New York, New York, It's A Wonderful Town for Food
But has anyone mentioned that it’s very expensive too? Yes, of course…
We were in the city killing two birds with one (very expensive) trip: Will and I had already been toying with the idea of a weekend in New York City when my sister told me that my nephew and his middle school orchestra would be performing in a competition at Carnegie Hall. So, we were able to combine a trip to the big city with seeing my niece and nephews as well!
All of us staying at the Park Central Hotel in midtown made meeting up with each other quite convenient. The hotel’s excellent location—between the south border of Central Park and Time Square, across the street from Carnegie Hall—and a generous full buffet breakfast almost made up for the exorbitant prices, and taxes, and the ubiquitous construction. Almost.
When we first got together, we compared stories of our eye-poppingly large food bills. Will and I live in Chicago, and my sister’s family lives near Los Angeles. We’re hardly country bumpkins on our first outing in a metropolis, but there was a shudder of shared horror at our tales of culinary sticker-shock. My brother-in-law was still gasping over their dinner of 2 slices of pizza (not whole pizzas, mind you), a plate of plain buttered noodles, and an order of chicken wings, which amounted to $48. We then returned with our tale of a half of a plain corned-beef sandwich (no fries, potato salad, or cole slaw) and a bowl of kreplach soup setting us back $25. We do have to admit though that the sandwich and soup we got at the Stage Deli (an “institution” which boasts pictures of Bill Clinton with the staff) really were excellent and were just what we needed while recovering from the last vestiges of a minor cold. Since the deli was half a block from the hotel, it was a fairly restful experience altogether (notwithstanding the bill).
For dinner, we ate together at a brasserie called Maison—conveniently located right around the corner from our hotel. Here too, prices were inflated, but luckily only very slightly. My sister and I both had the Moules Frites (she had it Vin Blanc style while I had the Provence style—mine is pictured above). The moules and the frites were both excellent. My 10-year old niece let us all try her crème brulee, but she took charge after we got our initial tastings. As you can see, she did a nice job of polishing off the dessert.
Since we had our New York deli experience for Friday’s lunch, we needed to have our New York pizza experience on Saturday. Bella Vita on 58th St. and 7th Ave. was a little hole-in-the-wall (I think literally) pizzeria that had about 4 tables and sold pizza by the slice. We found it interesting that they used slices of cheese (Provolone? Mozzarella?) instead of shredded cheese. We ordered a slice of plain cheese pizza and a slice of pepperoni (to go, since there was not a seat to be had) and were rewarded with our smallest NYC food bill: $6 for the two slices. (For the record, my brother-in-law was pretty incredulous, and slightly envious, when we told him later.) Sure, the pizza slices were a little greasy, but the crust was authentically thin and folding the pizza in half made me feel like I was one slice closer to being a New Yorker at heart.
It’s a good thing that we didn’t spend much on lunch, because Saturday dinner was astronomically expensive. We found the atmosphere at Adour (an Alain Ducasse restaurant situated within the St. Regis Hotel on 55th and 5th) a little too hushed and funereal when we first got there for our 8:00pm reservation. A little too “Would Madame like us to hang up her coat?” (No, Madame is still cold and will hang on to her coat for now.) As families and a gregarious threesome arrived, the noise level rose enough to allow us not to have to whisper throughout our dinner.
In retrospect, I wish we had reserved for 7:00pm so that we could have had more energy for the prix fixe menu: a 5-course option that is from “Nature” (read: vegetarian and pescatarian) and a 6-course regular “Tasting Menu” that included meats. While we were interested in all the dishes and the prices were certainly the “better deal” than a la carte items, we were both too tired by then, after a full day of sight-seeing, to start a meal that could take 3 hours. Sadly, we decided to go with 2 appetizers, 2 main courses, and a shared dessert instead. Seeing that Will’s Langoustine appetizer alone was $34, the meal was definitely not inexpensive. In the end, the time we saved by not opting for the tasting menu was given over to waiting for the Almond Soufflé with Yuzu Sorbet (which was excellent).
Tip: Given how expensive the restaurant was, we were pleasantly surprised when our dessert was accompanied by 6 meringue sandwich cookies and 4 pieces of house-made chocolates. If you are debating about whether you want dessert or to make the next cable TV payment, it’s nice to know that you can skip ordering a dessert and still get some complimentary sweets.