Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Late fall in Manhattan: Odds & ends ... art, design AND eats ...

If you find yourself wandering around lower Manhattan (on the west side of town, in the Tribeca vicinity) - seeking out the Fountain Pen Hospital (@ 10 Warren St.; tel. 212/964-0580) for a new pen, special refill, or repair; visiting The Mysterious Bookshop (58 Warren St.; tel. 212/587-1011) for its wide variety & depth in detective fiction & mystery novels; or attending an event at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center (@ 199 Chambers St.; tel. 212/220-1459) - and, if you grow
Hard boiled & noir

hungry, you will do no better for creative Chinese eats than visiting the Lotus Blue Restaurant and Bar (to be found @ 110 Reade Street; tel. 212/267-3777), which offers a menu uniquely rich in what they call "modern Yunnan cuisine."

And by that phrase they mean a Yunnan cuisine inflected with, and accentuated by, the rich flavors & ingredients of Burma and Thailand mingled with the more traditionally spicy, pungent flavors & piquant delicacies found "tucked away" in Yunnan Province.  Or, in their own more elaborate description ... their Yunnan eclecticism results in a cuisine borrowing "freely" from neighboring areas and using spices such as lemon grass, mint, purple basil and cilantro ... amidst such traditional ingredients as cured beef, ham & mushrooms (e.g., "stir-fried" trumpet & shiitake).
Lotus Blue - Dining room
Within their extensive menu, you will also find tropical flowers & fruits (like mango), "banana blossom salad, lemongrass herb rub ... used in ... 'grill' sea bass  and baby back ribs, and a coconut tapioca pudding ... topped off with edible flower petals and rose petal syrup." And, while the food offered is "recognizably Chinese," their use of "local ingredients in distinctive combinations ... [results in] full-flavored refreshing dishes that make dining at Lotus Blue a unique [!] experience."

Crispy scallion pancake
Lotus Blue - external view
On the occasion we (recently) visited - my first, my wife's 3rd - we aimed to eat relatively lightly, just an appetizer (a small plate) and two mains, or large plates. Beer prices were reduced (just $5 for each bottle we quaffed of Singha & Sapporo) as we showed up during their happy hour time frame. We began with a crispy scallion pancake (@ $8), accompanied by both aloe honey sauce & lime soy sauce. The pancake proved plenty big enough to share and was perfectly done, golden brown and, indeed, crispy-crunchy in texture.

Next came our two large plates ... one (my own), the flank steak trumpet mushroom stir-fry - composed of sliced flank steak and, yep, trumpet mushrooms in a Sichuan
Dali specialty chicken
peppercorn sauce ($20) - was nicely prepared, nicely "peppered," and the beef tender, tasty & succulent, throughout the stir-fry! The second (my wife's plate) - fresh caught clams stir-fried in mushroom sauce ($18) - proved to be unique in both content & texture. Consisting of fresh clams in their shells "tossed" with basil mushrooms & garlic sauce, this appealing, somewhat spicy dish "connected" emphatically with both of us (oddly, but especially, with my dining partner, because of her general lack of interest in clams or oysters in their shells). 

We'll certainly return to Lotus Blue, this comfortable gold-mine of a "modern" Yunnan resto, for there are, indeed, considerably more plates - large & small, noodles & soups, rice dishes & sides - yet to identify & sample. I have my eye right now on the Dali specialty chicken (a large plate of crisp-fried chicken with special tea tree mushroom sauce; @ $18) ... AND the spicy cumin lamb cubes (a stir-fry dish comprising cumin & spice salt marinated lamb; $22).

