Archive for June, 2007

Latish June 2007

June 2007

The pretty good: Rain, where friends who know from health horrors treated me and my broken self to dinner and where I thus was feeling more accommodating than usual despite being seated at an awkward table right under a speaker. My tea-smoked duck was fatty and not the freshest bird in the flock, but the portion was enough for three (and Banshee next day). The peanut sauce and chips on the table to start were fine, and my hosts seemed satisfied with everything foodwise (green curry chicken, lemongrass grouper) but the greenery in the summer rolls. The by-the-glass wine list is strange — I refused to spring for a $14 sauvignon blanc and wound up with an $8 Alsatian syrup before switching to a pinot grigio that was like water against the food. And the waiter seemed programmed to push wine refills, to the point that Kevin said: “He’s a bit of a dick, isn’t he?” Hard to argue with that. WIGB? Maybe, if I remember it’s there. 100 West 82d Street, 212 501 0776.

The seriously off: Spice in Chelsea, where I took refuge at lunchtime after the market on a Wednesday when Rosa Mexicano was full for the first time ever, Tarallucci & Vino was ditzed out and the relocated Markt was backed up like a sewer. Bad sign in an old favorite when the bar had been eliminated to pack in more tables. The waiter screwed up my order, delivering fried chicken dumplings rather than steamed vegetable, and the check arrived with no pen to sign it, while the many waiters wandered around distractedly. Worse, the duck salad off the regular menu was a diabetic coma waiting to happen. WIGB? Maybe. Got to support anything to keep it from becoming converted to a bank in this borough. 199 Eighth Avenue near 20th Street, 212 989 1116. [Latish June 2007]

Mid-June 2007

June 2007

The good: Kefi, where we were able to reconnect after a school year apart and would have been thrilled with the noise level and good service even without the comped wine and appetizers. We both had excellent fish (the one thing Bob missed most in Middle Earth) and split the spreads, which were great although I have to admit they were outshone by the sausage/dumpling and grilled octopus starters on the house. And who knew a Greek rose would be so drinkable? We left the price of the bottle along with a better-than-20 percent tip and still got out for $80 cash. WIGB? Early and often. 222 West 79th Street, 212 873 0200.

The not bad: Five Front in Brooklyn, where four of us fogies wound up on a tip from an e-pal after a brain-cell-destroying hip-hop photo opening. I would have settled for a funky diner with crappy wine as long as it was quiet, but this turned out to be a surprisingly charming real restaurant with a garden, and even seated next to a birthday group ominously decked out in party hats we could still talk. I just had the $14 crab cake appetizer, which was huge, full of the essential ingredient and teamed with both a chipotle mayonnaise and decent guacamole. Bob passed me his special, too-rare-for-me tuna, and I also got a reassuring taste of the salmon. The bread arrived warm, the wines by the glass were adequate, and everything would have been wonderful if the kitchen had not been sooooo slow. WIGB? Maybe. Not much else around there. 5 Front Street, under the Brooklyn Bridge, 718 625 5559.

The just right: Fairway’s cafe, where we happened to land late after a movie and everything was working. They set a window table for us, got us our $5 wine immediately and good Caesar for me and excellent hanger steak with fine fries for Bob not long after. WIGB? When it’s on, that place is on.

The port before a storm: Neptune Room, where I took refuge in desperation at that odd hour of 4 on a weekend when it’s so hard to find real food. I got a table on the sidewalk, smart and personable service and a quartino of $7 verdejo and escaped just as the rain came pissing down. Who cared that the skate in my $13 sandwich was overbreaded and the basil mayonnaise had nil flavor? Even direct knockoffs of Pearl can’t get that right, and Neptune is clearly trying to be its own place. WIGB? Probably. Four o’clock will come again. 511 Amsterdam Avenue near 84th Street, 212 496 4100. [Mid-June 2007]

Early June 2007

June 2007

The good: My friends, who have kept me fat and happily fed through the most painful experience of my life. I wasn’t out of the ER more than 12 hours before the first party; even Gary settled for pizza-and-salad delivery from Pizzabolla after I canceled our date at Maremma (and that was one serious tradeoff). Donna did a Zabar’s run for me one night and turned up on another with the most amazing crab, avocado, arugula and artichoke pesto sandwiches on grilled bread; the leftovers kept me going for days (Valerie brought the “I have a dream” hat with the Chimp behind bars). Monica imported jerk chicken from Beacon for one lunch and a little feast from Homespun Foods there another afternoon: trout salad, marinated mushrooms, olives and eggplant plus cheese and crackers. Next afternoon I was lurching home from an emergency consultation with my unnervingly youthful orthopedist when I ran into Susan just after she had dropped off an exceptional assemblage of chicken, orzo, olives and lemon, all in perfect harmony. Joanne brought bakery indulgences; Wally schlepped in from Brooklyn with a Greenmarket/co-op spread of grilled tuna, asparagus, potato salad and strawberries. Mme X arrived with two pounds of hand-selected See’s and later lured me out for a massive cheeseburger at Landmarc in the dread TWC, then somehow got me to walk all the way home, my most exercise in 10 days. But Don gets the purple heart for putting his life on hold and moving in the first two nights, inadvertently placing himself in the path of the breakdown that was certain to erupt. And he managed the impossible — he brought me just what I needed, guacamole and enchiladas from Gabriela’s with my Food Section gift card after first letting me cry myself senseless thinking food would make everything all better before conceding that for once its powers were limited. At least in the hands of friends it’s a whole other antidepressant.

The bad: The miserable puffy bitch at the Greenmarket on 97th Street who, when I hoisted my market bag onto the table to support it while picking out what I wanted to buy on our first encounter this season, jumped up and shrieked, “Don’t touch the strawberries!” I obviously had only one hand/arm free with the scary-bruised other in a sling and just said, “I’m sorry — I’m not very stable.” And she yelped again, through her pig lips, “I don’t care. Don’t touch the strawberries!” When a silly basket of berries warrants more concern than the walking wounded, you gotta wonder. I came home fruit-free and crying and realizing we don’t need the big Holy Foods opening on Columbus around the corner from the market. Assholism has already taken root.

The ugly: Percocet. No wonder Rush Limbaugh is a big, fat idiot. [Early June 2007]