New York minutes/Mid-March 2009

The always great: Both Kefi and the New French, where I should be weary of the menus but where we find ourselves heading over and over. We met friends for a late Sunday supper at the former and wound up closing the joint, which gets extra points for easing us out far more gracefully than Le Cirque did. It was so late we all only split the superb spreads, an order of the sheep’s milk ravioli and another of the crispy calamari plus the house-made sausages the kitchen sent out. Chad and Pam each had the special white bean soup, which looked great. We were also comped our bottle of red wine, but even without it I would say the experience was close to perfection. Ditto for the New French, where we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table for latish Saturday brunch. The place is like a humming machine: the service was fast and friendly and efficient; the cooking was outstanding. Bob was as happy as ever with that masterpiece of a Nicoise-esque salad, which has to take mega-prep but is always done with care. And the cheeseburger was even better than I remembered. Bob insisted I take the half I didn’t finish home, and I would be embarrassed to admit I reheated it next day except that it was still great warmed over. 505 Columbus Avenue near 84th Street, 212 873 0200; 522 Hudson Street at 10th Street, 212 807 7357.

The pretty good: Savoy in SoHo, where I met a new friend for lunch after she suggested heading there to split one of the special cassoulets and where the waiter was only half-able to mask his disdain at our perceived chintziness. She had been once before to try the Toulouse version, so I trusted her when she said the Carcassonne would be enough for two; I certainly didn’t want to be still digesting at Christmastime as is usually the case with what my consort calls French pork and beans. And of course we didn’t even finish it, although the $25 portion in a cast-iron pot was not excessive, just lots of gigande beans with smoked pheasant, duck confit and outstanding house-made sausage. It came with a little mound of mixed green salad, but we’d also ordered one with goat cheese, so we got our cud’s worth. Bread and butter were excellent, and my gruner was a generous glass for $9 (she had Basque cider, poured right). Almost the best part was the table, perfect for people-watching in style central. WIGB? Yep. Peter Hoffman walks the walk. 70 Prince Street at Crosby, 212 219 8570.

The not bad: Adrienne’s Pizzabar, where we resorted after poor Bob was pressed into being a messenger boy at the end of a grueling week, with a stopover near Wall Street between a party in Dumbo and home. The place was rocking, loudly, but we got a table right away, had water and bread before we’d even gotten our coats off and had wine poured not long after that (undistinguished red from Campania for $34). My insistence on olives and mushrooms pushed the $16.50 “old-fashioned” rectangular pizza to $22.50, but it was beyond satisfying, with a crisp crust and a thick layer of fresh mozzarella along with the copious extras. We managed 2 1/2 slices apiece, had the rest boxed up and were set for breakfast for the next three mornings. WIGB? It’s a great port in a downtown storm, although one day I’ll get my nerve up to try another of Harry’s son’s enterprises. 54 Stone Street, 212 248 3838.

The snotty: La Pizza Fresca in the Flatiron, where we stopped in late with a friend after Bob’s star turn before a picture editors’ group around the corner and where the officious waitress who may have been the hostess or an owner was almost vibrating with scorn when we tried to order one pizza. (At that time of night I only need to see food, not really eat it.) She talked us into another plus a second salad and was never seen again, nor was the server once he poured the first round from our bottle of red. Salads were excellent, one just classic arugula with shaved Parmigiano, the other beets with Gorgonzola. But the pizza was as authentic as signs promised; like so many we have eaten all over Italy, both were more cheese soup on soggy bread than crisp crust with topping (funghi for one, buffalo mozzarella, olives, Parmigiano and basil for the other). I took some shit over at the Epi Log for getting “buffaloed,” but maybe you had to be there. WIGB? I’d have to be a glutton for condescension.