We followed dinner with coffee (Pike's roast) at a nearby Starbucks just prior to our trek further downtown to The Museum of Jewish Heritage (Edmond J. Safra Plaza / 36 Battery Place; tel. 646/437-4202) for a 92nd Street Y @ MJH joint program ... a "book release" event: an interesting & poignant conversation between author, Sarah Wildman, and June Thomas of Slate Magazine. Centering on Ms. Wildman's just now published book entitled Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind (Riverhead Books, 2014), the conversation involved how, exactly, she shaped & developed the ensuing narrative after her grandfather's death, having discovered a collection of his letters to his lover, Valy. Apparently, Valy remained in Austria throughout the 2nd World War - and during the Nazi occupation - while he was able to escape to the United States ...  and survive.

It seems that Ms. Wildman became obsessed with Valy's, and her grandfather's, story and details how she spent years traveling the globe attempting to unravel the complete story & uncover her grandfather's lover's fate. You'll simply have to read the book in order to find out any further solidifying details about the ultimate resolution (?) of her journey - both concrete (real!) and literary.

Earlier this month we scampered uptown & east (once
Helena Rubinstein
again) to visit The Jewish Museum (5th Ave. at 92nd St.; tel. 212-423-3200), specifically to see a couple of newly mounted exhibitions: Helena Rubinstein:  Beauty Is Power (thru March 22nd) & From the Margins:  Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945-1952 (thru February 1st). 

These two "must see" shows, while relatively comprehensive in depth & scope, are concentrated enough to be seen and absorbed in a moderate space of time, in, perhaps (depending on your sense of "completeness"), a single visit, a brief few hours on a weekday afternoon. 
Portraits of Helena Rubinstein
The Helena Rubinstein show, or so the curatorial / PR information explains, is "the first museum exhibition to focus on the cosmetics entrepreneur" and reflects, of course, much of her self (her personal & professional lives) & her commitment to the worlds of cosmetics (commerce!), "art, fashion, beauty, and design." And, what's more, according to the museum staff, her "innovative business" ventures - and her ideas on style - "usher in a modern notion of beauty, democratized and accessible to all." 

Picasso caricature / sketch
On view, one is confronted with a wide variety of works, including: colorfully realistic & naturalistic portraits of "this pioneer in the world of beauty"; a wall full of caricatures of Ms. Rubinstein done (with a sardonic eye & critical strokes of the pen) by her "friend," Pablo Picasso; photos & artifacts from her grandly diverse, exquisitely furnished & richly decorated apartments (in New York, London, Paris); works of art & design (i.e., paintings, jewelry, sculpture, gowns, etc.) that she collected ... by Matisse, Miro, Kahlo, Max Ernst, Warhol & Nadelman; select items from her intriguingly "iconic collection" of African & Oceanic sculpture; works of primitive art; a display of her "miniature period rooms"; and much more in the domain of unique & "fascinating personal belongings."

Helena Rubinstein, 1872–1965 (Catalog)
During her long & industrious life, Ms. Rubinstein, states the New York Post (in museum publicity material), "defied anti-Semitism, stalked Picasso and built a first-class art collection." And with a diligent, emphatic concentration on beauty & commercial ventures - on things fashionable, beautiful & stylized - her life is certainly, ultimately, a statement on the power of beauty, on beauty as power ... or, as The Jewish Museum curators conceived it, "Beauty [that] is Power." Much to see here, to learn & to reflect upon, indeed!

Norman Lewis - Twilight Sounds, 1947
From the Margins provides equally interesting and enticing creative fare. Via selected & representative "paintings by ... [two] artists, this exhibition offers a revealing parallel view of two key Abstract Expressionists." Lee Krasner (a.k.a., the "missus" of Jackson Pollock) and Norman Lewis - a woman and an Afro-American - "each experimented with approaches that joined abstraction and cultural specificity. Their work similarly [in this exhibit, reciprocally] brims with gesture, image, and incident, yet was overlooked by critics in their time." [my italics]

From the Margins - Gallery view
These two painters tended to express themselves primarily through abstract images and "used simplified shapes, exaggerated lines, and powerful color to create imaginative works of art."

