There are two dazzling shows at the Met that are worth a prolongued visit - the blockbuster Interwoven Globe show of 134 piece of tapestry, fabric, clothes etc made in the 1500-1800 period that are awesome and a not-to-be missed exhibition of Julia Margaret Cameron beautiful/spooky/pre-Raphaelite photos/portraits.
So after that cultural-fulfilling expeience, it's off for a stomach-filling one around my old haunt - Cornell/NYH with the next generation of super-docs. "Petaluna at 1 PM" says he. I arrive 20 minutes ahead - closed 'til who knows when.
But next door is a nice looking Italian place too, one Nino's and they had room for three. So in we went. They have a 25$ prix-fixe lunch menu that says "restaurant week" which is long passed and they were still running it. Superb. I had meatballs and then spaghetti with shrimp, fresh tomato garlic and basil which is about as good Italian food as one sees in the US. And my younger almost-relatives had a lettuce salad, a mozzarella etc starter, salmon with tomatoes and capers, etc and veal scallopini.
The bill with no bottled water, a bottle of nice Sangiovese, superb, utterly-superb bread and two coffees before tip, was $125.48.
Go? If #3341 (on Trip Advisor) Petaluna is closed, or even if not, go to #3065 Nino's. Great service, great bread, or did I say that twice already?
Hemenway's in Providence RI has proved to be a reliable last meal on our New England sojourns before hopping on SouthWest to return to the Mid-Atlantic. Colette had thin slices of very rare yellowtail tuna atop a nice salad and I had two firsts: a cup of ceviche of scallops and shrimp with a pile of plantain chips on one side and corn chips on the other, both delicious - and someting I've never heard of before - calamari Rhode Island style which turns out to be perfectly deep fried with jalapeno peppers. The only clunker - a wedge of rock-hard, totally unripe avocado - most bizarre.
Our bill, with a bottle of wine, was $63.72 before tip.
Surf in Portmouth NH is about as beautiful a restaurant setting one could hope for; lovely tables, facing the water, sailboats drifting by - whoops - that one is really adrift and headed for a concrete pier. Colette had the shrimp and avocado quesadilla with a spicy (too much for her not me) dipping sauce and I had spicy grilled shrimp that were superb, with an accompanying pilaf.
With three glasses of Pinot Grigio, our bill was just shy of $50 before tip.
The Pemaquid (ME) Fisherman's Co-op was a logical stopping off and eating place for our tribe of 12, offering lobster rolls ($20 with enough for two persons) $5 lobsters, chowder, mussels, shrimp rolls, chicken fingers and even a hamburger. While BYO and self-service, with the beautiful view and good chow, it's a 'go back to" place.
Bill, I don't know, the faithful daughters treated us.
The Portland Lobster Company is a place that could be just one of a hundred stamped-out formuliac wharf-umbrella-food-wine&beer places on the Maine Coast but better. Our gang of 12 ordered all over the lot: mussels, sea-burgers, fried clams, chicken fingers, boiled lobsters and a host of lobster rolls. Ah lobster rolls, fresh outa the pound, on hot dog rolls and cardboard - there's one dish, the French, no matter how many years of study, can't "get."
The Boothbay Lobster Wharf in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, is "the" place for our gang of 12's (1 wife, 2 daughters, 2 sons-in-law, 6 G-c and Yours T) take-outs while camped out on Knickerbocker Lake. What could one wish more than lobster, hierloom tomatoes, cukes & juice, wild blueberries and Gifford's ice cream?
The Cotton Restaurant in Manchester NH is an homage to the Swing Era Club and is always packed with a spectrum of Manchester's interesting population. Except for the fact that the portions are way too large, it is otherwise the perfect lunch spot - we shared a Caesar's Salad with rough cut lettuce, parmesan and croutons, Colette had chicken satay with peanut and I their fish n chips (with those great fries but not creamy enough slaw.)
With 3 glasses of a Napa Red and three espressi, our bill before tip was $60.71.
The Cava Tapas and Wine Bar and Restaurant Tra-La in Portsmouth NH, is a place we've been in love with for several years. It's a place the food dictators in Paris, New York or LA cannot get into their heads; for them, American food is either (1) hot-dogs, hamburgers and pizza, (2) Alice Waters, Momofuko or WD or (3) Heirloom tomatoes, Indian corn or Kentucky bourbon. Just plain good incredibly inventive US chow outside the glitter cities, faggedaboudid.
So here we go:
- an amuse bouche (we thought, actually delivered by mistake) of toasted bread with melted cheese, with chorizo and sliced unmelted Manchego cheese on top - a half tomato/half corn gaspacho - a ceviche of shrimp (the weakes dish, nothing special) - a paella of chicken, wheat berries, peach, broccili rabe and confited lemon - diced pineapple with pomegranate molasses and lime zest.
Our bill, with a bottle and glass of Spanish wine, was $91.56 before tip.
