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I'm a guy who likes to cook, eat, and drink, but not necessarily in that order. This blog is nothing fancy; just my random thoughts about anything that can be baked, roasted, or fried. Enjoy!

Monday, January 13, 2014

“Your Table is Ready” Part 2

© 2013 Chris Terrell
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my recent trip to New York and my “method” for picking the restaurants that I wanted to visit while I was there. This is the second part of that post, in which I reveal the restaurants I visited. There were some unexpected surprises and a serendipitous change of plans.

We arrived on January 1, and being from the South I felt compelled to eat collards and black-eyed peas. This would have required a special trip to Harlem to eat what New Yorkers call “soul food” or “Southern cuisine.” We just call it “food” down here. But alas, we were tired from a late night dinner in Washington, D.C., the night before, so we decided to keep it local. But where? We were staying in a very nice hotel in Midtown. I asked the concierge—an under-used service—who steered us in the right direction.


The best feature of this restaurant is its setting. It is located in the Seagram Building and has been there since the building opened in the late 50s. The atmosphere is right out of Mad Men—very mid-century modern. And if you like martinis with your lunch/brunch, theirs are very good. But caution—they are strong! They would knock Roger Sterling on his ass!

P. J. Clarke’s

For dinner that night, we wanted to keep it low key. We had enjoyed a late lunch earlier in the day and were not that hungry. So we went to P.J. Clarke’s for some appetizers. I had more than a few Manhattans, so my recollection on what we had may be suspect. We started with the jumbo shrimp cocktail, and when the menu says “jumbo,” they ain’t kiddin’! These things were right out of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea! The culinary highlight of the evening, however, was the parmesan tater tots with smoked ketchup. The tater tots in 10th grade were never like this!

The Modern

©2013 Chris Terrell
For me, no trip to New York is complete without a visit to my favorite museum, The Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA for short. I love MoMA! And a visit to MoMa would not be complete without lunch at The Modern, Danny Meyer’s restaurant next door. The decor exudes a confident, modern sensibility in keeping with its neighbor.  We had a table in the bar area. Shortly after we arrived, however, the real entertainment began. 

She arrived with an oversized Manolo Blahnik bag and equally oversized sunglasses. I wasn’t sure about her age. She appeared to be about 102 but was probably a well-worn 62. She was with a friend, but we would not hear from her, for she would not get a word in edgewise. If I were a casting director for a Woody Allen movie and needed the stereotypical upper East Side New Yorker from central casting, this woman would have been it. With that accent we love to mock and that only New Yorkers can appreciate, she proceeded to talk about a mutual friend who was a “third wheel.” And when dessert arrived, she was emphatic that they should only have “cawfee”. Linda Richman would have been proud!

And they make fun of the way we talk!

Anyway, she was part of the charm of what was a very pleasant lunch. Here’s what we had:

  • Tarte Flambée—Alsatian thin crust tart  with crème fraîche, onion, and applewood-smoked  bacon
  • Red Endive and Arugula Salad with red kuri pumpkin, honey crisp apple and ricotta salata 
  • Cauliflower Soup with roasted hazelnuts, mascarpone,  and white balsamic 
  • Alsatian Country Soup with Benton’s ham and Nantucket Bay scallops 
And then we went to MoMA. Did I tell you that I love MoMA?!


Dinner that evening was at Alder. We arrived just as snow was falling.

© 2013 Chris Terrell

Alder is the little brother to Wylie Dufresnes's well-known and well-regarded restaurant WD-50. The menu takes a creative approach to traditional flavors. This is a small-plates restaurant, which gives one plenty of room to experiment. The bar is creative too. I recommend the ample-sized Burnt Reynolds (rye, smoked vermouth, and Campari). I ordered the rye pasta based on various reviews, and I was not disappointed. It tastes just like a perfect New York pastrami on rye sandwich!

We also had the hanger steak, which was excellent, as well as the french onion soup rings. For desert, we had the root beer pudding, which was wonderful.

 The only complaint I had was the hostess. She seemed like someone you would find at a trendy club, assessing whether you were wearing the right shoes. It was snowing for Pete's sake! I had to wear my sensible shoes that night! 

© 2013 Chris Terrell
This is  me at the beginning of the
Sugar Bowl, full of hope and promise
By the time we left, my desire to walk around New York in the snow was quickly squelched. It was a slow cab ride back to the hotel where I watched Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. I won’t go there! But suffice it to say, it is a wonder I didn’t get thrown out into the cold that night given the colorful language I hurled at the TV

Candle 79

© 2013 Chris Terrell
They may be vegan, but they know
how to make a mean martini!

This was the real surprise of the trip. If you read my previous post, you know all about this place. Candle 79 is a vegan restaurant in the Upper East Side. A wonderful experience of the new. 


Friday night was the theater. We were going to see one of the hottest shows in New York: Pippin. On the night you go to the theater, your options on dinner are limited by time and space. First, you need to eat dinner early, as most shows start around 7:00 or 8:00pm. Second, is distance. You don’t want to have dinner in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn when you have to be in the theater district by 8:00pm. New York cab drivers are fast, but not that fast.

To solve this logistical Rubik’s cube, we went with Becco. This is one of Lidia Bastianich’s restaurant—home to the famous $25 all-you-can-eat pasta and the truly exceptional $25-a-bottle wine list. The wait staff, knowing that everyone is anxious to make a show, are nevertheless gracious, friendly, and efficient. Anyone going to the theater should stop here.

Dogs & Pizza

© 2013 Chris Terrell

First NYC Street Dog of 2014
We survived the snow storm, but it was still cold. With a late start and lunch a few hours away, I was hungry. As I approached the corner of East 55th Street and 5th Ave., I saw the holy grail. No trip to New York would be complete without a dog from the street.  (My first craving had hit me the night before around 10:43pm after the Broadway show. The only problem was that the temperature was a mere 10 degrees. (Alas, not even the most hard-scrapple street vendor will brave those kind of temperatures.) Anyway, I grabbed a dog with ketchup, mustard, and onions. Then off to the E Train and the 9/11 Memorial.

Afterwards, we went to one of my favorite pizza places in Manhattan: Lombardi’s. This is considered to be the oldest pizzeria in New York. Great pizza and the meatballs are the size of baseballs!  Added bonus! I could’ve sworn I saw a wise guy in the corner!

Chinese Carry-Out

If you have been keeping track, this was our last night in New York. This was the night that we were to have dinner at the big, destination restaurant, Perry St., one of Jean Georges Vongericthen’s restaurants. Dinner reservations were originally for 7:00pm, but got moved to 8:00pm. As I settled into a relaxing hot bath with a bourbon on the rocks, the thought of bundling up to catch the subway and venture out into the cold seemed a lot less appealing, even if it was a top notch restaurant. 

But this was New York!  

And how can you justify taking a glamorous Saturday evening in the city, and turn it into a stay-at-home, pajamas night? The answer came quickly: Chinese food and a movie.  When in doubt go local—this was the city that invented take-out Chinese! We placed a late night order for the requisite won ton soup, General Tso’s chicken, beef and broccoli, and egg rolls.  After a few delays from the relentless weather, dinner arrived.  No need to dress up (except some jeans and a t-shirt to meet the delivery person in the lobby),  and no need to catch a cab, and no pricey tab for dinner.  Just a great night, NYC style, which in some ways stands out as the highlight of the trip. We settled in with our Chinese food and watched a great French movie on my iPad. A perfect combination of the familiar and the modern.

As I mentioned in Part One of this post, eating is a social endeavor, which is why we go to restaurants. But sometimes we don’t need restaurants. All we need is each other.

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