The works are alluring, at once muted & quiet, and stunning, vivid & colorful; and, as displayed together in three (or so) museum galleriesthey are striking & memorable ... particularly so in the purposeful exploration of their distinctiveness & similarities.

Lee Krasner - Untitled, 1948
I know my wife & I were both moved by the work of each of these painters ... the design, the, well, architecture of their works - the forms, the shapes, the unique beauty of the bold & muted tones of their colors. Thus, owing to this comprehensive, sensitive, and meticulously arranged show, neither Lee Krasner nor Norman Lewis can, in my view, be labeled "forgotten" abstract expressionists any longer!

Gina La Fornarina - Inside view
Following our rather intense museum visit, we were both in the mood for dining on something new:  something both light and, at the same time, something consequential. We chose Gina La Fornarina - one of four informal Italian restos in a Manhattan "chain," serving well-prepared "traditional" Italian food & luscious, exquisitely "constructed" pizza - at the location just around the corner from The Jewish Museum (26 East 91st @ Madison Ave.; tel. 212/828-6800).

Delirium Nocturnum
We quickly ordered a large "summer special" kale salad (with chopped onions, shaved Parmigiano, lemon & extra virgin olive oil vinaigrette; @ $14.95) to share, and a Pizza Tirolese (blending toppings of cream of mascarpone, prosciutto "speck" & white truffle oil; @ $22., including "extra" mushrooms), and doused the (just) "fired-up" pizza with two bottles of a special Belgian brew ... Delirium Nocturnum (@ $9./bottle), a strong, robust ale brewed by Brouwerij Huyghe, a brewery in Melle.

All of the food we managed to consume here at Gina La Fornarina proved extremely satisfying, melt-in-your-mouth tasty ... especially the silky pizza and its soft, minimally crunchy, somewhat chewy crust!

And don't forget, there are four Gina La Fornarina locations to dine in - three on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a fourth at Amsterdam & 73rd, on the West Side: All locations convenient to at least one museum, or gallery, or "arts" & culture venue (e.g., the American Museum of Natural History, the MET Museum of Art, the 92nd Street Y) you might want to visit ...

Friday, October 24, 2014

September/October "doings" beyond NYC: A trip west to Cody, WY + Boulder, CO (& nearby national parks) AND to Montreal, Quebec!

Yellowstone "geyser" scene - Photo:  R. Gartner
September and October, 2014, proved to be an abnormally busy period of time for this (generally)  moderately busy blogger.  Thanks to an invitation from our ole friends (and, ultimately, hosts), Haya & Rick Gartner, it was finally time to head out West to visit Colorado and Wyoming and a few of the major national parks &  towns located therein - like Grand Teton (entering from the town of Jackson, WY); Yellowstone (exiting the park at Cody, WY); and Rocky Mountain (in Colorado) where you will find some terrific spots to visit in the vicinity of the towns of Nederland (the wooden animal carousel of "happiness"!) & Estes Park, CO, way up in the mountains ... a short drive from Boulder and the University of Colorado
Grand Teton range - Photo: R. Gartner

 If you visit the area, be certain to visit Jackson, the cute little tourist town in Jackson Hole that serves as a gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. You can, depending on the season - weather permitting, of course - drive straight through the ominous, snow-capped Teton range and into & through Yellowstone, seeing the omnipresent natural sites along the main route: both flora & fauna ... and snapping as many photos of the natural beauty of the region as you are able to, from all sorts of vantage points within the two parks.
Yellowstone bison - Photo:  R. Gartner
Throughout your visit, you'll   likely encounter herds of elk, bison, deer, the occasional moose or large brown bear, a mountain lion (AKA puma, panther or cougar), a pack of wolves, a porcupine, or a quick & "sly" reddish-brown fox. You'll focus your gaze, too, on hot gases or vapors emanating from numerous volcanic pools, ice-cold lakes, rough & rumbling rock-filled rivers replete with cutthroat trout, high country pine forests, and isolated owls, hawks, and, perhaps, a relatively rare peregrine falcon & other birds of prey ... or, simply, stand still & witness - marvel at - the stark beauty of the various sections of this huge national treasure!

