PrettyFood & Attitude: DavidBurke & Donatella

“She sits at the Ritz with her splits of mums

and starts to pine for a stein with her village chums

but with her shlitz in her mits down in Fitzroy’s bar

she thinks of the Ritz–oh

It’s so schitzo!”

– Stephen Sondheim, “Uptown/Downtown” cut from “Follies”

The uptown-downtown dynamic in New York is palpable. Never before have I considered myself a downtown guy, but surely I’m not an Uptown Girl. Chelsea (where I live) seems a perfect mix of the two: you have men in suits riding up and down the elevators, but you also have facial piercings, pink hair and tattoos (don’t show your mother). Chelsea is a fusion of uptown and downtown, but mostly downtown and I think that’s why I like it.

Uptown, of course, there can be manifestations of the downtown edge. Like performance artists in Central Park or the challenging Broadway show, uptown maintains some sense of integrity. But, of course, delegates at the RNC stayed uptown, and protesters lived downtown. My parents who arrived Thursday night and are staying uptown were hassled by a protester standing outside their hotel yelling: “Goodbye Republicans! Time to go home!”

DavidBurke & Donatella is located on the Upper East Side and I always imagined it as a bastion of downtown cool in a sea of uptown slickness. The promise of “angry lobster” on a bed of nails and a white limo parked outside for smokers seemed strokes of downtown genius. And in many ways the food was genius. But, sadly, it was the uptown slickness that dominated and made our meal a little less than cozy. Dreams were shattered last night at DavidBurke & Donatella.


Two quick things in their defense:

1) We made our reservation at the last minute and they accomodated us.

2) We urged them to change our 9:30 timeslot (very late for us for dinner) to something earlier and they accomodated us again with a 9 pm bump. We owed them thirty minutes of gratitude.

But then there was our table. Our table sucked. A tight round table in a corner (“No one puts baby in a corner”) by the stairs beneath the bar and away from the main room where the VIPs ate. The main room looked lush and exciting. Our room was rather drab. Dad was pinned to a wall by the stairs and I was sandwiched between a column and the bussing station. Mom looked shadowy in the darkened slot she squeezed herself in.

Mom then, of course, pestered the hostess for a table change and the hostess was a bit condescending and told us it would be more than an hour. Strangely, a pair of women who entered without a reservation were led to the main room right away. A Studio 54 appetizer, anyone?

Good news, though, loyal readers of this site. For those that wonder why it is that I photograph every course of every meal I eat and post it up here, the reason is that I believe the visual component to be one of the essential components of the meal. This isn’t novel: chefs spend a great deal of time on plating. And, therefore, I feel like I get to share–vicariously–an essential aspect of our dining experience with you. It’s like you’re right there with us.

But the good news here is that the plating was the star component of our meal. A freak show of novelties made their way across the table, and so what if the tastes were unexceptional (everything tasted fine, but nothing moved us to tears)—everything looked beautiful.

Look how the bread is served—a pop-over in a mini-copper skillet:


An amuse bouche of mashed chickpeas, yogurt and mint:


Tuna and salmon tartare:


Angry lobster on a bed of nails: (click to see it bigger) (and here the flavor was extraordinary):


And my personal favorite in terms of presentation: scrambled eggs with lobster, creme fraiche and caviar served in a broken OSTRICH EGG on a sea of peppercorns:


(Do you think they recycle the peppercorns? That’s so wasteful!)

(But this was definitely the best appetizer in terms of flavor–we all fought over it.)

As for entrees, I had the duck:


Mom had the lambchops:


Dad had the salmon:


All of which were fine but nothing becoming their revered status or hefty price. I wonder if DavidBurke was away for Labor Day? Maybe Donatella has a cold.

The desserts were, though, quite beautiful.

Mom had something with chocolate and marshmallows:


And I had the butterscotch panna cotta voted one of the city’s best desserts in New York Magazine:


Delicious, true, but nauseatingly sweet. I couldn’t finish it and I love dessert.

By this time of the night, the bar was teeming with leery gray-haired men and buxom plasticized blondes yapping loudly. At a table around the corner a woman threw back her head in laughter: “HAR HAR HAR HAR.” The bus station (which was right over my shoulder) allowed for me to pick up sly comments from the waiter complaining about the guests to the bus boy. The two hostesses looked like they hated each other. A woman at the bar on the tier above us held her drink precariously over mom’s head. Dad paid the check and we left.

