The Calorie Count: 3 Great Meals in NYC

As if we needed any more reasons to make reservations in NYC! Our “must go” restaurant list is a long one – and just got longer, thanks to these three memorable meals.

One:

Cookshop has been popping up on my restaurant searches for a long time. Its location on 10th Avenue near the High Line is a beyond our neighborhood “walkable” zone so we haven’t been, but when I made a lunch date with a friend who lives in Chelsea, it seemed the perfect place to meet. It’s not showy but it’s got a great city vibe and a very loyal following.

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Cheerful inside, but clattery loud, we opted for the outside patio on a sunny summer NYC day. Lunch was simple, but don’t roll your eyes when I tell you I had a tuna sandwich. This was the tuna sandwich of all time! It’s all about the food here and every single bite was perfect. The luscious summer tomato, the bun that was infused with flavor rather than air, and the albacore tuna was a cut way above the usual. I’ll be back, especially for those house-made potato chips. Irresistible. I made myself walk the 40 blocks home to make up for them…

Cookshop tuna

Two:

Aria calls itself a Wine Bar but it is much more than that. I’d walked past its inviting rustic wood and glass facade before but didn’t realize that it was a clone of a West Village gem come to gentrify this humble Hell’s Kitchen (51st at 9th Ave.) neighborhood. Thank goodness son Daniel suggested it for a dinner meet-up – it was an instant favorite. It didn’t hurt that it was a perfect summer evening and we scored a prime sidewalk table.

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The basic concept is wine and small plates, but there are plenty of pasta dishes, as well. Let’s just say that none of us left hungry.

Aria small plates

Especially after we shared one of the best panna cottas in recent memory:

Aria panna cotta

Three:

Okay, I saved the best for last.

We were mightily disappointed when Pastis closed down precipitously a few years back. It was the Meat Packing District’s not-quite mirror image of Soho’s Balthazar – both from restaurant wunderkind Keith McNally – and was sorely missed. We were thrilled to hear it had recently re-opened a few blocks away from its original site and made a lunch reservation post-haste.

The new location is on a transitional patch of Gansevoort Street (between Washington and Greenwich Streets) and our first impression was that the new setting lacked the charm of the old one. Our remembrance of things past was that the “old” Pastis had an airy garden graciousness to it while this one feels a bit more like a bustling train station.

Silly us.

Within a few minutes, we were enveloped by the ineffable Pastis magic. Amazing food. Perfect service. Fabulous people-watching. Everyone at ease, and an appealing din, the soothing hum of table-to-table conversations. The two women sitting next to us all but helped themselves to my Paté de Campagne, which was studded with delectable little shards of roasted pistachios. It was brilliant! As was the signature Charentes Collins:

Pastis charentes collins

So many wonderful choices on the menu, but for our inaugural visit there was no choice but to order the Steak Frites. Divine.

Pastis steak frites

No sooner had we decided to share a Creme Brûlée than a manager sent over an order of sorbet. We took a long walk on the High Line after lunch to repent. It was all absolutely worth it. The new Pastis instantly climbed to our “top 5” list of favorite NYC restaurants.

Pastis dessert

Goodbye to all that for now – summer in the city is coming to an end, but we’re looking forward to a restaurant reprise when we return in the fall. Love, love, love NYC.

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Calorie Count: The Usual Suspects

“So what did you do in NYC”?

*thinks*

“Well, let’s see. We went to lunch. We went to dinner…”

*awkward silence*

Of course, that’s not all we did. There might have been a breakfast in there somewhere. Just kidding! Oh, we went to a play, to a cabaret performance, we went to a Yankees game, we went to our beloved Met, we walked the High Line, we walked Central Park, we walked and we walked and we walked.

(To and from a lot of restaurants, actually.)

In ten years of part-time New York-ing, we have assembled a list of “must-go” restaurants. We are unapologetic creatures of habit. Each trip, our official first lunch must be at Bergdorf-Goodman’s BG Restaurant and this one was especially sweet since Angie and Randy left us a Bergdorf gift card after their recent stay at the apartment. Thanks,  guys!

This visit, I sampled their Slow-Cooked Duck Dumplings with a side of Snap Peas, Haricots Verts and Roasted Toy Box Tomatoes:

Bergdorf dumplings

If it’s Sunday, we have brunch at Jean-Georges’ Nougatine. It’s a better value for lunch Monday-Friday because of the terrific three-course prix fixe  but the CE cannot be swayed from his Sunday routine: church at Redeemer UWS, walk home from 83rd Street, and then brunch. Oh well, may as well enjoy it. I had the Veal Milanese:

Nougatine Milanese

My non-negotiable is Balthazar. Maybe it’s not the best steak frites in town (we’ll get to that next week…) but it’s just my favorite restaurant in the city. We always have a great time there. Maybe because of the Pavlova:

