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Ellen Shapiro

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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  1. I am a major library consumer. We have a decent branch four blocks from our apartment and I go several times a month. They can get just about any book in the world through interlibrary loan and the computer system works well for holds so you never have to worry that someone else will get the new Janet Evanovich before you. Although I like to own books that I might potentially keep for life, I use the library for most "perishable" books, like novels and travel guide books. For browsing magazines, however, I prefer Barnes & Noble.

  2. This is something I wrote in 2001, so it's dated especially with regard to the MoMa paragraph. But it could be a good starting point for anybody who wants to investigate the possibilities in NYC.

    Museum Restaurant Oases Revealed

    The best of NYC museum dining

    by Ellen R. Shapiro

    Right in your own backyard and under your nose, there are great dining opportunities that too often escape notice--because they’re hidden from street-view, not apparent to the casual observer or even to the conscientious neighborhood explorer. Just like hotel restaurants, the restaurants tucked inside the city's museums are an uncelebrated dining alternative, great for a change of scenery and pace, not to mention anonymity. All the better if you need a break from an exhibit or fortification for extensive art viewing, but you certainly don't have to be an art connoisseur to become an aficionado of museum dining.

    All the way at the end of the peaceful outdoor pavilion at the MoMa are two of the museums three restaurant options (skip the third: a stand at the opposite end of the courtyard with sandwiches, drinks and snacks). The more casual of the two is The Garden Café, a cafeteria and casual restaurant. The selection, considering the format, is pretty extensive with lots of fresh veggies for salads (including fresh cooked beets, as opposed to the canned variety), daily soups, sandwiches and hot entrees. The room overlooks the patio and, though the tables and chairs are of the cafeteria variety, nice touches like the light fixtures--very MoMa-ish--add some spice and class to an old dining concept. Upstairs, for serious dining, is Sette MoMa. An Italian restaurant with an open and airy room, one of the best things about Sette is that you can sit outside on the balcony, overlooking the outdoor pavilion. It’s the best of the city: outdoor dining in one of the world’s finest museums, with nary a hint of street noise or traffic. The menu is familiar fashionable Italian with items like veal scaloppini, grilled salmon, fish and shellfish stew and plenty of pasta. On Thursdays and Saturdays, from 6-10, there’s also live jazz. The Garden Café, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Fridays 11:00 a.m. - 7:45 p.m., closed Wednesdays. Sette, 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m., closed Wednesday and Sunday evenings. 11 West 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. After 5 pm, enter Sette from 12 West 54th St., (212) 708-9710.

    The dining options at the Met are as plentiful as the art work (well, almost). The challenge is choosing best. From the Public Restaurant, the Bar/Café and the Cafeteria in one tastefully decorated expanse of a room, to the European Sculpture Court with snacks and afternoon tea at the museum’s old entrance, to the Roof Garden with unparalleled views of the park to the north, west and south and the city skyline to the east, to the Great Hall Balcony Bar, to the Trustees Dining Room (for members only, Associate level and above), the Met hardly wants for selection. The fare at all of the restaurants is straightforward. There's hot food at all the sit-down restaurants, while the others offer drinks, sandwiches and/or snacks. Top pick: the Public Restaurant’s Bar, where you can sip a drink while enjoying the room, the people watching and the art -- and you can order anything the café menu has to offer. Public Restaurant: Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m. -10:30 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday brunch 11:00 a.m. -3:00 p.m., (reservations, 212-570-3964). Bar/Café: Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.,Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday brunch 11:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.. Public Cafeteria: Friday-Saturday 9:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday 9:30 a.m - 4:30 p.m. European Sculpture Court and Roof Garden: Friday-Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.. Great Hall Balcony Bar: Friday-Saturday 4:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., music 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.. Trustees Dining Room: Call for reservations as far in advance as possible (during regular business hours: 212-570-3975). Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street.

