Anthony Bourdain has said that, for his last meal, he’d want the roasted bone marrow with parsley salad that Fergus Henderson serves at his London restaurant, St. John.
It’s fitting then that, for my last meal as a New Yorker, there was that very same dish. Only it wasn’t prepped by Fergus Henderson; it was made by Gabrielle Hamilton at what’s come to be my favorite New York City restaurant, Prune.
The West Village is not an easy place to grab a cheap lunch. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a wonderful place to grab lunch. There’s Market Table, ‘ino, Pearl Oyster Bar, The Spotted Pig, Barbuto, etc, etc, and so on. But the operative word in my first sentence was “cheap” and while all of those places have wonderful food, if I ate at one of them every day, I’d be broke. Which is why, upon moving here two years ago, I was in search of a place I could visit on a weekly basis, where I could eat quickly and cheaply and relatively healthfully, a place that was convenient to my apartment and convenient to the coffee shop where I do most of my work (Joe). The place I settled upon was Hummus Place.
About a year ago, a place opened up in SoHo/Nolita called “The Best Chocolate Cake in The World.” A tongue-in-cheek act of hubris, sort of like the novel “Winner of the National Book Award,” foodies were skeptical. Many who went there dismissed it as overrated. Me? I forgot about it. But last week, after having lunch with my friends Leland Scruby (of the French Culinary Institute) and Bao Ong (whose name you may recognize from the the New York Times Diner’s Journal blog) I asked if they wanted to check it out because it was right around the corner from where we were eating (Falai). They gladly assented.
At the very tippy top of the New York restaurant pyramid sits Jean-Georges. It’s up there with Daniel, Per Se, Del Posto, Eleven Madison Park and Le Bernardin; the only restaurants that currently have four stars from The New York Times.
What separates Jean-Georges from the bunch, though, is that you can eat lunch there for $28. Let me say that again. You can eat lunch at one of New York’s only four-star restaurants for $28.
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.
You may recall that on our recent trip to New Orleans, we enjoyed something called a Sno-Ball. We ate this Sno-Ball at a place called Hansen’s Sno-Bliz and though I was wary at first–“isn’t it just ice and syrup?”–I was quickly won over by the texture of that ice and the intense flavor of that syrup. So imagine my delight and surprise when I learned that over in the old West Village City Bakery space (at 7th Ave. and Charles) a New Orleans-style Sno-Ball place had just opened up, a place called Imperial Woodpecker.
When word spread that Nate Appleman, a chef anointed by the James Beard Foundation and Food & Wine for his San Francisco restaurant A16 (where I ate in 2007), was working at a Chipotle in Chelsea, the food world was incredulous.
He’d left San Francisco to help open Pulino’s here in N.Y.C. and when that didn’t work out, no one knew what his next move would be. His next move, apparently, was to run a Chipotle in Chelsea.
Last week I decided to take a field trip to Williamsburg.
While working on my book, I did take a weekly sojourn to Park Slope, my old stomping grounds, to grab sushi at Taro and to do work at Gorilla, but I did that because it was comfortable and familiar (and I think Taro has the best, most reasonably priced sushi lunch deal in New York); I also like working at Gorilla, it’s a nice change of pace from my daily West Village routine. But Williamsburg? Williamsburg I know very little about.