Balthazar pavlova

Call us crazy, but we routinely walk two miles across Central Park for our Beyoglu fix. Yes, there are other Turkish restaurants nearby, but to us, the unassuming (and affordable!) Beyoglu is in a class by itself. Grub Street agrees; they include it along with restaurant Daniel and Vaucluse in their list of the Absolute Best Restaurants on the Upper East Side. Favorite secret menu item: the Mixed Grill:

Beyoglu

Another “affordable” (always a relative term in NYC…) mainstay is The Smith at Lincoln Square. It’s really, really loud inside, but when the weather is nice, you can dine on the patio and watch the people (and buses) go by on Broadway. My new favorite is the Salmon Tartare:

Smith salmon roll

Not usually on the “affordable” list is Café Boulud, but they turned July’s restaurant week into restaurant month and were serving a ridiculously reasonable lunch prix fixe at $26 for two courses and $32 for three. The restaurant was understandably packed the day we went and while we missed the usual sedate ambiance, we couldn’t argue with Tomato Gazpacho, Roasted Pork Loin and Watermelon Vacherin all for the price you’d pay for a decent hamburger in other UES restaurants.

An easy cab ride down Fifth Avenue after a morning at The Met is La Goulue. It wasn’t very crowded the day we went, maybe because the cognoscenti were all in the Hamptons, or maybe because nearby Barney’s has filed for bankruptcy and the ladies who shop are shopping elsewhere. Or perhaps it was the construction din on 61st Street that kept diners away from the restaurant’s charming sidewalk tables. None of these factors kept me from enjoying the Linguini Façon Carbonara et Truffes d’été:

La Goulue

We couldn’t leave the city without a last lunch at Estiatorio Milos at Hudson Yards, with its spectacular view of The Vessel. Recognizing us from previous visits, the eminently hospitable manager had the “Milos Special” delivered to our table. Caution: this is addictive! Lightly fried zucchini, eggplant, tzatziki and kefalograviera cheese — in other words, it’s heaven on a plate:

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So now you see why we must stay in the city for two weeks – otherwise there’s no opportunity to try new restaurants. Next post: a trio of new finds!

 

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Just a moment(s).

Hunting and pecking is just fine for chickens but not so great for typing, so I’ll keep it brief. Arm still very much broken, back still very much sprained. But NYC has a way of transcending such piffling annoyances.

The real New Yorkers busy themselves elsewhere during summer’s leafy denouement, but we are reveling in it. The days murmur past, rolling by in stately lassitude, but moments find a corner of memory. A few, briefly:

A cheery window table at Nougatine:

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They knocked it out of the park! Yankees swept the Red Sox:

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Dinner at Balthazar with the kiddo (and cast artfully concealed:-)

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Caught in a downpour on the UES that ebbed mercifully just as we were passing The Frick where these thirsty hydrangeas sipped and preened:

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Finally saw the sweet “Come From Away” on Broadway with Daniel and Freddy and afterwards dined ever so fashionably late. At home we’re in jammies by 9 pm; here we were just sitting down to a plate of pasta!

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A blessedly uncrowded Friday afternoon stroll on the High Line after everyone else seemed to have left town for the weekend:

Way way back when, I half contemplated a half job offer in the city but of course reality and life (and the CE!) set a different path for me. Better late than never. And there are signs that NYC was waiting for me all along 🙂

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Good morning NYC.

Arm still broken, so can’t much type.

Back still sprained, so can’t much sit.

Three hours sleep, so can’t much think.

Almost worth it for this beauty of a sunrise.

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Try again next week…

Is  it too early for a nap?

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Just add chicks!

Ran into neighbors the other day who were lamenting their dwindling flock of chickens. When you have just a handful of hens and no rooster and you live in an area where hawks patrol daily and coyotes prowl by night, flock attrition is an ongoing concern.

Our neighbors had had a broody hen but didn’t know she was the solution to their quandary. They spent days “breaking” her broodiness – intervening to re-set her hormones essentially by lowering her body temperature – when it turns out they could have put her to work building their flock. A broody hen is to a flock what sourdough starter is to bread – a small, homely miracle!

How to know if your hen is broody? Oh, you’ll know. She hunkers down on the nest, looking a bit bedraggled, refusing to leave or even eat. She tears out her breast feathers and is especially warm to the touch there – in other words, she is preparing to be an incubator. And she is crabby! Her vocalization changes to strings of low muttering clucks and she’ll growl and curse all day long at anyone who approaches.

