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Posts Tagged ‘dining’

The great pleasure of old-school dining

In business, cities, culture, food, life, Style, urban life on December 29, 2013 at 12:39 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Fogey alert!

If you consider thick white tablecloths and enormous floral arrangements and black-clad waiters who wouldn’t dream of introducing  themselves to you by name stuffy and boring….this post isn’t for you.

But if, like me, you adore a fine, old restaurant that still does things right, here’s a lovely paean to them, from The New York Times Style magazine:

In an age of studied casualness, of competitive waiting in line and chef-stalking and meal-Instagramming, of pedigreed pigs and forced intimacy with your neighbors’ elbows, it is novel to be served by a dignified career waiter in a jacket who knows his business. It is relaxing to look at a menu and (with the exception of certain démodé concoctions) know exactly what you’re getting. And most magical of all, it is astounding to be transported to a time when people not only dressed up, but also when your chair was pulled out for you and your cigarette (yes, cigarette!) was lit before it had reached your lips.

The writer, Sadie Stein, names a few old-school spots I’ve been lucky enough to eat in as well:

"The Sower," Simon & Schuster logo, ...

“The Sower,” Simon & Schuster logo, circa 1961 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

– After a meeting at the offices of Simon & Schuster, on Sixth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, on a bitterly cold, wet winter’s day in 2002, I knew they were going to buy my first book. I was insanely excited but had no one, at 4:00 p.m., to share that moment with. My agent had rushed back to his office downtown. So I went into the “21” Club, at 21 West 52d,  and ordered coffee and profiteroles and sat by the fire and cherished this wonderful moment I had longed for my whole life. It was the perfect place to seal the deal.

Galatoire's Beer Dinner

Galatoire’s Beer Dinner (Photo credit: rdpeyton)

– I’ve been to Galatoire’s, a New Orleans institution, several times. The most recent, in late January 2012, was three days before I would lie on an operating room table to get a new left hip. I needed a good stiff drink and a delicious meal. What if they were among my last? I’d been in town to address a conference of liquor store owners, offering my suggestions how to hire, manage and motivate their workers, (the topic of my second book.) Galatoire’s was absolutely perfect, filled with elegance and celebration and fantastic food.

English: The main dining room of Galatoire's, ...

English: The main dining room of Galatoire’s, a noted restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

– I’ve only eaten (so far!) once at La Grenouille, one of Manhattan’s true legends. It opened Dec. 19, 1962 in a townhouse in midtown. We ate upstairs, at L’Ardoise, and it was amazing. Here’s my post about it, from October 2009, a celebration meal in honor of my second book sale, treated by my father visiting from Canada:

Upstairs is a narrow room, with white-painted brick walls, lit by three 20-foot-tall lead-paned windows. A huge rug in the lightest shades of yellow, cream and green. A highly polished dark wood table marks the entrance. There are only five white-tableclothed tables, with another at the top of the stairs beneath a skylight, shaded by palms. Each has a small, perfect floral arrangement. There are paintings and drawing everywhere. You feel as if you’ve stumbled into someone’s private home, and you have. For many years, this was the home and studio of French painter Bernard LaMamotte — and before that, in the 1800s, the stable housing the horses of the owners of the mansion across the street, now the Cartier boutique. Those tall windows were once used to bring in hay.

It is, wrote Vanity Fair last year, “a private dining room of such beauty that one could be talked into becoming bedridden as long as one’s bed were there.”

Have you had a memorable meal in a place like this?

What was it like?

The Pleasure Of A Four Hour Lunch

In behavior, business, cities, food, travel, urban life, work on November 13, 2010 at 1:04 pm
The Standard Grill - Meatpacking

The Standard Grill, NYC. Image by thms.nl via Flickr

I finally ate yesterday at the Standard Grill, one of Manhattan’s trendiest restaurants — the scene at the front door a dazzling blur of entitlement, of leopard coats and Goyard handbags and great jewelry and the set jaw of the people who expect everything now having to actually wait a few minutes for their pleasure.

But it was worth it. I’d made a reservation five days earlier, sitting on hold for 10 minutes, to meet a young friend there visiting from Ottawa. He’s a stylish guy and I knew this would be a good fit.

(One of the greatest pleasures of living in New York is deciding which bar or restaurant to take someone to who is visiting from elsewhere; tonight we’re heading to Toloache, our favorite midtown restaurant, which is a gorgeous room, serves amazing, fresh small margaritas and serves beautiful Mexican food.  Our guests tonight are friends from small-town Rhode Island, an artist and her professor husband.)

