Mon dieu! Time is flying by – despite my perpetual feelings of guilt for not doing enough. But I continue to delight in this most wonderful city.
Tuesday was my first ever visit to Montmartre. I followed this guide which starts at the “back” of Montmartre and I must say, it made for a peaceful and charming ascent, largely free of tourists. With its twisting cobblestone streets, steep staircases and sites like the legendary Au Lapin Agile leading up to the soaring basilica of Sacre-Coeur, it’s a bit hard to believe it’s real. Until, of course, you reach the top and find a busy sidestreet filled with tourist tat for sale and pushy “artists” trying to strong-arm you into drawing your portrait. Despite this, though, it’s still lovely and the church is beautiful (though, €2 to light a tiny tealight candle? Way to gouge the pilgrims, Catholic church…).
Retraced my steps in search of couple of restos I’d read about – but had no luck since my map ended just north of Montmartre. I did manage to find Gontran Cherrier, the boulangerie I’d read about in Bon Appetit. I had a tasty ham sandwich on curry bread – very yummy! Though I’m not sure I’d make a special trip to this ‘hood just for the boulangerie. Sadly, M. Cherrier was not in residence to accept my proposal of marriage.
Home for a nap and a glass of wine, then dinner at La Bourse et La Vie, another well-reviewed place for steak frites. A tiny, funky place, with a rather boisterous though certainly kind proprietor. It was pretty good – I think the steak was not as good as the one I’d had at Le Severo, but the pepper sauce was tasty and the frites were very good. Why on earth I chose an appetizer of hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise, I’ll never know. I mean, they were fine – but it was a bit much to start. And the owner mock-warned me that I’d not be permitted dessert since I didn’t finish the entire plate of eggs… I was a bit alarmed when, after asking for a glass of good red, a bottle appeared and was opened before I had a chance to sputter any protest. “Great,” I thought to myself, “not only am I going to be drunk off my ass, that bottle probably cost €100.” But I decided that, at this point, the die had been cast, so why worry?
There’d only been a couple of other diners when I arrived and I was the last to leave, save for the owner and couple of his mates. When I asked for the check, he waved me into the back, where they were chatting and smoking. I was peppered with questions by this amiable bunch and had an entertaining conversation. The meal was good – not great – but the jolly host makes this place worth a visit. And that bottle was quite reasonably priced. My entire bill was around €60 (I think – I did make a quite a dent in that bottle, after all…)
On Wednesday, I forced myself out of bed at the crack of dawn (i.e. 830AM) so I could get my ass to Les Arts Decoratifs when they opened at 11AM in hopes of avoiding the lines I’d encountered on my visit the other day. My plan worked and I got in with little problem. My main reason to visit was to see the exhibition of “publicité” – advertising posters and other ephemera. But the big draw (and the reason for the crowds) was a special show of jewelry by Van Cleef & Arpels. O mon dieu! It was breathtaking and fascinating. No photos allowed (which is frankly just as well) so you’ll have to take my word for it.
As for the “publicité”? Well, there was a special showing of super-cool CD and album covers and club flyers from the ’80s and ’90s. Super chouette!
Wandered off in search of lunch and found my way to Bistrot Victoires, which was recommended in Time Out. Very French, very friendly and oh-so-tasty. I was tempted by the steak frites but that seemed like gilding the lily after last night’s dinner. So I ordered a tart with potato, lardons and Emmentaler. I was expecting something quiche-like – but got something so much better… Et voilà.
Service was efficient and friendly. And I did my best to refrain from staring at the one waiter wearing a plain white and vaguely transparent t-shirt that gave more than a hint of his many tattoos…
A long amble back home, then a bit of a lie down before dinner at Josephine Chez Dumonet. Read this post for my full impression – but the short version? OMG, I loved it.
Despite my frail and poopy condition, Ralph spent a long weekend here with me in SF and we had a lovely visit as always. Since I wasn’t quite my usual lively/manic self, it was a quiet weekend, and most definitely food-centric. I didn’t even take a single photograph! Lucky for me, Ralph takes amazing photos with his iPhone.