    It’s no secret that the Upper West Side and Madison Avenue Sarabeth's are perennial favorites for Sunday brunch, but how about brunch or a weekday lunch at Sarabeth’s at the Whitney? Hidden behind eye-level walls, in the far corner of the bottom floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art, there are two delicious options for dining: the full menu at the restaurant and the makeshift counter for outdoor snacking (and smoking). The menu at the restaurant features Sarabeth’s favorites (excellent omelets, English muffins, and crispy sides of bacon) and the counter specializes in pastry: muffins, currant scones, sweet breads (the flour kind, not the gland kind) and surprisingly fabulous cappuccino and espresso. The best thing about the counter service is that you can grab a seat outside and enjoy the outdoor air without leaving the museum grounds. Sarabeth’s: Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday 11:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Café until 5:30 p.m.), Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Café until 7:30 p.m.), Saturday-Sunday 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Café until 5:30 p.m.). No reservations, be prepared to wait, especially during prime brunch hours. 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street.

    The Guggenheim, with its extraordinary architecture, offers the most straightforward dining option of all: one dining room, delicately and subtly decorated, a cafeteria-style selection, and off you go. The food is all fresh and good, if not supremely delicious. There’s an abundant salad and fruit bar, for which you pay by the ounce, about a dozen selections of baked goods and breads, sandwiches, cold drinks and coffees.  The room is cozy and welcoming and for those wishing to sneak in without entering the museum, there’s a direct restaurant entrance at the corner of 88th, just walk down the ramp and you’re there. Museum Café: Monday-Wednesday 8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., Thursday 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., Friday-Saturday 8:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.. For additional information: (212) 423-3657. No reservations. 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street.

    A personal favorite: There's no more pleasant place for a casual lunch than at the Café at the Morgan Library. A favorite spot for both in-the-know locals and out-of-towners who got lucky, the big attraction here is the bright, open atrium space. With multi-story ceilings and equally large windows, you’ll feel like you’re in a private, protected garden oasis--and indeed you are. The menu is uncomplicated, featuring salads and other light fare (seasonal soups, quiche, sandwiches and such), as well as afternoon tea and Friday evening drinks and snacks. Café (Located in the Garden Court): Tuesday-Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Friday 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., Saturday 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Sunday 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.. No reservations. 29 East 36th Street.

  3. Steve, as a working travel journalist who has been on staff at Frommer's, a columnist for Conde Nast, and a freelancer for many years, I'd be happy to share my impressions of how and which governments promote tourism and specifically gastronomic tourism . . . on a new thread.

  4. My biggie is the slobberingly drunk couple at the very next table, about half a foot away, who haven't touched their food--they just continue to order martinis, which the waiter dutifully continues to bring (without clearing away the empty glasses, as if we needed a further visual reminder of their drunkenness), although it is CLEAR they are disturbing at least half the diners in the room and should have been cut off three empty glasses ago. 

    And then the woman, who is providing us all with an increasingly lovely view of her cleavage, leans her head on the man's shoulder and bursts into tears, and the man, whose bald head grows shinier, more mottled, and more eye-catching with every sip of gin, slides his arm around her and squeezes ( :blink: more cleavage, my male dining companion kicks me under the table and this is my signal that it's getting dangerous  :blink: ).

    And then the man at the next table raises his free arm, fork in hand, tines shining upwards unto the distant firmament, and says:

    Man: "Do you know how much I love you?  Answer me!  Answer me, Nancy!  Do you know how much I love you?"  (He waves his upraised fork in a way that is almost threatening.  He suddenly, in all his sweating public drunkenness, gains a certain dignity in my eyes--he seems an almost god-like figure with his enormous rare-cooked untouched steak before him, and his fork raised high--albeit a sad, old, accountant of a god). 

    Woman (tearfully): "No, no, I don't, Greg, I don't know."

    Man: "I love you . . . I love you . . .  like the stars in the sky!  Look up!  See those stars?  Like those stars up there!  That's how much I love you."  (He moves her head so that she can see said stars.  He waves his fork again, triumphantly, drops it, and watches it confusedly as it whistles its way down to the tablecloth).

    Woman: "Oh Greg!  I've got to go to the bathroom."

    That's my biggie.

    Why, oh why, don't I ever get to be present for dinner theater like that!

  5. I'm reluctant to post photos that are merely for the purpose of admiring the Mo', because those would be more appropriate to a pet message board (hint: you can find a lot of photos of Momo if you join greatpets.com). However, here are a few that are food-related:

    Steven and Momo were the center of attention at the Regina farmer's market.


    What you can't see in that photo is that there was a film crew following them around, making them appear even more unusual. The following image graces the wall of the local TV station.


