New York

chicken-wings-300x300The weather turned yesterday.

The air was suddenly, blissfully free of the sodden end-of-summer heaviness and the scent of August — that heady perfume of sixteen million sweaty feet in sandals — receded in favor of the crisp promise of autumn. Hallelujah.

We’ve been dining out a bit — big surprise. We took the kids to Danji on West 52nd Street. I’ve written about Danji a few times before but it remains a standout. Their tofu with ginger-scallion dressing is hands down one of the best bites in town. Their deep-fried ginger chicken wings are no slouch, either.

We met some Upper West Side friends for a casual dinner at Saigon Grill and we were pleased to see that it has returned to its former glory. It slipped tragically there for a while — there was talk of labor problems, changed ownership — but their solid, fresh, tasty Vietnamese food is back in the Wasteland. Good for us. They also deliver — so quickly that it seems the food arrives before you’ve hung up the phone.

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balaboosta-300x199I had one of the top ten dishes of the year today in the middle of what could have been a dreary day. It was raining and I was limping around puddles on my way to a lunch meeting in Soho.

I had just come from the podiatrist, my throbbing foot wrapped to within an inch of its life to protect the plantar fascia, the ligament that goes along my arch to my heel.

I had injured it, as athletes will do, in some moment of extreme competitive zeal, which I cannot at this moment recall. It only hurts when I walk, Mother.

So, I was in pain, I was late, I was wet, I was peckish. Not a good potential lunch partner.

I was meeting two fine fellows who work for my book publisher, so they know their way around a lunch table. They had chosen Balaboosta on Mulberry Street and I’m glad they did.

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shakeshack_lg.jpgI didn’t miss him all winter.  Everytime I spoke to our mutual friends, who I guess he got custody over as I was limited to phone time with them, they would tell me he was being cold, sort of erratic, he was being exceedingly difficult.  In some form or another he was costing them all money.  He was not as exciting as he used to be.  But now that it’s summer, I noticed a change in their voices. They’re all clearly laughing with him again, enjoying his company, discovering new aspects of his personality. 

I am not jealous, per se.  I do have someone else, someone way more suited to my personality.  Someone who’s made me a little bit blonder, and a little bit tanner, and a hell of a lot healthier, but there’s still a separate heartbeat consistent for my first true love, and sometime in the middle of the night, when I know he cannot hear me, I’ll tell him: “New York, I miss you."

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ImageCall out the riot squad! Barricade the streets! Lock up your daughters! The Three Fat Unemployed Actors’ Lunch Club is on the loose again — this time in the far reaches of Queens at the wonderful Trattoria L’Incontro. Our boys met at noon at the downtown #1 train, transferred at Forty-Second Street for the N and rode that to the very last stop on the line – Astoria — Ditmars Boulevard. From there, it’s just a short stroll to L’Incontro at 2176 31st Street.

There’s a moment when you first walk into a restaurant – and catch that first whiff from the kitchen — that can make or break the whole meal. That moment sets you up; it keys you into the kind of experience you’re going to have. And it’s not just the smell – although the smell is crucial; if you walk into a restaurant that has no smell, turn around and walk out – but it’s also the look, the sounds and the faces of the people who greet you. Some people innately understand hospitality, some don’t; you can’t fake it. Trattoria L’Incontro understands – it has it all – great cooking smells, a spacious, unpretentious room, the tinkle of glass and silver and the wonderful sense that you are in the hands of consummate pros who will not only please you, but take enormous pleasure and pride in pleasing you.

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danjiext1mike tucker glasses1I had an experience the other night that was right out of Larry David’s universe or Seinfeld’s. A classic. I’ll try to describe it for you.

It was around 9:45 and I was at Danji, the wonderful Korean fusion restaurant on West 52nd Street, waiting for Jill after her show. Our friends Florence and Richard Fabricant were seeing the show that night and we were all going to have dinner. I know that mentioning Florence Fabricant is name- dropping – I apologize — but her position as a famous food writer for the NY Times is part of the story.

So, I’m sitting at the bar, sipping a nice white with a Japanese name from Alsace. Yeah, a Japanese wine from Alsace – or an Alsatian wine with a Japanese owner – whatever – it’s very good.

I get the manager’s eye and he comes over.

“I’m with the Fabricant party. I’m the first to arrive,” I say.

He looks into his book, shakes his head and says, “You know, we don’t normally take reservations.”

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