Our lunch was perfect, as much for the waiter’s patience as for the food and ambience — the penny tile on the floor actually was pennies. We had only met once before, last July in Vancouver, and we are still getting to know one another. Plus we’re both journos, both Canadian and love to read. I think we must have talked for at least half an hour before we even ordered.

The food was simple but good, and my martini blessedly powerful. We suddenly noticed the lights changing — and, having met at 1:00, it was now 4:40 and the sky outside was darkening.

My lunch companion was a young man half my age, someone (yay!) whom I recently found a job for through — who else? — a man who took over my Montreal apartment in 1988 and found me this summer on LinkedIn. We met on-line as bloggers for the same site, now defunct, and decided to have dinner when I visited B.C.

As someone self-employed, a long lunch and lazy afternoon are my best work-related “benefits”  — not a 401(k) match or paid sick days — but the ability, when and where possible, to savor a great leisurely meal in lovely surroundings with someone whose company and conversation I enjoy.

One new friend, who lost her job two months ago, meets me once a week at a local diner where we catch up. She is OK financially, if bored and restless, and only now — now that she has time to sit and relax and not rush off — are we finally getting to know another.

Time to enjoy one another has become the ultimate luxury.

Do you ever take long, lazy lunches? Who do you have them with, and where? What do you eat?

Eating For Pleasure — What A Concept

In entertainment, food on December 16, 2009 at 10:17 am
Julie & Julia

Image via Wikipedia

I watched the film “Julie & Julia” again last night, the film about a young New York blogger Julie Powell and her quixotic quest to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in one year. Meryl Streep, once more disappearing into character, was perfect and many say she’ll win an Oscar for her role.

What struck me powerfully watching the film again was one of its underlying themes: eating is pleasure! Cooking delicious food for someone you love is a gift, a great and intimate joy to be savored and remembered and anticipated as much as that other thing couples do to cement their union. Watching the characters of Julie and Julia cook, eat and feed their husbands, each of them groaning and sighing with joy, is a fun reminder that food need not always be a subject of embattled misery.

Today’s New York Times‘ food section has two fun stories, one about the tradition of cookies at Pittsburgh weddings and a stollen recipe.

Yes, obesity is a problem. But seeing food as the enemy is no solution. I once watched Oprah, whose battles of the bulge are legendary, telling Mireille Giuliano, the author of “French Women Don’t Get Fat” how she was so good on a visit to Paris, every single day there denying herself that most Parisian of pleasures — eating a croissant. Finally, Oprah confessed, she broke down and had one.

You could see Giuliano struggling to maintain her politesse in the face of this typical fetishtization/demonization of fat/butter/calories — pleasure. Nonplussed in the face of this tortured relationship to a pastry, she asked: “Why didn’t you just eat one when you wanted it?”

One of the reasons I love visiting Paris is I eat myself silly there: Berthillon ice cream, croissants, 4-course meals, yet always come home significantly thinner. Because I walk for 4-7 hours a day! Not, as I do in my horrible suburban life, eat-drive-repeat.

We went out for a great lunch yesterday: fritto misto, mozarella and tomato salad, pasta, a shared dessert, a glass of red wine each. Cereal for dinner at 9:00 p.m., we were so full. My partner and I love to cook and to eat and to choose and plan recipes and have friends over to eat with us as well. I was delighted when our last guests, one of them half-French, sighed with delight; “Is that a clafouti?” when she saw it on the counter. It was, and we ate it — eggs, sugar, fruit and all — with gusto.

Here’s Wendell Berry’s thoughts on the matter and a new food magazine, Fire and Knives, launched last month, and a book celebrating the idea that food is pleasure.

Whatever your weight and size, I hope you’re enjoying some of the holidays’ culinary gifts.

Noisy, OverLit Spaces — Nasty!

In design on December 5, 2009 at 12:44 pm
This is actually Tom's Restaurant, NYC. Famous...

You expect a diner to be noisy....Image via Wikipedia

Nice to know I’m not the only offended aesthete out there. This week brought comment from The New York Post’s restaurant critic and Nick Lander, who reviews restaurants for the Financial Times on how noisy most restaurants are — and how lovely and quiet Marea, a new Manhattan spot getting rave reviews, is thanks to a serious amount of design forethought and planning — and sound-absorbing tile. (I especially want to try Marea because I play softball with one of its pastry chefs.)

