Food and New York just go together. New Yorkers clearly love to eat. On some Manhattan blocks, every single storefront is a restaurant. As cold weather always stimulates my appetite, you can be sure I did my share of eating. So, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t share with you a little bit of what happened food-wise during my week in the big city.
There are not as many hip and welcoming coffee-shop type cafés in Manhattan as one might think. One that I found and liked quite a bit is Think Coffee, 248 Mercer St., between 3rd and 4th Streets. They have four other locations in the Village and one in Seoul, Korea. Starbucks is present, of course, but for a chain coffee place, I found The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf stores to be less crowded and more comfortable. One place I stumbled upon and wanted to try for lunch was The Clinton Street Baking Company and Restaurant, 4 Clinton St. near East Houston, on the Lower East Side. However, at 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon the waiting line seemed long, so I decided to pass. I hope to make it back to this popular spot some day because it looked like it would be really good.
One of the relative new-comers to the Manhattan museum scene, is the Neue Gallerie, Fifth Avenue at 86th St., which specializes in showing art and design from Germany and Austria. I was amazed by a show of early 20th Century German posters. The museum’s popular restaurant, Café Sabarsky, offers a Viennese menu and ambiance in a space with views of Central Park. Photos above: My friend Mary Morgan samples the excellent beet borscht, and lunchtime in the café.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) is, of course, a world-class venue for viewing art, but it’s also a pretty darn good place to eat. Cafés and restaurants at a variety of price points get mostly favorable reviews. Once my friend Mary became a member, we were able to eat in the fourth-floor Members Dining Room, an elegant, white tablecloth place with expansive views of Central Park. Above: Starter of roasted veggies, with thinly sliced apples and radishes. Below that: a main course of roasted black sea bass with lemon and a side of garlicky broccoli rabe. Just above: Bobby and Mary, and Central Park.
My dip into Manhattan’s Japanese dining experience came at Gari, on Columbus Avenue between 77th and 78th, just a couple of blocks from my hotel. Gari specializes in sushi, and the sushi we sampled (above) was exquisite. However, as it was a cold night, we wanted hot food as well, so we ordered tempura and fish, which while pretty good, were not much better than you’d get at any Japanese restaurant. Still, if you crave sushi, and don’t mind paying for it, I think you’d be happy at Gari.
On a cold winter’s day, a hearty bowl of noodles in steaming broth is just what you want, and that’s what’s on offer at Jinya Ramen Bar, 24 Greenwich Ave. in the Village. This popular, reasonably priced restaurant also has stores in Southern California and Las Vegas.
While I don’t deny that I’m a fan of dining out, there’s nothing like eating at home with people who know how to cook and entertain. That would be my friends Bobby Quidone and Phil Magnuson. Both have cooked in restaurants, and they’re skilled at putting together healthy and satisfying meals. Bobby worked for decades as a waiter at the River Cafe, where he waited on a long list of celebrities. Phil is a partner in a New York architectural firm which does a lot of work with the ever-expanding Whole Foods. We met back in the Sixties when we, briefly, lived in the same apartment building in the East Village (see earlier post). And they’ll celebrate their 46th anniversary this year. But I digress, their menu consisted of fish (cod, I believe) baked in a light sauce which I think involved cream, onions, lemon and possibly some herbs. Then too, there was kasha (toasted buckwheat groats) simmered with onion, carrot and beets, and for veggie sides: sautéed spinach and baked winter squash. For dessert: Phil’s homemade cookies and scones. Mary and I thoroughly enjoyed their warm hospitality. I’m sorry there are no photos of this meal, but my photographer (that would be me) took the night off!
Breakfast on the Upper West Side with Mary: When traveling, a healthy breakfast can be difficult to come by. So often what’s offered is loaded with refined carbs or fat. So, I was a fortunate traveler indeed to have breakfast waiting for me every morning at Mary Morgan’s cozy apartment, scarcely two blocks away. When it comes to breakfast, as with most everything, Mary thinks outside the box. Among the items Mary makes for breakfast: miso soup, brown rice with steamed veggies, cornbread, soft boiled eggs with duck bacon, multi-grain cereal with blueberries and cashews, sautéed greens, rice with squid, toasted whole grain bread with raspberry jam, fish chowder, mochi, little pancakes made with cornmeal and served with maple syrup. Well, you get the idea. Every traveler should have a Mary in her or his life to help them get the day started right.