    In Vancouver, the Mo' was the recipient of VIP (Very Important Pet) treatment at the Sutton Place Hotel. This included not only a rib-eye steak, brown rice, and organic baby vegetables, but also bottled water and -- after dinner -- petits fours made from liver. A book was also supplied for reading of bedtime stories.




  6. I recently posted some photos of the pizza-making process in action at Sally's Apizza, in New Haven, CT. Today I stopped by Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in order to provide equal time (actually, Steven/Fat Guy is working on a newspaper story and I was shooting the family but took advantage of the opportunity to grab a technical snapshot sequence for the eGullet crowd).

    Here's how it works at Pepe's:

    Coals get added to the oven prior to and throughout service (the oven never goes out but burns cooler overnight and on Tuesdays when the restaurant closes).


    When service begins, as Gary Bimonte, the grandson of Frank Pepe, explained it to Steven, they have a four-step production process for making pizza:

    Here you can see, on the right, the (1) "pizza man." This is the person who forms the dough into the round pizza shape. On the left is the (2) "decorator," who adds whatever sauce, cheese, and toppings need to be added.


    When the pies are ready to go into the oven . . .


    . . . they fall under the authority of the (3) "oven man," in this case Gary Bimonte.


    Once they are removed from the oven . . .


    . . . the (4) "coordinator" directs them to tables or into takeout boxes.


    When the stations are double- and triple-staffed, this process allows the restaurant to create as much as a pie per minute at peak times.

    This is the famous Frank Pepe white clam pie, made with freshly shucked top neck clams.


    And here is Gary Bimonte.


    Okay, bye.

  7. It has been my experience that it's always a good plan to go backpacking with someone who likes good food, enjoys cooking, has kids to feed—and is controlling. In this case it’s one of my best backpacking buddies. At the beginning, everyone in the group would be responsible for one day of meals but as the years have worn on this friend has taken over organizing meal duties—and he’s damn good at it. I know we had a thread about trail food at some point previously but because I can’t find it and I seem to have no memory cells, bear with me if you’ve heard this one before. The first day on the trail always includes some fresh veggies—like tomatoes—because they haven’t been crushed in our packs yet. Bean burritos with freeze dried beans (they’re really good--from the grocery store), salsa, cheese, etc. A really satisfying meal when you’re just starting out on the trail--gone by lunch on the first day--and lightens the pack load by a few pounds (depending upon the size of the group). Probably my favorite of his meals is his pasta with pesto, parmesan and pine nuts, usually served midway through the trip. At this point on the trek the pesto container has been crushed and olive oil is leaking into the Ziplock bag--adds flavor I'm sure. This is also when we usually bust out the wine reserve.

  8. you may assume everything I'm saying here is accurate, even though it all sounds highly embellished). . .

    Attendees are encouraged to keep their bourbon glasses and their Brooklyn Brewery beer glasses (and also their aprons). As so many were abandoned by the other guests, however, I took six of each.

    Oh, sure, sure. I knew I'd find embellishment in there somewhere (doesn't it always make for better stories?). FG didn't take two sets of six glasses--he took a set of six and a set of four.

  9. For my money (or in this case, weight), it's always critical to have one splurge in your backpack. Obviously, day hiking and car camping are a totally different animal (or animals as the case may be) but with backpacking--as with climbing--when you're thinking carefully about every extra ounce, I always choose my splurge carefully. Usually I'll fill an extra water bottle with red wine and break it out part way through the trip to share with my companions. Whiskey and other hard liquors are better in the weight ratio because the same weight in whiskey will (or could) last the duration of the trek--but I don't enjoy it as much--so in the end, it's wine for me.

  10. I was first made aware of Arrows when I was a teenager. My mother and I were on a “mother-daughter" weekend away and my mother wanted to eat at Arrows. We looked at the menu and, yes, I declined. I was, at the time, still a pseudo fish-eating vegetarian that didn’t eat shellfish and after perusing the menu determined that it was too limiting (and way too expensive) for what I’d be able to eat. In the past year my mother has been going on about how she wants to go back to Maine so she can eat at Arrows—hint, hint, I’d be the chauffer. She’s sure to remind me each time that I declined the opportunity all those years ago. So before I embark upon this re-visit of the mother-daughter extravaganza—who has eaten at Arrows and is it any good (and by what degree—5 hours in the car good? 7 hours in the car good? You get the idea).