We had dinner at Delfina Pizzeria on the evening Ralph arrived, followed by a couple of scoops from Bi-Rite Creamery. Roasted banana, salted caramel and coconut ice creams remain excellent – I realize this is quite shocking news…
On Friday, Ralph visited the DeYoung while I worked from home. We met up later that afternoon to prepare for dinner chez moi, stopping at K&L Wine and Whole Foods for the final ingredients for a meal of meatloaf. Now, I know you’re saying to yourself, “Meatloaf? He flies all the way from NYC to visit and you make meatloaf? Yeesh…” But Ralph has long insisted that meatloaf is one of his favorite American foods and I actually make a pretty good one – so, meatloaf! And, it was rather delicious if I do say so myself…
Saturday we spent a bit of time at the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Plaza before a lazy afternoon of chatting and catching up at my place. Dinner was at L’Ardoise, my favorite French bistro in the City. And it was excellent as always – in fact, probably the best meal I’ve ever had there. We both had filet mignon with pommes frites. And I don’t bandy the word “perfect” around when it comes to food – but the filet was perfect: perfectly cooked and seasoned, exactly the right size, tender, beefy. Just amazingly excellent.
Sunday we had a late brunch at Foreign Cinema with ma mère. Everything very tasty per usual, especially the Bloody Marys! Of course, since brunch wasn’t until almost 1PM, we’d made an early pitstop at La Boulange for a couple of croissants… After brunch, a nice walk through the Mission and then home to watch a movie.
Later that evening, we ate at Locanda. Jewish-style artichoke (i.e. deep-fried!), an amazing salad with tuna conserva and then veal-stuffed casoncelli alla saltimbocca. Oh and fried dough balls stuffed with ricotta. And an Amari flight… Yes, it was good. Sooo good…
And then before I knew it, it was Monday and Ralph was on his way back to SFO (where he would soon be happily ensconced in the Admiral’s Club waiting to board business class before all the horrible peons in coach…). A weekend goes by so quickly…
The good news? A Japanese curry place has opened up right down the block from my apartment. Yum! The bad news? A Japanese curry place has opened up right down the block from apartment. And deep fried pork in curry sauce is unlikely to have a desirable affect on my slimming regimen.
But be that as it may, Kare-Ken is delicious. Went for the first time on Friday evening and got a to-go order of pork katsu served on rice with a sweet and spicy curry sauce and a side of tangy cabbage slaw. It was hearty and delicious and only $8.50. I will be back – probably with some frequency. And I guess I’ll have to increase the frequency of my gym visits so I don’t wind up skinny-fatter than I am today.
Arrived without incident at JFK on Thursday afternoon. Took the Airtrain to Jamaica Station, then the E to West 4th. Incredibly easy and only $7.50.
As usual, Ralph had a feast of cheese, salami, bread, wine and other treats waiting for me at his place. He also introduced me to Tête de Moine, a wonderful Swiss cheese that is served with a special device called a Girolle. It was absolutely delicious – plus when it is shaved off with the machine, the cheese resembles chanterelles. It was lovely…
Friday was a work day for both Ralph and me, though I did find time to walk up to Murray’s for a bagel and cream cheese. That evening we saw Follies – and both thought it was a fantastic show, funny and moving and beautiful. And I think I’m starting to become a hardcore theater queen – I recognized Danny Burstein (who played Buddy) from when I saw him in South Pacific as Luther Billis.
Post-theater dinner at Toalache, where we had margaritas, guacamole and tacos. Perfect for an 11PM meal. Then our usual visit to Posh for a bit of dancing and debauchery – though Ralph was disappointed that I didn’t do the robot more. But what could I do? The songs just weren’t robot-y enough… Of course, I did still break it down.
First stop on Saturday was at a street vendor in Soho. Ralph had sent me a super-cool (and super-appropriate) robot t-shirt for my birthday. He’d also kindly guessed that I’d wear a size small, apparently forgetting that I am un gros cochon. I’m happy to report that I successfully exchanged it for a size medium. Oh, and did I mention that the robot print glows in the dark! Perfect for when I’m out at the club, sippin’ that bubb…
Next stop was Sol Moscot, purveyor of eyeglasses on the Lower East Side. I found the perfect pair – and my vision coverage for new frames kicks in in the next few months. A good excuse for another trip to NYC… Not to mention that when people want to know where I got my cool specs, I’ll be able to respond, “Oh, they’re from New York. You can’t get them here. It’s impossible…”
After that, we decided to sample the macarons from bisous ciao. The verdict? Mostly excellent, especially salt caramel (duh) and blood orange with chocolate ganache.
That evening, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life at Film Forum, an interesting movie about Serge Gainsbourg. Dinner at Po on Cornelia St. It was sensational – we both had a marvelous grilled lamb with cherry tomato salad, along with an excellent bottle of wine. Oh, and I might’ve had some panna cotta for dessert – and a couple of glasses of vin santo… So, yes, it was an excellent evening.
Sunday was lovely sunny day, so we walked along the promenade on the Hudson down to Battery Park City. Spent an hour or so in the Skyscraper Museum – small but quite interesting exhibition about the world’s tallest buildings. We got a glimpse of the September 11th Memorial, but despite being open to the public (visitor passes are booked months in advance), it’s still surrounded by construction. But what little I saw reinforced my view that it is a great success as both a memorial and lovely public space.
