New York

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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freddeTwo different people recommended a seafood shack in the West Village in New York. Two people – it’s a sign.We must try it, I said to my oldest-newest-best-friend. We waited in the predicted long line—something I hate and generally do not engage in We chatted with out-of-towners and I offered up my favorite food destination, Morandi. Then we were told to grab two seats at the counter. I pointed to my left, a quick celebrity sighting, an offbeat one. Louise Lasser. A former Mrs. Woody Allen.

Libbie kept telling me she could NOT be Louise Lasser since she was far too young. We argued back and forth as I stood my ground. Turns out she was talking about the waitress and I was talking about Louise Lasser, eating a dainty kale salad. That’s not what I would order, I thought.

We went for it, ordering too much -- partly due to hunger. A few appetizers that sounded southern and perfect. Fried Green Tomatoes, which, honestly, I can never resist. Libbie loves deviled eggs, so an order of those, and a shrimp, crab and avocado cocktail. And of course a lobster roll, at “market price,” which means expensive, $32.00. I had no problem with that, as it might have made it worth the subway trip downtown. Turns out, the deviled eggs were made with sour cream, not mayonnaise. So, after one bite, I put mine down and knew never to order those again. Then, the Fried Green Tomatoes, not great at all. Followed by the lobster sandwich, which was fine but certainly not the best I’d ever had. What a waste, I thought, of ingesting fattening food. What a waste of money. This was off my list, not that it had yet made it on.

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kodoor.jpgI was lucky enough to snag a seat at the hallowed (and reservation demented) Momofuku Ko in New York in early October because someone had (oh my god!) cancelled and I was quick enough to grab the reservation. For those of you not yet in the know, Ko is the premier flagship in wunderkind David Chang’s gastronomic empire. In keeping with its cutting edge food and service (the chefs, like sushi chefs, do the serving but not the busing), Ko only allows you to make on-line reservations. Just like Amazon.com, you need to open an on-line account (something I had done about six months earlier) which allows you the opportunity, and some would argue esteemed privilege, to make a reservation. This system guarantees a degree of egalitarianism which, as an attorney with a career dedicated to civil liberties, I really should respect and appreciate. So even if your last name is DeNiro or Gates, you (or your assistant) still have to compete with the masses in making a mad digital dash to score a reservation. As a supreme testament to Ko’s popularity and scrumptiousness, over the last year, even as the echo of high-end restaurants slamming their doors shut reverberated throughout Manhattan, Ko rarely had a night when it wasn’t booked to capacity for at least a week in advance.

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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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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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