And then, before you know it, you'll be on your way to Cody, WY (the home of the Buffalo Bill Center & Museums),
Outside Buffalo Bill Center - Photo R. Gartner
exiting the park while moving through steep, spectacular canyons - still passable by car or SUV or motorcycle in mid-September ... without occlusion, just yet, from the annual, daily (weekly?) snow squalls &
impending large snow drifts that would close roads such as the short one en route to visiting Old Faithful. You'll also see more than the occasional waterfall and odd colorful (or so you would imagine) bird flying toward you and then arcing away.
By the way, before you enter the national parks out of Jackson Hole, WY, you'll find a variety of eating places throughout Jackson (the town) at every price point - high end, moderate, and low end.
Across from The Wort Hotel - Dalia, moi, Haya & Rick

One spot worth a look - with both a moderate menu of steaks & burgers and interesting soups and salads (in the large bar area) and higher end dining as well - is The Wort Hotel ("Silver Dollar Bar & Grill"), where we all had top-notch French fries, and elk or buffalo burgers, along with specialty soups or salads, conjoined with a few medium-size steins of cold local draft beer ... or a tall glass of lemonade. Prices were reasonable for the hearty food they offered and, specifically, the burger plates three of the four of us scarfed down. The best - most tender, largest, most "well-accoutered" - proved the buffalo burger plates with salad & fries all cooked to perfection. 

Incidentally, "lodge" restaurants, "lodge" dining  rooms, grill rooms & cafeterias provide lots of choices to meet the needs of hungry travelers trekking throughout Yellowstone.

You know who - Mr. "Buffalo" Bill Cody
And the breakfast (coffee) scene is solid and available at the other end of the park, along the main drag in Cody ... to fortify (to satisfy) those interested in spending serious (and worthwhile!) time at the Buffalo Bill Center & Museum.

An utterly fantastic trip to Yellowstone, Jackson (Hole), Cody, Cheyenne, Laramie, and Boulder (the University of Colorado) & environs ... like Louisville, CO, for an introduction to Sweet Cow ice cream!

Lake Champlain view - from Amtrack, club car
On the other side of the North American continent, north, & just west of, of mid-town Manhattan - and nearly 2,000 miles (back) from Boulder, CO, stand the New Jersey Palisades, the Hudson River, the Hudson Valley, the Adirondacks, Lake Champlain & New York's "north country" ...  and Montréal, Quebec

Yes, we took to the rails via Amtrak and traveled that perfectly, iconically, scenic route - apparently one of the ten most scenic rail travel has to offer - from Penn Station to the Gare Centrale in Montréal where we dined & walked & toured through just about all of Montreal centre - from the Old Port & the Old City to the Quartier Latin; Mont Royal (the huge Olmsted park overlooking the entire island city); to the underground "city," McGill University, the St. Denis shopping/resto/cafe area, and Chinatown ... all the while benefiting from this year's beautiful, balmy "Indian Summer" mid-October clime. 

Qing Hua Dumpling resto - Street view
And while we'd been to Montréal before (twice, pour moi), we discovered much we hadn't seen or done on prior visits, including dining at Qing Hua Dumpling restaurant (1019 Boul. St.-Laurent, Montréal, QC; tel. 438/288-5366) where we (two) consumed a few local beers, a large bowl of hot & sour soup and two orders of "mixed" varieties of fried dumplings (30 dumplings in all!), stuffed with such mini-concoctions as beef coriander, pork & onion, pork & mushroom, curry beef, chicken & mushroom, and shrimp with zucchini & mushrooms or zucchini & egg.