A Scary, Posh, Sporty, Gingery Lunch at Spice Market, Baby

I love manipulating my parents. Originally, we were going to dine uptown at Fresco’s for lunch. “Maybe we’ll see Katy Couric again,” said my dad eagerly. Since I knew celebrities were the draw, and since I was less than impressed on our last outing to Fresco’s I said: “You’ll see twice the celebrities at Spice Market. It’s the hottest spot in New York.”

This wasn’t really a lie. Spice Market IS one of the hottest spots in New York right now. However, much of that “hotness” occurs at night, not for lunch. And also it’s Labor Day weekend so most big shots are out of town. But, on the other hand, this allowed us to get a 1 pm reservation. We showed up a bit before then and walked around the meatpacking district. I think my parents enjoyed it–quite a change of pace from their posh (*=count up all the Spice Girl references in this review and win a free Spice Girls CD retrieval from your CD collection, free of charge) confines uptown.

So we gingerly made our way over to the brown and white open-aired cafe on the corner of 13th and 9th:


Now you may remember the scary hullabaloo that surrounded Amanda Hesser when she gave Spice Market 3 stars after which it was revealed that she was friends with the chef. Well I am here to tell you, after eating there, that were I judge and jury I would exonerate Amanda immediately: the food at Spice Market is wonderful and quite deserving of three stars.

For starters, there were “lobster rolls”–a sushi-like concoction featuring lobster and fiery mayonaisse:


Then we were brought chips and salsa–which was really a sporty tomato jelly with a kick to it:


The chips were really amazing. Familiar, yes, but so much fresher and tastier than the styrofoam you find at Chili’s. They crumbled with a “posh” in your mouth.

Next up were Vietnamese mushroom spring rolls:


Also quite tasty. It’s as if Jean-Georges (the owner/chef) took Asian street food and gave it an elegant spin. What’s that you say? That’s the whole point? Well sorry, don’t be a baby about it.

[Note: this Spice Girls game is growing irritating, Adam. Can’t you supplant the Spice Girl references with references to other popular all-female bands? Consider it done.]

My mom’s HEART was set on a salad, so we ordered the avocado salad with radishes and mustard and onion tempura on top:


The BANGLES of microgreens on top really gave it an edge.

Now for the entrees—here we GOGOs.

Noodles with shrimp and a spicy tomatoey sauce:


The shrimp were good, the noodles boring and the sauce incredibly hot. (My mouth was on fire). This was my least favorite dish. The only HOLE in an otherwise great meal.

[Ok, I’m quitting this game.]

The steak with cilantro lime topping (I’m getting some of these dishes wrong because I didn’t keep a menu or take notes) was a perfect fusion dish:


The steamed lobster (the priciest dish on the menu) was a little disappointing, but how disappointing can lobster be?


Now then, I made an excursion to the bathroom and soaked in the aesthetics: (sorry for the bad pic):


Sort of like a really classy EPCOT version of Asia. Acutally, it was really quite a beautiful space. Added a lot to the experience.

Finally, there was dessert. The waiter sold me on Vietnamese coffee—something I’d never had:


It was espresso on top of sweetened condensed milk. Very sweet, and therefore right up my alley.

For dessert I chose the one I had read the most about: Thai Jewels.


When this arrived, my dad made me laugh by saying: “It looks like spit. Who would want to eat that?”

He had a good point, but it ends up that I would want to eat that. A lot of it. It’s sort of a milk foam with all sorts of strangely textured fruit and tapioca mixed in on top of coconut ice shavings. This next picture is nasty but it gives you an idea of what lingers beneath the surface:


In conclusion, spice up your life with a meal at Spice Market. It’s what you want what you really really want…

We Built This City (Bakery)

I can be very tentative when it comes to spending money on lunch. I don’t shirk from an expensive sandwich if I’m confident I will enjoy it (see: ‘Wichcraft.) But I will shirk from an expensive salad bar that charges $10 a pound when I know that I have a tendency to load up my plate with 80 pounds worth of salad. Which is why three times, before today, I walked through City Bakery, sniffing along the salad bar, and deciding against it because I knew it’d be way too expensive.

