for the first time ever in my history of doing this site, a manager asked me not to take pictures. I think it had less to do with taking pictures of food than it did with the flash irritating their celebrity customers. They shot themselves in the foot, though, because, as we all know, this site is a powerhouse in the food world, and one bad word from me and…and…

Moving on.

For lunch Friday we went to a giant in the world of corporate business lunches: Lever House.

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A few years ago, Lever House made a big stir when it opened. Here’s where the players came to play, where titans–Masters of the Universe–came to nosh on Cobb salads and grilled fish, signing contracts, fiddling with cell phones and pulling the Levers (get it? Levers? Lever House?) on the slot machines of capitalism. (I am a genius! What a great sentence! Ok, no.) Anyway, now I wonder if Lever House is a little past it’s prime—if only because our power lunch was only impressive in one regard: the architecture.

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Isn’t that a cool doorway? That’s how you enter Lever House. The room has a honeycomb theme—people sit in little honeycomb pods surrounding the less interesting tables in the middle. We sat at a less interesting table in the middle. We kept our eyes peeled for celebrities and power brokers, but didn’t see any. (Last time my mom was here, however, she saw Michael Eisner.)

The food?

Eh. Ok, it’s perhaps my fault that I let the waiter talk me into this pheasant terrine:

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I must confess that the image in my head of “terrine” was not what was brought out on the plate–but that’s ignorance on my part, not the waiter’s. With that said, though, I’ve had terrines I’ve really enjoyed (like this one at Cafe Bouloud)—and this one tasted gamey and unpleasant. I was not a fan.

Then for the entrees, I ordered halibut which was nice and fine, and dad ordered risotto “with no cheese.” Dad hates cheese. So when they brought the risotto covered with cheese, I martyred myself and switched with him. Here it is:

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The glum lighting mirrors the glumness of the risotto. It had no real flavor base. The cheese was nice, there were mushrooms too–but this risotto was a loser. L-on-its-head loser. Like “I took you to a Remington party and you paid me back with puke” type loser. (Ya, Heather, I went there.)

But the dessert. Lever House almost fully redeems itself by way of this dessert:

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Milk chocolate coconut cake with coconut sorbet. It was really delicious–I loved it. (Shared it with Michael who did most of the gobbling.)

Moving on, then, we go to the next day. (Friday night we saw Billy Crystal’s “700 Sundays” which was really impressive in that Billy worked really hard—only, (and this could totally be a generation thing–we of the age of irony and self-awareness) I found it slightly shlocky and emotionally manipulative, though I have no doubt for him he’s being as raw and honest as he could get in live performance. I just wish he didn’t paint himself so cleanly. (With that said, though, he’s a great performer. The pantomime bits were terrific.)) (We ate in Joe Allen’s afterwards and saw (as guaranteed by my post on Joe Allen’s where I say it’s the best Broadway Star-Sighting place after theater) B.D. Wong. Yes, he’s a star, isn’t he?)

Lunch Saturday. We went to D.B. Bistro Moderne. This is a great pre-theater place (we were going to see “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” which was a lot of fun): great location and great food.

Normally, I don’t take pictures of other people’s dishes (I don’t have the space for it to post all these pics) but Michael’s clam chowder was outrageously beautiful:

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Couldn’t that hang in the MOMA?

The way lunch works there is you can get an appetizer and an entree or an entree and a dessert. You who know me know what I did. So for my entree I chose Atlantic cod with porcini dumplings, vegetables “paysanne” and a garlic-parsley broth:

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It was marvelous (and also the best picture I took all weekend.)

For dessert, I jilted my tablemates (they all opted for appetizers and were not entitled to desserts) who love chocolate. I of the fruit-dessert persuasion had Tropical Fruit Soup with ginger-vanilla bavarois and pink guava sorbet:

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Not surprisingly, I had the whole dessert to myself. If you eat with my family and want a whole dessert to yourself, order a fruit dessert—they won’t touch it.