Guess what?
Dumplings by the dozens(+) - steamed or fried - are, of course, the specialty of the house and proved to be absolutely enticing: extremely fresh, delicate, and, as we always enjoy them, very lightly pan- (or wok-) fried ... perfectly browned & golden! Qing Hua turned out to be an excellent choice, and so were two others. The first, one of the city's few remaining traditional restaurants Français, Chez Queux ("au coeur du vieux Montréal"); and the second, a much more contemporary French-inspired establishment, Restaurant Europea. Lots of showcasing, here; a theatrical event as much as a dining experience - where we explored, in toto, "la finesse de l'Art culinaire!

Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle / Ring of fire

In continuous operation since 1973, Chez Queux (housed @ 158 rue saint-Paul est; tel. 541/866-5194) serves the very finest in traditional French fare, offering both a la carte and table d'hôte (3-course, prix fixe; $47. Can.) menus at reasonable price points given the high quality of food preparation and the particularly affable, attentive & professional service. Traditional dishes are carefully created & plated and, overall, memorable. Indeed, there are very few restaurants that we have come across, of late, that include ris de veau ("sweetbreads") at all, no less being listed on both appetizer (with arugala salad, citrus & truffle oil) and main dish (served with braised morels!) menu sections(And the wine we selected - a light & fruity French Pinot Noir, Les Jamelles, 2011 [$33.] - paired well with all of our mains, including my plate of sweetbreads.)

Chez Queux
Palais des congrès (et moi)
But the pièce de resistance - and, for me, the most memorable dish offered at Chez Queux - is the salade César (for two) created and mixed table-side, one portion (as requested) containing chopped anchovies, the other not. The salad proved absolutely scrumptious, abundant, and, well, a bit of perfection itself ... so painstakingly & accommodatingly prepared by our waiter!
Restaurant Europea
Restaurant Europea, on the other hand, is an interesting, whimsical establishment where Grand Chef Jérôme Ferrer whips up distinctive culinary creations with "finesse" ... serving superior food ... not at all traditional in any strict culinary sense. Located in central ("downtown") Montréal (@1227 de la Montagne; tel. 514/398-9229), Mr. Ferrer serves great food, brought, at times, rather idiosyncratically "plated" to the table. And he provides various surprises (we four diners recall, for example, the chef's "book" of infused, "smoking" salmon!) throughout the dining experience - from initial amuse bouche(s) to the wealth of desserts laid out at the end of the evening adventure

 Europea - A portion of the drama
All this theater-laden culinary art is, however, carefully presented a la table and the creations are generally successful - of show-stopping high quality conceptually and exceedingly tasty, as well. During evening hours, Europea offers three menus - a la carte; table d'hôte (@ $89.50 Can.); and a multi-"course" (several item) tasting menu, or menu dégustation signature (@ $119.50).    

Beef jerky on mini-clothesline
Two members of our party of four chose mains from the a la carte listing; two chose the table d'hôte. Thus, many of the items (e.g., the risotto) could (and would) be shared and all four of us would, of course, receive the numerous ancillary "surprises" pour les bouches!

Sea bass filet
A pricey but excellent & extensive wine list is available for your pleasure; and a knowledgeable & fun sommelier, for your consultation. Once again, we selected a Pinot Noir (Burgundy / Les Ursulines, Jean-Claude Boisset, 2012 @ $60.) which was tasted, and ratified, by the house wine maven on duty that evening!  A number of items that we consumed - along with our Pinot Noir - were tasty, refreshing, memorable. 

Those "dishes" - large or small - that we felt were, somehow, etched in our memories included the following: lobster cream cappuccino with truffle purée; creamy mascarpone & burrata risotto ... with sautéed mushrooms & asparagus, green pea mousseline & tendrils, and Béarnaise shelled egg & crumble; a sea bass filet cooked in a hay-lined pot, beetroot spaghetti, sorrel leaves poached in a grapefruit juice & blood-veined sorrel; and the lapin / Stanstead rabbit confit Yazu, cavatellis (small pasta shells) with parmesan cream, and fresh thyme gremolata & lemon peel.