However, today I spotted their chicken wings. I remembered reading the Best of New York issue of New York magazine that City Bakery’s chicken wings were the best in New York. So I grabbed a plate, got three wings and some salad and, on the way to the register, spotted the City Bakery tart book. The book was so beautiful, I threw that in for good measure. And then, since I was buying the book and since they’re famous for their tarts, I bought a tart too. I spent quite a bit of money on lunch.

But first things first. The salad, the wings. The wings were dark and grainy and, actually, not wings at all but legs. It didn’t matter: they were delicious. The seasoning was an Old Bay seasoning which, I believe, usually goes with crab and other sea food. Here it was mixed with what must have been cayenne pepper because there was definite heat to it. But I could see how the combination of flavors render these wings the best in New York. I’d love to have the recipe.

As for the tart, I went with “fruit tart.” It cost $5.50. But, people of the United States of Compassionate Blog Reading, how beautiful does this look?


This goes into the pantheon of favorite pastries ever. The dough itself is the greatest achievement in the history of flour, butter and sugar. It was so delicate, I couldn’t even lift the tart without it seeming to fall apart. It simultaneously crumbles and melts in your mouth. It was tart-shattering.

And the filling—it was a lemon filling and it was a perfect combination of tanginess and creaminess. Plus the fruit itself was marvelous. I’m so glad I bought this book:


The book is pricey ($25) (I told you I spent severe dinero today) but, in my mind, well worth it. To make the tarts you need flan rings. That’s the secret to their shape. Perhaps I’ll buy some after I file Chapter 11.

Flipping through the pages of the book, though, is already a feast for the eyes. My favorite picture is the Ricotta Cheese Tart with Summer Fruits and Flowers:


Doesn’t look so hot in that picture, but trust me it’s a work of art. Fortunately, you can buy the book on Follow this link and help a poor boy buy some flan rings:

Loving New York and Eating Sausage: Lunch at Mandler’s

People are asking me how I like New York so far. The answer is easy: I love it. I’m still giddy every morning when I wake up and peer out the window and feel the world of possibility before me. People tell me this will fade. But I think the likelihood of that happening has nothing to do with New York and everything to do with growing older, jaded, and world-weary. That’s what’s wonderful about New York: it’s like a giant mirror. It reflects back on to you whatever it is your soul projects. That’s why so many artists capture New York in so many different ways. Woody Allen. Martin Scorsese. The Olsen Twins.

However, another New York theory may be available. It focuses on the “New” and not the “York.” It is the “new” that makes this city so vibrant, that causes so many to flock here. Cultivating newness is difficult as a matter of practice. Failure to do so can spoil relationships, diets, vacations, magazine sales, hair styles, and so many other venerable institutions. Which is why newness is such a rare commodity.

New York has newness in spades. Newness in the sense that New York is always at the forefront of trends and fashions but also in the sense that New York is like a present in a package in a box in a bedroom in a mansion in a valley in a spaceship near a Denny’s. Let me start again.

I love New York because every day I discover something new; I could walk forever and still find mystery and magic in the city streets. In New York, newness flourishes because New York is a newness machine. Its settings, its characters, its climates, its smells, its sounds and its colors are always constantly changing. Today alone I saw puppies in a shop window, a strange church near Greenwich village, a lamp shop with lamps made from dental equipment, an old couple jaywalking and Jai Rodriguez. And that’s only a five-hour window.

Anyway (boy, I’m long-winded tonight), of course this newness applies to food. I love leaving my apartment hungry, not knowing where I’ll end up eating. Today I ended up at a place called Mandler’s, near Union Square.


Mandler’s is a sausage place and I’m not much of a sausage eater, but I was feeling adventurous—so in I went. I’m glad I did!

The system works like this. You choose your type of sausage. I chose the most basic: bratwurst. Then you choose your topping: grilled onions and mushrooms or sauerkraut. I chose the former. Finally, you choose your bun: white, whole wheat, onion… I chose white. I’m pretty fly, for a white guy.

Here’s what came out:


Tasty, not too pricey and filling. If you’d have told me when I’d woken up that I’d be eating sausage for lunch I’d say: “Girlfren, you crazy!” But that’s New York for you. I love it.