Broody Bella:

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The “professionals” – i.e. the lady at our feed store – advise waiting a full three weeks before giving chicks to a broody. We’ve fudged that to two weeks in the past because our Bella is a proven broody. So proven, in fact, that we gave it barely a thought this time around. All we needed was a couple of chicks, a small cardboard box and a heat lamp for a few hours, a bag of  starter-grower feed (chicks can’t take the calcium in layer feed) and we were set. Slip the chicks under the broody during the night and voila! By next mid-morning, they were bonded enough to start using Bella as a jungle gym. And see how Bella has already perked up from her broody malaise here, looking proud and content:

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The technical term is “grafting” baby chicks onto a broody hen. But it’s not technical at all, really. We were just making a hopeful mama happy. The next day we moved the little  trio from the nesting counter to the ground, where Bella could start showing them the ropes of coop life. She patiently demonstrated the rudiments of pecking and scratching:

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And two days later, she confidently marched them out of the coop to the real world!

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What about the other hens? Are they a threat to the babies? Not with battle-ax Bella as the mom. All it takes is a little side-eye from Bella and they give her and her chicks a wide berth. Harmony reigns.

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A mama hen who knows what she’s doing is vastly superior to a pair of inept humans trying to hand-raise chicks for weeks indoors in a brooder with a blazing heat lamp. No comparison. These babies are happy and healthy and out and about at less than a week old!

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Other than “baby proofing” the pen – tiny chicks can almost literally slip through the cracks – and revising our mental hen “head count” from five to seven, there’s nothing for us to do but watch the fun. My favorite part of the day is going in to check on everyone at dusk and listening to the soft peeps of the chicks as they nestle beneath Bella to go to sleep for the night. Life is good, and life with chickens is even better.

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A new chicken chapter.

Because things weren’t complicated enough with a new puppy and a broken arm, right? Life must go on, and Bella was broody. How broody? This broody:

And once Bella goes broody, she goes fiercely, stubbornly, decidedly, indubitably broody. She sits on those golf balls in the nest 24/7, hunkered down and willing them to hatch. We thought it over and decided it would not be a bad idea to “salt” the flock. Ginger is getting a bit long in the tooth at six years old, and Bella, Nugget and Ava are going on four. June is two, but nothing to write home about as a layer, so why not give Bella a couple of buns in the oven?

Not so fast. I discovered that it’s almost impossible to acquire baby chicks in California right now due to a Newcastle’s Disease quarantine. Newcastle’s is a virulently contagious respiratory disease that has decimated flocks in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The good news is that there are signs that the outbreak may be contained by this fall. The bad news is that in keeping with the quarantine, the USPS, which flock keepers have depended on for more than a hundred years to deliver live chicks, is not currently delivering baby chicks to California zip codes. So, for the moment: no rooster, no chicks.

But then I heard whispers through the chicken grapevine that a local feed store was going to do a gonzo drive to a northern California hatchery and return with a load of day-old chicks. Limited numbers, and limited breeds, but it would do. They arrived yesterday afternoon and we headed over to pick up two little peepers.

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“They’re pretty stressed from the drive”, said the feed store manager. But fragile as they might seem, these little girls are resilient. We settled them in with a heat lamp and soon they were happily eating and drinking.

Under cover of darkness, we slipped them under broody Bella’s wings last night, hoping for the best. There’s always that chance that a broody hen will reject the chicks, so I crept into the coop with just a bit of trepidation this morning. By the light of day, Bella discovered that those golf balls had turned into fluff balls!

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So far, so good. Bella is already clucking gently to them and admonishing them to stay underneath her fluffy warm tent of feathers. We’ve decided to name the little girls (we hope – 90% guarantee of females but there’s always that tiny margin of error…) after two of our favorite authors. The little Salmon Faverolles on the left is Willa, and the Buff Orpington (just like her mama) is Edith. Welcome, little ones!

 

“Where there is great love, there are always miracles.”

                                                                                                      — Willa Cather

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Jail bird?

Q: Why did the chicken cross the courtroom?

A: Because Maurice, the rooster, is on trial – for being a rooster!

Until recently, Maurice lived peacefully in the French island village of Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron with his three French hens and devoted flock keeper Corinne Fesseau.

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But feathers have been ruffled. A couple from Limoges who have made their holiday retirement nest nearby are calling fowl on Maurice’s morning “song”.

Residents of the otherwise sleepy village on France’s western coast northwest of Bordeaux are brooding over the contretemps, which recently brought Maurice and his accusers into the courtroom.

Local sentiment may be in Maurice’s favor; after all le coq gaulois is France’s national symbol. It is the emblem of the country’s football team and for centuries has graced buildings, coins, weather vanes, furniture and ceramics.



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“A rooster needs to express himself,” says Ms. Fessau, and tens of thousands of her countrymen agree, having signed a petition in support of Maurice’s right to his song. According to The New York Times, even local mayor Christophe Sueur says “the rooster must be defended!”

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A verdict is not expected until September, which gives everyone plenty of time to stew over the issue.

Meanwhile, the Polloplayer hens do not have the luxury of a rooster, which keeps the neighbors happy but does present a challenge for sustaining the flock: without a rooster, how do you get baby chicks? Tune in next week – we may have something to crow about!

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