A bit of dessert
Desserts, "sweets" & coffee followed, not too quickly (no rush whatever!), but, when delivered, full of diversity - from a bag of mini-Madeleines to a tray of mixed flavored macaroons (see photo) to delicate bowls of berries and perfectly sweetened crème fraîche. Dark, rich coffee proved much needed after this elongated but stunning culinary experience, a veritable performance ... not to be forgotten!
Centre-ville, Montréal (Hilton Garden Inn, center)
While there are many (many!) things for the tourist to partake in on a visit to Montréal, this particular visit was scheduled to be a short one (just a few days), so we pretty much decided that  our key activities - and the mild & sunny weather solidified this decision for us - would be strolling around town (veritably inhaling the diverse areas of the city) ... and dining!  

Centre de design - l’Université du Québec à Montréal
We certainly did those two things in spades and even got to the Design Center / Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) for a private look at their current exhibition. Indeed, in a short period of time, a couple of night's stay, we managed to do a great deal and see much of the city from our comfortable, exceedingly guest-oriented & hospitable "home base" at the Hilton Garden Inn, Centre-Ville (380 Sherbrooke, Ouest) ... Montreal  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lincoln Center out-of-doors; Santa Fe - contemporary Mex / southwest cuisine; "the good & the true" at D*R*2; and 1200 miles

This summer Lincoln Center could hardly be contained ... indoors:  "Music, dance, and theater spill from our concert halls onto our plazas and into the street to fill the season's days and nights with endless excitement." Just now winding down after having provided several weeks of "jam-packed," world-class performances - "all absolutely FREE!" ... the summer of 2014 has, indeed, been a bonanza to metro area folks looking for easily accessible top-notch entertainment. 
Pete & Toshi Seeger
The only consistent problem, really, seemed to be the never-ending huge crowds, all with the same idea about attending a Lincoln Center Out of Doors event in, say, Damrosch Park, and actually locating seats inside the proverbial gates for your event of choice. Seemed to me that as many people "watched" & listened to performances from outside & beyond the rear end of the Band Shell space - feeling lucky (enough) to snag a concrete "seat" under the thin veil of trees at the very base of the park - as were actually seated in somewhat "comfortable" venue chairs within the confines of the fenced in park itself. Somehow an overflow of people (gawkers, fans, aficionados) - too much online publicity, perhaps, this year! - completely inundated (almost daily) that whole area of Lincoln Center (out-of-doors) and the surrounding streets attempting to catch a glimpse of that evening's performers. Sometimes, I guess, even (especially?) "free" simply doesn't "buy" you a ticket to your event of choice!

Roberta Flack
Nevertheless, we did manage to to get close enough - just beyond the Damrosch Park enclosures - to witness a few of the major events, including A Memorial Concert for Pete & Toshi Seeger (July 20th), featuring, among other performers, Judy Collins ... and the pop legend, Roberta Flack (July 26th). For nearly two hours Ms. Flack accompanied herself on the piano and sang many of her memorable hit songs, most notably, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" & "Killing Me Softly With His Song." Now, 70+, Ms. Flack proved particularly energetic, singing with spirit, solidity, grace & integrity, exhibiting a truly audience-centric performance for an SRO crowd of long-time fans & supporters. 

Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez
That night, fortunately, the Damrosch Park sound system came alive and carried her voice and her pianistic solo & supporting skills straight through to all of us in attendance, even those (like my wife & moi) standing at a vantage point beyond the exits, standing, that is, during the entire show while just barely glimpsing the stage where Ms. Flack & her musical team performed so enthusiastically; yet, somehow we were able to encompass it all ... even from that far away, from such a distant position in this huge open-air "house."