Take Me To The River (Cafe)

Months ago, mom talked about our River Cafe reservation.

“The weekend after you move to New York, we’re going to the River Cafe for my birthday,” she said. “It’s very special: you should be very excited.”

To be honest, I wasn’t that excited. The only thing I knew about the River Cafe was that Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser eat there every New Year’s Day. Consequently, I attempted to manipulate mom into changing the reservation.

“As long as we’re going for fancy French food,” I’d say, “Why not Alain Ducasse? Daniel? Jean-Georges?”

But mom stayed firm. “Wait until you see the view,” she’d reply.

So we made our way across the Brooklyn Bridge last night (where The River Cafe is located, on the East River) and my arms were folded in skepticism.

“River Cafe,” I grumbled, “More like LIVER Cafe.”

(I like to grumble in non-sensical rhyme).

Soon we were there:


Immediately, upon entering, my icy interior began to melt. The largest cluster of flowers I’d ever seen–literally, a forest of flowers–adorned the lobby. I’d never seen so many flowers in one place and the smell was like a punch of beauty.

We were led to the bar area where we were told to have a drink. Instead, we crept outside and soaked in the view. It was gorgeous.

Luckily, the food was equally gorgeous. We had a genial/helpful waiter who led us capably through the menu. First, though, dad surprised us by channeling a gangsta rapper and ordering a bottle of Cristal for the table. The waiter popped the cork enthusiastically:


The money shot:


Immediately, the taste conjured forth the poetry of our age:

“Cristal forever, play the crib when it’s mink weather / The M.A.F.I.A. keep canons in they Marc Buchanans.” – Notorious B.I.G.

“This fed time outta town pie flipper / Turn Cristal into a Crooked I sipper.” – P. Diddy

“Her name was Lola / She was a showgirl / Sipping Cristal at the bar, Jackie hit her with his car.” – B. Manilow.

Actually, label me unhip, but Cristal left me unimpressed. In a blind-folded taste-test I’d have trouble differentiating it from the stuff they give away for free on cruise ships. Unless they give out Cristal for free on cruise ships, in which case it was pretty good.

Moving on…

The meal started with an intense lobster consomme, served in a mini-mug:


It made me think of a quote from Ruth Reichl’s “Tender At The Bone” concerning her first fancy chicken consomme: “It tasted like a million chickens died to make it.” Same goes for the lobster.

Next was my appetizer of choice: Terrine of Foie Gras with Port and ginger poached plum, spiced almond brittle, brioche melba toast:


I figured since we were fine dining, foie gras was the way to go. And it was! Now I’m starting to really enjoy foie gras (not that it’s a habit I can keep up). I know how inhumane it is–the whole force-feeding ducks until their livers expand 10-fold leaves me feeling queasy, but I’ve yet to work out the ideological issues concerning foie gras so that I can still stuff my face with ethical immunity. The silky, smooth livery foie gras contrasted gorgeously with the plum and the almond brittle. Then the waiter was kind enough to bring out a glass of the suggested paired wine, 2001 Maison Nicolas Reserve Sauternes:


Never before in my brief culinary career has a wine paired so wonderfully with a food: it was like Sauternes was born to chase foie gras down my gullet. I loved it.

Next, the waiter surprised us with a round of free appetizers. Mom had of course bragged that I was the Amateur Gourmet and so the waiter, perhaps, noticing my picture-taking attempted to seduce us with free food. What nerve! To think that I, a respected online food journalist, could be seduced by plates and plates of Buffalo steak tartare?


Did he think I’d notice the quail egg, the Cognac gelee, the traditional garnish, the toast points? Ok, I noticed the quail egg:


See how it’s holding salt? How adorable! What a salty quail that might have produced.

There was also a special appetizer of roast suckling pig ragu and foie gras ravioli:


Look for me at the gym this week, strapped ceaselessly to a treadmill at 10-speed. Just the appetizers alone shortened my life by three years. (Though, despite the fact that she’s dead, isn’t it remarkable that Julia Child spent her life eating fatty buttery French food and lived to be 92? Perhaps I’ll skp that treadmill after all.)

For my entree I chose the duck. I love duck, it’s one of my favorite entrees.


