New York

NathansHotDog.jpg My dad was a two job guy.  We lived in a representative, working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, which was to me, the paradise of the world.  Representative I learned years later meant not just Jewish people, like us, but an equal mix of almost everything else.  The working class is obvious.

My dad worked at a brokerage house on Wall Street as a runner from 9 to 3.  That was his first job.  His second job was at the Morgan Annex branch of the US Post Office, in mid-town Manhattan.  He had started at the PO as a teen-ager, and was in it for the longest possible haul, a modest pension being the carrot at the end of his rainbow.  His hours on that job were 4 pm to mid-night.  He rode the subway to work.  He never owned a car.  Once in a long while he got driven home. 

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How I love New York restaurants! I love my old standbys. I love the familiar friendly faces and food that I know exactly how it will taste. But, I also love going somewhere unexpected and original. This fall I fell in love with two new Italian restaurants both wonderful and both truly special.

Le Zie 2000 Trattoria

ImagePlease, promise me, you will not tell anyone about this incredible trattoria in the heart of Chelsea! It is a ‘hood fav and if we all travel from the far corners of Malibu or East 62nd Street just to have a perfect and obscenely inexpensive Venetian spread – therefore overrunning it with “flatland touristers” - my friend, Brucino, will be very, very angry with me.

Brucino – aka Bruce Levingston – is the brilliant pianist of renown, whose latest CD, “Portraits – Bruce Levingston,” has been described as “achingly beautifully played, a discrete and warm miracle.” It was through his gracious invitation to dinner (and Oh! coming from the Mississippi Delta his grace is indeed gracious!) that we discovered Le Zie and its charming owner Claudio. Claudio loves to make special dishes for Brucino, but there was so much to desire on the menu and the specials put my head spinning, my darling husband, Bill and I were more than content with what lay before us:

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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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ImageI recently saw a new show on the Food Network called “Food Feuds”. I like it – I get it. It’s a simple premise: in towns all across the country there are passionate disagreements about “the best” – the best burger, the best fried chicken, the best barbecue ribs, the best ice cream. Disagreements of this kind can be fun, unlike political disagreements, which can be fraught with pain and suffering. On Food Feuds, chef Michael Symon heads to a town where rival food joints vie for supremacy; he listens to local fans make their case, samples the foods, and then declares a winner. But “the winner”, of course, is only that for some of the people, not all. And if Michael Symon came to LA and crowned In-N-Out Burger over Fatburger, I would think he was certifiable.

So let’s agree that good people can disagree.

My friend Dean, for example, is a very good person, a brilliant entrepreneur, patron of the arts and devoted family man, but when it comes to one of my favorite foods, Chinese soup dumplings, Dean and I are on opposite sides of the fence, not to mention the country.

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kampucheadiningroom.jpgAlex and I have been dating for almost four months now.  We have shared several meals and conversations together beyond Casa Mono.  As our relationship has settled into a ‘monogamous’ place, we have both expressed fears about reaching a ‘monotonous’ place, – when your boyfriend lives in the same neighborhood, in my case the West side (Chelsea/West Village), every date begins to take place within a twelve block radius – emphasizing the potential for “monotony” (not be confused with monogamy).   And, while the dining options are both vast and enticing, you start to feel like you are placing your relationship under quarantine.  

On a recent Wednesday night, we ventured out.  We took what to us was a somewhat lengthy cab ride to a restaurant on the Lower East Side (Allen and Rivington) and as soon as we stepped out of the cab, there was a breath of relief.  I thought to myself, “We’re not old or boring…we just underestimate taxis.” 

Our destination was Kampuchea, an eatery known partly for being the only Cambodian restaurant in the city.  Needless to say, neither of us are exactly connoisseurs of Cambodian cuisine, but since we were brave enough to leave our neighborhood, our palettes were gung ho for leaving the country altogether.  

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