  11. do you know if they sell soda there?  I cant find it listed on their website.

    I've never been to a Costco that didn't sell soda (though I'd be lying if I said I went looking for it every time). It's always in some far away back corner so you might have to walk around a bit to find it.

  12. If those disappoint there's alway Double Stuf.  :biggrin:

    I am all about the double stuf. It's the stuff not the cookie, that I like to eat (sort of like the frosting instead of the cake). And yes, those fudge covered Oreos should be illegal. The white chocolate covered Oreos could send any self respecting sugar addict into sugar shock--they're too much even for me.

  13. The peanut butter is good. Coffee and creme is disappointing.

    Oh no! I had such high hopes for the coffee n' creme--though I know it would have taken me years to try it--I'm disappointed just the same.

  14. Where else? Penny Cluse is a San Francisco-inflected breakfast cafe. You know it, you've been there: Hipsters, excessively large omlets, a menu gag or two, crowds, strong cooking. I love it personally, but there's nothing unique there. They have lately begun serving dinner. It's fine, but breakfast is better.

    Welcome KFO and thanks for the Burlington news. I LOVE Penny Cluse*. It's by far the best breakfast in Burlington (and surrounding areas) displacing Sneakers in Winooski. In January I returned to Burlington (I'm a UVM grad) to visit a friend and we had brunch at Penny Cluse one Saturday (easier to get in than Sundays apparently). The food was excellent. I had an omelet with fresh spinach and mush, excellent homefries (cooked long enough so they got crispy) and biscuits with home made jam. It isn't that they're creating something new--it's that they're doing what they're doing really well and clearly with fresh ingredients. If that place landed in NYC, there'd be a line out the door here too.

    We also went to this Italian restaurant/wine bar in a strip mall in the North End. We wanted to grab a quick bite before catching a movie at cheap seats but the wait was an hour or so. I can't remember what it's called--do you know the place I'm talking about. They have an open kitchen and all of the food that was coming over the pass looked appealing.

    I'm headed back up to Burlington in mid-March and I'm going to do more digging around.

    *By the way, for those of you who are wondering--Penny Cluse is named for the owner's dog, Penny (family name Cluse). Their business card has a picture of the dog on it, or more specifically, a close up of the dog's head.

  15. I grew up in a house full of cookbooks and I had access to all of them. At some point I do remember making something from a hokey cookbook with pictures of kids in horizontally striped shirts with their hands in flour or some such but I couldn't say what it was. As a girl scout (short-lived) I had to cook a full meal--from soup to nuts--to earn one of my badges but I couldn't say how I did that either. I think off the top of my head, probably from watching mom. But the first cookbook I really remember using was in high school. I'm not sure I should share this information--but well, okay . . . here goes. For prom one year each of the women in the group of dates who were going to dinner together before the prom decided we should COOK our dinner and have a formal sit down. I cooked from the Enchanted Broccoli Forest. I even remembered what I made--it was the chilled cantaloupe and peach soup. I don't remember what else was served--hell, it was prom night.

  16. I'm trying to imagine this "conversation piece." As far as I can tell, the majority of restaurants in NYC that serve Sunday brunch could care less if you're having conversation--they just want you in . . . and out--so they can turn the table. Oh no, don't get me started on Sunday brunch. It could be dangerous.

  17. While I don't relate to the cluttered table, the whole idea is for the diners to be comfortable and to enjoy the meal. It all comes down to service. If the table is cluttered and food is arriving--with no place to go--the staff should be pulling the unnecessary stuff off the table so the food, the theoretical purpose of the restaurant's existence, can fit on the table.

    Certainly Wilfred, flowers on the table when the diners arrive (if they're nice flowers) and whisking them away when the table gets crowded is optimal and I've employed the same tactic myself.

  18. Since I don't wish to contribute to derailing this thread into a discussion of Yiddish definitions, I won't, except to say if you want to know what Yiddish words mean you should check the print sources and not rely on what people tell you in an online chat. That will be all on Yiddish definitions for now thanks.

    As to the point of the discussion, I most recently saw this happen tonight at One Fish, Two Fish, near my house. Before any ordered food came the table was laden with so many items that there was noplace left to put even the appetizers when they arrived. I see this all the time and will sometimes just gather up an armload of stuff and hand it to the server to take away.

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