This was advertised as “Crispy Duck Breast” and I must confess that it wasn’t very crispy. However, it was tasty paired with fresh Bing cherry “agrodolce” (I don’t know what that means), white asparagus spears, duck confit-potato cake, and foie gras sauce. Wow, I ate a lot of foie gras last night. (Liver Cafe indeed!)

For dessert, of course another candle for mom whose actual birthday moment had come:


Happy Birthday mom!

And look at her dessert: a chocolate Brooklyn Bridge.


I went with a plum/apple tart that was indeed delicious:


The waiter gilded the Lily with free summer berry pudding:


Plus there were little treats at the end that I, the eternal treat-eater, couldn’t even stomach. I was stuffed to the gils. Thank God that was my last meal with my parents! I need this week to deflate.

As for the River Cafe, resistence is futile. It’s a beautiful–perhaps the most beautiful–New York dining spot. The only place my dad says came close is no longer there: the Windows on the World at the top of the World Trade Center. Actually, I must say that since I’ve arrived to New York the absence of the World Trade Center in the skyline is as present as any of the real buildings still there. I grew up drawing the twin towers in my juvenile attempts at a skyline, and staring at the lower tip of Manhattan from the River Cafe one does feel a sense of loss. But then one turns inside and sees the gleaming faces, the shimmering water reflected in the windows and one knows that New York–wounded so greatly three years ago–is still very much a live, magical city. Bravo, River Cafe.

Feed Me Amadeus: Dinner at Wolfgang’s

It pains me to post these pictures, not because of incriminating content or the caddle prod I’m sitting on, but because the thought of food disgusts me right now. That is the effect of a visit from my parents: they suck my will to eat.

Ugh, food. I hate it. How do we eat so much of it? I never want to see it again, much less blog about it. From now on this blog will focus solely on obscure show tunes. Who prefers “Ah But Underneath” to “Lucy and Jessie” in Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies”?


Ok ok, so last night we went with the R family to the new go-to steakhouse in Manhattan, Wolfgang’s. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of Wolfgang’s: the head waiter at Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn (one of the premiere steakhouses in the United States) deflected and opened his own place. That place is Wolfgang’s. We ate there.


The R family brought along their sons, Andrew and Jeffrey, one of whom actually had eaten at Luger’s. So he had a frame of reference.


(Guy in pink shirt is our frame of reference.)

Right away, Andrew pointed out the differneces. “Luger’s is a real steakhouse,” he said, “there’s sawdust on the floor.”

I dropped a fork to look for sawdust. No luck.

Instead, we were presented with a basket of bread:


I love eggy onion rolls loaded with butter. No wonder I hate food right now.

Anyway, the acoustics in Wolfgang’s were awful. See, there was this tiled ceiling:


It was indeed beautiful. But the effect was to carry strange conversations across the room without any evidence of their source. I overheard one girl say something along the lines of: “He doesn’t call me? Fuck him.” I immediately whipped out my cell phone and called her. She didn’t answer. Fuck her.

Now then, the real glue that binds our family and the R family together is the bond between mom and the R matriarch, Stephanie:


Mom and Stephanie met when we lived in Oceanside, NY (where I grew up for 11 years). The Rs were our across the street neighbors. Mom used to watch Andrew ride his tricycle; and Stephanie used to marvel at how early mom put me to bed.

“It’s 6 pm,” she’d say, “and he’s already asleep?”

It is the stuff of legend.

You know how good writers can weave disparate elements into a solid piece?

The salad and appetizers arrived. I ordered the Wolfgang’s salad which consisted of shrimp and bacon (really thick, squares of bacon) on a wedge of iceberg lettuce:


It was pretty tasty. Jeffrey got the raw oysters:


I’d never had a raw oyster, so I tried one. “Let it slide down your throat,” offered Jeffrey. I did. It tasted like what it looked like, which wasn’t entirely bad. The cocktail sauce helped. (I couldn’t help but remember the Punky Brewster episode where she’s adopted by really rich people and, in an attempt to eat an oyster, it slips down her shirt. Is it any coincidence that years later, Soleil Moon Frye had breast reduction surgery? Oysters are like breast fertilizer. No wonder they’re an aphordisiac.)

No one goes to Peter Luger’s and/or Wolfgang’s for the oysters or the salads or the camraderie. They go for the meat. Big, heaping plates of meat. Apparently, the process is complex enough to launch its own Da Vinci code. Suffice it to say, there’s aging involved. And cows. Many, many cows.

