Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Few Weeks in May

On May 5th - Cinco de Mayo - it seemed as if we were having a real springtime in Hudson.  Finally.   I celebrated the Mexican national holiday at brunch with friends who served not Margaritas and burritos, but smoked salmon and asparagus topped with an herb-filled cold, cream sauce, and eggs baked in butter and cream.  They said it was French food to honor not the victors but the losers. The Battle of Puebla on May 5th  was a significant victory for the outnumbered Mexican army over the invading  French and gave our neighbors to the south a push towards establishing unity within their country.  The US government aided the Mexican army to achieve their victory and so Cinco de Mayo is happily celebrated stateside as well.  

Dessert is made easy when you own an illustrious ice cream  parlor on Warren Street 

Right on the heels of my first outdoor meal of 2013, I jumped on Amtrak headed towards New York City to meet one of my oldest friends, Nally Bellati who had just arrived from Italy.  Our plan was to meet at Uniqlo on 5th Avenue and 53rd street - I mean, where else?   Nally took the E train from Chelsea and I got on it at Penn Station - and don't you know, there she was standing in the car that I was about to board. It was NOT planned.  Uniqlo, the Japanese give-away fashion spot was filled with tempting colors and we were seduced into many purchases but wound up returning everything.  Our mid-town plan was made so we could see our friend, designer Christopher Young's stunning, Gatsby-themed windows at Tiffany.  The whole city is quite Gatsby mad right now.

Crispy Swedish Bread, Danish Rye  Bread, Brown Butter, Sea Salt

Cardamom Panna Cotta

We were both  hungry and couldn't quite figure out where to eat - it's always a problem in mid-town  for me.  I don't have a business expense account(!), and also tend to favor ethnic food when I'm in the city.  In the end we decided to return to the reliable Aquavit.    The restaurant calls itself a Scandinavian country dining experience.  However, this Michelin-starred place with its Arne Jacobsen chairs puts quite a sophisticated spin on "country dining".  The original food concept comes from the great Swedish chef, Marcus Samuelsson.  While no longer involved with the restaurant - Samuelsson's imprinteur   is clearly evident.   The restaurant serves a thoroughly satisfying prix fixe lunch.  Both Nally & I ordered the crudités salad  served with a shower of crushed sunflower seeds, salmon, pale and subtle, napped with cauliflower puree, and a fine twist on panna cotta infused with cardamom and filled with almond paste.

And the main event was still to come - A big party at John Derian to celebrate his collaboration with the French ceramic company, Astier de Villatte (go to their link right now - it's extremely witty).
John's new shop - yup - another one, at 8 east 2nd street, right in between the his shops at #s 6 & 10 - was decorated like a French, country farmhouse  complete with straw-covered floors, and the piece de resistance - aside from John's beautiful designs on Astier de Villatte's very sturdy but delicate plates, mugs, vases, urns, compotes, was Livia Cetti's  jaw-dropping flower arrangement - paper flowers cut from hand-painted paper.

Cream of Asparagus Soup - recipe on Register Star column

Poached Eggs on Roasted Asparagus

Rhubarb Compote (sweetened with orange jam) on sliced Pain Viennoise topped with Roasted Cinnamon and Passion Fruit Ice Cream

Then Nally, and her husband, Manfredi came to Hudson for a few days.  Food was involved, of course - I've written about our at-home meals in my weekly column - Susan Simon Says (what else?), Food for Thought - which you can find here .  Once you get there click on Columnists and scroll down to mine.  Thanks.   We also had fine meals at Le Gamin, and Wasabi in Hudson - and at The newly reopened, resplendent in red and pink stripes, The Red Barn, in Ghent.  Nally says that
The Red Barn's mussels are deeeeeeeeeeee-liscious.


And then back to NYC for a dinner given by James and Mark to celebrate the publication of their Brooklyn apartment in New York magazine's special issue, design hunting, and the magazine's longtime design editor, Wendy Goodman.   James and Mark chose the Indian restaurant, Panna II in the East Village  - not for its food - apocryphal, maybe - but the word on the street is that all the Indian restaurants in the east 6th street area, between 1st and 2nd avenues share the same kitchen- no matter - the atmosphere trumped any food concerns.  The tiny room was a forest of Christmas lights, chili pepper lights, Christmas, Halloween, Easter and birthday banners.  Mark and James had arrived before the guests to cover the tables with shocking pink linens - "Pink is the navy blue of India", Diana Vreeland famously said - a copy of the magazine, place cards carried like bejeweled rajahs and ranees on the howdahs of  elephant holders, and cake pops made by Big City Little Sweets decorated in themes found in the couple's Park Slope apartment completed the table setting.

Whew.   May isn't over yet.   More to come

Great time at lunch with Nally and Louise Fili at Gramercy Tavern.  But, I must say - that Gramercy Tavern seems to be a shadow of its former self.  Oh, the rooms are still pretty and the attentive  Danny Meyer service still reigns- no complaints.  But, what happened to the food?   Greasy carrots, overcooked fish.  Nope.  Too many good restaurants in NYC to run back there.


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