We also saw the still-under-construction 1 World Trade Center. I have to remind myself that, despite it being a deeply symbolic structure, it is ultimately a commercial office building. Which is too bad, in a way. I still think Daniel Libeskind’s original design is superior to the current design. I don’t dislike the building that is going up – but to a large degree, it’s just another glass tower, albeit a very tall one. But who knows? It’s not finished yet and may surprise me.
Sunday night, Ralph got us tickets to see Arias With a Twist, Joey Arias’ show with puppeteer Basil Twist. I think it was described as a drag-queen-on-acid-journeying-through-space-and-time – which is pretty much spot-on. Funny, innovative, with great visuals. We both enjoyed ourselves – though I realized what an old man I am when I commented after the show that I found it rather loud. Oy…
A small dinner of grilled artichokes and pizza in the East Village, then chez Ralph to finish off the macarons. A perfect end to an action-packed weekend.
Monday, I took the entire day off (i.e. no working remotely – yay!) and was up and at ’em early. First nipped down to Broadway for my usual stops at Topman (stocked up on tees) and Uniqlo (underpants – saw cute pants, too, but didn’t have the patience to try things on). I also picked up a pair of shoes at Chrome – which seems ridiculous, as they are an SF-based company whose shop is a five-minute bike ride from apartment. But they were having a San-Genarro-Festival-inspired sale, and the shoes I’d been coveting in SF were on sale for $25 instead of $60. So what if I had to wear them on my hands for the flight home..?
Picked up a spicy turkey sandwich, broccoli rabe and cauliflower to go at Torrisi, then headed over to Ralph’s studio. We shared lunch on a bench on the recently-opened Phase II of the Highline. The weather was glorious, the food delicious, the views delightful, the company charming. The Highline seems like a place that one could never grow weary of…
Then off to the American Museum of Natural History to see frogs! Turned out to be rather a trek, as a water main had flooded the uptown A and C subway tracks. I eventually made it to 72nd St. on the 2 train and schlepped myself to the museum. Frogs were fascinating (though pricey at $22). Also spent some quality time with the wapitis in the dioramas (though really I just like saying “wapiti”).
Dinner that night with Ralph, Michael and Justin at Hudson Clearwater. I’d read about this place before my trip and it sounded interesting. It’s sort of hidden – the address is on a street corner in the West Village, but the entrance is actually around the corner and there is no signage. Of course, I was also nervous that it wouldn’t have much going for it beyond the “secret” location – and that I’d be blamed in perpetuity by everyone for taking them to some lousy restaurant.
Happily, this was not the case. I liked everything about this place. Obviously, the highlight was spending the evening with dear friends that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. As for the restaurant, the room was charming and lively, even though a bit cramped. The bartender was highly-skilled and gregarious. Our waitress was charming and helpful. And the food was excellent. I had a subtle and velvety vichyssoise, followed by a perfectly cooked pork tenderloin, with a salty crust and tender white beans. Shared a chocolate ganache with fresh fruit for dessert. A fine time was had by all…
Tuesday morning I worked in the morning, then headed up to the Metropolitan Museum after lunch. I have to say, this is probably my favorite museum in the world – walking up the Grand Staircase felt like meeting up with an old friend. The highlight of my visit was the Frans Halls show. Small, only a dozen or so paintings – but mesmerizing. I couldn’t tear myself away from Portrait of a Bearded Man – it is sublime and, to my untrained eye, felt unexpectedly contemporary (something I noticed in much of his work being exhibited).
Strolled down Madison Ave. to another much newer but no less important temple of culture and beauty – Maison Ladurée’s just-opened outpost, their first in the United States. Framboise, fleur d’oranger, pomme verte, chocolat, caramel à la fleur de sel, pétales de rose, citron, et noix de coco. Plus, the store is like a jewel box, the boxes are beautiful, it’s like being in Paris, etc. Le sigh…
Once I was back down in the Village, I needed a snack (les macarons were for later…), so I had a dainty little sandwich from Amy’s Bread – and a not-insubstantial cannolo from Rocco’s. They are really the best cannoli I’ve had – and apparently now vermin free! On my last visit to NYC, the Health Dept. had shut them down… Oops! But certainly glad to see them back in action.
Dinner that night at Smorgas Chef. I don’t know where I’d read about them, but the temptation of Swedish meatballs was too great to resist. Oh, yes – they were good. And the serving was quite large – sufficiently so that I had a serving leftover which I ate on the plane the next day (they were still delicious, too).