Pam Tanowitz Dance - From "eighth blackbird"
Other major performers & noteworthy acts featured in the Lincoln Center Out of Doors "festival," which, I'm told, also drew huge (!) crowds, included Emmylou Harris, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Cassandra Wilson, Pam Tanowitz Dance, and a tribute to Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez with the Cita Rodriguez Orchestra and special guest star, the inimitable Johnny Pacheco!

Santa Fe - Restaurant on West 71st
Pre- or post- your visit to Lincoln Center this summer (ending much too soon!), or any other time of year, you might want to head to Santa Fe (at 73 West 71st Street, just off Columbus Ave.; tel. 212/724-0822) for high quality, consistently fine Southwestern & Mexican cuisine, prepared under the guidance & supervision of executive chef, Jose Gonzalez, and his multi-talented sous-chef associates, and featuring "the savory depth of truly authentic" contemporary regional fare. The wide menu has it all, from old standbys & favorites, such as their thick, luscious & feisty guacamole, to lots of new items ... for example, fish tacos, salmon burritos, pork carnitas burritos & skirt steak chimichurri (which allured!). 

Santa Fe - Internal view
Seated in the early evening (at just about happy hour time) in the resto's rather expansive & sleekly designed dining room, it proved a bit difficult to narrow down our dinner selections to a number of items two of us could, well, manage. Nevertheless, after a bit of genuine menu scrutiny, we came up with a few winning items, including
Pomegranate margarita
(additionally) a pomegranate margarita (@ $11), a good-size Pacifico draft beer ($6), and a glass of Malbec "Tierra" sec ($10). And, questions of quenching our dual thirsts aside, we shared a large shrimp roll with a smoky-peppery, mayonnaise-chipotle sauce ... perfect, indeed, for dunking pieces of this tasty delicately prepared appetizer (a daily "special," at $11).

Shrimp roll appetizer (delectable!)
Next, we indulged in two mains ... pour moi, the grilled double thick cut pork chop, served along with sweet & hot pepper jelly, rice & black beans (@ $24); & pour la Madame, the grilled trucha enchipotlada (rainbow trout), nicely, carefully, pan seared & finished off juicily flavorful (not dried out), served with sweet potato hash &
Grilled pork rib platter
fresh herbs, and, finally, topped with their inviting, palette-tingling rather rarified chipotle sauce (@ $18.50). Both mains proved to be exquisitely tasty, full & diverse "model" platters reflecting (as advertised) uniquely inviting, particularly piquant, current southwestern cuisine!

Chef Gonzalez

Following our mains, we were, as they say, simply full-up; and so we decided to walk a bit (just a few blocks), down & over to Lincoln Center Plaza ... where we made a bee-line for the gelato cart - L'Arte del Gelato - a veritable oasis in "creams" (fresco ogni giorno!), parked, during summer months (May to August), off the plaza, in the rear of Damrosch Park, awaiting patrons to just snag one of their favorite (most creamy) gelati to lick around, bite into ... & indulge in!

Saul Reichlin / Milos  Dobry
PS Just two weeks ago, we purchased highly discounted tickets to The Good And The True & saw this recently "imported," understated production from the UK (originally produced at the Svandovo Theatre, Prague). Currently running at the D*R*2 Theatre (103 East 15th St.), the show features two deeply riveting and emotionally powerful intertwined monologues - "authentic testimonies" - adapted (in English) by Brian Daniels and directed by Daniel Hrbek, focusing on the lives of the athlete Milos Dobry and the actress Hana Pravda, two well-known Czech personalities & historical figures, both caught up in World War II, the Holocaust .... the death camps.  

Fortunately, these two strong-willed individuals survived Auschwitz, death marches, satellite camps, near starvation ...  and could serve as eye-witnesses to the remarkable events that they experienced first-hand. The two separate but interconnected monologues prove tender, touching, hopeful; they are extremely well spoken, well presented, darkly tender, at times humorous ... performed in a straightforward, low-key mode & minimalist stage setting.