After seeing two wonderful exhibitions of Winslow Homer and George Inness at the Clark in Williamstown we saw two incredible shows at Mass MoCA in North Adams: seemingly several acres of Sol Lewitt's wall paintings and two huge composed phoenix's by Xu Bing made from found objects at Chinese construction sites. There are the sorts of exhibitions that the spaces in the MoCA can accomodate as no other venue can. Together these were the best 4 shows I've seen this year.
At this point it was time for lunch and since the Gramercy restaurant has now moved into the Mass MoCA, it was a logical choice. But we ate far better this year at lunch than we ever had in the old setting at dinner. Colette had a shrimp salad where the shrimp were coated with a zippy/flavorful coating and singed a bit - very good! I had a fish tempura with chips that was fish n chips perfected, with a spicy chili sauce. They've always had great desserts so we shared a marvellous plum/thyme/ginger semi-freddo.
With 4 glasses of not half-bad sangria and no coffee, our bill before tip was $68.47. Go back? First chance I have.
SooRa, a Korean/Japanese/PanAsian restaurant, if you know what I mean, is not bad but not great, nothing like that nouvelle cuisine Korean place in Toronto, but hey, here we were. Between the four of us we had an avocado salad (Korean?), seaweed salad, and bulgogi's of chicken, beef, spicy octopus and pork.
With a bottle of Sutter Hill white, two beers and no desserts, our bill was $113.58 before tip. Go back, nope!
On our annual trek in New England between the Fete Nationale and La Rentrée, Colette and I found ourselves once again at Edo Sushi, one of those melangiste Asian restos serving the Princeton/Tech Corridor geeks who are all that America is great in attracting - Asians of all types, those from the Indian subcontinent, shifty looking refugees from the USSR diaspora and your New Jersey types (you know bwhat I mean, like pornography, you know).
Anyway, Colette had the triple sashimi and I the hot and sour soup and garlic shrimp, both served with a complimentary salad (they had/have no idea who I am, it's just their way of being friendly).
With all that, our bill was $23.43 before tip, a wonderful meal. Would I could get this on the Rue du Poteau.
Tonight, we found ourselves at The Orchards in Williamstown, MA, where we've been stopping for a dozen years or so en route to Maine. We've always eaten at some of this region's most interesting places, but I got an email sayingt I could book a room, tickets for both the Clark and MassMOCA and two three course meals at it's Gala Steakhouse & Bistro for $290.00. I did a little research et voila, it was a deal. A real deal.
The chef, one Chris Bonnivier, who despite the name, is 100% American (but those French genes gotta be there) does some astonishing things with the food:
- superb amuse gueules of tuna on toast and basil spread on home-made bread,
- the BEST DISH OF THE YEAR - a tomato water, yah, go figure, it was an essence of tomato in an iced cup, incredible
- and great lobe of Hudson Valley foie gras with a perfectly off-setting slice of Meyer lemon,
- and and and two very very very good desserts of a mousse and cake.
We also had a nice Chilean Cab and one grappa - but the bill is hard to convey since we had this $290 cultural deal, so let's just say the $290 plus $60 on liquids were very well spent.
The Square Grouper in Aspen is a most exciting new place, but first some backstories:
- I've been coming to Aspen since shortly after its ski hills opened after WWII and have seen it go from rags to riches to reasonable; from a few weird Physicists to a lot of weird rich druggies (read Hunter Gonzo Thompson MD) to a mix of eco-sensibles, over-the-hill divorcees and working class stiffs.
- The location of the Square Grouper has been occupied above, on and below ground by a number of differently themed places over the years, with variable results.
- Its name - the Square Grouper - refers to bales of Mary Jane hurled off cigarette boats and caught (surprise) in fishing nets along the Gulf Coast. It was originally to be Florida-centered but turned out New Orleans-influenced and a good thing that....
..because Colette's seafood salad while not surprising, was good, but my Shrimp Etouffee was the best dish of the week - plump, fresh shrimp in a just right (not too hot, not too mild) sauce with fried battered okra bits that reminded me of some alligator pop-corn I had in Santa Monica many years ago - first rate.
With 2 glasses of Voodoo Cabernet (1 generously offered due to to my esteemed status), one iced tea and no desserts or coffee our bill was $41.53 before tip.
The Wild Fig, in the old Torino Pizza space, ahhh yesteryear, next to Aspen's famous Popcorn stand was a pretty good option for our last night in the high country (8040 feet/2445 meters) before resuming our Flatlander Status.
Colette has the gaspacho (what else?) with their wonderful crispy-crust bread and I, unpredicably, had a Greek Salad with the usual feta, local lettuces and tomatoes (which were delicious despite the fact much of Colorado has suffered from months of drought and,of late, lots of rain) as well as Kalamata olives, etc. Equally unpredictably we shared 6 beignets, rolled in cinnamon sugar & served with a creme Anglaise - divine.
With a bottle of Petit Syrah, a grappa for the strada and no coffees (with a 10% discount from the host company - Pierce - that owns it, Brexi, CP Burger, Above the Salt, etc.,) our bill before tip was $85.59.