The good: Elizabeth’s near us, where my consort and I wound up after the amazing “Argo” when the Mermaid Inn had a 45-minute wait on Social Media Monday and where we were able to walk right in, sit right down and have a couple of glasses of wine and way-above-average food in relative quiet. Both of us had been wondering why we hadn’t been back, and it was so worth the revisit, not least because the place itself is so attractive. I just had the crab cake appetizer with apple-fennel salad as my main, and it was so generous I took home one of the two heavy-on-the-lumps for next day. Bob was thrilled with his roast chicken, juicy and flavorful and surrounded by watermelon radishes and fingerling potatoes in sauce. WIGB? More often, for sure. It’s not cheap for the neighborhood (the crab cakes were $15), but you definitely get what you pay for.
The good and cheap: Land Thai on the Upper West Side, where Bob treated me to lunch after we waited an hour and a half to vote and then my ballot was repeatedly rejected by the scanner. He suggested Seasons, but I figured we should keep walking south for far better food in a nicer room at a lower price. Nine bucks is quite a bargain for jungle curry and spring rolls even if the latter are a bit greasy. Bob was just as happy with his shrimp overkill: first soup, then pad Thai. WIGB? Anytime. Anxiously awaiting the new Mexican two doors north.
The not bad: Kefi on the Upper West Side, where I hooked up with a friend camping out on a couch across town after the hurricane when it made more sense for her to come to me than for me to ride the bus twice across the closed park. She seemed satisfied with her lamb burger although it looked rather cooked-to-grey to me, and we both loved the array of spreads. Best of all, the waitress was fine with us taking our time ordering our wine as she wrangled tables with moms and kiddles, nannies and kiddles, bizguys doing biz. WIGB? Definitely, especially now that I know the Health Department has made it clean up its act.
The port in a storm: Cafe Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side, where I suggested a friend in from Connecticut doing errands nearby meet me on a gray, gloomy and nasty-wet day when we could use a little transporting to Salzburg. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea, so we waited about 45 minutes for a table, but at least we got a good one with a park hint. I was quite impressed by my crepes with smoked trout, which had been rolled up like Austrian burritos, and Mary wasn’t complaining about her sausage; we both liked our gruner. WIGB? Not soon. The waiting was the hardest part, and so many other places have opened nearby for ladies who lunch.
The vaut le voyage: Phayul in Jackson Heights, where we met up with a few friends from our adventurous-eating group for Saturday lunch. Years ago I remember Bob making a date with a GQ writer with whom he’d worked and us meeting at a Tibetan place because at that point I “don’t eat Chinese.” He was baffled, but this proved there is a difference. One connection had eaten there before, so he knew to order two types of momo (dumplings), potato and beef, plus the “bread,” and everyone else chimed in on a chicken dish, a pork dish, a blood sausage dish, a tongue dish, a cucumber-peanut-chile salad, a soup with beef and radishes, and a potato dish with julienned strips stir-fried with ginger and chilies. Six of us did a pretty good job cleaning all those small plates for $17 a head. The servers could not have been nicer, although none of us thought to ask them to close the window that had half the table eating in coats. What mattered was the kitchen, and it was clearly cooking everything to order with serious care. WIGB? Probably not only because there are so many other places to explore — we passed three other Tibetan and/or Nepalese places as we wandered the neighborhood afterward.
The typically well-done: Eater’s awards party, this year at the Bowery Hotel where, again, both food and wine were so easy to access and the crowd was all worth engaging with (aside from the short real estate lech who cornered me). A nice touch was the check-in list on tablets, rather than those silly clipboards with 50 pages of teeny type the girls in their little dresses need to flip through. I had great buttermilk-fried quail and a short rib “meatloaf” but will have to note that some of the other dishes seemed straight out of Monty Python. Not sure what to think about a meat doughnut . . .