While en route to Washington DC for the holidays I had some down time to browse through about six different newspapers and magazines while waiting for my train, and I had the good fortune to read through Sam Sifton's review of La Grenouille for The New York Times. Sifton actually used to work as the culture editor for the paper and I used to try and get him to review some of my books, but I get the sense he is quite happy in his new position.
Sifton believes that La Grenouille is one of the last great French haute cuisine restaurants in the city, and as he regales the reader with luscious descriptions of each course, he claims that their dover sole, filleted table side, sauced with butter and served with a side of soft, golden mustard sauce "will change the color of your mood ring."
It is a bit of an odd figure of speech, but for those of us that suffered from some middle school fashion crises (skater jeans, any one?) and owned a mood ring, they really are quite nifty and the idea of a single bite being so transformative on ones state of mind is a noble one indeed. After all, that first bite of a perfect turkey sandwich during a Monday lunch can erase a stressful morning. Hot butternut squash soup can chase away a winter's chill, and I am sure the perfect piece of bacon saved many lives on January 1st.
So one of my many new year's resolutions, besides the usual don't spend so much money, don't drink so much, give more time and money to charity, go to church, etc. etc., is to try and have as many mood-ring changing experiences as possible.
Mood-ring changing experience, of course, can embody many things, and I am including some nights out at the opera, ballet, philharmonic, trips to the Frick and Met, and some more marathons/triathlons in there as well. However, those will come few and far between in my daily life, and I believe I can have many mood-ring changing experience with food alone, at any price range.
When Vronsky and I are feeling flush with cash, a trip to La Grenouille will definitely be in order. (There goes that pledge to not spend so much money...)
Nobu Next Door is such an experience and the perfect place to try new things, from a different piece of sashimi to miso cod. Nobu Next Door shares the same kitchen as Nobu, but they do not accept reservations and therefore easier to get into than Nobu proper. Every time I go there is a mood-ring changing moment, and well worth a few trips in the new year.
Jack the Horse in Brooklyn Heights was a great new discovery by Vronsky, and while Brooklyn may seem far-flung to some, it is off the first stop in Brooklyn on both the 2, 3 (Clark Street) and the A, C (High Street). Jack the Horse serves wonderful "gourmet-country" style cuisine, from incredible brussel sprouts, complete with those lovely charred edges, to perfectly braised short ribs and house-cured charcuterie. It is a great neighborhood spot for a Tuesday night, be it a date, a catch-up dinner with some friends, or just an incredible home-style meal to ease your cares away.
Another great spot for a quick lunch-time mood change, if you work in midtown, is Le Bonne Soup on 55th between 6th and 5th. The food there is classic bistro food, from crepes to perfect little quiches and pomme frites, and so damn delicious that Vronsky and I were actually inspired to take a trip to Paris while stuffing ourselves with some of their airy chocolate mousse.
And what if you would like to change your "mood-ring" at home? A quick, easy, comforting thing to make that will also make your apartment smell divine. You can buy pre-made crusts at your local grocery store, and either pulp your own tomatoes with some basil and garlic for sauce or buy a nice looking jar at the store. Sprinkle on a little mozzarella, slice up some pepperoni and sweet peppers, maybe even pre-sautee some onions and put those on as well (they need some pre-cooking since they take so long to cook), and then pop in the oven for about 15 minutes, and voila. Yummy for the tummy.
Here's to 2010!