Remember the Old Tavern On The Green? How Ornate! How Indifferent!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALong-shuttered Central Park restaurant Tavern On The Green has finally reopened, bringing to mind my last meal there back in 2009, which I wrote about for the Observer:

“It reminds me of Mrs. Havisham in Great Expectations, the grande dame who’s seen better days,” my perceptive spouse said, noting the fraying pink tablecloth covering our sloppily bussed table, which was strewn with stray bread crumbs and specs of black pepper. “It seems a little worn around the edges.”

The service, meanwhile, seemed remarkably indifferent. When we complained about the large triangular gap in window shading, which cast a blinding beam of afternoon light directly at our table, and politely suggested that something be done about it, our crusty career waiter, dressed in a black suit and pink-and-green-striped bow tie, barely shrugged: “I’ve been advocating for that for 10 years now.”

Here’s to hoping they’ve finally gotten that fixed. Continue reading

Cracking Wise: Some Background on Lafayette’s Chef de Cuisine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArguably the biggest restaurant opening of the year, Andrew Carmellini‘s French revivalist brasserie Lafayette has been racking up the star ratings of late. (As ably aggregated by Eater: “Platt gave it two, Sutton gave it two and a half stars, and Cuozzo gave it three.”) This week, the Times‘ Pete Wells knocks the Carmellini love down a peg or two, with a single star review best summed up by the phrase: “I don’t love it.” Mostly displeased about the service–noting, for instance that staffers had trouble pronouncing “simple French words on the menu”–Wells did have some nice things to say about Carmellini’s chef de cuisine, Damon Wise, whom the critic described as anace technician.” Continue reading

Scarpetta, Home of Scott Conant’s $24 Lady-Killer Spaghetti, Turns Five

conant“Frankly, when I was single, I’d get dates with this dish,” chef Scott Conant once told me about his signature $24 spaghetti. (Read the full article, “Tomato King Scott Conant Resurrects Roman Regime,” in the Observer here.) Conant’s flagship restaurant Scarpetta turns five this week. During our chat, Conant also dished up what Grub Street later described as the “most detailed look yet into the mechanics of Conant’s signature spaghetti.” Herewith, the skinny on Conant’s special sauce, in the chef’s own words: Continue reading

One Final Meal at the Legendary Tavern on the Green

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the future of iconic Central Park restaurant Tavern on the Green very much in doubt, the missus and I head over for one last meal in the famous Crystal Room. It’s the same spot where the wife was seated nearly 17 years earlier, a doe-eyed teenager from Ohio, dining with her grandparents, on her first trip to New York. The place remained very much the way she remembered it, overwhelmingly ornate and still bustling with wide-eyed youngsters and their wiser elders from out of town. It just looked older. Much older. “It reminds me of Mrs. Havisham in Great Expectations, the grande dame who’s seen better days,” my perceptive spouse said, noting the fraying pink tablecloth covering our sloppily bussed table, which was strewn with stray bread crumbs and specs of black pepper. “It seems a little worn around the edges.”

Read my full story at NYO.

Restaurateur Keith McNally On Real Estate, the Economy and Infidelity

Photo by James Hamilton/NYO

Photo by James Hamilton/NYO

“How do restaurants survive in this economy? Who knows? I don’t. And nor does anyone who says they do. Ultimately, I think one does what one’s always done. In my case, it’s stabbing people in the back and sleeping with my friends’ wives.”–Restaurateur Keith McNally

Read my full Q&A with the eccentric Balthazar boss here: “Do Not Send Back This Man’s Soup” (NYO)

Provincialism Dooms Cosmopolitan Inventor

Passerby1On the eve of shutting down his self-described “intellectual dive bar,” Passerby, bartender and author Toby Cecchini reflected on the location’s unique character:  “I got a call from a bartender on a Tuesday night, which is a relatively quiet night, and he’s like, ‘Dude, you’ve got to come down here.’ There was water just pouring out of the hallway. Someone had categorically smashed to pieces both toilets in both bathrooms with a ball-peen hammer or something. … I think about this when I see that Audrey Sanders has, like, carved wooden sinks at Pegu Club and whatnot. In my bar, someone would take a chain saw to them in, like, 13 seconds.” Read my full interview with Toby Cecchini, wherein the former Odeon suds-slinger clarifies his claim to the title of “Cosmopolitan” creator. [NYO] Continue reading

‘A What? Globo?’ My Interview With Derek Jeter

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Watch out, Equinox! New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter is partnering with the international 24-Hour Fitness chain to open three new “classy” sports clubs in Manhattan this year. What, you were expecting a Roger Clemens-run juice bar? The first will be a 28,000-square-foot facility on Fifth Avenue, conveniently located just a short guilt-ridden walk from Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Additional locations are planned for SoHo and also in Midtown, a few blocks from the pro slugger’s own $13 million pad in the Trump World Tower. The healthy and wealthy Yankees shortstop recently took a breather to talk with me about the project. Continue reading