The waiter urged us (forcefully so) to share the Porterhouse. Since everyone was fussy about how we liked it cook, only Jeffrey and I were sympatico enough to share and order it Medium:


Look at that plate! So hot, in fact, that the waiter serving the steak would lift a piece and then press it on the plate’s edge causing it to sizzle and sear. He offered to pour some juice from the plate on top. I gave in.

The meat tasted terrific. Was this the placebo effect? Ya know—tell someone something is something and they’ll believe it. “This medicine will cure you” (and it’s a tic-tac.) “This beef is the best in the world” (and it’s nuclear cow). Maybe. But the flavor was complex and rich. The texture was tender and just chewy enough. And though it’s slightly sacrilege to pour steak sauce on the plate when eating world class steak, I thought I’d try Wolfgang’s signature sauce. Unfortuantely, the sauce thought it would try me and came pouring out with intense conviction. My plate was soon coated. No matter—I built a dam with potatoes and all was well.

So the steak gone what else was there?

“At Luger’s,” explained Andrew, “they have this dessert called Schlagg.”

“What’s Schlagg?” I pressed.

“It’s basically whipped cream,” he answered. “But better.”

Could my stomach hold any more? Why did it still feel like there was room? Was this a trick of the mind?

Didn’t matter because it’s mom’s birthday and we ordered a sundae with a candle.


Then we ordered more sundaes. The sundaeshad Schlagg. The Schlagg was delicious. I felt like I might die:


To say I was stuffed is like saying G. Gordan Liddy is bald. I was beyond bald. I mean stuffed. I insisted on walking home. (Granted, it was only 6 blocks).

And while my Wolfgang’s experience was incredibly delicious, there was discontent regarding the service. M, the R family dad, ordered several things that were never brought. Cappucino and cake, for example. And the waiter was pretty absent–our meal took three hours. Some of the dishes came out faster than others, so some were eating while others weren’t. And water glasses went frequently unfilled.

Some say that’s the legacy of Peter Luger’s too. Jaded world-weary waiters. Fair enough. Service is an area that a young restaurant can improve upon. The food’s where it counts, and the food was great. Too great, in fact. It’s forced me into retirement. Now on to mom’s birthday dinner…

Family Powerlunch at The Four Seasons, Or “I Can’t Believe Food That Mediocre Costs That Much!”

My parents and brother came in to town last night because it’s my mom’s birthday tomorrow (yikes! I better get a card) and, of course, to see my new apartment. We ate last night at Fresco’s which was decent and mostly tasty, but not worth blogging about since I blogged about it last time we were there. Actually last night’s dinner was just ok. I think I drank a little too much wine, which is always dangerous with my parents. I began lambasting them on political issues. My dad responded, “It’s a free country.”

Today mom called in the morning and told me to dress sharp because we were going to The Four Seasons for lunch. Now mom and dad had been there once before and had a fulfilling meal which, for them, means they saw their fair share of celebrities. Mario Cuomo, for example. Nowadays I pray that we won’t see celebrities when we go out because the process is so embarassing. (Case in point.) Alas, I had nothing to worry about—it may be summer, but inside the Four Seasons it was winter. Meaning: it was dead.


Outside the Four Seasons, it was pouring:


We came inside with wet umbrellas and checked them with the coat check. We made our way up a flight of stairs and we were greeted by a genial host. The space in the Four Seasons is two-tiered: the ground level is for VIPs, and the upper level is for people who like looking at VIPs. However, because it was so dead in there today we were seated in the VIP section.

This meant little for my brother and I, who were facing a wall. Mom and dad faced inward and scanned the room for familiar faces. There were none.

“Is that John Kerry’s daughter?” I offered, twisting my neck 180 degrees.

“No,” said my dad.

“Ok,” I said, twisting back. “I give up.”

The place was very woody and reminded me of a wing of a museum not often visited: stuffy, quaint. Over the bar was a giant wooden mobile that was pretty cool. Mom and dad sipped wine and enjoyed the ambience.


Michael and I attempted to broker a deal. He was all smiles, I was dead serious:


As you can see in the picture, I am holding a menu. When I finally set upon the task of reading its contents, my head unleashed itself and spun a full 360 degrees. My God! The prices!

