FORK PLAY MAY 16, 2008

Top Girls or Top Women? Ko Sorry. Montana Bliss. Tastes of the Week.

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Dear Friends and Family

     It was only 6:30 a.m. and already my righteous indignation was uncorked.. Dear innocent Ben Brantley. "It seems safe to say that no New York restaurant, not even Michael's or The Four Seasons, has seen a power meal to match the one that so exhilaratingly begins Caryl Churchill's "Top Girls," was how the review began. "Nor can Barbara Walters or Tina Brown or any of their high-rolling sisterhood claim to have assembled a gathering of women like those who share rich foods and richer confidences in this imperfect but important play."
     Clearly Brantley has never come up with the $10,000 some men pay to join the she-power at Citymeals-on-Wheels annual Power Lunch for Women. We have no problem gathering nuns and courtesans, hell-storming peasant warriors, venerable philanthropists with Victorian airs.  Who needs a martyred pope when you have Gloria Steinem, Liz Smith, Barbara Walters, Beverly Sills and Jessye Norman for co-chairs as well as their rolodexes.

     On January 4, 1974, even before Citymeals, the Four Seasons hosted a gathering of dauntless goddesses and warriors. One would scarcely miss a martyred pope given Lillian Hellman, Louise Nevelson, Pauline Trigère, Bess Myerson, the Times powerfully biting Charlotte Curtis, and the unabashedly opinionated Julia Child. Soprano Margaret Tynes came even though she was supposed to be resting before "Salome." Sally Quinn brought a team of photographers from the Washington Post. I did the inviting so I got to be there too.  From Paris came people-mover and publicist Yanou Collart, and Naomi Barry, then the Herald Tribune restaurant critic, to nibble patissier Gaston Lenotre's sublime "frivolities," mini boudins (tiny truffled white sausages) and croustades of lobster mousseline.

     U.S. Customs had seized a haunch of venison, a veal rump and fresh foie gras from chef Paul Bocuse and he wasn't happy with the local veal. "It's lovely but nothing like the ass I lost," moaned the Lion of Lyon, deciding to serve loup baked in seaweed instead. It was also the first time I'd ever heard of red wine with fish. "What a revolution," Bocuse said as the Mouton Rothschild '52 was poured. I actually took it as an insult to women, knowing they'd never serve a red with fish to the Big Cheese bulls of the all-male gastronomic societies. Perhaps the conversation was a bit tame.  Hellman did look like she wondered how she'd gotten there. I do so love assembling my heroines.

     So there it is Mr. Brantley. We do our Power Lunch in November. If the Times won't let you put a $10,000 donation on your expense account, we might let you in on a scholarship to review it.
Motherfuku What?
     There are many reasons you might have missed the15 east bar
internet kerfuffle over my dinner at Momofuku Ko with the adorable blue-eyed young man who advertised on Craigslist for a companion to fill his extra seat at Ko's  near- impossible -to- book counter.

     1. You don't have a computer. 2. 2. Your grandson hasn't hooked you up to the internet yet. 3. Motherfukuwhat? 4. David Chang? Is he that fabulous cellist? 

     But if you really care or are curious about life in the blogosphere, you can read my lucid unabridged version posted before Grub Street and worked the evening into a delicious soup opera. Then send in your contribution toward buying the fiery Mr. Chang a course in anger management.
Montana Mellow

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     I almost missed the Ko frenzy and cries of indignation demanding my further explanation because after I filed my crankily mixed review I jumped on a plane headed for Bigfork, Montana. I quickly slid into a cocoon of Montanabliss (my niece Dana's yoga studio). We visited a goat farm to pick up fresh cheese and a baggy of exotic greens, then trooped into a barn stall to nuzzle and gaze into the eyes of the friskiest of three newborn goats -- blue eyes that reminded me of Tom Dobrowski's. That evening we had vegetarian lasagna at Laughing Horse Lodge.

     When I was not attempting a lotus position, we communed with the deer from our pickup truck, stopped 15 east barat a pond to see the visiting mallards and checked out the real estate, some of it prize-winning houses with signature Arts and Craft elements by Dana's husband, Craig Stoddard. I fantasized buying a home where I could afford one. This sprawling beauty above with custom built-ins that made me weep with wanting, is 4400 sq. feet plus an 1100 sq.ft. three-car garage on five and a half acres. It's just $1.68 million, several million less than it would be north of the highway in Easthampton. Okay, it's a long walk to the beach.

I'm Not Here for the Food. I'm Here for the Noise.

     Amazingly, this bucolic interlude, while it slowed my Manhattan pulse, didn't make it at all difficult two nights ago to taste the goat at Cabrito - which looked and tasted exactly like the pork entrée we also ordered. The former BarFry has been given an instant makeover with Mexican tiles and votives, and the Visigoths have descended.  The kitchen struggles to deliver and the aggravated clamor is painful.  It could be a big hit with 20 and 30-someones who haven't already suffered hearing loss (as I have from all that disco dancing in the 70's).
Tastes of the Week

     Partner Alessandro Ancona's fabulous pizzas and Chef Salvatore Fraterrigo's luscious pizza-topped crock of anelletti 15 east baralla Palemitana will bring us back to Cacio e Vino.
I'm not sure it's safe to have more than one triple-chocolate-truffle- monster cookie at a time in my house but you may have more character than I do.  Scroll down below this week's BITE for my fudge-smeared confession.

     Certainly one of the taste thrills so far this week was the exquisite salad of raw and marinated vegetables including young asparagus from New Jersey at Blue Hill. Baby violets peeped through under drifts of tangy yogurt from the Barber brothers own farm in Vermont.  The grass green and15 east bar scrambled egg yellow of today's newsletter reflects my hope that spring will last a little longer.


Celebrations of Fine Eats

     Serious foodies and Insatiable Critic fans might want to stop by the "New Taste of the Upper West Side" event May 31st as well as "Crème de La Crème," the celebration of France's legendary master chefs June 16 in the Rockefeller Center garden, a benefit for Citymeals-on-Wheels. I'll be tasting at both festivals, so stop me and say hello. For details, go to "Appearances." You'll also find my musings and an encyclopedia of good advice on The Three Tomatoes, a site for women who aren't kids anymore.


Photos of Cacio e Vino's pizza-topped anelleti and Blue Hill salad may not be used without permission of Steven Richter. The Power Lunch photo of Barbara Walters, Beverly Sills, Gloria Steinem and Liz Smith is by Patrick McMullan.  The Ko smoked egg photo is by Tom Dobrowski.

Fork Play by Gael Greene, copyright pending 2008