Hana Pravda
  Indeed, it might well be worth your while to see this dramatic event before it closes,  shortly, in order to witness these two wonderful actors - Saul Reichlin & Hannah D. Scott - and their deeply felt, psychologically realistic, but also profoundly matter-of-fact & understated, portrayals of Milos Dobry, the celebrated Czech athlete, and the internationally acclaimed actress, Hana Maria Pravda. (Note: Ms. Hannah Scott was a late addition to the cast, according to production notes, recruited when a visa difficulty delayed the British actress Isobel Pravda (Hana Pravda's granddaughter) from participating.  

1200 Miles - Restaurant & bar
It might also be worth your while to visit 1200 Miles - Restaurant & Bar ... where we - four of us - thoroughly enjoyed a late summer Restaurant-Week-lunch (3 courses @ $25) prior to visiting the DR2 Theatre and attending the drama described above. Situated in a completely remodeled bright & airy space, at 31 West 21st Street (between 5th & 6th Ave.; tel. 212/510-8722),1200 Miles - where you just might want to eat if you're in the mood to experience an "authentic Mediterranean journey in food & drink" - is a large & friendly establishment with more than sufficient room between tables within which to enjoy your meal without extraneous noises occluding your own conversation(s). And the food, itself, top-notch, well-prepared, attentively served! 

View of front entrance
We four began with the de rigueur appetizer (to be followed, of course, by entrée & dessert), two of us having ordered the singularly appealing "wedge salad," that, as they note on their special menu, contains "little gem" lettuce, peas, carrots, radish, spiced walnuts & Cabrales (a fatty blue cheese from Spain) dressing. The other half of our party of four tried out an equally tasty & appealing burrata, replete with tomatoes, peaches, basil, and a balsamico-based dressing.

Black garlic fettuccini
Entrées were attractively plated, interestingly prepared & flavorful (with light but penetrating spicing), as well! Three of us ordered the pan roasted bluefish, which featured a mix of padron peppers, mussels, long island corn & asparagus pesto. My selection, though, was not only unique among the members of our small luncheon party ... but the black garlic fettuccini, in and of itself, was just a solidly unique item, a house specialty prepared with "summer" vegetables, chanterelles, pine nuts & grana Padano (this last, a grainy-textured pale-yellow cheese, with an intensely sweet flavor, from the Valley of Padano, Italy). A simple & attractive dish, on the one hand; but, a gigantic hit on the other! Wow, I can almost still taste the lingering diversity of its essences ...

Chocolate-espresso parfait
Desserts, coffee* & espresso were soon ordered and this finale proved outstanding for us all - rich & sweet, again nicely "packaged" and/or plated, indeed luscious - a perfect antidote to the two preceding (mainly) savory courses. We sampled (& shared) our four desserts ... and, simply, indulged: in the chocolate-espresso parfait, with pistachio praline & Chantilly cream; the summer stone fruit zabaglione con biscotti; and the vanilla bean panna cotta configured with shortbread crumble, vin cotto & berry sorbet. Once again, wow (!) ... three particularly memorable, delectable desserts! 

Rosé / Sicilia, 2013
(*Note that coffee & tea are not included with the special Restaurant Week lunch menu ... at any participating establishment, as far as I am aware.) 

Garnacha maximo, 2012
Further, though, I should mention that 1200 Miles did offer a small "specially selected" list of wines per glass to accompany each lunch, if desired; that is, a 5-oz glass @ $9.75 ("one selection per lunch" at this special price point), including a wonderfully dry rosé di regaleali, Sicilia, 2013, an arneis, ceretto, Piedmonte, Italy, 2012, a garnacha, maximo, Spain, 2012, a flor do crasto / quinta do crasto, Duro, Portugal, 2011... among several other possibilities! Naturally, we all unhesitatingly partook ... and we enjoyed the wines, in full! Indeed, this was a luncheon "deal" wholly worth our collective while & a resto worth visiting ... and visiting again.