30 Apr Let’s Eat-New York
We are here, in New York, for the final All Star Game at Yankee Stadium. That is the specific reason we are in New York. As important as that is, we can’t go right to The Stadium. We could only walk around outside, and that, even for me, would not take three days. We are here for seven days, and I have to attempt to eat my way through New York for a couple of those days first. The hot dog eating contest at Coney Island is two weeks past and I was not there. I will do my best, to at least qualify for next year with my Yankees Stadium consumption of that product, but first, indoor New York dining.
A friend meets us in New York. She, like us, has also journeyed from Southern California. I think the last time she was here, Nixon was in the White House (She is not that old, it is just a reference point). She is skeptical of all we have told her of New York. She does not believe the food can be as good as we say, the people as nice as we say they are. (Why would I lie about those things?) She knows restaurants, so it is not like we can just take her to some obscure place, lie and tell her Zagat’s has rated it off-the-chart, though that can happen. She know her stuff. I hope one day, I can know my stuff. Any stuff.
One of the difficulties of having so much to choose from, is where to start. We have to start somewhere, so we choose to start the day at The King Cole Bar, at the St. Regis Hotel. As we enter the bar, the Barman says the nicest thing a Barman can say:
That has such a fine ring to it, when walking into a bar. They did invent the Bloody Mary here, so maybe it will take some of the sting out of yesterday’s cross-country, late arrival flight. Couldn’t hurt. Oddly enough, it does not hurt.
We don’t spend a lot of time here, we have a lunch reservation at The Four Seasons Restaurant (the Restaurant, not the hotel) and this is not to be missed. I don’t want to be late and risk losing this valuable appointment. We always have lunch here, whenever we are in New York. If you have not had the pleasure of the experience, go call them, see if you can get in, then get on a plane and go eat there. I don’t care where you live.
If you live in New York and haven’t eaten at the Four Seasons, you should be ashamed of yourself. Jacket required for gentlemen, they have one for you if you don’t have one. (This freaks people out who are from out of town.) Make sure you look at everything in the place when you come in here. Look at the sculpture hanging above the bar (it looks like a million pipes came together for a convention and stayed together after the group photo was completed). Look at how high the ceilings are and try to think of someplace you have dined that has ceilings this high. You probably will have trouble thinking of anyplace you were where the ceilings are that high.
Look at the curtains and see if they don’t make you feel like you have been sitting beside a peaceful stream somewhere (they look like metal chain mail, and they move ever so gently and reflect and refract some calming colors. How do they do that?). Look at the pool in the Pool Room and wonder why they didn’t put tables there instead. Look at the pool again after you have been here awhile and see that this question will disappear. There is a pool in the middle of the room. Well, this is not normal for anywhere, certainly not New York. They have placed trees, and decorate them depending on the season, around it. (They could get a lot more people in here, were the pool not in here, but the trees and the water, the lighting of the pool, just seem to make you forget about anything that might be bothering you).
Look around the room and see if there is not someone that you recognize from somewhere, but cannot quite place where. Look at the largest Picasso you will ever see. (I think it was used as a curtain for a play in Spain, so that is not just an ordinary thing and it had to have take ten people to hang it.) It now hangs on the wall in the crossover space, between the Grill Room and the Pool Room).
There is more than just the looking at this fine place. By the time you get around to looking at the menu, not because it takes long for the staff to get the menu to you, which it doesn’t, but because your heart rate has slowed considerably since you walked in the door and you can feel time being added back onto your life expectancy. That is worth all the looking.
If you cannot find something on this menu that intrigues you, you probably should have gotten something off of the street vendor out on Park Avenue before you came here, and just kept walking. It is a delight and I can never believe I am eating here when I am eating here (I fooled them again, and they let me in). Bison Carpaccio (sliced delicately thin, drizzled with the best olive oil I have ever had, some fine parmesan and arugula), Heirloom Tomatoes with Peaches the combination makes you think they have a Garden Room growing their own produce), Soft Shelled Crabs (they never seem to be able to swim or crawl all the way to Southern California, so I always take advantage of their placement on a menu), Dover Sole (you know it is fish, but it is so light they probably have to weight it down to keep it from floating off the plate, with just a hint of a crunch). We received an extra treat at the endCotton Candy. When was the last time you had cotton candy at one of the finest restaurants in the country? When was the last time you had Cotton Candy at any restaurant? They call it “Marie Antoinette’s Hair.” It is the largest gathering of Cotton Candy I have ever seen. It looks like a pink, maybe some blue cumulonimbus, it is that big. What else do you need? An amazing dining experience and this is a great stop on my trek to Yankee Stadium. No, we are not walking to Yankee Stadium, but we still need to be strong to ride the subway in a few days, and I can think of nothing better than what has been served to us at this magnificent place.
It is a Friday and we are in great spirits to begin with, and the fantastic staff here just make it all the better (I mean, they brought us Cotton Candy, for gosh sakes. How could you not feel good with that?). We meet one of the partners of the restaurant. He has been here thirty years, I think. He knows everyone in New York. He could not have been more cordial and made us feel like we were friends in his home, delighting us with so many stories I would need a lot more space to attempt to try to tell you here.
Well, there were, of course, more culinary excursions. I can tell you that you should go to BLT Market, Trattoria Del Arte and Bar Americain. These places gave us quite the meals. The Prosciutto from Iowa at BLT Market (I ordered this previous and liked it so much I called the company and sent it to my friends and relatives last holiday). This is part of the BLT group and a wonderful place. They replaced a stuffy restaurant, who’s name I purposely forgot, at the Ritz on Central Park South. BLT Market is a much better fit and more in-step with the wonderful staff and unparalleled hospitality of this Ritz.The restaurant’s menu taking such a phenomenal grasp of the seasonal specialties that you expect to see the farm trucks parked outside, their contents taken directly from ground to kitchen. They do wash everything.
Go across the street from Carnegie Hall (and we all know how to get to Carnegie Hall…), and stop in to Trattoria Del Arte. You might need reviving, after you see what appears to be the grandest antipasto bar ever. You could make a meal, or six, with just that. Go ahead, have some. The select sauces,Double Pommodoro, for instance just are heavenly. I’m not a food critic, I just like this stuff and like telling you about it. We call it the “Nose Restaurant.” There are other anatomical works of art, on display there, that we could call it, this is just most appropriate. You don’t have room for the canoli, but you had better have it. I want to sleep here and wake-up and eat again. We eat here twice this trip. We did go back and sleep at the Ritz for at least one night.
Go have the Porterhouse Lamb Chops at Bar Americain,.I know my nutritionist tells me lamb is not the best thing for me. Surely she meant some other lamb chops, not these. I have seen the fellow that runs the place on television quite a bit. It is impossible not to notice his high degree of intensity, and at first I thought it might just be for show. Having eaten here, I can tell you that whatever he is, he is one hell of a cook. That intensity translates into the food here always being great. We eat here every time we come to the city and we have never been disappointed.
There are so many other places to eat here that I could write a book (Well, I have written one book, and am almost done with the second one. They are novels, not about food). Our friend has agreed that my wife and I did know some fine spots in New York. She has vowed to return, as do we, to take-on more of this.
The purpose of the sojourn, the swan song of a cathedral of American sports, but great food, is always worth mentioning, certainly worth eating and you most certainly need to eat at these places.