Now then, we come to the greatest eating moment of the weekend. I began this post by pretending that I am just a happy bystander of my parents food-love, that their gourmet outings are in no way influenced by me–but that’s not entirely true. I think somehow (and this could be complete megalomania on my part) this site and my newfound food “authority” have somehow seeped into their consciousness (mostly my mom’s–she who makes the reservations) and that their former tendency to eat big family-style meals at Italian theater-district places like Carmine’s has been displaced by a respect and awe for the finest things in life, pointed out by me in my journey towards gourmet enlightenment. So whether it’s my influence or her own self-will, my mom made a reservation for the four of us at Jean-Georges Saturday night, because she loved it there the last time. I did too and anticipated it with great excitement.

We were not disappointed.

Jean-Georges is the best restaurant in New York. I will qualify that statement only to say that I haven’t been to every restaurant in New York, but I have been to many, and several of them were 4-stars (Per Se, Daniel.) Jean-Georges, however, is the best that I can imagine a restaurant to be—it’s a magical dining experience. The room is enchanted, the service outstanding, and the food exciting, surprising, and luscious. It’s just dazzling.

We started with an amuse bouche of (and this is from memory, so forgive me): pear with caviar, chicken broth with olive oil (and this chicken broth had a kick to it), and tuna(?) hamachi with something on it (sorry):

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Last time we did the Jean-Georges tasting menu. This time we ordered from the left side of the page which allows you to choose an appetizer, a middle course, an entree and a dessert. This worked out perfectly.

For my appetizer, I had the sea scallops, caper-raisin emulsion and cauliflower:

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These were TOO good. And the sauce—what a crazy perfect combination. Capers and raisins? It works. I’d like to recreate this dish at home sometime like the folks do at Gothamist Food. Maybe I can put them on the job.

For my next course I ordered foie gras because it’s the sort of thing I NEVER eat on a regular basis, I only eat it on very special occassions and this was one of them. It came with another thrilling combination: peanuts and a cherry sauce. All-American foie gras?

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Seriously, this is why I love Jean-Georges. Who would think to combine peanuts and cherries on LIVER? And it works–I swear, these things are radical food revelations that happen in your mouth. It’s like having eyes in the roof of your mouth that have slept for 26 years that suddenly and miraculously open up. (Ok, that’s a gross image.)

For my entree, I had the duck. But first, look at this man carving a pineapple:

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This was happening at the table next to us. I swear (and I kid you not) he did this for 45 minutes. He carved this intricate design into it and then sliced it and it was beautiful and theatrical and had everyone staring from around the room. Where else does this happen? Nowhere, I tell you, nowhere!

Now my duck. Oh my God.

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Look at the top of my duck. What do you see? Looks strange, right?

They’re almonds but they almost taste like an almond brittle–they fuse with the skin and make this crazy, crispy, candy-like crust. I was in heaven. (I should state here, though, that my dad and brother–who were also at this table–ate their food with mild interest and very few spurts of joy. Dad, who also had the duck, found it “too sweet.”)

But my middle name is “too sweet” so this was perfect. It had a honey wine sauce that accented everything nicely. I loved this dish.

Then there was (drumroll): dessert.

Oh, dessert. Dessert at Jean-Georges. If only I’d asked for a menu I could identify everything! There were four choices: a chocolate menu (which, boringly, mom, dad AND Michael opted for), a citrus menu, an apple menu and an exotic menu. I chose (at the waiter’s suggestion) the exotic menu. I was glad I did:

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I can’t remember what everything is (I’m sorry! I know! I failed you!) but my favorite was on the lower left: there was passion fruit in it and I love passion fruit. Otherwise, on the upper left is pineapple upside down cake, on the upper right some kind of sweet fruity soup, and on the lower right a banana dessert with ice cream. Do I really need to tell you how terrific it all was?

Once again, Jean-Georges won our hearts and minds (at least mom’s and mine) and I left feeling bloated, sick, and all the better for it.

Today, I ate as little as possible—eggs, toast, a burger that served as lunch and dinner, and then, just now, oatmeal. Tomorrow begins my return to the gym which I may or may not blog about. If this was the last “hurrah” it doesn’t get much better than that. Mom, dad and Michael are back in Florida so I’m safe for a while. Until their next visit… happy vicarious eating!