“Holy expletive!” I said. “It’s so expensive!”

“Tell your mother,” grumbled my dad.

“Oh Brad stop,” she replied. “You won’t be complaining if a celebrity walks in.”

No celebrity walked in. And to be honest, it didn’t seem very likely they would. Instead, rich white men walked in with other rich white men and sat at tables with leather-bound books in front of them, calculators and Blackberries. Serious conversations ensued. I felt like I was back in law school.

As for the menu, I settled on what I thought sounded like tasty dishes. First, prosciutto and melon:


It may look tasty, but considering how much it cost and how little flavor there was it wasn’t tasty: it was wasty. That’s the word to be coined for The Four Seasons: wasty food.

Like this $42 lobster salad. You heard me right. $42:


The rare exception was my dad’s tomato and mozzarella salad which dad photographed poorly:


Pretty presentation, indeed. But worth $25? I don’t think so.

Sometimes food IS worth that much money. William Grimes wrote a great piece a few months ago in the New York Times justifying the expense of great sums for great food. I agree—great food is worth great moolah. Great food can be the greatest of spiritual drugs—some forkfuls are worth weeks in Maui or years of therapy. But The Four Seasons is no such place. The Four Seasons is an outrage–a facade of fine dining with a heftier pricetag. Our lunch for four at The Four Seasons cost more than dinner for two at Charlie Trotter’s. As we all know, I was less than keen on my Charlie Trotter’s meal, but I’d sell my soul to Charlie Trotter to avoid another meal at The Four Seasons. At least Charlie has integrity: I’ll take my powerlunches in Chicago from now on, thank you.

If You’re In The Neighborhood: Dinner at Cola’s (148 8th Ave)

&otIf my posts seem hasty tonight, that’s because I really have to pee but I’m scared to get up and (a) lose my chair (it’s crowded in here), or (b) lose my stuff if I leave it in the chair to reserve it only to have someone steal it. Welcome to New York.

[Ok, ok, the Welcome to New York gag is getting old. Welcome to New York.]

Last night, my friend JC was in town en route to Yale where he’ll be studying religion and art in the fall. Lisa and I met up with him and we caroused a bit, breaking beer bottles and tormenting children until we stumbled across a place on (wouldyabelieveit?) 8th Ave. called Cola’s.


Almost immediately, we were presented with bread and a white bean/olive oil/garlic concoction. It was delicious:


So delicious, in fact, that we all began feeling incredibly photogenic. “Photograph me!” cheered JC. I did.


“Photograph me!” Lisa and I cheered. JC did.


The service at Cola’s was remarkable. Every time a water glass began to empty it was immediately refilled. The bread and bean stuff was constantly replenished: man COULD have dined on bread alone.

The host/waiter man was incredibly accomodating and endured (or perhaps even enjoyed) the following dialogue with Lisa, who pondered the artichoke ravioli on the specials menu:

Lisa: Now this artichoke ravioli…

Waiter: Yes…

Lisa: Is it just like a piece of artichoke in ravioli?

Waiter: Yes.

Lisa: So there’s nothing else in there, like cheese or anything?

Waiter: Right, just the artichoke.

Lisa: Ok. Now sometimes when I order ravioli you get a big bowl of ravioli, is this a big bowl of ravioli? Or is just a few pieces of ravioli on a big plate?

Waiter: It’s a big bowl of ravioli, I’d say.

Lisa: What kind of sauce does it come with?

Waiter: It’s a pink sauce.

Lisa: Ok. And how much is it? It doesn’t say on here.

Waiter: It’s $14.95.

Lisa: Oh wow, that’s way out of my range. I’ll have the penne with tomato sauce.

I ordered pasta bolognese and all the food came out quite promptly. Here’s mine:


You can see JC’s in the background (who ordered the same thing as Lisa) and we all scarfed down quite gladly. Was it the best we’ve ever had? No; but it was perfect for the moment. And that’s the thing: there are places you should go out of your way to eat in (Babbo, for example) and other places that are great if you happen to be in the neighborhood and you’re hungry. This one’s the latter. So if you’re at a gay porn shop or watching a Tango show and you’re hungry, why not get some pasta? Cola’s is the place.