It was really, really cold in New York while we were there. Nothing will make you appreciate Southern California faster than walking down Broadway in 17-degree temperature with the wind in your face. Brrrr!
So we spent a lot of time seeking warmth, which tends to come quite readily in little units of heat known to you skinny people as calories, and to people like me as No! Don’t! Oops, too late…
We started out, as we always do when we first arrive in the city, with lunch at Bergdorf Goodman’s BG cafe. Nothing says NYC like the impeccable Kelly Wearstler-designed BG dining room with a view of Grand Army Plaza toward Central Park.
It’s a ladies-who-lunch place, but that doesn’t stop the CE from joining the fray.
And there is always the rationalization that lunch is the one and only thing we can afford at Bergdorf’s.
Then, of course, we are obligated to check in at Cafe Fiorello, which is one of our neighborhood hangouts
Of course, we like to try new restaurants when we’re in the city, and this trip we enjoyed a fashionably-late dinner with friends at Aldea, a Portugese restaurant downtown (17th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues). The Arroz de Pato came highly recommended.
One of our favorite downtown restaurants is the Union Square Cafe, and we always try to fit in a lunch there while we’re in town. The food is excellent and the service is unfailingly convivial. It was one of those very bitter cold days when we were there, and we had no dinner plans that night so I splurged:
In the dead of winter, one tends to be more thankful than ever for our daily bread, and especially thankful that Le Pain Quotidian has 20+ locations in Manhattan alone. It’s not fancy, but it’s flavorful and filling, and on a bitterly cold winter day, I gratefully sat at their communal table at their 65th and Broadway location to thaw out and enjoy a bowl of Pot au Feu.
We always go to a Broadway play or two while we’re in town, and the ongoing challenge is to find a good restaurant in the theatre district. Other than our modest little Turkish favorite, Akdeniz, (46th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues) we’ve never found a place to which we would consider returning – until now. I finally have a theatre district restaurant to recommend: La Masseria on 48th Street between Eighth Avenue and Broadway.
We were warmly greeted (on a cold and sleety night!) by the friendly staff and seated upstairs in a cozy alcove decorated in a cheerfully rustic farmhouse motif. Our attentive young waiter recited the numerous specials in an authentic Italian accent. My new tactic is to order fish whenever possible to rein in the calories, but the Dover Sole was far too tasty to be considered lean cuisine. The CE pronounced his pasta to be excellent and the few bites I had of the tiramasu we shared for dessert sealed the deal – we will return to La Masseria.
No visit to New York is complete without a visit to the Met and the tony UES. We fortified ourselves for the Matisse exhibit at the Met with lunch at Cafe Boulud (East 76th at Madison), where the food is excellent and the service is genuinely welcoming even to those of us who do not live in the rarefied East 60’s or 70’s. Their Restaurant Week prix fixe lunch was an absolute steal. Another UES side option we discovered on this trip was Bistro Chat Noir (E. 66th between Madison and Fifth) where a typical bistro menu is a welcome sight on a cold day.
Our favorite new UES discovery this trip is The Mark, where we had dinner with friends on a weekend evening. Located in The Mark hotel at Madison and 77th, you enter through the Jacques Grange-designed lobby and weave your way through the bar where the impossibly stylish revelers perch on unlikely but somehow just-right Holstein printed chairs. The restaurant is another Jean-Georges triumph, more of a drawing room vibe than the streamlined Nougatine in our neighborhood, but with a sensible and accessible menu that hits all the right notes.
Of course, no visit to the city passes without paying respects to Jean-Georges at Nougatine, where the lunch prix fixe continues to be one of the best values in town. If you go, order the shrimp salad for your first course:
A new casual dining option in our neighborhood is The Smith on Broadway across from Lincoln Center. The newest of three locations for this boisterous American bistro, The Smith serves good food and attracts a younger (with better hearing) crowd. It’s a nice addition to the pre-theatre options around Lincoln Center, one-upping P.J. Clarke’s and offering a slightly softer price point than Boulud Sud.
One last discovery of this trip was Il Gattopardo on 54th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Just across from the 54th Street entrance to MOMA, this bustling midtown Italian cafe is clearly favored by the locals, which is always a good sign. We had a terrific lunch there and will definitely return.
Our waiter scoffed at us when we demurred on dessert and somehow we ended up sharing the signature pistachio tart:
We’re back home now, where my plan was to subsist for at least the next week on crackers and water. Well, that was the plan, until Ashleigh cooked for us Sunday night. We had Lori and Chadd over to thank them for taking care of all the critters, and Ashleigh wanted to make sure Chadd smiled when he saw dessert.
Chadd loves our animals.
And he loves chocolate:
I believe in signs and wonders, so I’m pretty sure the chocolate tart is an omen that the calories have followed us back from the East Coast to the West. We are clearly being stalked. None of it is my fault: I was just trying to keep warm, right? I’m going to get serious about it and take out a restraining order against everything but hummus and carrot sticks, um, well, right after we go out to lunch…