Even Tyler Brule, the FT columnist who — like George Clooney’s character — seems to live in Airworld, chimed in on this point of lousy ambiance. Brule went to his favorite London bookstore but noticed something different, cold, harsh — yes, efficient/cheaper — lighting. The formerly welcoming and cozy atmosphere, he told them, is why he shops there. Or did.

I can’t remember two restaurant critics in one week mentioning acoustics and how much they affect your dining experience. You don’t have to be a doddering fogey to want to eat in relative peace and quiet, and many restaurants, and other public spaces, are now all about cheap, efficient, easily-cleaned smooth surfaces. Plastic, formica, metal clean up well, but bounce sound around like a pinball, making even the prettiest space nightmarishly loud without the softening of more-traditional elements, (that also need cleaning, upkeep and replacement,) like cloth tablecoverings, heavy curtains or carpet.

A good meal out shouldn’t require earplugs and eyeshades.

Yesterday, Upstairs At La Grenouille — Heaven!

In business, food on October 23, 2009 at 9:50 am
Christmas menu from a restaurant in Paris duri...

Image via Wikipedia

There are still a few Manhattan restaurants that satisfy my multiple desires for a calm, peaceful and lovely space with lots of room between the tables, enormous floral arrangements, quietly competent and unobtrusive wait-staff, excellent food and the time to fully savor all of it. A place worth dressing up for, but not one demanding I carry a $5,000 handbag and attitude to match.

This week, after many years living here, I finally walked through the doors of the legendary La Grenouille, a 47-year-old fixture at 3 East 52d., a world away — although mere steps — from the frenzied insanity of Fifth Avenue’s fanny-packed tourist hordes.

Upstairs is a narrow room, with white-painted brick walls, lit by three 20-foot-tall lead-paned windows. A huge rug in the lightest shades of yellow, cream and green. A highly polished dark wood table marks the entrance. There are only five white-tableclothed tables, with another at the top of the stairs beneath a skylight, shaded by palms. Each has a small, perfect floral arrangement. There are paintings and drawing everywhere. You feel as if you’ve stumbled into someone’s private home, and you have. For many years, this was the home and studio of French painter Bernard LaMamotte — and before that, in the 1800s, the stable housing the horses of the owners of the mansion across the street, now the Cartier boutique. Those tall windows were once used to bring in hay.

It is, wrote Vanity Fair last year, “a private dining room of such beauty that one could be talked into becoming bedridden as long as one’s bed were there.”

The waiters wear starched white jackets and do not, thank God, introduce themselves or try to chat you up. I ate my first, delicious, cheese souffle. My Dad — celebrating the sale of my latest book — treated. Six elegant Germans sat at one table, two bored Britons at another and half a dozen Frenchmen huddled around the table at the top of the stairs. We passed on dessert but were brought a tiny silver server with thumb-sized madeleines and tuiles, just the perfectly tiny hit of sweetness to go with the dark, rich coffee in white Bernadaud cups. (Yes, I peeked.)  There are three prix-fixe lunches, the least $29 for three courses. I could see spending my last $29 on it.

As we left, I discovered that one of my favorite books was begun in that very room, “The Little Prince”, this historic fact marked outside by a bronze plaque on the wall. Some people might find this sort of classic French food and service oppressive and stuffy. I loved it.

Octopus, Ravioli, Chocolate Cake: The World's Best Foods And Where to Eat Them

In business, culture, food on September 14, 2009 at 12:35 pm
[Display of home-canned food] (LOC)

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

If you’re fortunate, you’ve enjoyed a meal, a food or a drink whose memory is so sensual and transcendent you never forget when or where you tasted it. Mine include: a pisco sour at Carlin, a restaurant in Lima, Peru; a dish of tiny, hot sausages, baguette with unsalted butter and a cold glass of Muscadet in Concarneau, France; the pork tacos at Toloache, in Manhattan; the spaghetti carbonara at Morandi, in Manhattan, Berthillon’s blood orange sorbet in Paris; street food in Bangkok.

Today’s Guardian offers a list of the world’s 50 best foods and where you must go to enjoy them at their best. Their list includes chocolate cake from Pierre Herme, Paris, the curry at Karim’s in Delhi, the ravioli at Manhattan’s Babbo and the tomato juice at Happy Girl Kitchen in San Francisco.

What would make your list?

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