Finally, chez Ralph for les macarons and Prosecco. Ralph declared Ladurée the victor in our ongoing quest to find (and devour) the best macarons. I have already promised him a blind taste-test of local selections when he’s here in SF next…
And then, poof! It’s 545AM and I’m in a car on the way to JFK. Before I even realize it, I’m back in SF. And while it’s nice to come home (and to see my little kitty-cat), I sure do miss NYC… But I’ll be back soon – I need those new eyeglasses!
While the food (especially the tonkatsu) at Delica is certainly tasty, the ordering process is, to be kind, not exactly a model of efficiency. Of course, some most of this is due to the fact that most people don’t know how to queue and/or are indecisive morons.
So, the other day, I’m doing my best to stand in line properly, turning the line 90° so that once it extends past the entrance to the establishment, it doesn’t block the entire central aisle of the Ferry Plaza. To no avail, per usual – the next guy to get in line stands next to me and people start lining up behind him. Honestly, I wonder how these people even find their way home in the evening…
At any rate, there’re a couple of d-bags in line in front of me – I know that they were d-bags because one of them wondered where their friend “B-Man” was. Jesus… So, “B-Man” and some other friend showed up and cut in line with them. I was tempted to say something, but having been down this road before, knew that the two latecomers would simply tell their friends what to order for them which would likely slow the line down even more. So I gritted my teeth and massaged the vein throbbing in my forehead.
But something was amiss. B-Man seemed to fit right in – but the other fellow seemed a bit… off. He was a long-hair – and he had a ukulele. After observing him briefly, I was pretty sure that he had just sidled into the line with B-Man despite not being a member of B-Man’s circle of d-bags… But it was really too late to something at this point. The die had been cast, the Rubicon crossed…
Once it was Ukulele Guy’s turn to order, the line came to a screeching halt. He started asking many, many questions about the menu, including whether he could have half soup and half beef curry in the same order (WTF?). Then the following dialogue took place:
Me(loudly and with umbrage): “Look, you already cut in front of me in line. How about you just make up your mind?”
Ukulele Guy (snidely): “Well, maybe you should just go ahead of me!”
Me (immediately stepping in front of him and addressing the lady who’d been waiting on him): “I’d like two tonkatsu, one spicy chicken and rice, please.”
And, scene. Well except that then Ukulele Guy had to enlist the assistance of another patron in ordering, advising loudly and in my direction that the menu was “very confusing.”
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post about Hooker’s Sweet Treats, located right here in the ‘Loin. Obviously, the name alone is enough to earn a solid thumbs up.
And the chocolates – oy, the chocolates! Only two varieties – salt caramels and the recently introduced mixed nut caramels. Both rely on the same buttery and perfectly textured caramel. The salt caramel is enrobed in dark chocolate and topped with the exact right amount of sea salt. The nut caramel looks simple enough: a cube of caramel with mixed nuts (obv) but – surprise! – there is a thin layer of chocolate on the bottom. They are sublime. I am obligated to bring them on every visit to NYC – Ralph has advised I am not welcome if I don’t have a box of them in my suitcase.
And then there’s this, from Saturday’s article in the Chronicle about the “trendy” Tenderloin (WTF? Though the article is by C.W. Nevius, who is, for lack of a better word, a tool, so whatevs..):
This month David Williams will celebrate his first anniversary at Hooker’s Sweet Treats. Who knew you’d need to go to lower Hyde to score some awesome hand-dipped, sea-salted caramel candies? But there have been a few Tenderloin moments, like the woman who hit Williams in the face with her purse. That began when he asked her to move along.
“You’re just hassling me because I’m black,” the woman said.
“No, it’s because you’re smoking crack in my front door,” Williams replied.
Ain’t it the truth. And congratulations to Mr. Williams for reaching the one-year mark.
Oh, Hooker’s also serves coffee and baked goods. I haven’t had a chance to try yet – but apparently a semi-regular offering is coconut-pineapple bread pudding. Um, yes please.
I’ve been going to Pancho’s for years – their tacos are excellent, thanks in large part to the homemade tortillas and salsas. But every time I visit, I see this poster on the wall and for the life of me I cannot fathom what this movie might be about…
Let’s see: zombie archer, drunken olde-tyme train engineer, Crawford-esque blonde bombshell lookin’ all sexy behind a bullseye, bushy-browed lothario. Honestly, I have no idea how these characters could even be in the same film… But I’m kinda dying to see it…
As I walked home, I passed this chiropractor’s office… And I can’t figure out if this is a chiropractor named Mike Le… Or if it’s a guy named Mike who is fancy and prefers to think of himself as un chiropraticien français. Though it does prove again that everything seemsclassier en français.